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Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Stats: 34 • 122 lb • 5’6″
Gig: Business owner
From Fit to Fatigued
Karrie-Ann Lowry was a hip-hop dancer and athlete throughout high school and began weight training at 17. She transitioned to running half marathons and 10K races in her 20s, and she even did a triathlon when she was three months pregnant. Then her fitness took a turn. “I gained 70 pounds over the course of two pregnancies, leading to chronic inflammation and pre-diabetes,” she says. “I had achy joints and no control over my hormones or blood sugar.”
Lowry turned to magazines like Oxygen to get back to basics and find inspiration, and eventually she lost 50 pounds. “I had to figure out what was healthy for me, not someone else,” Lowry says. She began to batch-cook her favorite dishes and prepped fruit, salad and vegetables weekly so they were readily available. Lowry’s perspective on “cheat” foods also changed. “For me, a ‘cheat’ is now a ‘carb-up’ and is usually a serving of sweet potatoes or, if I’m really feeling bad, the Cajun fries from Five Guys,” she says, laughing.
These days, Lowry trains in the morning after dropping off her kids at school, and she begins her workouts with stretching, push-ups, air squats and planks. “Then I train individual muscle groups with free weights or cable exercises,” she explains. Cardio comes twice a week, and usually she runs, cycles or takes a Spin class.
New York City
Stats: 45 • 146 lb • 5’9″
Gig: Director of mobile marketing
Fit Over 40
Mirela Cialai has always been into fitness, yet she didn’t get serious about lifting weights until she turned 40. “I was coming out of a seven-year relationship and realized that as a single woman in my 40s, I’d be competing with women much younger and in better shape,” she says. “That scared me into action.”
Cialai began training three to four times per week doing full-body workouts with an emphasis on weight training. “As I got older, things that used to be firm started sagging and cardio didn’t seem to help much,” she says. “I was getting thinner but wanted to be curvy where it matters.” Her favorite move for adding those curves: deadlifts. And for her next challenge, she wants to enter a local fitness competition.
“Having this strong body gives me a huge amount of confidence,” Cialai says. “When I was younger, I was always stressing out, wondering if the clothes I was wearing looked good on me. Now I just walk in like I own the place!”
For those who lack motivation, Cialai advises to avoid the couch at all costs. “Either go to the gym straight from work or grab your gear from home and go right away,” she says. “Once you sit down, the battle is lost.”
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Stats: 33 • 125 lb • 5’7″
Gig: Contracts specialist
Ups and Downs
A basketball and volleyball player growing up, Rae-Ann Dodd fell out of shape after a bad breakup, gaining 20 pounds and spiraling into unhealthy behaviors. Once she realized her path, she put herself in check and learned all she could about nutrition and exercise. Over the course of three years, she lost all that extra ballast. “I learned how to be disciplined, what my body is capable of, and how training and nutrition can truly transform your physique,” she says.
On Physique and Failure
The married mother of one used to be a “cardio queen,” but she shifted to weight training at the suggestion of her husband, Shayne. She has since done five fitness and bikini shows and earned her pro card in the Natural Physique & Athletics Association in 2017. These days, Dodd teaches rowing classes and trains five to six days a week using a standard bodybuilding split, pushing to failure in her working sets.
Life in the Balance
Dodd’s secret to success was finding balance. “That means eating healthy most of the time but still enjoying dinners, wine and events with family and friends — without guilt,” she says. “It means not being stuck in a stringent plan and stressing over missed workouts. Now I can be with my family and volunteer as a trainer for my 12-year-old son’s hockey team, work a full-time job, coach clients and still feel energized.”
Stats: 28 • 138 lb • 5’8″
Gig: Marketing director
Ballet to Bikini
Sarah Hoots was a ballerina, gymnast and equestrienne growing up, which satisfied her competitive nature. But, like many young women, Hoots gained the dreaded “freshman 15” her first year in college, but instead of giving in, she fought back and hired a personal trainer. “Within two months of working out and weight training, I wanted to compete,” she says. In 2010, she began to compete in bikini shows in multiple federations, and her most cherished victory was winning first at the 2011 NPC Teen Collegiate & Masters Nationals Championships.
After six years of competing, Hoots shifted gears — literally — to cycling. “I struggled to find balance with my nutrition after years doing bikini shows, so I took a break from the gym and got into endurance sports where fueling your body properly is crucial,” she says. “It brought me back to a mentally healthier place.” Hoots now cycles six days per week and does two or three functional-training days in the gym.
“In 2017, I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma,” she says, adding that she is all clear now. “After surgery, because I was unable to walk for three months, I was more driven than ever. I told myself that never again would I miss a workout because I was too lazy or tired to do it, and I cherish each and every day that I’m healthy.”
Delta, British Columbia, Canada
Stats: 41 • 120 lb (offseason), 109 (contest) • 5’2″
Gig: Senior project manager, construction
No More Mom Bod
Sheri Griffin was a competitive figure skater and softball player in her youth, but in 2016, she was the heaviest she’d ever been. “I was losing my breath when climbing stairs and couldn’t stand back up if I squatted down to get something on the floor,” she says. “Plus, I was just tired of having a ‘mom body!’” She and her husband Mike decided to team up and get into shape.
A Family Affair
While on vacation — and still working out — Griffin visited an aunt who was preparing for a figure competition and immediately wanted that for herself. Her aunt introduced Griffin to her trainer, Lisa Schirok, and soon after, Griffin rediscovered her athletic groove. She lost 15 pounds, got into her best-ever shape and followed her aunt onto the stage in 2018, earning fourth in an Open Fitness Model class and third in a Masters Bikini Model class. “I learned so much about my body and how hard I can push myself,” she says.
These days, Griffin trains five days per week in the off season, starting at 4:30 a.m. “That way, I have no excuse not to work out, and I feel great the rest of the day,” she says. Griffin follows a bodybuilding-style training split and does cardio two to three times weekly. “Running is my favorite, hands down,” she says. “I think I like it because it’s so measurable, and I’m always working toward a faster pace.”
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