Athletic Women Magazine Blog

Features, News, Coverage on Athletic Women

Crystal Trace – One Strong Woman

Crystal Trace is one strong woman. She lifts heavy weights. Very heavy weights.

Crystal competes in powerlifting. Although new to the sport – “I competed in my first novice comp in July 2015 and arrived on the powerlifting scene with a 385 kg total. I got noticed. And I was bitten by the powerlifting bug. It was a beautiful moment.” – she’s put up some big numbers.

At a weight of 165 pounds, she boasts a 441-lbs squat; a 221-lbs bench and a 424-lbs deadlift. In training, she’s put up even bigger numbers and is ready to break her personal bests.

“I have a competition on 16 March, 2018. I’m confident I will crack a 500 kg plus (1,102 pounds) total.”

Powerlifter Crystal Trace flexes her biceps

Powerlifter Crystal Trace

Were you athletic growing up?

Not really. I played a few sports, tennis, netball, I enjoyed athletics. But I wasn’t really that good at it.

How did you get started lifting weights and training?

From the age of 16 I was in the gym. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but as I’d struggled with my weight since I was about 12 years old, I knew that moving my body was a key to making changes. I wasn’t consistent and I never really got anywhere with it.

When I was 26, I met my now husband. He went to the gym every day at 6 AM. I started going with him.

I spent the first 6 months on the treadmill. Then I got a trainer and started doing boxing. Eventually I started training with weights.

I cried during all of my initial sessions. I hated it. I felt like it wasn’t doing anything because I didn’t sweat that much. I’m not sure when I started enjoying it – I guess I noticed my body changing and I started asking about the girls I saw in the gym that were getting ready to compete.

I asked my trainer often if I could enter a show. He never answered the question. After about three years of training, I asked again. This time he answered and he said I was ready!

You started in figure and moved to powerlifting. When did you make the change and what prompted your decision?

My last figure competition was in September 2014. The day after the show I turned 30. It was in that moment that I decided that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life worrying about and being judged on my physique. I promptly set some strength goals around the three big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift).

Crystal Trace as a figure competitor onstage flexing biceps

Crystal Trace as a Figure Competitor

Where do you live?

Adelaide, South Australia

What is your profession/job?

Personal trainer. I used to work for the State Government, but training is my passion and it made sense to start my own training business.

What drives you to keep pushing forward, training and going to the gym?

Initially I loved the feeling of getting stronger, then I loved that I was able to inspire other women to get stronger and lift weights. For the last year, I’ve had my sights on achieving a 500 kg total. And I still love inspiring and encouraging other women to lift heavy things!

What is the personal appeal to you of being a strong, muscular woman?

“I just love being strong and I love chicks with muscle. In my opinion, strong and musclely is the new black! And it’s never going out of fashion!”

Do you have a story you can share about how people react to you?

Gosh, so many stories. Guys are really funny – they often can’t understand how a woman can be stronger than them. Some feel intimidated, threatened. Others love it. Sometimes I train in a commercial gym setting – you see the guys (and the girls) watching you. Put 20 kg plates on the bench press and most guys will rush over to your aid thinking you are going to drop it on yourself!

What three words best describe you?

Determined, dedicated, consistent.

I’m sure you get noticed in public because of your physique. What’s an unusual incident you’ve experienced?

Most recently I was at a commercial gym that my friend works at. One of the male trainers commented to her that he wouldn’t know how to be with a woman like me in the bedroom because I’m so strong. It was an odd comment. It made me laugh!

The powerful upper body of Crystal Trace

Powerful Upper Body of Crystal Trace

Three things you can’t live without?

  1. Lip balm
  2. Coffee
  3. A good pillow

What’s one thing you really like doing that other people would be surprised to find out?

I recently started collecting crystals (I call them rocks). I really love learning about the different healing powers of crystals and how to harness them to achieve transformation, harmony and balance in my life.

If you could be a A) WWE Diva; B) UFC cage fighter; C) UFC ring girl; what would you choose and why?

UFC Cage Fighter – those chicks are total badasses!

Anything else we should know about you or that you would like to add?

