Grand Forks is known for many things: sunshine, borscht, rivers and, if things continue, bodybuilding. Elyssa Starchuk is the next female bodybuilder from Grand Forks to do well on a large stage. Starchuk, like Sharona Witwicki and Nancy Clark before her, finished strongly at a competition on the coast recently.
In fact, Starchuk finished first in her category (physique) at the Leigh Brandt Muscle Classic in New Westminster on March 14. She also picked up an award for Best Poser.
“I was pretty surprised,” she said. “It was my first competition. I didn’t really expect anything. I was hoping to win but you just never know what the judges are looking for. That’s what it boils down to. All these girls have put in their best effort and it’s up to the judges after that.”
Starchuk, who has lived in Grand Forks her whole life, said she decided to enter the competition as a way of pushing herself.
“I always stay in a little box—you know, your comfortable little box,” she said. “I wanted to totally challenge myself. I wanted to go way outside my comfort zone and do something that really made me feel alive.”
Starchuk started working out around 13 years ago and has always enjoyed it.
“I just fell in love with it the first day I went,” she said. “I get such an adrenaline rush out of it. It’s a social thing for me (being at the gym). I just felt really good about something.”
About a year ago she decided she wanted to train for a major competition.
“I just started to get serious a few years ago,” she said. “I decided to do a show. I then started to prepare for the show in November 2013.”
Bodybuilding competitions are split into five different classes: bikini, fitness, figure, physique and bodybuilding. She said that bodybuilding is for the most muscular ladies, followed by physique and on down to bikini. Starchuk competed in the open category, which is open to ladies of all ages, in the physique division.
Starchuk said the training wasn’t too bad but the dieting and cutting (body fat) were tough.
“For the most part it’s pretty good,” she said. “You’ve got 19 weeks of a cutting diet, which is pretty difficult. It involves a lot of cardio, it’s a very strict diet; everything is weighed and measured. It’s definitely challenging.”
Starchuk said the no-carb days were tough during the few weeks where she ate nothing but chicken and only green vegetables.
“Then I would have a low-carb day with a little bit of rice, maybe some oatmeal,” she said. “It’s quite a calorie deficit you’re in.”
Starchuk said she was doing cardio for 80 minutes per day with workouts of an hour or hour and a half per day. “It’s just insane,” she said. “You know it’s only for a certain time frame. You can make it through. Thank goodness the whole 19 weeks isn’t like that last six weeks. I really wanted to completely challenge myself and do something wild and crazy and I did.”
Starchuk has benefited greatly from the coaching of Al and Nancy Clark at BodyEdge Fitness.
“They’ve been so good to me,” said Starchuk. “I really enjoy it. They’ve been super-supportive.”
Starchuk loves Grand Forks and enjoys being able to balance bodybuilding with being a mostly stay-at-home mom with young kids. She enjoys small town living in Grand Forks and the way everyone knows each other and looks out for each other. She said everyone in town has been very supportive of her.
“I’ve been downtown off and on all week and I’ve had people I hardly know come up and congratulate me and hug me,” she said. “I’ve had just overwhelming support which you just don’t get in a bigger centre.”
Starchuk said she plans to train for a year and prepare for the 2016 provincial competition, which she is now eligible for.
Starchuk has lofty goals for her run at provincials.
“I want to win it!” she said. “I’ll do provincials and see how I place there and if I do well I’ll go to nationals.”