Life is full of surprises.
Just ask Maria Morrone, a Kamloops bodybuilder.
Morrone was the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation's overall figure champion in 2011 and also received her International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro card, something that allows her to teach.
She did have plans to get into teaching, just not this soon.
But that's when life threw her a curve.
Her brother, Joe, died, and her mother's diabetes resulted in Morrone moving back to Kamloops from Kelowna.
She also chose to end her performing career and go into coaching on a fulltime basis.
"It all triggered a change in perspective and a renewed focus on nutrition," notes Morrone, who is one of the most positive people you ever will meet.
Since arriving back in Kamloops, Morrone has gotten her coaching career on track. And two of her athletes - Tracy Mackenzie and Marlene Harnett - have qualified for the provincial championships that are to be held in Vancouver on Saturday.
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Mackenzie, a mother of three children ages six, three and one, has been a Kamloops realtor for more than 16 years.
"I have worked out and lived a fit lifestyle with my husband for the past 18 years," Mackenzie writes in an email. "I was looking for new motivation after having my kids and wanted to take the fitness to a new level. I wanted to have a shape to my body and a plan that would work for me."
Mackenzie was the first runner-up in the figure category at a competition in Kelowna last month, a finish that qualified her for provincials.
"She changed my body," Mackenzie notes. "Maria has shaped my body, my mindset, scheduling, and natural food plan, and she has become a terrific mentor and friend."
Mackenzie's biggest challenge may be finding the time to train.
"I unplug," she says. "No TV."
She also found a gym - No Limits Gym - with flexible hours that allow her to train at 5 a.m. or 9 p.m.
"It allows me to train before and after my children are awake and doesn't interfere with my career," Mackenzie explains.
As for Saturday's competition, Mackenzie says: "I look forward to the challenge and the goals ahead of me."
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Harnett, a chef and a co-owner of At Your Service Catering for seven years, has two children, ages six and four. She has been an athlete all of her life, and took up bodybuilding four years ago.
If she wasn't hooked before, she was after finishing first in her first show, the 2012 Northern Classic in Fort St. John.
"My goal for the 2013 season was to bring more muscle in my upper body to the provincial level," she writes, "and a higher level of conditioning to qualify me for the Canadian Nationals.
"In a few short weeks we have smashed the limitations on my thinking, which was the biggest thing I needed to work on."
Harnett's long-term goal is to become an IFBB professional, just like Morrone.
"She understands what it takes to reach my own goals, which are ultimately being recognized as an IFBB pro," Harnett says. "She is like a laser and focuses on the task at hand. She constantly tells me, 'Just let the program do the work' and it's working."
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And just what is "the program?"
"In this industry," Morrone explains, "there is a constant pressure on trainers to come up with something new and original. But what is new and useful these days?"
Morrone isn't trying to reinvent the wheel as she has her athletes focus on "dietary health/wellness, nutritious food and supplement choices . . ."
She adds: "I don't write diets. I help people take back their power to take control of their lives through healthy, smart and long-term eating strategies."
It's simple. Just ask Mackenzie and Harnett.
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