It was a year ago that many people at the Ozark Mountain Family YMCA witnessed a transformation of Maia Gage as she prepared for her first bodybuilding competition.
For 12 weeks, Gage worked out and followed a very strict diet, eventually winning several trophies and even a spot on the International Natural Body Building Association’s USA team.
Shortly after making the team last fall, Gage organized a team of local individuals who shared her passion for bodybuilding.
“We started last fall and we’ve been training ever since,” she said.
Thirteen people now make up the Y’s newly formed Y-Not Body Building Team. After several months of training and diet, the team traveled to St. Louis last weekend to compete in America’s Gateway competition.
“I’ve always wanted to do a figure competition,” said 48-year-old Monica Morris. “Maia is my inspiration.”
While Morris is a fitness director at the Y, teaching, leading fitness classes and providing personal training, it still took a lot of time to prepare for her first figure competition.
“The nutrition was different,” she said.
Morris said she had to cut back on fat and calories and start eating “clean.” Her diet consisted mostly of chicken, fish, sweet potatoes, brown rice and vegetables.
“That was my meal and that was everyone’s meal,” she said.
In Morris’ first figure competition, she took second in her novice class and first in her master’s class.
Willis Moore had a slightly different motivation when he joined the Y’s team last year.
“Very soon I’m coming up on middle age,” he said. “I’m going to be 50. I want to be in the best shape of my life by the time I hit 50.”
Moore took first place in a master’s class and second in a novice tall class at the competition.
Reggie Harris had been working out at the Y when he started talking to Gage and asking her questions.
“She told me what she was involved in and I said ‘I want to try that,’”he said.
Harris said his biggest challenge was changing his eating habits and making sure he received a proper amount of rest.
Harris took second in sports modeling and second in physique.
Tom Dwight was focused on getting healthier.
He said it wasn’t so long ago he carried 232 pounds on his 5-foot 7-inch frame.
“I was still lifting, but I wasn’t paying attention to how much I was eating,” he said. “My knees were hurting and my back was hurting.”
The 32-year-old often found himself out of breath. He had already shed some of the weight before the body building team organized.
Dwight, who works at the Y early in the mornings, was encouraged by his boss to join the team. He said he began paying attention to portion sizes and what he ate throughout the day, which isn’t always an easy task since after his early morning shift at the Y, he cares for his small children at home all day.
“I was taught we eat all of our food and I often found myself finishing their food,” he said. “I had to break that bad habit.”
Harris was 197 pounds when he joined and by competition, he was down to 167. His goal is to hit 160.
Harris took third in his open division and second in his novice class.
Emily Christenson said she has always been active and worked out at the Y two to three days a week.
“I just saw this transformation in Maia,” she said.
Christenson agreed, the diet changes were the hardest because with two small children, she wasn’t eating what they ate. The diet was worth it though.
“I’m in the best shape of my life and it is really rewarding to be disciplined and see results and it is really fun to be on a team,” she said.
Christenson took first place in figure open and third in figure novice.
Gage, who coaches the team, won first place in a bikinis diva class, as well as most symmetrical.
Others on the team, including Joey Laughery, Aaron Randolph, Calvin Thomas, Levi Hightree and David Koenig plan to participate in the team’s next competition which will take place July 16 in Springfield.
“It is my first show and I really want to compete well,” Laughery said.