Special Photo ---- Bodybuilder Crystal Marcum works out with trainer Jim Wilkins.
Newton County resident Crystal Marcum proved to have more than beginner's luck when she decided to take part in her first-ever bodybuilding competition.
At the Georgia State Supernatural Bodybuilding and Fitness organization's championships in April, the 5-foot-4 Marcum enjoyed a surprising rookie voyage, earning first-place laurels in the Short Bikini Division of the competition, which was held at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee.
"My first competition and my first show and my first win," the mother of two said. "It was very surprising, but this was kind of a bucket-list type of thing to do. I was an avid gym-goer and I trained very intensely and decided to have something to work toward. I started training for it and my coach said, 'If you're going to do this, you might as well train to win.'
"So we trained really hard for about 15 weeks and it was amazing and encouraging. It makes you want to do another one."
Marcum, who grew up in Conyers and graduated from Salem High School, said she'll return to the bodybuilding stage in November at the SNBF Pro-Am Grand Finale, at which time she'll compete as a professional. She said if she has another encouraging performance then, she'll investigate the options of more competitions.
"November is a pro show," Marcum said of the Grand Finale, which will also be held Nov. 2 in Suwanee. "So whether I step up my game in bodybuilding or just do a show or two a year, it will depend on how I do in November. If I do well then, I'd consider moving forward with it."
A 2001 graduate of the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, Marcum said she wasn't athletic in high school, preferring instead chorus and drama performances. But a few years after the birth of her daughter Rori, Marcum began an exhausting training regimen.
"When (Rori) got older, I decided to go back to the gym a couple of times a week," said Marcum, who is married to golf enthusiast Daniel Marcum and also has a 2-year-old son, Levi. "As I became more involved, I got a trainer and really got to work. I met (trainer Jim Wilkins) and started working with him and at a gym near my house."
Marcum, who works as a practice administrator for a local pain-management doctor, trains with Wilkins at BodyTech in Conyers and spends many mornings working out with former bodybuilder Etta Timmerman Shields at the tiny 24/7 gym on Brown Bridge Road in Covington. She said signing up for the competition earlier this year was the target she needed to step up her workouts.
"I was working so hard and I felt I should do something with it," she said. "When I met Etta, who had competed for 20 years, and told her, she really encouraged me and helped me pick out the place to start."
By signing on with the Lawrenceville-based SNBF, Marcum indicated a comfort level with the organization's Christian-based, no-drug environment.
"I wanted to compete with people who weren't doing anything -- diuretics or hardening agents or some supplements," she said. "I want to be on a level playing field. Supernatural is basically nothing but good food and hard work. And some organizations have a risque element. This group is Christian-based and they don't allow anything racy -- it's very clean and it's very professional."The life of a bodybuilder preparing for a competition comes and goes in phases, Marcum said. She said that the first six weeks of prep work is called "the building phase" that consists of 90 minutes of cardio exercise in the morning and 60 minutes of heavy weightlifting later in the day. As the date of a competition nears, she'll add more cardio work but will lift lighter weights with higher repetitions."And I'll do a really intense boot camp once or twice a week," she said, adding that she trained twice a day for three months to sculpt herself for the competition.
Competing against five other bodybuilders in April, Marcum wore a custom-fitted bikini she said cost about $200 and isn't something she'd wear at the beach. She added that she'll "come out in something different" in November. She did say that the company that made her bikini now features her photo in its online catalog.
As is the case for many high-performance and endurance athletes, there's a bit of a letdown once the targeted competition comes and goes. Even though she's only been in one event, Marcum admitted that she was a little blue afterward.
"You work so hard and you're so focused on a date," she said. "And then once it's over, you're kind of left without a purpose. You had a target you were focused on for so long, and once that's done, you're left without a deadline or a purpose.
"It took about two or three weeks for me to feel right, although I was training the way I'd always been training after I took three days off. And I've been training the same way since then. Without something to shoot for, you feel a little lost, which is why I've scheduled a second show date."
For more information about the Supernatural Bodybuilding and Fitness Organization, visit www.snbf.com.