For anyone thinking about getting in shape or getting stronger, find a good coach, work with them, do the work, trust the process and only listen to one person at a time. You will only confuse yourself by trying to take advice from multiple people.

Social Media Links:

Follow Crystal on Instagram

Follow Crystal and Strength Lab on Facebook

Follow Crystal Trace on Facebook

Visit Strength Lab website

Crystal on YouTube lifting heavy and crushing a watermelon 

Crystal Trace By The Numbers

Competition Squat: 200 kg

Competition Bench: 100 kg

Competition Deadlift: 192.5 kg

Most recent training lifts:

Squat: 202.5 kg

Bench: 100 kg

Deadlift: 195 kg

Age: 33

Height: 5-6

Weight as figure competitor: 132 lbs.

Weight as powerlifter: 165 lbs weight class (I prefer this strong, muscular, feminine physique.)

Emerald Cup 2018 – Get Ready!

Once again, it’s that time of year when the Emerald Cup rolls around. This is a “must see” if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, whether on the Canuck side of the border or the US side of the border.

This year’s edition of the Emerald Cup takes place on Friday April 27 and Saturday April 28. As is the tradition, the Meydenbauer Center serves as the venue.

The show includes bodybuilding, fitness, figure, physique, bikini and classic physique. Along with the show, a great expo to take in both Friday and Saturday.

You can find out more about the Emerald Cup and all the other outstanding Craig Production shows at the official website

Follow on social media:

Check our old blog to see coverage of Emerald Cup 2017.

Chyna: Do Not Handle With Care – This Is No Fragile Lady

“Don’t go. We’re interested in you.”

These five simple words stopped Joanie Laurer, AKA Chyna, from embarking on a pro boxing career and plying her trade as the female heavy for the WCW.

“I knew the WWF was interested in me, but I started to lose hope about getting hired. I was called by the WCW and I was going to attend their television show and come out as a tough girl.

“I was driving to Alabama and I stopped by the WWF pay-per-view to say hi to Hunter Hearst Helmsley and somebody stopped me and said, ‘Don’t go. We’re interested in you.’

“I was about to have my first professional boxing fight. It was scheduled for a month after the WWF hired me,” explained the raven-haired Chyna about how the door to her superstar status in the WWF swung open.

WWF Superstar Wrestler Chyna, 5-10, 196 lbs, Circa 1999

WWF Superstar Chyna, 5-10, 196 lbs

Hard work, determination and belief in herself paved the way to her role as the menacing, glowering Chyna, who patrols the squared circle in front of sell-out audiences everywhere. And don’t think she’s just a ringside ornament with bulging biceps. This 5-10, 196-pound athletic entertainer routinely steps into the ring to mix it up with the behemoths of pro wrestling, sometimes even scooping up her male adversaries and sending them crashing to the canvas with thundering body-slams that show no respect for their gender.

From Fitness to Pro Wrestling

Before her present status as arguably one of the most recognizable female athletes on the planet, Chyna made her mark in the fitness world. At 170 pounds, she dwarfed her fellow competitors.

“The things you saw me do, the fitness shows and even the boxing – I really enjoyed the boxing – were more stepping stones or attention getters. I never really wanted to do them or excel in them, but I knew I could do them and I also knew while doing them that I was out of my element, but I knew people were going to notice me, which in turn would help me get here.”

Chyna’s transition from the fitness stage to the wrestling ring began at Walter Kowalski’s school where she learned the techniques of the pro wrestling business. She felt there was a market for her look and that pro wrestling was the vehicle to introduce that look to the public.

Less than two years after starting school – Valentine’s Day February 14, 1997 – Chyna debuted in the WWF.

Chyna in the WWF

“I knew the WWF was number one. The WCW had always seemed kind of like a fad to me. They were doing very well in the ratings, however, I felt that from what I saw on TV they weren’t using the women the way that I wanted to be used. I saw them being used and spit out very quickly in matches.”

Chyna felt women in pro wrestling could be portrayed as something other than bimbos. She wanted to play a character that could make an impact and the WWF seemed to be on the same wavelength in terms of how they wanted to present her. The strategy obviously works, because in the past year-and-a-half, she’s been the only woman that’s been on every road date in the WWF, an achievement that speaks volumes about the popularity of her brooding character with the massive biceps that would be the envy of most any bodybuilder.

