Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) --The hardest part of being a woman with the one of the fittest figures in the universe isn't training for two hours, rising at 5 or shunning sweets every day.
"It's absolutely harder coming off the competition. It's sad when the tan fades, the fake eyelashes come off," said Laura Medlin, 33, of Fort Myers. "It's kind of an emotional roller coaster. You have a six-pack of abs, four-pack, two-pack."
She entered her first competition in June — Musclemania Fitness Universe in Fort Lauderdale — and won the Ms. Figure amateur division with 94 points, eight points higher than the next woman.
She's training for her first pro contest — Musclemania Figure world championships Nov. 22 in Las Vegas.
"So I don't lose steam and overthink it," she said. "I'm excited to jump right back in."
Medlin is one of two women with the fittest figures in the world who work out at New Image Fitness in Bonita Springs.
The other is Wimberly Smith, 41, of Naples, who clinched third in the Ms. Figure pro division at Musclemania Fitness Universe this summer.
Competitors walk onstage wearing two-piece swimsuits and heels and are judged on muscle shape and body symmetry, body condition and overall appearance.
They get their makeup and hair done and put on dangling earrings. But it's not all glamorous.
The contestants are covered with layers of spray tan to highlight their musculature.
What it takes to build top physique
"We all smell like butter," Medlin said. "When you shower the first time it looks like a crime scene."
Medlin said she remembers thinking, "Only crazy people sign themselves up to do this." But that thought went away as soon as she got onstage. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I really wouldn't," she said.
The events are natural, so finalists are drug tested by urinalysis immediately after their performances.
Both women rise at 5 a.m. for their first of six to eight meals a day.
The first of two daily workouts is 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio. Smith does spinning classes four days a week. Medlin varies, alternating between exercise machines and outdoor activities.
They lift weights between an hour and an hour and a half each day, working different parts of their bodies.
Medlin, who has her last meal at 9:30 p.m. before bed, started training last fall. "It's something that I've been interested in doing or pursuing since I was about 15," she said. "I trained really hard and went through a bulk phase."
Working with a dietitian, she loaded up on lean, protein-rich meats such as steak and chicken, salads with healthy fats including olive and coconut oils and avocado.
"I have a new appreciation for vegetables, which I never ate before," Medlin said.
As her muscles and food intake grew, she could do dumbbell presses with up to 40 pounds on each side. "You're growing physically. You're growing mentally," she said.
Then 12 weeks before the competition, she started cutting back on weights and food.
"You're basically working so your body is absolute version of perfect for 48 hours," Medlin said. "You can't sustain that leanness."
So since the June competition, she's been gradually increasing her food intake until it's time to cut back again 12 weeks before her November contest.
Medlin said she enjoys the occasional glass of wine, cheeseburger and fries, and picks a day of the week to share a decadent dessert with her husband. "Deprivation is not the answer," she said.
On the night after her first competition, Medlin pigged out on a cheeseburger and didn't feel so well after being on a clean diet. The next morning, she was back to egg whites and asparagus.
Powerhouses in and out of the gym
Smith is a mother of four boys ages 13, 11, 9 and 7. She's a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist through her own business called Smith 4orce.
She said the happiness she feels working out translates to all aspects of her life.
"It makes me feel good. I feel confident. I feel happy. I feel patient. I've got four boys, and when I'm with them, I'm happy and confident and patient," she said. "I set a good example for them, and they want to be fit and healthy."
Previously a tennis player, Smith entered her first figure competition as a novice in Cape Coral in 2012. "The whole gym was there hollering for me," she said. "It was fun. I was sort of hooked."
In Fitness Universe she placed eighth in 2012 and fifth in 2013 in the open Ms. Figure division, won Ms. Figure Florida in November as an amateur and made the top three in her pro debut at Figure Universe in June.
Her family comes to her competitions. "They scream and cheer and bring cowbells," she said. "They're very proud of me."
They still have meals together with tweaks. For example, she may grill 3 pounds of chicken for the week, which her husband and sons will eat with potatoes and mac and cheese while she accompanies hers with spinach and broccoli.
Smith's husband is not a gym guy; he likes to fish. Medlin's plays golf. "He's super supportive but has no desire to get up on stage or work this hard in the gym," Medlin said.
Although they usually don't work out together because of their schedules, Medlin and Smith have a camaraderie. "I just absolutely look up to women like Wimberly," Medlin said. "Wimberly is so graceful on stage."
The regimented lifestyle does have perks, one of which is shopping. "As our bodies change we really enjoy decking them out," Medlin said.
Married with no children, Medlin works full time as a regulatory affairs specialist at Arthrex orthopedic medical device company in Naples.
"Every gain that you make in the gym, it makes you a stronger person outside of the gym," she said. "I really stopped apologizing for being myself. I think it's a great outlet for women.
"I found my voice at the office. I speak my ideas a little more freely."
New Image Fitness owner John Pierce is thrilled to have the two elite athletes working out as his gym.
"My goal is to have Laura go out, do the worlds and win the pro division, and then have Wimberly do the universe next year and win the overall," he said. "Then have a Ms. Universe and Ms. World Showdown."
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