Monday, July 9, 2007

Local sailor takes fitness to the next level

Carmel Ecker
Staff writer
July 9, 2007

You wouldn’t know it to see her in a navy uniform, but MS Chrissy Wruck bears the buff muscles of a body builder.

A photo on her office wall in HMCS Calgary shows just how much work the boatswain puts into her physique.

In it she is tanned, perfectly poised with muscles flexed, and grinning from ear to ear as a panel of judges examines the definition and symmetry of her muscles.

The photo was taken at her first body building competition, held in Vancouver this April.

“I’m speechless when it comes to the excitement and adrenalin that was going through me. It was overwhelming,” she says of the competition.

Backstage, women were crammed into tiny cubicles spraying and pinning up their hair, frantically applying their makeup and covering their muscular bodies in lotion, or performing exercises to pump up their muscles.

Once on stage, their brilliant smiles came out as they all quarter turned and changed poses in unison at the judges’ command.

MS Wruck did everything just as she’d practiced in front of the mirror at home.

Her three and a half months of focused training paid off when the 37-year-old walked off the stage with second place in the Figure category.

Of course, it’s taken a lot longer than a few months for MS Wruck to reach body-building success.

Her journey began 13 years ago with aerobics and strength training at a civilian gym in Edmonton.

With two fitness-oriented parents, including a mother who spent 20 years instructing aerobics, MS Wruck has always been fit. But she didn’t have the muscle definition she desired.

Jumping head-first into a rigorous routine of aerobics and weight training, she was at the gym so much the instructors there encouraged her to begin teaching classes.

Building a passion for fitness

Within a year, she had her certification to instruct others in aerobics and strength training.

A part-time reservist then, she began teaching at the gym and within a year and a half she was managing the place.

Though she excelled at fitness instruction, the higher wage and structure of the military drew her to sign on as a Class B Reservist in 1998.

“The military could offer me a better future. That’s when I decided to go regular force,” she says.

Working as a recruiter in Edmonton, she scaled back on instructing at her gym and stopped completely once she received the call that she was posted to HMCS Vancouver with the rank of Leading Seaman in 2000.

Her love of fitness often had her teaching classes on the ship’s flight deck throughout Exercise Tandem Thrust and Operation Apollo in 2001.

She didn’t entertain the idea of pushing her fitness further until last year when a friend took her to an all-natural body building competition in Nanaimo in a bid to convince her to compete. It wasn’t the first time someone had suggested it to her.

“Many friends of mine have come up to me and said Chrissy, you work out, you look great, why not try to compete,” she says.

She tucked the idea in the back of her mind and did some Internet research into local competitions she could enter, and what it would take for her to stand alongside other fitness aficionados.

Though she was a “clean eater 90 per cent of the time,” her diet had to be tweaked to cut out any excess sugars and carbohydrates, while boosting her caloric intake with protein to help her build mass.

She needed a trainer to help her develop the right diet and refine her poses and stage presence. She also needed a choreographer to help her develop a stage routine.

Then came the entry fees ($110 per category), stage outfits ($100 and up) and travel costs ($2,000 on average for a weekend), plus extras such as photos ($110) and judges reports ($75).

Diet and exercise

She decided the gains were worth the cost and she found a former female body builder to get her on the right track. Her twice a day training regime was perfect, she was told.

Five to six days a week she does cardio from 6 to 7 a.m., rotating from the treadmill to the bicycle to the elliptical machine. From 3 to 4 p.m. she hits the weight room.

“[The trainer] stated to me that she wasn’t going to charge me for something that I already knew how to do. As far as the workouts, I knew proper technique and what I had to do to prepare myself. She was there to tweak me and to help me with my diet and posing and general stage presence.”

Because she already eats well, MS Wruck doesn’t have to make many changes to her diet until the month before a competition. “You’ve got to start to take out the sugars, watch the amount of sodium in your diet and drink plenty of water.”

Her diet consists mostly of yams, rice and vegetables for carbohydrates and egg whites, chicken and fish for protein. She can still have a coffee a day and enjoy a glass of red wine for a treat until the final week.

At that point, she reduces her calories and cuts out almost all sodium. Even the variety of vegetables she eats drops drastically and she must stretch one litre of water over the last three days. The result is a super lean physique most of us only dream of.


Her trainer’s insight into what the judges would look for was an invaluable resource for MS Wruck’s Vancouver competition, run by the World Natural Sports Organization. Her second place showing moved her to the next level - a Toronto competition in June.

A fourth place finish in Toronto has propelled her into the Elite Division, one below Pro. That would normally mean competing at the FAME North American Championships in Miami, FL, this November, but she’ll be on course in Halifax at that time, so she’ll have to wait a year to compete at that level.

In each of the four forms of natural body building — model, figure, fitness and muscle — there are several levels of competition. When a competitor finishes in the top five of any level, they earn the right to move up to the next level.

Each form has a different focus:

  • Model is for people who aspire to be fitness models and does not involve a routine, only poses.
  • Fitness is for dancers, gymnasts, cheerleaders and skaters. It adds a gymnastic element to the routine and there is less emphasis on muscle mass.
  • Figure — MS Wruck’s category — adds a 90 second routine in which a competitor shows off their physical strength, but may not include tumbling.
  • Muscle is a step up from the figure category with a focus on more muscles mass. It is also the only category in which women don’t wear high heels for their poses.

Even though she’s been on a ship throughout her initiation into bodybuilding, MS Wruck hasn’t had any trouble maintaining her training schedule. There is a small gym area on board HMCS Calgary complete with free weights and a treadmill. Her food requirements were a bit tricky, but the galley staff has been very accommodating, she says.

The next step

Now posted to Fleet School, MS Wruck is looking forward to time ashore after seven years at sea.

The change of pace should give her the opportunity to focus on getting to the professional level, which will pit her against the best the natural body building world has to offer.

Asked how long she plans to stick with bodybuilding, she says it’s too soon to give her fitness aspirations an expiry date.

“A 65-year-old gentleman inspired me at the Toronto competition. He was an ex-U.S. Navy Captain and he was in the shape of a 16-year-old. I’m just going to go until I’m not physically capable of continuing

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