That was Cindy Marcotte’s reaction when the idea was first mentioned.
During a casual conversation with a friend, Tonia Penner, she mentioned that she was looking for a new challenge.
Penner suggested entering a figure competition.
Marcotte looked horrified.
“I really didn’t approve of that sort of thing because I thought it was all about vanity. I thought it was silly,” she said with a sheepish look.
What she knew of figure competitions was intimidating.
Images of glistening muscle-bound women flashed through her head.
Flex and smile.
Flex and smile.
She’d heard stories about the harsh diets contestants adhered to. She knew there was lots and lots and lots of gym time.
The pictures she’d seen — the people in those pictures looked nothing like her, and she couldn’t imagine herself looking anything like them.
She surveyed her slight frame in the mirror and said, ‘No way can I do that.’
Penner, though, had a counter offer.
“Just give it two weeks,” Marcotte’s trainer-to-be said with a sly little grin. “And if it’s not working for you after 14 days, then you can bail.”
“So I could try it, and if it didn’t work I wouldn’t be losing anything,” Marcotte recalled. “I could honestly say it wasn’t for me and move on.”
Marcotte started by altering her diet.
Not to the full-blown nothing-but-chicken-and-greens diet mind you.
In the first eight weeks of training, the diet is less restricted. Still, there was a major adjustment as Marcotte cut out processed foods.
“I’ve always had the approach where I ate what I wanted and then I just ran it off,” the frequent marathon runner said. “But I had issues with irritable bowel syndrome and bloating, and all of that just went away when I started this. The diet just agreed with me, and at that point I was thinking, ‘Well. Let’s see what can happen.’”
Marcotte was still sceptical about the end result. She could put in the work and eat the food, but she had one major issue.
She didn’t believe.
“I’ve looked at the covers of Oxygen magazine and other fitness magazines and thought, ‘That’s not me. I could never look that way,” she said. “And that’s a big mental hurdle that you have to overcome. You have to have faith that at the end you are going to look like that. It’s about believing it will happen because you know you’ve done the work.”
As mentioned, Marcotte has run marathons.
Last year, she entered a sadistic event called Tough Mudder, crawling through water-filled tunnels and running through electrified wires.
Compared to those, she pegged a figure competition as easy-peasy.
“That’s another thing I’ve eaten crow on, because this turned out to be harder than any marathon training,” she chuckled. “You work out a lot, sometimes two and a half hours a day, and I’m still going to work and doing family stuff. So I’m tired all the time.”
“It is a mentally and physically challenging task that you do for three months, and halfway through lots of people are done,” Penner added. “Anyone can do this if they have the drive, determination and time to devote. You either want it bad enough, or you don’t.”
Marcotte’s been blessed with a support system. Her husband has backed her in every venture.
She does, however, lament the lack of time spent with her son.
“I’m home for an hour or two, maybe, after work, just enough time to get supper ready for them,” Marcotte said. “Then I’m back to the gym. I see my son in the morning or at night, but not both. My time is so divided.”
He had a birthday recently, complete with the requisite cake.
Marcotte couldn’t have any.
“Having to explain to people why I can’t eat something, and having them think I’m kind of crazy, that’s been difficult,” she said.
After eight weeks, the diet became a real issue.
Processed foods out.
No added sugars.
No refined carbs.
No fat. No cheese, bread or pasta.
“It’s clean eating, and a diet I’ll still continue after this is done,” Marcotte said. “I thought for sure I was going to crave foods like crazy. But I never went through this ‘rip people’s heads off phase,’ that my husband expected.”
This weekend marks the culmination of all the work and sacrifice as Marcotte hops in a car to Kelowna. The Kelowna Community Theatre is the venue for the Western Canadian Championships.
“These last two weeks have been the toughest because the diet is at its most restricted and the workouts are at their most intense,” Marcotte said. “So I feel like I’m doing more on less fuel. I’ve actually cried during workouts.”
On Saturday, she’ll walk onto the stage and go through the required routine.
A glued on bikini (seriously).
Five-inch high heels.
Makeup and a deep brown tan.
A set of poses (front, side and back) requiring every muscle flexed and a smile on her face.
“I’ve practised in front of the mirror, a lot, with help from Tonia, my husband and my sister,” Marcotte said. “The poses are very unnatural, and they hurt when you hold them. But you have to make it look effortless.”
This article has made much of the training sound like a brutal, torturous exercise.
Was it worth it?
Three months ago, Marcotte looked in the mirror and saw a skeptic looking back.
She has seen the looks of people who don’t understand this venture. She has sacrificed more than she ever imagined she would. But now, when she looks in that mirror, she says she sees the person she always knew was there.
“I’m the best representation of myself, in the fitness sense,” she elaborated. “I’m proud of myself because I’ve worked very hard.”
And would she do it again?
“I don’t know, and that’s a better question to ask once it’s all over,” she said. “I have no expectations going into it. This is what I worked for and I’m going to go out on that stage and own it. After that, whatever happens happens and I’ll be happy with it.”
Then she’ll go have breakfast.
“French toast. Pancakes with whipped cream. Eggs and bacon,” she laughed. “I can’t wait.”
Get more info at bcabba.org/contest.htm