Melanie Warren was always health conscious — as the owner and operator of Millerdale Pharmacy in Red Deer it kind of went with the territory.
But nine years ago, her husband Keith broke his back in vehicle accident and during his recovery ,she took being healthy to the next level.
It has led to becoming one of Alberta’s top bodybuilders, culminating in a silver medal in the masters figure division at the World Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation Alberta Championships on July 4 in Calgary.
“I was very surprised,“ said Warren, 37, noting the figure division falls a level below lightweight body building and then fitness one level below that, in terms of muscular build.
“It’s a very wild sensation because a person doesn’t really have a sense of themselves when you’re looking around at such fantastic physiques. You think ‘Wow. Look at her shoulders,’ or ‘She did a nice job on her glutes,’ or ‘That lady has the whole package.’ It’s really a speculative sport though. You’re at the mercy . . . of someone’s opinion of you.
“You can think you’ve come in in the best shape of your life, but it’s not what they’re looking for.”
Getting into the sport wasn’t the initial goal, but evolved as she worked out with Keith through his recovery.
It became a focus four years ago.
“It was a bucket list — something I always wanted to do — to compete in some sort of a body building competition,” said Warren.
“I got really serious after my husband broke his back and he really took an active role in his own wellness and muscle building in order to get better and to just be an active and normal participant in our family. At that point, I took a real strong role in doing the same for myself because I had to maintain my own physical health to maintain my family.”
She gets up at 6 a.m. six days a week to train — she spends 90 minutes on cardio and then 45 minutes to an hour on free weights. By the time she’s done, it’s time to get her three boys — Tanner, 13, Keith Jr., 11, and Nathan, 9 — off to school.
It’s an active pursuit that has crept into all facets of the Warrens’ life. Not only is Melanie always training for her next competition, but Keith has to take particularly good care of himself since the accident — he swims five days a week as well as stretches and does other strengthening exercises.
And the boys are all very competitive in the BMX world — Keith and Nathan finished first in their classifications at Western Canadians last year. The sport takes them as far away as Quebec and often into British Columbia.
Melanie has also seen the benefits of her bodybuilding at work as the sport has given her another level of knowledge and experience to pull from when helping people, particularly women, who come into the pharmacy.
“A lot of the women who come in have fairly extreme health issues,” said Warren. “This plays into that, all of the different aspects of it. When a woman gets into her 30s, she starts to consider changes in her mood . . . and in her health and diet. You can kind of manipulate that in the same way some women would manipulate that for bodybuilding. They can manipulate their metabolism in a positive sense with nutrients and neutracuiticle vitamins and eating habits. This is where I think what I do in terms of fitness and figure plays a role in the health industry for my work. It all ties together in a tight little package.”
The silver medal she won was a first for her. She has competed the past two years in the WBFF, never finishing higher than fourth in the categories she’s competed in prior to last week. While the figures champion was rewarded with a cover shoot for Oxygen magazine, Warren did earn a berth into the WBFF World Championship in Mississauga, Ont., on Sept.19. She’s not sure if she’s going to enter.
The most important thing to her is being healthy and staying fit.
“A first place win would be fabulous,” she said of her long-term goals. “But my fitness goal is just to improve on the different parts of my physique as I go along and maintain good health into my older later years.”