It was the first time Will and Alicia Burgin had put on a bodybuilding show. Mrs. Burgin said there is always room for improvement, but she was very impressed by their first try. She'd had a little experience coordinating events, as she had been a production station manager for a radio show for eight years.
“There was line out there at 5 p.m.,” Mrs. Burgin said. “The show didn't start until 6. I'm overwhelmed. This is amazing. It really could not have gone smoother.”
Throughout the morning and at the evening judging, a local disc jockey blasted infectious music and volunteers worked backstage to ensure competitors were arranged in the right order.
Also backstage, women spent hours applying makeup, curling and styling hair and going over their poses and routines. Meanwhile, most of the men stayed in the pumping room, where they lifted heavy weights, got last-minute tips from those who'd already competed in shows and tried their best to relieve the anxiety.
This was a natural show, so no athlete was allowed to take steroids or any other drug. They each had a polygraph test the day before the show.
All competitors were painted on or sprayed with a faux tan solution and then sprayed again with a cooking spray to make their bodies shine. It's all done in the name of illuminating the body more — so judges can see each set of muscles.
For contestants, the show was a culmination of many months of hard work. Some have struggled with weight, others were scrawny growing up and many were middle-aged and older. Each has a story, a journey, which led them to the spotlight on stage. These are just a few.
The Role Model: Shirley Shivers, 63, Karnack
Her motivation for the contest came from Ernestine Shepherd, a well known 75-year-old body builder who is in the 2012 Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest female body builder.
“If she can do it, I can do it,” Mrs. Shivers said.
She also was motivated by what she sees around her.
“I've seen several older people live without the ability to walk,” she said. “I don't want to be like that.”
Mrs. Shivers did not place in the show, but even before it began, it was apparent that she already had accomplished a lot.
“I'm just here for the experience,” she said. “I'm here to see what it's all about.”
Former Shy Guy: Tony Ray Martin, 24, Tyler
“Doing bodybuilding has helped me break out of my shell and I'm becoming more outgoing,” Martin said. “The last show, I didn't feel one bit nervous. That stage is like a second home to me now. I feel very confident on stage.”
He placed first in the men's open light heavyweight bodybuilding category. He's been competitively bodybuilding for two years, participating in three shows so far.
He's spent at least five years learning the inner workings of the bodybuilding industry and training himself.
As a baseball player and weightlifter, Martin already had been into sports and fitness.
“I've always lived an athletic life,” he said. “I lifted throughout high school. I noticed I put on more (weight) than the average person. It seemed natural to me.”
When a friend talked to him about body building, he said it just “clicked.” His ultimate goal is to become a professional body builder. He is planning to enter another show in November.
“This is my calling,” he said. “I have to do this.”
He gets in cardio every day. Martin trains for 2 1/2 hours four times a week — alone. While most bodybuilders have a trainer and/or nutritionist, he has taught himself everything about the bodybuilding industry, including posing and choreography.
To become pro, Martin said, individuals must dedicate their life to the sport.
“That's basically what I did,” he said. “I eat, sleep and think about it all day and it's finally paid off. You have to live by it to get somewhere, at least if you're training by yourself.”
As a server for a local restaurant, he has to make conscious sacrifices to keep his diet on track. He's determined not to get off track.
“It's like an art for me, sculpting my body like da Vinci or something,” he said. “Just to see myself grow every day, physically and mentally. It's just so satisfying.”
The Doctor: Janet Keais, 49, Tyler
For more than three decades, she's been body building, in between having a family, going through medical school and now, as a practicing physician at Trinity Mother Frances.
“When I first started competing 31 years ago or so, I think I asked somebody how long they'd think I'd be good for,” she said. “Here I am 31 years later.”
While she admitted she was nervous, she seemed the most mellowed of the athletes. She won in both categories she entered — women's master's body building and women's open body building,
middleweight division. She also won overall for women's open body building.
On stage, she performed a short routine, complete with the splits and muscle-exposing poses to Mary J. Blige's “Work That.”
She wasn't sure how long she'd compete in the contests. She just knows she loves how bodybuilding makes her feel.
“I work out because I'm a happier person when I work out,” she said. “It's a stress reliever, so it makes me feel better. That's my motivation.”
Transformer: Silvano Alvarado Jr., 22, Mount Pleasant
“I predicted myself going to the doctor at 40 and getting bad results every time,” he said. “I just wanted a better future.”
He started walking 30 to 45 minutes daily, which helped him feel good. A year later, he began lifting weights.
“I started getting curious,” he said. “I walked in the gym one day and started fooling with equipment.”
Alvarado entered a Longview contest last month and the Tyler show was his second. He placed third in the men's open light heavyweight division. During contests, he's a svelte 180 pounds and on stage, he was filled with confidence.
“I don't know where that comes from,” he said. “Somewhere I find the courage to get up there.”
He said all it takes to make a lifestyle change is to believe in oneself.
“Nothing's impossible,” he said.
The Determined: Chrysa Fulcher, 20, Lindale
Miss Fulcher, who was in the bikini (far right above) and figure categories, was determined to beat the odds — she's a type 1 diabetic. For years, she's dreamed of becoming a fitness model.
“I just thought this was the best way to get into it and I was told that it was difficult for diabetes, so I thought I would try even harder to do it,” she said.
Following a bout with strep throat and then lapsing into a coma, Miss Fulcher was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 9 years old.
Her diet and fitness regimen has, however, been a great way of managing her disease.
“It actually helps a lot,” she said. “The eating healthy and staying in shape and working out helps my blood sugar stay really level. It's actually been a big positive.”
She said her personal goal was to just do her best.
“If it's what you want to do then go for it,” she said. “Try your hardest and do your best at it. It's not easy but it's definitely worth it.”
Skinny To Buff: Dennis Sutton, 41, Henderson
He's competed in shows before and was attempting to get a pro card. He's trained for this particular show for five months, but it's been a long road to where he is today.
“I was always a skinny guy,” he said. “I got tired of being little. It was good motivation. I moved ahead and started body building.”
He enjoys and will remain in the all-natural shows, which he believes is more difficult than the others.
“It's more true to the heart. It's more real so I'll continue to keep doing this as long as God gives me the ability to do it. … “As long as I keep winning, I'll keep doing it.”
Sutton placed second in the men's open light heavyweight body building category and second in the open men's master's.
The Beginner: Ty Cardwell, 37, Mckinney
Cardwell, like many of the other competitors, is relatively new to body building. Throughout the years, he began feeling he wasn't getting the most out of his workouts.
“I needed more. I needed a goal,” he said. “Having a goal in front of me is what really, really motivated. I was working out for a very long time and it had just gotten to the point where I was just going through the motions.”
Cardwell Googled “amateur body building” and went from there.
“I didn't think about it. I just signed up,” he said.
Now that he is in the world of body building, he's creating friendships and a circle of people with the same fitness interests.
“I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people so I thought this would be the place,” he said.
His hard work paid off. Cardwell took home a trophy for the men's novice middleweight category and it took guts to get on that stage.
“I've never been that nervous in my life, and I'm really confident but that was totally outside of my comfort zone,” he said following the prejudging. “I was sweating before I even went up. I'm really proud of myself. I did so much better than I thought.”