A combination of strength training, dedication and nutrition has earned a 32-year-old Payson mother of three a third-place finish at the 2004 National Physique Committee's Bodybuilding North championships.
The competition was July 24 in Flagstaff.
To prepare herself for the challenging event, Rebecca Christenson began training almost a year ago under the watchful eye of National Council of Strength and Fitness certified trainer Don Ray at Club USA.
"She's an excellent student, willing to put in a lot of hard work," Ray said. "She dieted, trained and did everything to a T.
Christenson credits Ray with her success.
"He's a great trainer, I want to thank him for everything he did."
For Christenson, the dieting was the toughest part of her regimen.
"There were times I just wanted something like a candy bar to eat," she said.
Club USA managing partner Heather Slater, who also helped mold Christenson, praised her for the showing in the championships.
"She was absolutely phenomenal," she said. "To get third as a rookie competing against the best of the best is unbelievable."
Slater herself is a bodybuilder who was on the verge of turning pro but stopped to devote more time to a career in modeling.
Christenson was required to perform a series of strength poses in front of a panel of judges and according to Slater, training and dieting is grueling but the posing is the tough part of the bodybuilding, especially for first-year competitors.
"It's stressful," she said. "The judges are comparing you to others, looking for symmetry and at your overall physical appearance like your shoulders, hips and the abdominal muscles. You have to do everything just right."
Following her poses, the judges said her only weaknesses were on the upper body."They told me I had to have more fullness there," she said.
In Christenson's training leading up to the competition, she lived on what Slater describes as a diet high in proteins along with plenty of complex carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits.
Although the current diet fad is to limit carbohydrates, Slater contends the body needs them to keep up energy for training.
Slater also estimates that proper nutrition was responsible for 70 to 80 percent of Christenson's success.
At Club USA under Ray's guidance, Christenson weight trained with both free weights and machines five, and sometimes six days, a week.
She also participated in an extensive cardiovascular program mostly on an elliptical trainer.
"I spent about and hour or an hour-and-a-half a day on it," Christenson said.
By the time the competition rolled around, Slater estimates Christenson's body fat was less than 10 percent.
"What she did training, with three kids, then finishing third was amazing," Slater said. "It takes a lot of dedication."
The bronze medal in the competition also produced some unexpected emotional changes friends have noticed.
"She has kind of a sparkle to her. It's like a boost in self confidence," Slater said.
Both Slater and Ray agree that their student has the talent and determination to continue her bodybuilding career.
"I think she has the drive to take it to the pro level," Slater said.
Her next opportunity to compete will be Nov. 6 in Phoenix at an NPC national qualifier. A top-three finish there would earn her a shot at a pro career.
"I am going to do another show but I don't know if I'll do that one or another one in March," Christenson said. "Now, I'm going to work on my upper body like the judges said."Then I'll be ready."