Chyna The Road Warrior

Of course, her superstar status does not come cheap. Life consists of endless travel, impossibly long days extended by the demands of personal appearances and autograph sessions, and trying to find restaurants that serve up a healthy fare. Fortunately, she enjoys the life of a road warrior.

“One day mixes into the next and you go to the hotel room you were in the night before because you’ve forgotten you’re in a new hotel. It’s pretty wild.

“I think it’s very difficult for me being the only woman. There’s a couple of other women, but they’re not really full-time. I do okay because the guys respect me and I get along very well with everybody.

“I’m very straight-laced. I stay out of the way of everything. When most people go down to the bar at night, I go to my room. That way I never get myself into trouble and I can show up to work and be friends with everybody and it never puts me in an awkward situation. And it’s worked.”

To keep her sanity intact, Chyna gets into the gym as much as possible while on the road. On the nutritional side of things, MET-Rx is a constant travel companion.

And of course, the million dollar question: When will we see Chyna in the ring battling one of the WWF femme-fatales in a wrestling match?

“I really don’t want to do that. I don’t think women’s wrestling works. There’s not an availability of women that are good workers. I think that most men, if they watch women in the ring, it’s because they want to see a nice body, not wrestling.

“I didn’t enjoy wrestling and I don’t want to do it, because that would take me from the main event to working with maybe a couple of girls – if we could find them – that are half my size and it would put me on opening card matches. Why would I do that? I don’t think people would want to see me do that, unless I just went out and squashed somebody, which doesn’t help me.”

But again, this is the WWF, where entertainment reigns supreme and where all manner of wild and wonderful antics takes place. Is it so much of a stretch to imagine that the head honchos of the WWF might one day decide that it’s time for this hulking grapplerette to step into the ring and crush someone?

Chyna’s loyal minions eagerly await this display of feminine pulchritude.

WWF Wrestling Superstar Chyna Cover Shot Fighting Females Magazine Spring 1999

Chyna Cover Shot Fighting Females Magazine

Click to see Chyna slideshow photos on YouTube.

Note: I interviewed Chyna for Fighting Females magazine. Original article appeared in the Spring 1999 issue.

Natasha At The Fights – Ring Girl Is A Knockout!


It’s 6:30 PM. Twenty-one-year-old Natasha Edwards is an explosion of excitement and nervous energy waiting to happen. It’s easy to see why her coach Lara Toma describes her as a “fireball.”

Arriving in jeans that hug her frame so tightly it looks as if they were painted on and a top that shows off her muscular bikini competitor physique, Natasha Edwards seems tailor made for this gig. Tonight, sporting a tiny bikini that accentuates the muscles and curves of her 38-26-38 physique, she’ll make her debut as a ring girl.

There’s a list of names at the front door that includes Natasha Edwards. These are the ring girls working the February Fury event. But the ticket takers ignore her name. Instead, they’re waiting for “the special girl with the muscles that will be performing in a bikini tonight.” That puts a smile on Natasha’s face.

Natasha goes to work within minutes of her arrival. Video interviews, promo photos and preparing for her solo performance in the ring; after that, meeting the ring crew, media and her fellow ring girls.

On paper, 90 minutes looks like a comfortable stretch of time; in real time at the venue, each minute races by, chasing the preceding one until the clock exhausts its allotment of 90 ticks.

Ring Girl Natasha Edwards hit a biceps pose at February Fury fight night

Ring Girl Natasha

Showtime! Bring on the Ring Girl

It’s 8 PM. Showtime. MC Olesha Karringten steps into the ring, microphone in hand. “Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.”

But it’s not a fight that starts the proceedings; it’s Natasha Edwards.

Stepping into the ring wrapped in a black bikini that strains to keep her taut, curvy body encased in the fabric, Edwards exudes a mix of confidence, power and sex appeal.

How many in the crowd are hoping for a timely wardrobe malfunction?

