Keri Burke is just beginning her bodybuilding career, but she is already showing the potential to compete with the best in the world.
The Red Deer mother of four just started in the sport two years ago, but on May 31 she earned gold in both Ms. Fit Body competition and the women’s figure competition at the International Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Canada event in Calgary.
The sweep earned her a pro card in both divisions and qualified her for worlds.
“It was a great feeling, it was a great accomplishment for myself,” said Burke, 40. “I just really enjoy and love this sport.”
She first heard her named called out as the winner of the Ms. Fit Body competition, but she wasn’t done there.
After placing first in the figure short competition in the morning, she went head-to-head with the first place finisher in the figure tall competition in the evening to win again.
Her trainer, Rozanne Pyper, is one of just a few women to have also pulled off the feat in Canada. She has been in the fitness industry as an athlete, coach, business owner and other facets for more than 25 years. Pyper is also the general manager for INBF Canada Inc. She has a good idea of what it takes to get to the top of the bodybuilding world, and says Burke has the potential to be a world champion in either category.
“With Keri, this really could just be the beginning,” said Pyper, also the owner of local nutritional business Diet Doc. “I’ve competed at the worlds twice now and it’s incredible. I see Keri doing super well there because she’s got a natural gift of having natural lean-muscle and we’ve simply developed it more.”
Though it has been a short two years for Burke, a lot of work has gone into getting to where she is now.
She has always been an athlete, growing up in Sperling, Man. — about an hour southwest of Winnipeg — playing a wide-range of sports.
Going to the gym has always been a priority, but it had been more because she just enjoyed going and staying fit. Then friends and a trainer encouraged her to give bodybuilding a shot.
Calgary was her seventh competition and third in the INBF. Key to her success was her switch to working with Pyper and her nutritionist Dr. Joe Klemczewski last February.
In between events, she trains four days a week working with weights at Pro Fitness and on her cardio at the Collicutt Centre. In the six weeks leading up to an event, she increases it to days a week with longer sessions.
In the gym, Pyper and Burke focus on different muscle groups in each session, forcing the body to continuously adapt to different exercises.
Pyper says she is the perfect athlete to coach.
“She’s that type of client where if you ask something of her, there’s no whining or complaining, she just does it and she does more than what’s expected of her. The same goes on the nutritional end,” she said. “She doesn’t cut corners, she follows everything to a T and she’s hard working, and that’s what it takes to be a champion.”
Important to Burke is the fact that the INBF is a heavily tested body-building federation with an emphasis on natural, meaning that it is as free of supplemental hormones and drugs as an organization can possibly be.
“They do a polygraph before you start … to determine if you are drug free,” she said, adding they also have to undergo a series of other tests.
“That’s the part I enjoy, that you are competing against other natural bodybuilders.”
Despite a full schedule, she finds a way to make it all work.
She is a part-time registered nurse and a full-time mother of four — Madison, 14, Joshua, 11, Kaitlin, 10, and Julianna, 6 — and they all fully support her in her journey. Burke says they all have shown an interest in getting involved in the sport to some degree in the future.
She has made it a priority to instill healthy habits in her kids.
“They enjoy the health aspect, because not only do I eat healthy, I serve them healthy too,” she said. “The healthy aspects need to be integrated at an early age, not only because of the genetic graphics of my family, but also what they can teach each other and their kids when they get to that (point in life).”
Next up for Burke is her pro debut, likely at the U.S. Open in Marlborough, Mass., on Oct. 18. In the meantime, she is looking for sponsors to help her get there.