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Grand Forks bodybuilders move up in the ranks: New gym opening in GF

Sharona Witwicki with trainers Al and Nancy Clark

Female bodybuilder Sharona Witwicki has returned from the BC Provincial Championship with a top three placement – a feat that qualifies her for nationals in August.

The bodybuilder, who competes in the “figure” category, is thrilled with the third place outcome -- especially since she only started competing two years ago. However, she’s decided to wait a year before competing at the national level. The qualification is valid for two years.

“We are going to go to nationals and watch the judges to see what they are looking for,” she said, adding the requirements at provincials are quite different than at the national level. “They may want a tinier waist and big shoulders. We have no idea what to expect.”

It’s an idea that her trainer Al Clark agrees with.

“She knows that there is going to be the top three from every province competing,” said Clark. “It’s good she realizes that. Not everyone can be critical. She says ‘I’m not there yet’ and now she has another year to train.”

Witwicki can’t praise her coaches, Clark and his wife Nancy enough.

“I really have to thank them for getting me this far,” she said.

But Clark has plenty of good things to say about Witwicki’s dedication as well.

“She placed sixth the first time she competed in November of 2011,” he said. “That was a big eye opened – to go up there and stand in front of everyone. The first time, everyone is probably in the best shape of their life. Then they go and see that everyone is in the same shape or better. People have one of two reactions. They either say that’s enough -- they can’t make the jump to the next level in order to place in the top three. Or they become super dedicated. Sharona chose the route to be super dedicated.”

From then on she ramped up her routine, stuck to her workouts and diet and turned it into a lifestyle.

“It really impacts your life,” said Clark, of people who train for competition. “People don’t realize how much. You go to a barbecue and you can’t eat or have a drink. Your family is mad at you because they can’t eat cookies in front of you. It affects everything you do.”

Now that Witwicki has decided to take a year before her next major competition, she is supposed to give her body a break.

“I’m supposed to eat whatever I want. My body needs to rest,” she said, adding it’s hard to make that change. “I can go to dinner and a movie with my husband. I can’t remember when we last did that.”

She will still workout for the next few months but not at the same intensity. In December, she will really start training for nationals in August, said Clark.

“It’s hard,” said Clark, noting the last few weeks are the most challenging because that’s when they work on slimming down. “The last 10 weeks … the last six weeks … that’s mentally tough.”

If Witwicki places in the top three at nationals she can earn her pro-card, which will open even more doors for her. However, she’s staying realistic.

“Only two girls get it,” she said, adding if she places in the top three at nationals she’s automatically qualified for nationals the following year.

Nancy Clark heads to pro show in Chicago

Witwicki isn’t the only one qualifying for major shows. Al’s wife, Nancy is competing at the Chicago Pro Show July 6.

“She’s competing at an elite level,” said Clark. “If she places in the top 3 in Chicago, she’ll be one of the top 15 (female bodybuilders) in the world.”

A top three placement would qualify her for Olympia – the biggest competition in the world.

“That’s just a pipe dream,” said Clark, adding they try not to think about it because they don’t want to jinx it.

Nancy competes in the bodybuilding category – the bulkiest level in female bodybuilding, with bikini being the smallest, followed by figure and then physique. The bodybuilding category is at risk for being eliminated from competition in the next few years because it isn’t as popular as other categories so it’s Nancy’s last chance to make it to this level.

“She’d probably retire,” said Clark, adding that her age and the difficulty in slimming down would make it challenging to change categories. “It’s such a transformation. It’s just as hard to cut the body down. It would probably take two years for her to be competitive at physique.”

The Clarks also have more local plans in the works. They are opening a new gym in downtown Grand Forks. The gym will be at 358 Market Avenue and will feature custom-made equipment that is suited for everyone, not just those that want to compete.

“There’s this idea that we only train people that want to compete,” said Clark. “But whatever your goal is, we are qualified to train you.”

With that in mind, Clark says they are going to make sure that their gym is non-judgemental and they will have ladies nights where women of all sizes can feel comfortable working out.

Other competitions

The Clark’s, who own Body Edge Fitness and Personal Training, have had a busy year with competitions. In addition to Nancy and Witwicki’s major competitions, they have worked with two women that competed at the novice level in Fort St. John, June 8.

Emilija Martic (23) from Surrey has been training with the Clark’s and placed second at the competition, while Terri Maglio (44) from Nelson came in third. Both competed in ladies physique.

“Terri when through an unbelievable body transformation,” said Clark. “She went from just under 200 lbs (90.7 kg) to being on stage in two years.”

Both women qualified for provincials but decided not to compete further.