This mom's a perfect fit

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

She's a natural.

Says so much herself.

Winnipeg's Lauren Arnold just took up bodybuilding last year and she has already earned her first trip to the Women's World Bodybuilding, Fitness and Body Fitness Championships, to be held in Santa Susanna, Spain, Sept. 20-24.

Not only that but, at 41, Arnold will be one of the oldest competitors there.

"I know the competition will be tough, I'll just do the best I can," she said yesterday. "It's exciting to represent Canada. It's a huge, huge honour."

Arnold and Dominique Pujo will be the only two Manitobans making the overseas trek. They will compete in different categories, which is a good thing because they will be rooming together.

QUALIFIED

Arnold qualified by finishing first in the Medium Body Fitness class and second in the Masters (35 and over) at the national championships in Toronto.

"I couldn't have done it without my coach, Dan Brown," she credited.

But it was a friend who first suggested that she give this sport a go because of her muscle tone.

"It took me two weeks to learn to pose and I did it," Arnold said. "I started at the novice level and entered four competitions last year and this will be my fourth this year."

Learn to pose? How tough can that be?

"It's a lot harder than I thought," said the 5-foot-3, 121-pound Manitoba champ. "You've got to bring out the physique the best you can for the judges. You do some holding, some flexing and you're sweating and you're trying not to let the judges know you're nervous. And you've got to wear 4-5-inch stiletto shoes. It's a challenge."

The posers are judged on elegance, stage presence, beauty and athletic appearance (physique).

"In a way, it's like a beauty contest," Arnold conceded. "There's a fine line between bodybuilding and body fitness. In bodybuilding, (competitors) seem to be more muscular. In fitness, they want you to be more feminine. You can be muscular but not too hard. But some judges prefer harder bodies and some want softer ones."

Arnold is also aware that steroids are too often associated with the sport and she has seen evidence of it. But she has never been tempted.

"Definitely not," Arnold said. "I'm a natural. But when you see women get really huge with 40-inch thighs, they can't achieve that naturally and not all competitions are drug-tested. At least, I do it clean."

There will be drug tests at the worlds, she added.

Arnold works out constantly. She goes for a five-mile run at 5:30 a.m. every day before her two boys -- eight and six -- get up. Later, she does her weight training, then the part-time personal trainer goes for a cardio workout.

While competing, Arnold also avoids such fatty foods as burgers and ribs during barbecue season. And chocolate.

However, it can be difficult to juggle the workouts with the kids when her husband spends a lot of time travelling on business. But they have worked it out so far.

"I wouldn't do it if it wasn't fun," Arnold said.

Although both Arnold and Pujo will get some funding to go to Spain, she is seeking sponsors to help cover such costs as her skimpy bathing suits. She needs three different ones for competitions and they can cost as much as $1,600 each. If you can help, call the Manitoba Body Building Association at 925-5686.


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