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By Julie Chance Entertainment Writer
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Date Posted: 02/28/05 11:31:17am

DREW MARTIN / The Daily Reveille

Angelina Harvey goes for just one more push-up as she and the other women in her class train for an upcoming fitness competition. The team, L.A. Explosion, focuses on the blend of strength and beauty for their competitions. Team member Laurie Daly said any woman can compete if they are willing to train.

Female bodybuilding team breaks down boundaries
Group promotes ladylike figure


February 28, 2005

With rhinestoned bikinis and high heels, L.A. Explosion is breaking down boundaries in the fitness world one pageant at a time.

The six-year-old Louisiana-based fitness competition team blends strength and grace, creating a new standard for feminine beauty.

Fitness competitions are pageants that judge looks, but can include obstacle courses and fitness routines, generating an unusual new breed of athletes – pretty women.

Fitness competing is a tough, respected sport, although it is not very mainstream, said Laurie Daly, team member and personal trainer.

“It kicks our butts,” said Amanda Schenk, another team member and personal trainer.

A fitness competition judges strength, endurance and flexibility, Schenk said.

The first thing that comes to mind when people think of fitness competitions is bodybuilding, but the real focus of this sport is maintaining a ladylike figure with long, lean muscles, Schenk said.

Daly said, “In a sense, it is bodybuilding, but not to the extreme — it is a stepping stone for other things, to further degrees of success.”

“It’s not big, nasty women; everyone’s extremely feminine,” Daly said.

The competitors do choreographed fitness routines and modeling in specially-made rhinestoned swimsuits with full stage hair and makeup, said Keri Bourg, University dance instructor and team member.

In one pageant, Bourg said she began her choreography by pulling off some clothes to reveal an LSU baseball outfit underneath.

The sport may be tough and a little intimidating, but any woman can do it if they are willing to train, Daly said.

“Everyone is so supportive; there’s no cattiness,” Daly said.

The goal for most of the competitors is to get publicity, through Web sites or magazines, said Amie Soileau, University graduate and team member.

For many competitors, exposure is everything — athletes compete on ESPN, ESPN 2, appear in Oxygen Magazine and Fit Magazine and have their own promotional Web sites, said Katie Uter, team leader and former Miss Fitness Universe.

Soileau said she was featured on the cover of the University Recreational Center guidebook.

“It’s positive — it’s not posing in Playboy,” Daly said. “It’s about making a name for yourself to have some credibility.”

Six weeks before pageants, competitors begin an intense diet and exercise program, Bourg said.

Diuretics, dieting and exercising make the preparation process tough, but the low-salt, low-carbohydrate diet is the hardest part, said Brittany Messina, a nutrition studies sophomore and team member.

The diet is a constant learning process, but it is 80 percent of training, so it is very important, Soileau said.

To get down to competition size, athletes have to lose weight — Soileau said she dropped her body fat content down to 9 percent for her last competition.

“It’s not healthy, but it’s not something you do year-round,” Daly said.

Body image issues can become a problem, Daly said. The things women do before contests, such as cutting out excess water and sodium are sometimes taken to the extreme, but the team tries to promote a healthy body image.

“You can go the unhealthy route,” Soileau said. “But the girls at the top are all truly healthy individuals.”

The hard work pays off by giving women outlets to do other things, Daly said.

“Women don’t really have sports, so this is important,” Daly said. “You don’t have the sports guys have to do this.”

Fitness competitions make women stronger, Bourg said.

“It changed my life,” she said. “I had never thought I could meet my goals before this.”

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