Strutting around the ring, the bikini competitor hits a few biceps flexes that elicit shouts of approval from the fight crowd. MC Olesha continues with her introduction. When she booms out Natasha’s stats, the 38-26-38 measurements gain an approving round of applause from the crowd. As Natasha describes it, her sweeping curves and hard muscles form the perfect combination of “murves,” hashtag parlance for muscles and curves.

After an interview at center ring, Olesha asks Natasha to demonstrate what she does on stage at a bikini contest. Natasha obliges, hitting her mandatory bikini poses and throwing in a few extra twists and turns to show off her chiseled physique. The fight crowd approves.

February Fury stretches out until 11:30 PM. Throughout, Natasha lives up to her “fireball” reputation. Each time she steps into the ring, she feeds off the energy of the audience and shows no signs of slowing down.

That’s a wrap

At the end of the evening with the ring coming down around her, she’s still going strong, posing for promotional photos with a clamor of media rushing to get as much with her as they can. Edwards is ready for more, but it’s the ones behind the cameras that run out of energy first. February Fury finally comes to a close for “the special girl with the muscles that will be performing in a bikini tonight.”

Watch Natasha’s debut as a ring girl:


Natasha hitting some biceps shots:

YouTube Biceps

Originally published February 2016.

CJ Schouten – Fighter and Self-Described Nerd


In the ring, CJ Schouten may be a fighter, but outside the ring, it’s a different story.

“I’m pretty much a huge nerd when I’m not punching things. I absolutely love playing with Lego. I have a rock collection.”

CJ Schouten – Stats

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5-4
  • Fighting Weight: 125 lbs
  • Walking Around Weight: 137 lbs
  • Fight Record: 3-0 (kickboxing)

Were you athletic growing up and if so, what sports?

When I was 7, my brother started Karate. Being the younger sibling thinking he was super cool, I absolutely had to as well. At 11-years-old I entered my first tournament and got hooked on competing. For the next 10 years I heavily competed in Karate, earning my black belt and a place on the Canadian National Team.

What motivated you to start training and eventually step into the ring to fight?

I’ve been in martial arts all my life. It’s more than just loving the sport, its simply a part of me. When I was in post-secondary (first a B.Sc. in Geology from UBC, then an Adv. Dip. In GIS from BCIT) I had to take time off training, and although it was necessary to get me to where I am today, there was always something missing. Just over two years ago, I stepped into Lions MMA and knew I had to get back in the ring. I haven’t looked back since.

What are your goals as a fighter?

“To transition into MMA. To be the best, not just compared to others I compete against, but the best against myself.”

What is your profession/job?

GIS Technician for the City of Vancouver, Park Board.

Favorite female fighter and why?

I actually don’t have one… There are a handful where I can appreciate their skills and respect what they have done to get to where they are but I couldn’t name one as my favorite.

CJ Schouten kickboxer in the ring with arm raised in victory

CJ Schouten for the win

Your home is burning down. You can save only one item. What do you save and why?

“My baby blanket. Yes I said baby blanket. It is pink, fuzzy and has a unicorn on it. I’ve had it all my life.”

Best gift you’ve ever received?

I got a Century Bob XL a few years ago and it’s set up at home. Great for taking things down a notch and working on some specifics.

Anything else that you would like to add?

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support of my coaches and teammates at Lions MMA. I am grateful to be a part of this team.

Where can we see more of you?

YouTube for highlights of CJ’s Nov 2017 victory

Instagram – Although this is mainly pictures of my dog. He is my lazy fur baby.

Krystia Petrossie – Physique Competitor and Muscle Model

We interviewed Krystia Petrossie, physique competitor, in September 2016.

Let’s start with stats.

  • Age 30
  • Height 5-1
  • Competition weight 125 lbs
  • Off-season weight 135-140 lbs.

Show off your muscles in public or cover them up?

I like showing off my muscles cause I work so hard for it. However, sometimes it can be a bit mental when I get a lot of stares when walking through public places, but I take it as a compliment for all my hard work and dedication.

How did you get started lifting weights and training?

I started lifting weights as a pastime and just missed the feeling of being competitive and reaching a goal. That’s when I decided to hire a coach and compete in my first figure competition. After competing in figure, I realized my heart was into physique. The routines really caught my eye.

