Heather Slater's lifelong commitment to physical fitness is paying huge dividends.
The most rewarding of her accomplishments, she said, occurred Nov. 1 when she captured third place in the 2003 National Physique Committee's Western Regional Championships in Chandler.
With the bronze-medal effort, Slater is eligible to compete in the professional ranks. She's scheduled to begin her pursuit of a pro body building career at an NPC meet in February in California.
As the managing partner of Club USA in Payson, Slater has plenty of opportunity to train and condition.
In addition to having easy access to the state-of-the-art equipment, she teaches traditional and step aerobics classes and is an accomplished kick boxer.
Slater is no Johnny-come-lately to the body building scene.
Since high school, she has been committed to a daily regimen that includes proper strength training, cardiovascular conditioning and sound nutrition.
"It's my lifestyle, it's what I do," she said.
As a student at Arizona State University several years ago, she earned a master's degree in fitness science.
Her enjoyment of physical fitness and body building eventually led Slater to joining the NPC circuit.
In the Western Regional Championships, which was her first competition, she captured honors in the "figure" division. In it, entrants are judged on their body's symmetry, muscle tone and proportions.
Of the 120 women who participated in the championships, 43 competed in the figure division.
According to Slater, she chose that division because it allowed her to train and lift but still maintain a feminine, attractive appearance.
Some women delve into weight training with aspirations of developing only muscle size and bulk. Slater says that's not her goal. She's taken a well-rounded whole-body approach to the sport in which diet and nutrition play a huge role.
"Diet is about 70 to 80 percent of what I do," she said.
In addition to valuing nutrition, which includes a diet of whole grain foods and complex carbohydrates, Slater is a proponent of training with heavier weights to develop both muscle tone and strength.
She also identifies herself as "a big goal setter," who is convinced that most anyone can improve their physique and physical condition if they set goals and work hard to achieve them.
"Those are the keys," she said.
In NPC events, competitors participate in one of four weight/height classifications -- A, B, C or D.
At 5-foot, 6-inches and 126-pounds, Slater participates in the C division which includes most of the taller competitors.
"Bodies develop differently at different height, that's why there are classifications," she said.
Although Slater has a full work day managing Club USA, she sets aside enough time to train for what she hopes will become a successful stint on the professional body building circuit.
"I'm anxious to give it a try. I love to train," she said.