Bernadette McShane of Qualicum Beach grew up performing on stage, but never cared much for weight training. Shannyn Creekmore of Parksville has been working out almost as long as she can remember, but was petrified by the idea of putting herself in front of the public.
Having conquered their respective demons, the “travel buddies” and gym-mates at Parksville’s Iron Warehouse will take their place among Canada’s best next month when they compete in the bikini class in the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation’s national competition beginning June 25 in Moncton, NB.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Meaghan Orcutt, Iron Warehouse owner. “A lot of young girls look up to those two. Even with their accomplishments, they’re not intimidating. It’s great for people to come in and see someone working so hard for something they want to achieve.”
McShane, 24, grew up dancing and has an extensive background in performance and competition. She will be attending her third nationals after placing fourth in 2014 and improving to third last year.
Creekmore, 37 and the mother of two children, is something of a late arrival to the sport. She first stepped on stage to show off her bikini physique at last year’s Vancouver Pro-Am and won the master’s division, earning a spot in the 2015 Canadian Nationals in Toronto where she placed fourth.
“It was scary, but awesome,” said Creekmore. “It was the best experience of my life.”
That would hardly have been the case earlier in her life. Creekmore, a Kwalikum Secondary School graduate, recalls working out as a young child with her mother when her mom did aerobics, and went on to train in gymnastics and eventually move into weight training. She earned her personal trainer certification shortly after graduating and, after marrying and moving to Reno, Nev., got a job in the fitness centre of a golf course there.
“That’s where I first got to see girls who competed (in bodybuilding),” said Creekmore. “It was fascinating to see how dedicated they were to the sport, and I was interested. But I’m very introverted. I had to put aside that fear.”
McShane attended Brentwood College Secondary, which has an extensive array of athletic programs and physical education options for students.
“They had weight training, but I didn’t take to it then,” said McShane, who went on to attend the University of British Columbia and earn degrees in Sociology and Social Justice.
It was there, while dating a personal trainer, that she finally began dabbling in weight training. After returning to the mid-Island, her fitness coach suggested she try bodybuilding and referred McShane to Jennifer Jewell, who serves as bodybuilding coach to both women.
“I think there’s a myth that bikini girls don’t train as hard as other bodybuilders,” said McShane. “It’s still a lot of work. We just train a little differently.”
While bikini competitors typically have less muscle mass than bodybuilders in the Figure, Physique and Bodybuilding categories, it is not enough for them to simply stroll on stage and look pretty. Yes, there is the tanning, makeup and hairstyling to contend with — Iron Warehouse is helping sponsor the women with a $350 contribution toward their “look” — but when they stride onto the stage, it’s all business.
“The key thing is stage presence,” said McShane. “You have to do certain poses, and each pose should highlight a muscle or group of muscles. They walk the girls out in groups of five, and your goal is to be in the centre, because that means they’re using you as the comparison to judge the other girls.”
“They’re looking at muscle definition and muscle symmetry,” said Creekmore. “And of course they want that hourglass figure.”
To get to that perfect shape, the women must balance weight training, cardiovascular workouts and a strict dietary regimen, while also working with Jewell on stage presentation and, perhaps most importantly, mental focus. McShane began the “cutting” phase of her training 21 weeks before the competition is scheduled to begin, while Creekmore has a 16-week final buildup to the event.
All for a few minutes on stage in front of judges who will decide their fate.
“You’re not in control of the results, only of how you prepare yourself going in,” said McShane. ‘You have to understand you’re opening yourself up to scrutiny and criticism. You shouldn’t invest yoursel identity in winning a medal; in the big scheme it’s not that important.”
“For me, it’s about the experience and the self confidence. My goal is always to go in better than I was before,” adds Creekmore. “It’s not for everybody. You have to get out of your own way and trust your coach, trust the process.”
And, of course, to put aside the introvert.
“You train hard, so you’d like to be able to showcase what you’ve been training for,” she said.