What inspired you to start competing?

I actually had a few friends who competed for years and they inspired me to compete. I loved the look of lean muscle. Nutrition is really where I needed to focus to change my body composition.

Do you like to lift heavy and what are some of your best lifts?

“I love lifting heavy weights especially in a gym where I can lift heavier than most people in the gym (especially some of the guys haha). It makes me feel so empowered as a woman. Some of my best lifts are bench press, leg press and squats.”

How old were you when you did your first show?

I was 26, so I’m fairly new to the sport.

What’s your athletic background?

At age 10 I was a highland dancer world champion. Then I gave up dancing to play basketball and soccer in high school at a division 1 level. I became athlete of the year two years consecutively and ranked top three in Nova Scotia for shot put in track and field.

I continued my athletic career in university soccer for three years, then decided to move to Alberta after receiving my degree in kinesiology. That’s when I started my personal training and nutrition company with my partner Laura Borchuk. Now we’re coaching clients in competitions as well. We just recently had a client turn pro this weekend at the WBFF Worlds Toronto show.

Krystia Petrossie, physique competitor, biceps flexing

Krystia Petrossie, big biceps

What are your goals as a competitor?

To look better each time I step on stage. Ultimately I want people in and out of the industry to look up to me as a great role model. I want to ensure anyone, whether it be weight loss or competing, that they can achieve anything they put their mind to as long as they’re living a healthy lifestyle.

What do you think is the strongest part of your physique?

“My legs. After 10 years of highland dancing and soccer training, I would say my legs are definitely my strongest attribute.”

If you could change one thing about your physique, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change a thing. I love how I look and feel. I think it’s important as a competitor that you’re training to achieve the look you want, not trying to achieve the look someone else wants. Stay true to yourself.

With the growth of physique, do you think women’s bodybuilding will survive and does it have a future?

I truly believe female bodybuilding will start to decrease more and more as women’s physique continues to grow.

Favorite female competitor and why?

Juliana Malacarne. She has an amazing overall physique – very symmetrical and feminine. From the time she hits the stage, she is just amazing to watch.

What’s your favorite cheat meal?

Five guys and fries 🙂 and then a small cotton candy ice cream for dessert.

What is your profession?

I am the owner of Kustom Lifestyle and Fitness, a personal training and lifestyle coaching company. We provide exercise and nutritional programs to our clients within Canada.

What’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

“I have a big heart and old soul for everyone around me. I always put everyone else before myself. I love helping people.”

What three words best describe you?

Passionate, competitive and energetic.

If you could be on just one magazine cover, what’s your choice and why?

Women’s Health and Fitness because I feel like I could be an incredible role model to the fitness industry. Not only do I display the bodybuilding look of lean muscle, but I also help people on a regular basis achieve their fitness goals.

Krystia Petrossie – physique competitor

Want more?


Company Instagram

See Krystia’s YouTube video

Krystia Petrossie, physique competitor posing in shorts and heels

Krystia Petrossie, physique competitor

Lauren Brigham – Blonde Bombshell Figure Competitor

Lauren Brigham is a figure competitor and fitness model.

What are your stats?

Age 29; 5’6″ tall; competition weight 130-135 lbs; off-season 145-150 lbs.

Figure competitor Lauren Brigham posing and flexing biceps

Lauren Brigham – figure competitor

What is your profession?

Personal trainer, sports massage therapist.

How did you get started lifting weights and training?

“My middle school nickname was chunky monkey which gave me the motivation to lose weight and become athletic. I started personal training at 18 and became intrigued with the competitive lifestyle. I competed in my first show when I was 24 and I’ve been hooked since.”

What inspired you to start competing?

I loved the dedication and purpose of the competitive lifestyle. I wanted to find that purpose and dedication for myself.

Were you athletic growing up?

I played soccer and ran track in high school, but really became interested in health and fitness in college.

Biceps flex from figure competitor Lauren Brigham

Lauren Brigham – biceps

What are your goals as a competitor?

To better myself and improve every season. To feel proud and accomplished each year on stage.

What’s your favorite cheat meal?

