Lana Lutke started to get more physically active about three years ago.
Then three months ago, she took her training to the next level with local Lylas Leona with her eye on competing at the International Drug Free Athletics fitness modelling competition in North Vancouver on June 25.
Making her debut at age 47, Lutke won two categories, the women's novice fitness model and women's masters fitness model events held at the Centennial Theatre.
Lutke acknowledged she wasn't sure exactly how she would do heading into her first-ever event, but didn't anticipate hauling home any trophies.
"I was totally not expecting to take first place. It's good to take part in this competition. It's a big change and I've never done it before," she said. "I was thinking that just to take part was a good thing. I wanted to enjoy it. I like challenges. I like to push my limits, and this was one of my challenges.
"I was thinking it would be great to be in the best five."
Leona moved to Whistler from Manitoba about 18 months ago after many years of coaching athletes on the prairies. She primarily mentors athletes online, but was pleased when she connected with Lutke to work with someone face-to-face.
"Lana came to me in great shape as it was, but there were just a couple of spots that needed a bit of muscle put in," Leona said, adding Lutke's modelling background was a major boon.
One might think much of the work is already completed before the contestants walk on stage, but Lutke stressed there's still plenty they must do in the spotlight to make the difference between top spot and the rest.
"You need to demonstrate your work on your body, so the judges look how symmetrical your body is, how developed every group of muscles on your body is," she said. "The most important is self-confidence, how you present your work and your body on the stage, and what kind of energy do you give to people."
In order to prepare for the event over the course of the past three-and-a-half months, Lutke noted she trained six days a week for one to two hours a day at Meadow Park Sports Centre while also following a strict diet.
"It's a lot of work, of course," she said.
Lutke will next compete in the IDFA event in November in open division and she hopes to rise through the ranks to the pro division.
"I know what I have to work on and I will do my best to improve. Every level takes more effort and more fitness requirements," she said. "I understand and I'm committed to that."
After last month's competition, Leona sought constructive criticism from the judges and while there were some minor tweaks Lutke could make, the consensus seemed to be that she's well on her way to something bigger.
"They feel she has a physique that could definitely go pro," Leona said. "She'll have the opportunity to take home a double pro card in November. With a little bit more work — the judges are the same for the November show and they do like to see improvement from show to show — ... I think she has a great chance of taking home a double pro card. That would open up her chance of being able to compete for the universe title."
In her time leading up to the competition, Lutke observed the surprising amount of interest Whistler has in fitness modelling, adding there could be a number of potential competitors who could jump up a level.
"I'm happy to inspire people to do this if they want to do it," she said.
International Drug Free Athletics, founded in 2005, is committed to promoting drug free (natural) bodybuilding world wide through education, awareness, camaraderie, and community involvement.