WELL-MUSCLED  Invermere local Tamela Hart recently took second in her category at a major body-building competition in Calgary. Photo submitted

WELL-MUSCLED Invermere local Tamela Hart recently took second in her category at a major body-building competition in Calgary. Photo submitted

By Lindsay McPherson

Special to the Pioneer

Fitness and well-being was always an important part of Tamela Harts life, but it wasnt until last year that she decided to take her passion to the next level. After months of weight training and dedication, the 49-year-old Invermere resident placed second in the 2013 Natural Physique & Athletics Association Canada (NPAA) Canada Classic Masters Figure category held on May 19th in Calgary, Alberta.

Her first-ever physique competition, Ms. Hart is an admitted late bloomer to the sport.

I came into it accidentally, explained Hart, a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and meditation coach.

Already physically fit and muscular, last summer Ms. Hart had strangers approach her asking when she was competing. Thats when she began to research the sport, the organization, and what it would take to get even further in shape to compete.

The NPAA is a natural body-building organization that hosts competitions across the country, with a mandate of promoting weight training and physique without the use of steroids or performance-enhancing drugs. Women can compete in three categories: Figure (well-muscled), Model (semi-muscular), and Professional. Ms. Hart competed and placed second in the Masters Figure class for entrants 35 years and over.

It was something I wanted to try before I turned 50, she said, adding that it was a challenge outside of her comfort zone.

Because she was already weight lifting, there wasnt much change required in Ms. Harts workout routine. Rather, she had to refine certain muscles to get them defined for competition, particularly her triceps and gluteals. An average week of training included 1 to 1.5 hours of weight training a day, five times a week, with a 10-kilometre recovery run on Saturdays and a rest day on Sundays.

The greatest challenge in preparation for competing was to tighten up her eating habits and adopt a completely clean eating lifestyle. This meant for six months she consumed no dairy, refined foods or alcohol, and instead focused on eating lean meats and vegetables six times a day. In the weeks leading up to the event, she eliminated fruit, resulting in a couple of per cent drop in body fat. She describes the change in diet as very rewarding, resulting in a consistently high energy level without the highs and lows of sugar rushes.

With an impressive second place finish in her first competition under her belt and the supportive culture she found in womens weight training, Ms. Hart now has her sights set on a first place finish at a competition in Calgary this November. Her advice to others looking to start weight training or embrace a holistic healthy lifestyle: Have a curious mind about your body and what it can do, and turn that curiosity into a passion.

Ms. Hart acknowledged the support from the Valley Fitness Centre, Craig Smith of High Altitude Therapy, Sarah Eastwick of Fire Vixen Tattoos, and the encouragement from the local community in helping her achieve her goal.