Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Competitor puts muscle into her preparation

I'm doing the research for other sites I suppose. Here's another article that I'm sure you'll see somewhere else soon

DECATUR - Paula Falk tightly grips the metal ends of two cables attached to weights on each side of her. With a slight grimace, she pulls them across her body, focusing on the muscles of her chest.

After she's done with her repetitions, she moves quickly onto the next muscle group.

"I like to get in here and get it done," she said.

Her method seems to have proved successful. Falk has been getting it done since she first picked up the weights two years ago at age 38 and has since gone on to compete in six bodybuilding shows in 18 months. Getting better and better with each show, Falk stepped up her game in May to win a card that allows her to compete as a professional bodybuilder.

"I set a goal in May 2005 to do a show in November 2005, to see what I could do and what I could accomplish," she recalled. "I won as a novice (entry level) competitor. I said I'll keep doing this as long as it's fun, and it got more fun with each show. Then I said I'll keep going until I win my pro card."

But Falk is captivated and has no plans to slow down any time soon. There is less competition for women, she said, because although bodybuilding is becoming more popular for females, still not many are interested in the commitment or overall concept.

"There are not a lot of women out there who want to work that hard, lift that hard," she said. "And so many are taking care of mommy things and household things."

Falk was the same way at one point. While in high school, her reaction to bodybuilding was "Ew, gross. I would never want to be one of those muscle women," she said with a laugh. Falk changed her thinking after meeting bodybuilder John Bauler, who is now her fiance, while working out at Club Fitness.

"I wouldn't have gotten into bodybuilding if not for him; he never pushed me, but he encouraged me," she said.

Falk said her bodybuilding has taken nothing away from her job, fiance and role as a mother; in fact, her son and daughter enjoy watching her perform in competitions and can be found striking poses and flexing their muscles from time to time, she laughed. And although there might be some negative stereotypes associated with bodybuilding, especially for women, Falk said she has received complete support from family, friends and gym-goers at Club Fitness.

"It's quite an accomplishment," said Mike Lambdin, Club Fitness owner, of Falk achieving her pro card. "It's really what you train for as an amateur bodybuilder."

And don't be mistaken between the natural bodybuilding that Falk and Bauler do and the glowing, muscle-bound bodybuilders on ESPN, Lambdin said. Falk and Bauler decided to participate only in competitions put on by the National Gym Association, which performs drug testing on every participant, so each competitor is naturally built without the use of substances. This levels the playing field and makes competing more enjoyable, Falk said.

"Anybody can do steroids," Lambdin agreed. "This is natural; to do it naturally is unbelievable. I've owned a gym for 18 years. I know what it takes to diet daily; I know it's a big ordeal."

Falk said she has two diets, an "off season" diet and a stricter meal plan for the 12 weeks before a competition. Off season brings meals that include chicken, egg whites, fish, fruit and vegetables, lean beef, whole grains and low-fat dairy. When Falk begins "dieting down," though, she cuts many of those items out of her diet.

Twelve to six weeks before a show, she eliminates foods such as beef, dairy - including cheese - and whole grains. Eight weeks out, she begins drinking one to two gallons of water a day to flush her system, and six weeks out, she eats nothing but fish, egg whites, cream of wheat and broccoli.

But, Falk warned, while she is able to drop some weight with this strict diet, it is not meant to be used year-round.

"This is not a healthy lifestyle diet; this is a precontest diet only," she stressed.

Falk also trains six days a week, with "99 percent" of her workouts being weight lifting, she said.

"I do a lot of heavy lifting, focusing on different part of the body each day," Falk said. "My personal schedule and work schedule really allow me to do this."

While Falk and Bauler would like to be able to get to the gym together, their schedules only permit trips together on Saturdays. But their continued support for each other in their relationship remains constant, Bauler said.

"To be able to share that, especially with someone you're so close to, helps a lot," he said. "It takes commitment, training, dieting; if you don't have that support, it makes it difficult to do."

Falk and Bauler will be competing in their first professional show together in September, which takes place in Atlanta. Though "ecstatic" about this opportunity, Falk realizes bodybuilding is a hobby for her and has adopted a wait-and-see approach about competing professionally.

"We'll see what happens," she said. "All I know is that I'm going to go into the show and do the best I can."

Her attitude and commitment is exemplary, Bauler acknowledged. Through her bodybuilding, Falk proves that "40 means nothing really," Bauler said with a laugh.

"We see too many people accepting getting older," he said. "She shows that it's never too late to start; there are no limits."

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