By MICHAEL ZITZ
Chattier members of Gold's Gym in Fredericksburg should forgive 60-year-old Barbara Franklin for not taking a break from pumping iron long enough to talk about her six grandchildren.
Franklin's a genuinely friendly person.
But when she's at the gym, she's deadly serious, with just one thing on her mind:
"I don't come to the gym to socialize," she says. "I have to focus when I work out."
The 5-foot, 109-pound granny's seriousness is paying off with a lean, ripped physique that's the envy of at least one of those grandkids.
Kelsi Jones is a 13-year-old rising freshman at Massaponax High School. Sometimes they work out together. Kelsi says she wants to be just like her grandma.
It's a proud feeling for both.
"She likes my muscles and my abs," says Franklin, who was born in King George County and graduated from Stafford High School in 1965.
But few teens ever get as cut as Franklin, who recently won an over-45 division of a state bodybuilding and figure competition.
Because of her low body fat, she's lean and wiry as a greyhound. And while she's not bulky, she does have muscles that seem to pop out on top of her muscles, like those in a "Popeye" cartoon.
She's proud of the way she projects vitality and power. But feeling fabulous is more important to her.
"I have so much more energy now," she says. "And I like being stronger."
Franklin, who works for Cobra Fire Protection in North Stafford, a company that installs sprinkler systems, emphasizes that the changes in her body have all come naturally.
A friend, Donnell Odoms of Fredericksburg, trained her for four years, saw competitive potential and encouraged her to push herself to the next level. So in January, February, March and April, she worked out incredibly hard, training for the bodybuilding competition this spring.
"It was unbelievable," Odoms says. "Most people that age, it doesn't happen. But she trains like a 30-year-old. Any weight I'll put on or tell her to use, she will use. I guess she didn't want to be defeated."
She lost 4 percent of her body fat in four months, dropping it to 14 percent, which is very low for a woman of any age.
Another friend, Lisa Blake, helped her with diet tips and coached her on posing for competition.
Franklin took first place in the 45-and-over women's division at the OCB Natural Figure Bodybuilding Championship in Richmond.
"I love to go as far as I can go," she says, adding that she may compete in another event in October.
"Barbara has made awesome gains," says Blake, a national bodybuilding competitor who lives in Fredericksburg. "She just transformed her body. It was amazing. People at the gym really noticed."
Even among the fittest young gym rats, heads turn when Franklin enters the room. She's not only setting an example for people of all ages, but teaching others how to follow it. She recently became a part-time consultant at American Family Fitness in Massaponax, and is certifying to be a trainer.
Franklin is at Gold's virtually every day at 5 a.m., for 90 minutes of cardio and abs work to rev her metabolism and burn calories.
Then she puts in another 90 minutes to two hours of weight workouts on different parts of her body five days a week to build muscle and increase definition.
The results--and the reaction--have given her plenty of incentive to stay on her regimen, she said. So has the way she feels.
"I just love life," Franklin says. "I just can't imagine getting old and not staying active. I want to feel young for life. Hopefully, I have a lot of young years left."Michael Zitz: 540/374-5408