As Michelle McBeth bakes up a pan of red velvet cake and other treats in her kitchen, she explains that while her diet is usually made up of proteins and complex carbs, she allows herself an occasional indulgence.
But it’s a strict diet and disciplined approach to her training that led to McBeth placing fifth in the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation National Championships for Figure, held last month in New Westminster.
“By placing in the top five, I no longer have to compete in the novice or provincial level next year, but will go straight to the Canadian nationals, where I will once again compete against the best in Canada,” she said.
Training intensely for the past four years, McBeth, 41, has been competing at a novice level for three years. After switching coaches, she went to the British Columbia Amateur Bodybuilding Association’s competition where she placed second in Figure, qualifying her for the nationals.
“My goal is to go back even stronger and come out number one where I can be carded a professional athlete and compete in the U.S.A. against other pros,” said the Vernon mother of three sons, ages 20, 17 and eight.
McBeth had always been active, but after the birth of her third child, she realized she wasn’t as diligent with her eating and exercise habits.
A Biggest Loser type of competition at work is what spurred her to not only get back in shape but to take it to the next level.
“When I stepped on the scale I weighed 180 pounds and I nearly died — I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Meeting with trainer Paulette Barry, then at Ladies World, McBeth credits her with “putting the fire under me and getting me to take the steps I needed.”
McBeth, who works for Interior Health, has to be organized to stay in competition shape, planning her meals carefully and using strategies such as cooking several pounds of chicken at a time, so it’s always ready to go.
“It’s a lifestyle for me, when I work from 7 to 3:30 and I need to do two hours of cardio, I’m up at 4 a.m. or I’ll go downstairs to my treadmill after work and watch a movie with my youngest son.”
In addition to the extreme discipline required to compete at the highest level, it’s a sport that also requires some extra cash: posing bikinis can run to $1,200 and add to that the shoes, the makeup and hair, and the travel costs, and it becomes a labour of love.
“This isn’t a cheap sport — I buy a new bikini for every competition.”
Every three days, she is photographed in a bikini, sending the photos to her trainer, Surrey-based Dawn Alison with Team Fit Body.
“The other day, as I was serving coffee to my husband and a bowl of cereal for my son, my husband pointed out that I was serving my 17-year-old son and husband breakfast while wearing a bikini and glass heels — it’s just normal for me.”
McBeth’s coach has been an inspiration to her and the reason she has been able to compete at the highest level.
“We do it all online and she has already refined my body so much — she even had me change my hair colour. She is so involved and if I haven’t talked to her in three days, she contacts me to see how I’m doing.”
In addition to using the treadmill in her home, McBeth trains at Fitness West in Vernon.
“I’m always in training, although this is called the off season right now; this is where I manipulate the muscles.”
In addition to her coaching support, McBeth said she wouldn’t be able to participate in her sport without the support of her husband, children and her parents.
“When people ask me why I do this, I say, ‘why not?’ I don’t really have an answer, but I’ve never felt better, never felt happier. I’m a better person, I just find all around I’m a better person. I just appreciate life.”
And for anyone who thinks they can’t find the time to exercise, to eat better, to fulfill their dreams because work, kids and other commitments leave little free time, McBeth said there is always a way.
“Never let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dream or goal. My attitude is even if you don’t reach your ultimate goal, you’ve given it your best shot possible and you can say that you did everything you could, but what else comes your way while trying could be even better.
“If I had listened to the negative comments I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had a coach tell me I wouldn’t ever make the provincial stage let along the national stage. I listened for a while, always in the back of my head thinking he’s wrong.”
McBeth then met Leah from Breakaway Fitness, who came into her life at the right time and encouraged her. The next day, she hired Alison. Nine months later, she is a national competitor set to take on the international competition.
“There are many people out there who will say you can’t, my attitude is watch me.”