NEW HAVEN — A sport that requires competitors to go on strict diets, follow intense exercise regimens and pose on stage in barely there beachwear — their bodies coated in oily cooking spray — may not be for everyone.
But 17-year-old Mount Abraham Union High School senior Paige Vincent of New Haven considers it her sport of choice.
Vincent recently switched from competing in bodybuilding to competing in figure competitions — a sport that she says is more “feminine.” While in the same division as bodybuilding, figure judges look more closely at the symmetry of the muscles in the body.
“It’s more fun,” Vincent said. “You get to wear six-inch heels on stage.”
Vincent competed in her first figure competition in October at the John Hancock Center in Boston. Vincent placed third in the women’s novice category at the 2010 NPC New England Bodybuilding, Figure, Fitness and Bikini Championships, missing a bid to nationals by just one spot.
“Only the first and second place people get to go to nationals,” she said. “It’s like, the next level.”
Vincent is determined not to let herself get squeezed out of the running next October, when she plans to compete again.
Vincent first began competing in April of 2009, when she took first in the teen category and third in the women’s novice category at the Vermont Regional Bodybuilding and Figure Championships in South Burlington.
Last spring Vincent prescribed for herself another intense training schedule to prepare for the fall competition. She sought the help of a Burlington training consultant who put her on a strict eating and exercise schedule for 15 weeks.
“It’s hard to explain how the diet works,” she said. “I got to eat six meals a day, but only things like plain chicken or fish, green vegetables or complex carbs — and I had to measure all of my foods very strictly. I can only have things like a tablespoon of peanut butter or half a cup of oatmeal.”
Vincent admits that it is not an easy process.
“I could definitely feel myself getting exhausted toward the very end,” she said. “But once you’ve already finished nine weeks of it, you might as well finish the last four. It’s more just the mental part that keeps you going.”
By the end of her 15-week diet, Vincent said she was barely able to complete her routine exercises.
“You really don’t have any energy to work out,” she said. “I went from lifting 50 pounds in the beginning, and by the end, 10 pounds became really heavy.”
Now that competition season has come and gone, Vincent has switched over to a less-restrictive, maintenance diet. Still, Vincent has to keep her body “clean,” and she must continue to avoid the “unhealthy” foods she loves.
“I think junk food is the greatest,” she said. “What’s nice about this diet is that I get a ‘cheat’ meal once a week. So if I want to have pancakes on Saturday, then I know that I can’t have anything else too bad this week. But it gives you something to look forward to.”
So far, Vincent is the only person her age in the area that has gained an interest in the somewhat offbeat sport, but she hopes that one day, this will change.
“A lot of people come up to me to ask how to get started,” she said. “I’m hoping that the more competitions I participate in and the more the public knows about it that more teenagers will get involved.”
Until that happens, though, Vincent will continue to compete against older challengers in the women’s novice division.
“Right now, the only thing I have to compare myself to are people who are 12 years older than me,” she said.