- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Autumn Swansen is busy working on a life-long sculpture project: herself.

A “Rehabcare” physical therapist at Hickory Point Christian Village by day, in her spare time she is a ferocious competitor in the extraordinary world of “women’s physique” bodybuilding.

It’s similar to men’s bodybuilding but also quite different: Female enthusiasts seek to sculpt their bodies through a rigorous regimen of diet, exercise and weight training to create a sinuous symphony of developed and honed, but not massively overdeveloped, muscle mass.

Anyone can do it, really. All you have to do is start early (Swansen was using the high school football team’s weight training room growing up in her native Kentucky) and then pump enough iron over the years to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge.

And then there’s the food. Fat, sugar and pretty much anything that makes eating worthwhile for us mere mortals, is out. In is stuff like sweet potato and fields of other veggies, rice, plain chicken, and whole shoals of fish.

“Some of the stuff I eat, I am like, well, ‘This is disgusting,’ ” says Swansen with a shrug as she gets ready to start her daily training session at the Decatur Athletic Club. “And, oh, I hate cod, I hate it, I hate all fish, and yet I am eating fish right now (it was tilapia, this time) because I know it is the best thing for you.”

The proof of the muscular pudding is in the competition, and the 30-year-old Swansen is knocking ‘em dead. A string of amateur victories saw her qualify as a professional on the competitive physique circuit by 2010.

In April, she bested a 23-strong field to win the International Federation of Bodybuilding’s St. Louis Pro Women’s Physique championship by a such an emphatic scoring margin her competitors must have wished they’d eaten a lot more fish.

Judges for women’s physique scrutinize pretty much every inch of the bikini-clad competitors as they strike various poses, sometimes magnified on huge projection screens. Swansen’s St. Louis triumph earned her the right to pose at the ultimate sculpture showcase, the 2015 Olympia Women’s Physique Showdown in Las Vegas in September.

Swansen will be up against invited competitors from all over the planet posing for cash prizes in the thousands of dollars. The real reward, however, apart from an avalanche of endorsement deals, is the sheer glory of being crowned the world’s numero uno physique.

“That’s the ultimate,” Swansen says.

Even a woman who already has a body Barbie could only dream of needs a solid support system, and she’s got it in the looming shape of her husband, Brent Swansen. He teaches physical education and health at the Okaw Valley High School by day and is an equally ferocious competitor in the world of men’s bodybuilding in his every spare moment.

The male half of this power couple looks like he was built by the same construction firm that did Stonehenge and he helps keep his wife on track with her diet and exercise program. “In fact, we hold each other accountable,” agrees his spouse, as her husband nods.

“We both get it. We both understand this is how we have to live to be able to do what we do,” he says. “And we both love doing it because we feel so healthy, and it’s nice to share all that passion for something with the person that you spend your life with.”

Brent Swansen, who grew up in Central Illinois, first struck up a long-distance relationship with his wonder woman via Facebook, and it was soon clear they had a lot in common. Dating can be awkward when you have to cover up with extra clothes to avoid drawing a crowd, but they made it work. In 2013, they tied a steel knot and were married, two muscular lovebirds who believe that just because the body is a temple, that doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from extensive remodeling.

Brent Swansen, 28, has enjoyed solid success on the amateur men’s competitive bodybuilding circuit and dreams of breaking into professional glory himself. That may indeed come, although the testosterone half of the pastime is full of highly ripped rivals, but the couple’s main focus right now is Autumn Swansen’s big upcoming opportunity in Las Vegas.

And she is picking up plenty of other supporters, too, including a cheering section from her adopted hometown: colleagues from work were there to urge her on when she won in St. Louis.

She says she feels blessed to have found such a workplace, and she’s also a favorite with her clients, too. Some even attempt to express their gratitude for her caring and physical therapy skills by leading her into temptation with gifts of homemade baked goods.

“I always tell them, ‘Thanks very much,’” says Autumn, still solemnly munching her fish. “But everybody else will get to eat it.”


Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/1e7S7UA


Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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