Hope fitness instructor training for bodybuilding competition

Andrea Petersen will compete June 9 in Fort St. John

Fitness specialist Andrea Petersen is training six days a week and following a strict diet

Facing a big birthday or other big milestone in our lives, many of us wonder if we “still have it” — and we set out to test our mettle.

The test may be as simple as walking around the block or up a flight of stairs… or as complex as taking part in a major competition. The more complex the challenge, the more important it is to set incremental goals and stick to a plan, as local fitness attendant Andrea Petersen is finding.

Petersen, who lives in Chilliwack, has been working at the local rec centre since September 2013. Approaching her 40th birthday in November, she has challenged herself to see if she can still compete in competitive bodybuilding. Her first competition will be the Northern Classic Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Show in Fort St. John on June 9. She will enter in the masters’ bikini category, for women aged 35 and older.

Petersen’s foray into the field began in 2001, when she was working with a personal trainer in Victoria, to get back in shape after her first pregnancy.

“She sparked an interest in me,” said Petersen. “Also, I was working towards becoming a personal trainer in 2003 at the Chilliwack Landing centre when I saw the other competitors getting ready to compete and decided that I wanted to give it a try.”

Petersen got her chance in 2006 and 2007, when she took part in two competitions, before returning to a more normal but still active lifestyle.

“You have to be completely committed,” she added. “You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.”

There’s the considerable physical aspect to the training, including 45 minutes of cardio and 45 minutes of weights… six times a week — but there’s also a big change in the diet, which started in late February.

“In the beginning, you get some ‘cheat’ meals,” explained Petersen, “and I could have bread in the early days — but not anymore.

“There’s a small list of things I can eat and they fit on one sheet of paper.”

Lean protein, especially chicken, is a daily staple. She can also have one red meat meal a week, and buffalo offers the leanest cuts there.

“I can have any vegetables I want,” said Petersen. “Broccoli, mushrooms, sweet potato, yam, oatmeal and carrots.

“Potatoes, I don’t have. And no dairy. I stay away from high glycemics, so no sugar — but brown rice, spices and hot sauces are fine. Lots of ginger and lemon, too.

“I also juice every day,” she added. “Greens, kale, spinach, lemon and one huge ginger root. Ginger is a good anti-inflammatory.

“I have to weigh all of my food and I have two spreadsheets to track it.”

Then there’s the water. Four liters per day.

For a bit of a change, there’s always tea.

“Tea is my bestest friend!” Petersen writes in her blog. “The only problem when you drink tea to fight off the cravings from the 55 Dairy Queen ads is that you then have to get up five times at night! Stop drinking tea and water after 7 p.m.! Note to self! LOL!”

Writing blog entries at her fitfunfabbikinigirl.blogspot.ca and sharing her goals with others have helped her stay on her path — and these motivational measures can help others with their own fitness goals, Petersen said.

“Tell people. Once you commit and you’ve told people that you’re doing it — you’re doing it. It holds you accountable.”

Petersen said she is thankful for the added support from her husband, son and daughter.

Also holding her accountable is her coach, Michelle Krack of Abbotsford.

“She’s the one who beat me in my first two shows,” said Petersen. “I check in with her weekly.”

Petersen said she looks forward to a time when she can come off her strict regimen and reverse-diet so she can, “enjoy a hot dog by the camp fire with my family.” Before then, she has a clear focus.

“When I place (at the Northern Classic), I plan to go on to the BCs, two weeks later — then I am not sure,” she said. “Only the future will tell.”

Mandy Arbuckle, assistant manager for Recreation, Culture and Airpark Services, said Petersen is involved in two weight-training programs at the rec centre.

“She’s leading the ‘Why Weights?’ classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunch,” said Arbuckle. “It’s a led activity that is good for beginners or advanced.

“There’s also a new class that Andrea is one of our instructors for, called ‘Intro to Weight Training,’ from 5 to 6 p.m. on Fridays.”

“This one is more focused on learning how to train on your own,” added Petersen.

For more advice on physical conditioning, see Petersen or other fitness instructors at the rec centre.

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