Saturday, July 14, 2007

Woman muscles her way to title

Guns. The woman has guns.

Try to squeeze Janet Guenther's biceps and you'd better use both hands to wrap around the muscled mass of her upper arm. She makes bodybuilding her life and has the titles to prove it.

Not such a huge deal for a 24-year-old, but Guenther turns 57 in August. In April, the Edmonds Community College physical education and health instructor was named overall master champion in the women's master's bodybuilding over-50 class at the 2007 Emerald Cup Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships in Bellevue.

It's the most prestigious bodybuilding competition in our state, she said.

Next Guenther is off to the National Physique Committee Team, Collegiate and Masters Nationals at the end of July in Pittsburgh.

It's hard to believe her training regime. It's almost around the clock.

Especially since Guenther has diabetes and wears an insulin pump. Not only does she eat for fitness, she eats specifically to keep her diabetes in check.

We're talking a day with protein shakes, half a small potato, one wheat tortilla chip with peanut butter, teensy portions of chicken or fish, maybe an egg-white omelet and an ounce of hot cereal.

One ounce. Just a slurp for most of us.

When she finishes a competition, her splurge is one Starbucks blueberry scone.


After competing, she might reward herself with one Mexican beer.


She hits the weight room at 5:30 a.m. To switch things up, she runs stadium stairs for an hour.

"You can never be too strong," Guenther said. "You focus your whole life on it.

Not her whole life. She rides a Suzuki motorcycle, has taught at EdCC for almost 30 years, helped raise two stepchildren and owned a farm in Stanwood.

At the ranch, the former rodeo queen tossed 14 tons of hay in the barn in two days, by herself.

She is a total inspiration to Stephanie Singer, 20, from Arlington, who is a student at EdCC and a fledgling bodybuilder. Singer saw her idol compete.

"She was gorgeous, so fit, words can't even describe it," Singer said. "Her muscles popped. Jaw-dropping."

Singer said the superwoman took her along snowboarding last winter, a sport that also improves muscle tone.

"She is amazing. I get up at 4 a.m. to join her training. It's addicting."

Raised on farms in Eastern Washington, Guenther played Division 1 basketball at Washington State University. At EdCC, as she was training with a serious lifter, she entered a bodybuilding competition when she could bench press more than 200 pounds. She eyed a 50-year-old woman, in excellent shape, and decided to devote her life to the sport, she said.

There were setbacks. Diabetes came in 1991, but the diet fit nicely with her healthy competition eating habits. In 2003 she ruptured discs in her neck that required a spinal fusion and a year of recovery.

Guenther came back in the best shape of her life, she said. She weighs about 135 pounds, is 5 feet 7 inches tall and has less that 10 percent body fat.

We hear a lot about athletes taking steroids these days to bulk up.

"I'm a natural," Guenther said. "I can't compete with the chemical women."

As a typical female, she has least-liked and most-favorite parts of her body. She said her worst body part is her lower thighs, but she has great deltoids, including extreme definition in her back.

She practices competition poses for an hour a day.

There is a downside to bodybuilding, she said. Guenther has to shave, everywhere, including having someone run a razor down her back before she competes.

And folks keep asking her to move furniture.

Columnist Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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