I absolutely love sushi!

What’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

“I am obsessed with mini pigs. I just adore pigs so much – no idea why.”

Favorite female competitor?

Nicole Wilkins. She is simply an amazing and beautiful competitor.

Your home is burning down. Family and pets have all made it to safety. You have one chance to go back in and save just one item. What do you save?

I would save my huggie. It’s a little pillow I just can’t sleep without

What three words best describe you?

Passionate, genuine and hardworking.

Where can we see more of you?



Snapchat: @lebrigs

Check out Lauren on YouTube

Figure competitor Lauren Brigham posing in dress and heels

Lauren Brigham

Originally published February 2017

Young Gunz – Shannon Thompson

This is our first feature in a series we’re calling Young Gunz that will put up and coming competitors in the spotlight. To kick things off, 19-year-old figure competitor Shannon Thompson.

“Hi. My name is Shannon Thompson and you should follow me because I want to inspire other young women to overcome their weaknesses and follow their dreams and passions.”

Let’s start with your stats.

I’m 19, 5-8, 135 pounds competition and 150 pounds off-season.

How did you get started lifting weights and training?

I struggled with anorexia in my early to mid-teens and became an avid runner to burn massive amounts of calories, but I was much too weak to run the distances I was running and an injury stopped me from running when I was 16.

I began lifting weights to build up strength so I could run again and I fell in love with the weight room and have never looked back.

19 year old figure competitor Shannon Thompson biceps flex

Shannon Thompson – figure competitor

How long have you been training?

I’ve been training for almost four years, but I’ve only really decided to become serious about bodybuilding in the last year or so.

How old were you when you did your first show?

“I was 17 for my first competition.”

What inspired you to start competing?

I admired the drive and dedication of other competitors I followed on social media and I wanted to see what my body was capable of.

If you could change one thing about your physique, what would it be?

Either a wider back or leaner legs.

What do you think is the strongest part of your physique?

Definitely my shoulders. I’m very proud of this as they used to be one of my weakest points.

What is your profession?

I’m currently unemployed, but I’ll be going to college in September for a bachelor of sports and fitness leadership.

You have all your expenses covered to spend your perfect day. What would you do?

I would spend the day in New York with my mom shopping, eating tons of interesting food and seeing a Broadway play.

Your home is burning down. Family and pets have all made it to safety. You have one chance to go back in and save just one item. What do you save?

I feel kind stupid saying this, but I would save my cell phone.

If you could look into the future and see yourself at age 50, what would you want to see?

I hope to be an IFBB figure pro, an inspiration to many people with a happy family and a beautiful home somewhere in British Columbia.

See Shannon on YouTube.

19 year old figure competitor Shannon Thompson posing in jeans

Shannon Thompson

Originally published August 2016

Young Gunz – Kelsey DeCamillis

This is the second in our series of “Young Gunz” features where we shine the spotlight on up and coming competitors. At 31, you might not think of physique competitor Kelsey DeCamillis as part of the Young Gunz posse, but as she’s never competed before, she makes for a great fit.

What are your stats?

Age 31, height 5-5, current weight around 151 pounds. Stage weight is hard to say! Haven’t had a specific goal weight but my guess is in the lower end of the 140’s.

What was your weight when you were throwing?

Averaged about 180 pounds and 195 pounds at my heaviest.

Physique competitor Kelsey DeCamillis flexing biceps

Kelsey DeCamillis – gun show

Can you give a brief chronology of your athletic history leading up to the present?

As a kid I tried gymnastics/trampoline, and even took a few taekwondo lessons, skied every winter up until about age 11 and also played some softball. Throughout all those years mainly I did a lot of ice skating and figure skated until I transitioned over to hockey. I played from ages 12-17 and my position was defense.

Throughout high school along with hockey I played volleyball, basketball, field hockey, (I even did one season of cross country running just to stay in shape for my upcoming senior year high school season of track & field), and of course the throwing events in track and field (javelin, discus, shot put). I started with javelin when my PE teacher saw me throw a volleyball across the entire gym and encouraged me to try javelin.

