When Amber Larsen was a little girl, she loved watching the Ms. Fitness competition on TV.
As those toned, muscular women posed before the camera, she would envision herself standing on that stage one day.
Now 30, Larsen hasn’t forgotten that dream. And while she’s not yet Ms. Fitness, she is making waves in the female bodybuilding circuit.
The Flin Flon native scored two big wins at the BC Amateur Bodybuilding Association Popeye’s Fall Classic competition last month.
“I knew in my heart that I had done everything I possibly could [to prepare],” says Larsen, who now lives in BC.
“Every day you’re just battling through, trying to find motivation, inspiration. So by the time you get close to stage day, you know if you’ve given it your all or not.”
Larsen’s efforts earned her first place in the Women’s Physique Tall class. She also took first overall for Posing for women in the Bodybuilding and Physique classes.
It was her first bodybuilding competition, earning her the chance to participate at the provincial level in BC in either of the next two years.
Her ultimate goal is to turn pro – and with rippling arms, a thin waist and brawny legs, few would doubt she’s capable of that.
But what compels a friendly, soft-spoken and articulate young woman to hit the iron with such zeal?
Larsen’s love of weight training took hold instantly and forcefully when she was a teenager.
“As soon as I picked up a barbell, it felt right,” she says. “It was what I was meant to do – I was to embrace this lifestyle.”
Larsen became a fixture at the weight room at Hapnot Collegiate, where she attended high school, and later at the Flin Flon Aqua Centre weight room.
Blessed with natural strength and uncanny determination, she became a serious powerlifter and stuck with that sport until her late 20s.
Then, in 2013, three years after leaving Flin Flon for BC, she began craving something different. She decided to make the switch to bodybuilding, which is less about strength and more about physique.
Why? Until then, Larsen felt like the things she was good at had come easily, whether it was powerlifting, tae kwon do or academics. She never felt like she had proven herself.
“But in bodybuilding, you’re forced to have to prove yourself,” she says. “There was something in me that said, ‘Yeah, you need to take this journey.’”
With the help of a knowledgeable coach, Larsen threw herself into bodybuilding, fashioning as much character as muscle.
After years of powerlifting, she already had robust, well-developed muscles. She and her coach focused on shaping and adding density to what already existed, and on ensuring a balanced look throughout her body.
If that sounds easy for someone with years of experience in the gym, it shouldn’t.
“There were days where you’re going through it and your entire body just goes completely fatigued,” Larsen says. “It gets extremely, extremely exhausting, so you basically can’t feel your body.”
In the eight weeks leading up to the Popeye’s Fall Classic, Larsen was spending upwards of 32 hours a week in the gym, either lifting weights or doing cardio.
With the competition now over, she’s been able to ease up a bit on her rigorous regimen and focus on other aspects of her life, including her job as a support worker for the disabled.
But Larsen won’t lose sight of her goal of becoming a professional bodybuilder. She’s a patient woman who will do what it takes to succeed, even if those around her can’t quite grasp her motivations.
“You sacrifice a lot of relationships [as a bodybuilder],” Larsen says. “You can explain things to people about what you’re doing and you can give them all the details and the data and the numbers and sort of daily insight into your life. But until a person really experiences what you’re going through, they wouldn’t really, truly understand.”