A lifetime passion for health and exercise has helped an Alexandria woman achieve national recognition at a recent fitness competition.
Heather Godfrey has been involved with area fitness training for years and currently owns Vital Fit Club in Alexandria. She used her passion for exercise to begin competing in fitness competitions, and in November her hard work paid off as she took second in the figure division at a national competition in Las Vegas.
Godfrey spent weeks preparing for the competition and expected to place well, but she had no idea she finished second until she was called out on stage to accept her award.
“I felt very confident,” she said. “I knew I put everything into it before I went into it. So I felt good but it was very unexpected.”
Godfrey has spent the past few years working in the fitness industry, first opening the Bee Active Boutique fitness clothing shop in downtown Alexandria on Broadway Street in 2011. Later she opened Vital Fit Club in its current location after the fitness classes she hosted in the Bee Active Boutique jumped in popularity. She also works as a group fitness instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College and as a fitness trainer for the Alexandria Fire Department.
But Godfrey was also looking for something more to personally focus on than 5- and 10-kilometer running races and triathlons. That is when she discovered an interest in fitness competitions.
“I just felt like I needed something else to push me, so I was kind of inspired to do that,” Godfrey said. “Now I am really inspired to keep going.”
Godfrey decided to take her first shot at the Great North Fitness Competition in the spring of 2012.
The only training she received in person on fitness competitions was an hour-long seminar by fitness model Lori Harder. The rest she picked up by doing research online.
“She did kind of a camp that helped me,” Godfrey said. “She did just like an hour thing, and the rest of it, really, I just taught myself.”
The competition proved to be successful as she took second place in the bikini division and third place in the figure division. Godfrey said the success at the show helped her decide to push for a competition on a national scale.
After taking some time off, Godfrey set her sights on the Fitness America Las Vegas show last November.
Her hard work paid off as she finished second among 600 competitors in the figure division. Godfrey was only one spot away from earning her spot as a pro competitor in future events.
She was also surprised by some friends who showed up in Las Vegas. She knew that her husband, Jon Godfrey, and mother, Lynn Williamson were going to attend the show. But friends Brett Spear, Lindsay Berger, Drea Eidsvold, Christa Thompson and Dawn Tolifson also made an appearance.
“I knew my mom and husband were coming, but all my girlfriends booked tickets and surprised me,” she said. “That was absolutely huge because I could hear them cheering me on.”
Godfrey said she was nervous before going up on stage, but once she had her time in front of the judges she was focused on her poses.
“Once you get up there it’s kind of like anything, you just kind of let it go,” she said.
Being successful in fitness competitions not only requires Godfrey to exercise at least five times a week, but also maintain a healthy and unique diet.
Godfrey focuses on eating five-to-six times a day during a 10-week training period with a diet that is balanced with fats, carbs and protein. Limiting sugar and processed foods is also an important part in her nutrition.
Godfrey said lean meats, fruits, vegetables and food with “good carbs” makes up a large part of her diet. Meal portions also begin to get smaller as she gets closer to a competition.
“No processed foods, no packaged, I make all my own food for it,” she said. “If I am going to the Cities for the weekend, I am packing [meals].”
The training period is generally 10 weeks and focuses on working specific muscle groups with lifting and cardio. Fitness competitors also constantly work on perfecting the poses they will use to show off their bodies on stage in front of judges.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s just based on your body condition,’ which is a huge portion of it,” Godfrey said. “But it’s a lot on your poses and your stage presence. There are so many other components that go into your overall grade.”
Godfrey said she has been contacted by about 20 women in the Alexandria area who are interested in training for fitness competitions. She is planning to begin offering courses this year to teach area women how to train for the events and what poses they should use.