That progressed into throwing in all three events and I recognized my strongest potential in the shot put for after high school. I then threw shot put for the Vancouver Thunderbirds and the UBC Track and Field Team from 2003-2005. In 2005, I started transitioning over to hammer throw and moved to Kamloops to train there.

How and why did you make the transition from throwing to physique?

“Competing in physique has meant reclaiming my identity as an athlete. Training gives me the most life. I feel alive when I lift and train.”

I moved to Kamloops in 2005 to begin training in the hammer throw under a world renowned coach with a group of other elite throwers. At the time, I was really struggling with some things going on in my personal life, and the circumstances ended what was just the beginning of a very promising throwing career. I barely set foot in a gym for about 2 years after that and I continued to struggle personally.

Looking back now, although it would have taken some years of training, there is no doubt in my mind that I could have developed into a world class hammer thrower given my body type and gift of brute strength and athletic ability.

I moved back to Vancouver in 2007 to work and try and figure out my life and spent my entire 20’s trying to go back to school to finish my degree, and then after getting rejected from applying to nursing school in 2014 and still just very unhappy, I asked myself if I had it my way, if I could be doing anything right now, what would it be? My answer was that I’d still be throwing and training.

Right then and there I decided to start training full time on my own, learn as much as I can and see how my body responds now and then see about competing in a bodybuilding show. I did as much as I could on my own for two full years before hiring a coach to help take me to the next level and guide me through my first physique competition, and here I am.

How different is training for physique versus training as a thrower?

“Physique training is different in that it is less sport-specific and involves targeting every muscle group and using high volume, heavy lifting and techniques to build and sculpt while creating and maintaining balance and symmetry for an aesthetically pleasing look. I love how physique training includes the powerlifts for continuing to build and maintain my foundation of muscle and strength.”

Training as a thrower was more sport-specific and incorporated more power movements with lifting and focused more on strength training, not so much isolating and sculpting movements, and with training phases changing as the outdoor competitive season approached each year, and definitely no cardio!!

There would be a variety of training that included time spent in the weight room, but also lots of technical work in the circle, tempo runs and sprints, Olympic lifting as well as powerlifting, plyos for both upper and lower body, and overall just centered around a lot of power and speed training.

Does your throwing background perhaps make you a bit stronger than most physique competitors?

I’m not sure that I’m necessarily stronger because of throwing, but deciding to carry on with throwing allowed me to discover my strength in the weight room. I think I do possess above average strength and was born with this gift.

“I discovered how strong I was when I started formal track and field training for shot put where we learned all the big lifts, including all the powerlifting movements and the Olympic lifts. The first time I did a 1RM test for the squat, I squatted 265 pounds. That would have been about 6 weeks or less of formal training at the time in the fall of 2003. Throwing certainly helped build my foundation of muscle and strength.”

What are some of your best lifts?

I’m not sure what my current 1 rep maxes are for these lifts as I’ve been doing high volume work with these big lifts:

Conventional deadlifts: 225-245 lbs x 12-15 reps

Sumo deadlifts: 275 lbs x 12-15 reps

Squats: 225 x 10-12 (last time I tried a one rep max was 275 lbs)

Bench: 135 x 10-12 (last time I tried a one rep max was 175 lbs)

My favorite and best lifts are deadlifts because I can move the most weight on these lifts and there is something so satisfying about moving heavy weight.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Right now in contest prep, I’m up at 4 am to get to the gym for a 5 am cardio party, then I work 8-4 at UBC, and then head back to the gym after work for another few hours of training and typically home late. On weekends, I’m in the gym twice a day still and in between training sessions is where I find the time to cook and meal prep and take care of other errands etc. The days are long and sometimes 20 hours a day for days in a row, but nothing good comes easy and I’m so excited to see how everything turns out for my first show.

What are your goals as a competitor?

The ultimate goal from this first show is to qualify for BC Provincials, then qualify for nationals, and then see how far I can take this. I believe I found the right coach to help guide me there: Darren Toma – Custombuilt Training.

I always thought I’d be a professional athlete even as a young kid and it was always the sport that I was excelling at the time: first figure skating, then I thought maybe hockey, and then settled nicely into track and field. Of course hammer throw was going to be my best chance at that. However, things did not work out the way I thought and that has always been a huge sore spot in my life. I have unfinished athletic business, so here I am and I’m going for it, full force.

