Monday, May 7, 2007

She's 98 pounds of pure muscle

"These are my guns," Shari Duncan said.

She wasn't talking about a pair of pearl-handled .38s.

Duncan's guns are her matching 11-inch biceps.

Duncan is a bodybuilder, a novice who has done a lot with her petite body.

"I'm 4-foot-11 and barely 98 pounds, soaking wet," she said.

Poor thing. The last clothes she bought were a size 12 in the girl's department. What 44-year-old wouldn't give their left arm flap for that problem?

After only six months of training, she won the master's division for women 35 and older and the open division.

How did she do that with a body as narrow as Rush Limbaugh's mind?

"Diet and exercise," she said.

Exercise is a minimum of two hours of lifting, squats, step ups and other stuff up to six days a week just before a competition.

If that sounds hard, consider the diet.

"I eat six to eight small meals a day," she said.

If you can call a half cup of cottage cheese, a rice cake and a few strawberries a meal. Or five boiled egg whites and 5 ounces of unbuttered, sugarless sweet potato.

There is no Chicken Soup for the Female Bodybuilder at your local bookstore.

Since Duncan started her regimen, she and her husband, John, no longer visit their favorite restaurants. She drives to the mall a different way so she won't pass the ice cream store. He's lost more than 20 pounds by not eating junk food.

In helping prepare his wife for the competition, he has a task that is somewhat unusual. Those tans on body builders don't come from hours on the beach. It's spray-on professional tan stuff. John sprays his wife down and then smooths it out with a paintbrush.

So what does he say to his golf buddies?

"Can't play today, guys. Gotta go paint my wife."

It takes five coats of stain to get ready, and 30 minutes for each coat to dry.

"You have to make sure nobody is coming by the house," she said. "For half an hour you've got to stand there completely naked. You can't touch anything, you can't sit on the furniture or the commode seat."

He also coats her with Pam cooking spray before a competition so she'll be appropriately glossy as she flexes and smiles in her bikini.

John Duncan is immensely proud of his wife.

"I don't have the words," he said. "It's Shari. It's all her."

Not just for the bodybuilding. Shari Duncan doesn't live with regret. Having never gotten a college education, she went back later and tore into the coursework just like she does her workouts, coming away with an associate's degree and all "A"s, he said.

Where does all this inspiration come from?

She credits her trainer at World Gym, Pedro "Big Pop" Velazco, a 60-year-old lifetime power lifter.

"She came in and wanted to work out," he said. "I saw the potential."

Mostly, it was her best friend, Donna Harver, who died of cancer 10 years ago. Harver's battle inspired Duncan to transfer to the Cancer Care Center at Southeast Georgia Health System, where she is the office manager.

"Going through that process with her changed me," Duncan said. "She's with me all the time in just the most positive way."

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