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There is an eerie silence in the early morning at 4 a.m. The sound of a coffeemaker, which is set to brew automatically; the rustling of nocturnal scavengers still scurrying through the backyard; and tiptoes pattering from the chest of drawers, back to the closet and over to the sink. A porch light shines through a side window and illuminates the inside of a spacious two-bedroom apartment where the morning routine is about to begin.
The commitment to get up early in the morning sets the tone as the regional manager of a large, multi-family management company, single mother and professional fitness model gets ready to face her first workout of the week.
Every Monday morning Sacramento native Ann-Marie rolls out of bed, throws her gym clothes on, grabs a gym bag filled with supplements and heads to her trainer’s gym. It is a disciplined regimen that she performs five days a week and one that she has gotten used to for the past year.
When she arrives at Doug Casebier’s gym, Total Body Advantage, she begins her workout with cardio, push-ups, lunges and other boot camp-style training. Coach Doug, as he prefers to be called, encourages her and promises that this workout and routine will make her a champion.
“Coach Doug calms me down,” Ann-Marie says smiling. “I trust him, and besides, I have a lot of energy.”
The journey to becoming a fitness model and bikini champion didn’t just occur overnight; it happened gradually and began as therapy to heal emotional scars from the past.
From an early age, Ann-Marie had felt the peer pressure of being overweight. She could remember being ridiculed by her classmates, teased and made fun of. Then, when she was 13 years old her parents sent her to a Florida boarding school to finish high school. These events had a lasting effect on her.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Ann-Marie. “I had the time of my life in high school.”
But then, as if a light went off inside her head, the conversation about high school stopped abruptly and the attention of the conversation was diverted. I noticed Ann-Marie’s gaze move quietly toward the parking lot of the Starbucks where we were sitting. She watched a lady who was having trouble finding a parking spot and had circled the other parked cars twice.
My eyes focused on the lady, too and we both watched in silence. Finally the driver got a break and found a place to park. Just then, as if she had heard a hypnotist snap his fingers, her gaze returned to our conversation, but this time in a serious tone.
She elaborated on her all-girl Baptist high school upbringing, the discipline she endured growing up, the teasing and the pain. She explained how she was bullied in school and how that has affected her, and then, like she had gotten awoken from a dream, she shifted from serious to a calm demeanor, saying, “Ya, but I felt really free there.”
Ann-Marie’s emotional scars from childhood are still apparent when she speaks, but there is a sense that she uses them to push herself. The gym is like a coping mechanism for her as she talks about her trainer and diet. It all sounds like it is therapy, a positive outlet for her to deal with the scars of the past. As one story compounded on another, she explained the process she took to become a professional bikini athlete.
“I needed a way to decompress,” she began. “I started exercising and then going to the gym with my friend. It became routine.”
As one thing led to another, Ann-Marie started to see changes both physically and mentally, and wanted to step up the challenge, “I had just started training and I liked it,” she said, “Then one day at the gym my friend suggested that I try competing. It wasn’t the most practical suggestion,” she recalls, “I was spending all of my time with my family and at my job; adding one more thing to my life just didn’t seem feasible.”
But the more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea, so she started asking around for a trainer and before long she had found one. There was only one problem; he worked in Roseville and she lived in Carmichael. The drive there would take over an hour out of her day. Ultimately, she decided to make the sacrifice and it changed her life.
As luck would have it, her trainer was involved in a small organization that put on local fitness shows. After a few months of training Ann-Marie entered a show, “It seemed easy,” she said. “I worked out with my trainer and then one day he just told me I was going to do it (enter a competition). And that’s how it happened.”
It was an experience that set the wheels in motion. Ann-Marie took second in that event, but knew that she was better-suited to compete in the less muscular bikini class. This realization made her rethink how she would train, and she started looking for another trainer.
That is when she found Coach Doug, “He made me feel comfortable from the first day I started working out with him,” Ann-Marie says. “His style of exercise, nutritional experience and connection with the WBFF (World Body Fitness Federation) made complete sense to me.”
Once she realized what she had put together, she began the vigorous eight-month journey to becoming a pro-bikini champion.
“I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning,” says Ann-Marie, “but I realized that becoming a professional in this sport takes dedication; we are athletes … this is as much a psychological endeavor as it is a physical one.”
The experiences of her childhood combined with the lessons of being married and divorced seemed to have laid the foundation for her to excel in this sport.
Less than one year after making the commitment, Ann-Marie finally realized her dream. On Oct. 10, 2012 she got her WBFF pro she said. “When I was a kid, my parents never made me finish anything,” she said. “I always felt like I got cheated. But when I walked onto the stage the night I won, to get my trophy and pro card, it was more than just an accomplishment for me, it was a win over the emotional scars I’ve carried since I was a child.”