What do you think is the strongest part of your physique?

“I love my back. I also think my legs are a very strong part of my physique.”

What inspired you to start competing?

I got back into training full time for the sake of saving myself from myself. Also, that time in my life when track ended abruptly has always been a sore spot in my life and I thought if certain things didn’t happen, I probably could have made it pretty far in hammer throw. For me, having unfinished athletic business has inspired me to give myself a second chance at fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming a professional athlete.

It has been a thought to do a bodybuilding show for at least four years now, when my interest was sparked to do so by a co-worker at the time who was prepping for a figure show. That’s when I started considering this as something I could excel at now.

What is your profession?

I currently work for Vancouver Coastal Health at UBC Hospital as an administrative secretary for a provincial psychiatric program. I also recently earned my personal training certification as I think a fitness related career is the direction I’m headed. I just love being in the gym; it’s my happy place.

What’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

I don’t own or use a hair brush! But maybe I should…

If you were on American Idol, what would you sing?

I have no idea. I’d probably freak out and just flex.

Your home is burning down. You can go back in and save just one item. What do you save?

An opal necklace.

What three words best describe you?

Strong, sensitive, funny.

Where can we see more of you?

Kelsey slideshow on YouTube


I’m on Facebook as well. I think everyone will be seeing a lot more of me after this competition.

Physique competitor Kelsey DeCamillis back flex

Kelsey DeCamillis – physique competitor

Read another article on Kelsey

Originally published October 2016.

Cassie Keeping – Crossfitter

We had the opportunity to work with Cassie Keeping on a cool fall day in October 2014. Although Cassie might not bring as much visible muscle to the table as some of the muscle competitors do, the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly comes to mind with her.

Cassie definitely wowed us with her strength and athleticism. Most athletes would have their hands full trying to keep up with this crossfitter. In our ongoing Grip Strength Challenge, she blew the field away, finishing second only to powerhouse physique competitor and world-class wrestler Shayla Turcotte. It will be interesting to see if anyone passes Cassie.

Vital Statistics: I’m 5-8, I weigh 146 pounds and I’m 25-years-old.

Athletic Background: I started track and field when I was around 15. I am an eight-time national qualifier; a four-time All American; and I hold a couple of records at my university. In college I competed in long jump, sprints, hurdles and I would run relays if they needed me.

I’ve competed in a couple of crossfit competitions, finishing second in one and ninth in the other. I competed in the Femsport 2014 Vancouver Open and finished second.

Crossfit competitor Cassie Keeping double biceps flex

Cassie Keeping Crossfitter

Athletic Goals: At some point I would like to look into bikini, figure or physique. I would like to try because it looks like a pretty good challenge and I like to be challenged.

I think I would like to do figure because I have a very developed and strong lower body. As far as my upper body goes, I would have to gain some biceps and triceps. Right now my lower body is figure and my upper body is bikini.

Training for figure would be different. For crossfit, you have to be functionally strong, walk on your hands and do handstand pushups; but for figure I would be more focused on developing my muscles versus seeing how strong and athletic I could actually be. I could be super strong and athletic but might not look it, so I would have to work on my upper body and actually show that I have some biceps muscles for figure competitions.

Occupation: I’ve been a personal trainer for about six months now and I love it. I don’t think I would want to do anything else with my life. I love it because I’m being constantly challenged by my clients and also challenging my clients. I’m showing them that they have someone that believes in them and they are constantly pushing themselves to new limits that they didn’t believe they could reach. It’s always motivating to see someone do something that they didn’t believe they could do. It’s inspiring.

Pet Peeves: I hate shopping for jeans because it makes me feel super fat. It’s because I can’t fit my ass or my quads into jeans, but I can fit my waist into them. Someone needs to come up with jeans that fit athletic women, not just skinny women.

See Cassie on YouTube

See more Cassie at Athletic Women Magazine

Crossfit competitor Cassie Keeping shows off her quads

Cassie Keeping – check the quads!

Originally published March 2015

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