Victorian becomes bodybuilder in memory of brother (video)
April 30, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2013 at 11:30 p.m.
HOUSTON - Kaylee Rae Flanagan's brow brims with sweat, and she looks straight forward as she lifts a 30-pound barbell to her chest over and over again.
The 22-year-old is oblivious to both the people zigzagging around her and the constant clanging of weights hitting the ground. With a barely audible huff, she tunes in to the voice of her trainer, Monica Iles, who, to be honest, doesn't need to hassle her about continuing the feat.
"Most of my clients do 8 to 10 pounds, if I am lucky," Iles said, as Flanagan then does shoulder presses with 35-pound dumb bells. "You have to have someone holding the pom poms in their hands, so to speak."
Flanagan knows what she has to do to earn her International Federation of Professional Bodybuilders pro card at the National Physique Committee's Junior Figure Bodybuilding Competition in Chicago in June. She will do it in the name of her deceased brother, Jeremy Flanagan.
Flanagan was working out Friday at the Fit Athletic Club, in the upscale Houston suburb of River Oaks, more than 100 miles from where her career began in her hometown of Victoria.
It was day after the anniversary of Jeremy's death. He died when she was 10, having lived most of his life in a wheelchair. He was afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which doctors said Flanagan has a 67 percent chance of carrying on to her offspring.
He was her best friend, but now she chooses to celebrate rather than mourn his life.
"It's more of my driving force," Flanagan said. "I don't take my ability to do this for granted. I know he would be really proud of me."
Flanagan first hit the YMCA gym in Victoria when she was 15 years old. She tied for first in a friendly competition to lose the most body fat, and things took off from there.
You wouldn't know by her refrigerator that as a teen, Flanagan once made late-night trips to Whataburger. Now, she has her staples - asparagus, turkey meat loaf and rice - neatly portioned out to the approval of her nutritionist, Michael Florida, in Tupperware containers. Now, she eats every three hours in between training clients at the Athletic Club. She works out there sometimes three times a day, almost every day, starting at 3:50 a.m.
She doesn't feel deprived.
"On my 21st birthday, I put candles on my egg whites," Flanagan said, chuckling. "I know some people may think that I'm just like this, but it's like, 'No, I have to work really hard at it.' ... I wanted to see how far I could take it. If my body did that in such a short amount of time, you know, what else was I capable of?"
Florida's plan for Flanagan includes consuming a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Flanagan gets fewer carbohydrates as the day wears on so her body burns off fat already stored in her system.
Florida, whose Houston business comprises of 10 to 15 percent of athletes, said the plan is flexible, and Flanagan sticks to it.
"The hardest obstacle you will have to overcome is with yourself. ... Athletes that do well are the ones who can break through that mental barrier," he said.
In 2008, Flanagan attended her first body building competition in San Antonio. She also met with a nutritionist.
She saw the tanned women popping their muscles in what looked like a blinged-out bathing suits and stilettos. She was sold, although she admits now the sport is not as glamorous as she once thought.
In figure body building, women are encouraged to be more feminine. They are not as buff and don't need to weigh in beforehand.
Organizers separate participants into classes based on height and lather on oil and two coats of a thick, uncomfortable tan to ensure their hard work doesn't get washed out by the bright stage lights.
The six judges look for muscle symmetry, balance and overall conditioning as contestants hit five poses to accentuate their muscles.
"Some people are like, 'Why are you doing this to yourself?'" Flanagan said about not everyone understanding her passion.
But she keeps coming back whether her body is protesting or not.
Flanagan has been playing a tape her friend recorded to boost her spirits. Her friend captured Flanagan's figure bodybuilding win in October, when she beat 40 to 50 women for first place overall in Houston.
"It still gives me chills just watching it," Flanagan said.
Her stepfather Brian Hurst, 45, is trying to get some time off from his FedEx job to fly to Chicago. He hasn't missed a single show yet.
"You don't see dedication (like Kaylee's) in everyone," Hurst said. "One way or another, she's going to make it."