It was a combination of a Yorktown woman's career paired with a slew of unexpected health issues that gave Corrie-Beth Hughes the drive, motivation and desire to work towards getting her body in "an optimal state of fitness."
The 26-year-old woman, who is a teacher at a school for emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth in Hastings-on-Hudson, competed this year in a bodybuilding competition for the third time.
She competed at 's first Natural New York Championships at the Irvington's Arts & Athletics Center on May 26. The event attracted more than 20 local and out-of-state competitors.
Hughes claimed second place, showing the "most definition of any female competitor on stage that day with detailed legs, back and shoulders." She also won the "Best Female Presentation" award, putting on an entertaining and energetic routine for the audience.
The decision to compete in a natural bodybuilding and figure competition came naturally to her, she said, because she loves being athletic and her boyfriend Michael Lipowski is a professional natural bodybuilder. Lipowski is the owner of : the private personal training studio in Shrub Oak.
He encouraged and guided me and I truly enjoyed the process, at least most of it," said Hughes, who began the process in July 2010 and competed in shows in New York and Canada the end of that year.
's first Natural New York Championships was hosted by Lipowski, who is also co-founder of the Drug Free Athletes Coalition, a not-for-profit formed to provide a platform for natural athletes and physique competitors to showcase what can be achieved through proper nutrition and intelligent training—without the use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.
Hughes, who grew up in Yorktown and graduated from , said her parents always told her she should be able to take care of herself.
"Being a teacher, caring for others is something I have always had inside of me," the woman said. "However, as humans, we often neglect ourselves and allow the excuse of time, schedule, career, family, season, etc. to get in the way of caring for ourselves. This would not be me – at least not anymore."
This season, Hughes plans to compete in Muscle Mania’s show in White Plains on July 7, and another show on July 21 in Canada. She has also received an invitation to compete in the DFAC’s World Championships in Miami, Florida in November.
Patch caught up with Hughes to learn more about what it takes to get in shape for the bodybuilding competition.
Patch: How did you prepare for the competition? How long did it take you?
Corrie-Beth Hughes: My first season (2010) took about four months of solid training and clean eating. In that time, I dropped 24 pounds and toned up to a point my body had never been. Coming out of competition season, I noticed visible changes in my body. It never quite returned to the same place it was pre-competitions. I’d changed its composition with my diet and training and had learned so much in the process.
This season, (2012), my motivation and determination are fueled by something far different. The first time around, it was for fun. This time, I see it as a necessity. I began training January 8, 2012 and do not plan until stopping until November 22, 2012 – the day after the DFAC World Championships in Miami. I definitely see myself starting up again as soon as the New Year begins. My body will only continue to adapt and improve. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!
Patch: Did you do it on your own or did you have a personal trainer or another sort of guidance?
Hughes: My boyfriend has been my biggest motivator, fan and partner through this entire process. It certainly helps being able to go through with process with another person. Mike and my conversations center mostly around numbers – numbers that make up our food that is. We calculate out each meal and have goals to meet each day. We plan meals so we can have dinner together each night – this, we believe, is an essential key to our relationship.
Patch: Were you on any special diets and exercise routines?
Hughes: The diet does not involve anything fancy or meals that are out of anyone’s reach. In fact, the meals are actually quite simple and include eating foods that most people already have as part of their diet. The key is in the numbers: each meal is measured or weighed so I know exactly what I am putting in my body.
My workouts are what people probably envy the most. Ready for this? I train for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Yes, I look the way I do by putting in only 90 minutes a week. For all of you who say time is an issue in getting to the gym; I say you no longer have an excuse. My secret is in the type of workout and it involves not a second of cardio. In Mike’s philosophy, through the I.A.R.T. (International Association of Resistance Trainers), I engage in high-intensity resistance training. My workouts are quick, to the point and it is quite evident they are effective. This is what is practiced at Pure Physique – where their motto and belief is “half the time/double the results.” I say they underestimate themselves because it’s really more like “a quarter of the time/quadruple the results!” Just ask any of the clients there!
Patch: Is this the first time you've been in a bodybuilding competition?
