Sunday, August 5, 2007

Body built to suit top placement

By Don BodgerNews Leader Pictorial

The second time around is always much easier than the first.

That’s certainly what the Valley’s Charlene Akhurst, soon to be from Fort St. John, discovered during a return engagement at the National Fitness and Figure competition in Edmonton.

Akhurst finished in a tie for ninth last year in the Figure Tall class, but rocketed up the ladder to fifth with more confidence and improvement based on the previous experience.

“It was great this year to increase that placing,’’ said Akhurst.

“You could tell on the first couple of call-ups, they weren’t calling out the really big girls.’’

Knowing what to expect with the judging and the whole experience put Akhurst more at ease.

“I felt actually quite relaxed for the most part,’’ she said. “That just makes all the difference. You’re having to stand there for long periods of time.’’

The whole contest was perhaps much harder on husband Damian Akhurst as a spectator than Charlene as a competitor.

“It’s tough for me in the audience,’’ he conceded. “I got an upset stomach. It’s absolutely horrifying for me.’’

Damian has been fully supportive of his wife’s efforts to train properly, eat right and prepare for the contest as much as possible by taking some of the load off her of looking after their four boys.

“There’s times where it’s tough,’’ he said. “She does it for all the right reasons. The competition is a byproduct of her lifestyle. She does it to relax and get away from the rat race, I guess, of five guys in the house.’’

“You need to stay grounded in that preparation,’’ conceded Charlene. “You’re competitive. You hate to say you’re not.’’

Even though some people have been known to use questionable means to achieve their goals, Akhurst sticks to a strict diet and workout routine leading up to the competition.

“The hard part is standing up for it,’’ she said. “People think you’re a mom, especially of four, you have this stereotype — the way you have to be. The kids, I don’t think they’d want me to be any different.’’

Akhurst has found she enjoys the element of being on stage. The main judging is done preceding the evening show in front of the audience, but competitors don’t find out the results until then.

Being extensively photographed while maintaining composure has become more comfortable with time for Akhurst.

“There’s so much in the modeling aspect that comes with it,’’ she said. “You have to keep yourself in check.’’

Akhurst has her own web site at where additional photos, competition results and more are posted.

She credits the staff at the gym where she does her training, Valley Health and Fitness Centre, for being so supportive.

“You start to feel a bit more like you live there,’’ Akhurst joked. “My favourite time to go is over the lunch hour. It’s such a great group at that time.

Charlene and Damian and sons Tanner, 14 in September, Branden, 12, Spencer, 10, and Prestin, 6, are moving to Fort St. John in September that will leave the Valley short four young hockey players, a bodybuilding role model and a model dad.

“I’ll be training with the polar bears,’’ joked Charlene.

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