‘You have to do it for yourself’

Terrace bodybuilder Tabatha Kirkegaard brings home bronze in the Masters Bikini category at nationals

Terrace hair stylist

Terrace hair stylist

Tabatha Kirkegaard might be the latest bodybuilder to make Terrace proud on the national stage – but for her, competition is all about self-improvement.

Kirkegaard, 38, brought home the bronze in the Masters Bikini category at the 2014 Canadian Bodybuilding Federation Nationals in Edmonton, Alta. on July 5. She is no rookie either – this was her 16th competition.

Six years ago, Kirkegaard was tired of being “skinny-fat” and she decided that a lifestyle change was in order. She would get out of the nightlife atmosphere and start focusing on herself. That same year, Kirkegaard entered her first competition.

“I went from one extreme to the other,” Kirkegaard said. “I’d rather eat my calories than drink them.”

“I’m obsessed with weight training because you can completely change your body,” she said.

Some women are afraid of lifting weights, but “lifting weights won’t make you bulky, it will sculpt you,” she said.

“Women tend to go to cardio, I did the same thing when I was younger but my body never changed, you kind of stay the same shape where weights will actually change you, so don’t be scared of that,” she said.

Kirkegaard trains seven days a week at Northcoast Health and Fitness where she does cardio everyday and weights four times a week and on top of that she works as a hairdresser at Images by Karlene.

“The gym is amazing here, Charis and Ashley, I don’t know what I’d do without them. Just moving from Calgary to here, that was such an important part of my life it’s like gym and work,” she said.

Training is Kirkegaard’s favourite part of competing.

“I feel normal at the gym,” she said. “I’ll walk around in my little tank top and my muscles,” while at work she said she tends to cover up.

“Most of my clients don’t know that I do this,” she said.

The most important thing, Kirkegaard said, is to find a balance between home life, work, and working out while still maintaining a positive attitude – especially since these events are judged, which can sometimes be hard on self-esteem.

Bikini contestants are judged based on having a tiny waist, broad shoulders and a round glute, Kirkegaard said, adding that “you will never weigh less than you do at that moment on stage.”

The hours leading up to the competition, Kirkegaard sent her Calgary-based trainer selfies and based on those he would instruct her on what she could eat, “it’s amazing what your body can do in six hours,” she said. But the second the winners are announced, there is usually a 48-hour binge.

“Right when I got off stage I ate two pieces of cheesecake, went back to my parents and ate nachos at 2:30 in the morning and the day after I was stuck in the airport for eight hours and — not going to lie — there was a candy section there,” she said.

She’s not alone in this, she has seen other competitors down a two litre bottle of Dr. Pepper and eat 15 chocolate bars.

Post-competition weight gain of five to 10 pounds is normal and those constant fluctuations is what some women find frightening about the sport, Kirkegaard said.

“Those girls on the magazines—that is competition body and women strive for that and that is not realistic, but people don’t understand that,” she said.

Cost is another factor to consider as a bodybuilder. Kirkegaard said she can spend up to $300 a week on groceries, $1,300 on competition including spray tans and those sparkly bikinis can run up to $800.

“You have to do it for yourself, you can’t do it for anyone else,” she said. “When you do it for yourself, you’re able to work on less sleep and you can do things that you normally wouldn’t do.”