Hughes: This is my second season of figure competitions and certainly not my last. I have competed in three shows and plan on competing in three more this year.
Patch: What was the experience like?
Hughes: The experience is more rewarding than you can ever imagine. Yes, you are in a competition with others but it’s really a competition with yourself. Questions that resound in the minds of competitors revolve around how hard I can push it and how much better you can get. Each year you see improvements that you didn’t see in the previous year. It’s really very fun.
Patch: What part of your body are you most proud of? How did you achieve those results?
Hughes: I have always been proud of my back and shoulders – they have always shown definition but never like now! Getting them "ripped" and "striated," as the judges commented, is made possible through my high-intensity resistance training at Pure Physique. Now I’m focused on getting six-pack abs.
Patch: Women's bodybuilding is separated into different categories – bodybuilding, fitness or figure. What category did you participate in? What did you have to do?
Hughes: Figure is what I compete in. Bodybuilding, to me, is not very feminine and not what I want my body to look like. A figure competitor’s goal is to lose fat and gain muscle through a well-executed training regimen and ‘clean’ and calculated well-planned diet.
Patch: What was the competition like?
Hughes: The competition itself can certainly make you feel anxious but the key is in relaxing. A show is an all-day event: the day judging taking place around noon and the night show beginning around 5 or 6 p.m. It’s important to bring your trainer or someone you trust to help you get ready and keep you calm. After check in, each competitor must pass a mandatory polygraph test and urinalysis to check for banned substances. You stake out a spot backstage start to get your skin tan, make up and hair done.
Throughout the day, it’s important to stay on track with eating and drinking so your body and muscles stay fueled and hydrated. Performing some exercises are key before getting on stage. You certainly don’t want to look ‘flat’ in the lighting. There is a break between the shows in which competitors usually go to pig out. Some, like me, remain on track – you certainly don’t want to look soft at night. The night show is fun – the most fun I’ve had is at DFAC shows where there are lively T-walks, competitor pose-downs and guest posers.
An important thing to realize is in bodybuilding and figure, it’s not like soccer or baseball where you can have a bad game or not play well. Rather, you’ve worked for six plus months to look the way you do. Once you arrive at the show, there is nothing you can do to change the way you look. So, you might as well sit back and enjoy the experience.
Patch: Men's bodybuilding has generally been most popular among men, so what attracted to it? What are some misconceptions in your mind about bodybuilding?
Hughes: A major misconception of ‘bodybuilders’ is that they are bulky and hulk-like. The rule of thumb is: If it doesn’t look natural it’s probably not. The enormous, bulky bodybuilders are on drugs or supplements that are banned in natural organizations. Rather, natural bodybuilders usually don’t look like bodybuilders when they have clothing on. You wouldn’t ever suspect they were hiding a ripped six-pack or ridiculous quads beneath their clothes. Bodybuilders aren’t trying to be like The Hulk – their goal is to push the limits of their body to make it as muscular and defined as your genetics will allow.
Patch: What have figure competitions given you?
Hughes: Figure competitions have given me much happiness. When I look in the mirror, I like what I see. I know I work hard but I see and feel the payoff. The whole experience is really priceless. Yes, I suffered a severe head trauma, broken nose and have two herniated discs in my back. My view on life does not allow small things like these to stop me or keep me from being healthy. My body is my vehicle – it is how I navigate life. Why wouldn’t I take great care in maintaining it and bettering it so I can live, travel and engage in activities I enjoy?
Patch: Can you lift more weight than some of the men at your gym? What's their reaction?
Hughes: I can lift as much weight as some the men at Pure Physique. I will say that it feels ridiculously awesome.
Patch: Is there anything I haven't asked you about, that you would like to add?
Hughes: The gift of health is the greatest gift. Based on what I have been through thus far, I can attest to the fact that your health is all you have. There is no excuse in not dedicating some time and energy to it. Being healthy enables me to accomplish goals, do my job and serve as a role model for my students and peers. Something that everyone can relate to: How many of you dread ‘bathing suit season’? Only you can do something to change that! Get to the gym and put thought into what you’re putting in your body! Read nutrition labels, and if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t eat it.