Whitehorse’s Lee Randell knows a thing or two about getting out of a slump.
You could even say she’s an expert.
Randell, who is the Yukon’s only National Physique Committee bikini competitor, has gone through rough times – even let herself go.
But she bounced back.
The 35-year-old mother of two was recently at the Arnold Amateur IFBB International Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure and Bikini Championships, in Columbus, Ohio, finishing 13th out of 48 participants in the bikini D Class competition against women from around the world.
“I’ve placed third and fifth in smaller shows, but with a lot less competitors, so to place that high in a field of 48 was great,” said Randell. “And to come from here – it’s an international event.
“It’s hard because I’m the only one in the Yukon that competes at that level, so I pretty much train on my own and have to push myself; there’s no one here to train me.”
If Randell is forced to train herself in Whitehorse, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
Randell has been running Peak Fitness with her husband since they were in their late teens when the gym was at its original location in downtown Whitehorse. Her and her husband now own Peak, where she is the head personal trainer and conducts about 10 fitness classes a week.
In fact, Randell is the only American Council on Exercise certified advanced health and fitness specialist in Canada’s three territories.
“The greatest part is I get to bring it home and pay-it-forward to my clients, push them that much harder,” said Randell. “They get to see a local girl that is competing at that level. I have transformed into what I am now, I haven’t always been this way. I think it makes it real for people.
“I’m just like everyone else. It just takes work and determination and commitment.”
Although active at a younger age, playing college soccer and volleyball, Randell admits she didn’t always take the best care of herself. Then came a rough patch in her life and things got worse.
All within a year, Randell’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, her stepfather died in a car accident, and Peak Fitness burned down at its original location. Making matters worse, Randell was suffering from postpartum depression.
“It was a crazy time period and I gained a ton of weight, I was on antidepressants, I was in a really bad place,” said Randell. “So I reached out to different places and one of my sources was Jenn Hendershott. She’s a multiple-time Ms. Olympia competitor.”
Travelling with a friend to one of Hendershott’s camps in Calgary was a significant turning point in her life.
“So my friend and I went to the camp and it totally changed my perspective on life and things in general,” said Randell. “I just got out of the slump, started training, and getting back into life. Since then Jenn and I have had a really close connection; we’re good friends.”
A few years after the camp, having gone from overweight and depressed to toned and confident, Randell won a “transformation contest” put on by Hendershott. The contest challenged participants to transform their bodies over a three-month span. Randell didn’t just win against the roughly 100 women who qualified from one camp, but from all of Hendershott’s camps.
“I think the biggest transformation was my view on health and fitness and how to take care of yourself,” said Randell. “It wasn’t just the body transformation, it was mentally getting through the tough times. And I’ve had to do that numerous times, because since then my mother has died from cancer and my dad and stepmom passed away a couple years ago. All those times I reached back to health and fitness to get me through.”
Randell went on to take second in the Short Fitness Western Canadians in 2006 and fifth at the Fitness Tall BC Provincials the following year.
It was Randell’s third appearance at the Arnold Amateur, a competition started by none other than the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and her best placing.
There she got her first call-out at the competition, where judges – some of whom placed Randell in the their top-10 after the initial appearance of all the competitors on stage – requested she return to the stage for further viewing.
“This past Arnold competition was definitely the highlight,” said Randell. “I played a way different role. When we go to the Arnold, my trainer, Jenn Hendershott, trains other people as well and we pretty much meet up there as a team.
“This is my third time I’ve gone, so I played more of a leadership role. And I was a lot more confident and comfortable, and I really felt I belonged on stage. I had a lot of fun on stage, where other times I would be nervous – in front of 5,000 people in a bikini.”
Bikini competition is a new category of bodybuilding added last year. Instead of looking for muscle definition and striation, judges look for feminine physique and shape.
“They are looking for that perfect female structure,” said Randell.
Randell held her own in a competition in which the top five finishers were all under the age of 22.
So she will be a strong contender if an over-35 division is created, as has happened with the figure, fitness and female bodybuilding divisions.
“When that comes out, I’ll be fine,” said Randell with a laugh.
The trials and tribulations she has faced over her life not only developed her character, they help Randell, as a personal trainer, empathize better with others.
“I’m glad I went through all that because it really made me who I am, and I wouldn’t have such a passion for what I do,” said Randell. “I wouldn’t be so hard on people to eat well and follow a healthy lifestyle, if I hadn’t gone through it myself.
“If it was easy for me, I’d probably assume it would be easy for everyone else. But I know what it takes.”
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