Bodybuilding’s popularity has boomed in the past decade. Competitors, both male and female, are getting themselves into the gym and sculpting the perfect bodies. In Perth, it’s now common to see locals popping in and out of the Body Academy after a hard session, in absolutely tremendous physical shape.
And it’s the Body Academy that has helped shape the career of one World Champion. Vicki and Guy watched on as Kerri Stewart walked through the doors of their gym, with no bodybuilding experience to speak of but with the desire and will to learn. Fast forward half a decade, we have a Perth-born World Champion.
“I think when I first walked through the doors, Vicki and Guy must have thought I was just another person who was going to come along for a while and end up wasting their time,” Kerri told me.
“I was determined though and I don’t think it took them too long to realise how serious I was about it. I was 100% dedicated and I listened and took on board everything that they told me.” It gave me a focus and I just wanted to train and see how far I could go.
Kerri was always a fan of the gym – having previously attended Bannantyne’s – and she regularly went to classes. It was during a rough patch in her life that one of her friends mentioned the Body Academy and asked her to come along. It was the start of something special and the first steps towards a career in female bodybuilding.
“When I was going through a difficult time, that’s when I went down and met Vicki and Guy. The rest is history really! It gave me a focus and I just wanted to train to see how far I could go.
“It was only after meeting everyone at the Body Academy that I realised there was going to be opportunities to start competing. That gave me a reason and a purpose to go to the gym and really drove me to get to where I am today.”
It was 2012 when Kerri first took to the stage to compete, and over the five years that’ve followed she has quickly gone from being a novice to an experienced professional. She competed in the ‘figure’ class for three years but it wasn’t where she really wanted to be. “It’s quite feminine in the figure class,” she joked, “that’s not something I’m great at being!”
In 2014, Kerri started to develop what she thought were chronic migraines which severely impacted her quality of life. Despite continuing to enjoy great success, it was causing her so much pain that she eventually had to withdraw from the World Championships.
“I won the Scottish but I really was struggling. I was about to pull out of the British as well but Vicki and Guy convinced me to keep going, even just to get some more experience at that level. I really wasn’t well though and despite coming second and qualifying for the Worlds, I just couldn’t put my body through anymore so I had to pull out.”
She used the time off from competing to change her physique in the hope of realising her aims to move from figure class to athletic. Even though she stopped competing, she continued to go to the gym daily. “It was the only time I felt any release from the pain,” Kerri told me, “so the doctor said I should keep training.”
Loaded up on medication to try and ease the pain, Kerri couldn’t sleep and it was a difficult time. She then discovered that it wasn’t actually chronic migraines she was suffering from; she’d actually trapped a nerve in her neck which was causing all of the pain. A quick trip to the physio and she was right as rain, ready to get back to competing.
Kerri had successfully worked on her size and was ready to move to the athletic class of bodybuilding and thanks to the support of Guy, her diet was always spot on to help her achieve her goals. It’s something that I always imagined would be a very difficult process, making sure that you’re eating the correct things every day but she assures me it’s not as tough as it sounds. I like to stick to my diet all year round but I can still enjoy treats during the off season.
“It’s easy! Everyone always thinks it must be really difficult to do but it literally takes twenty minutes to cook my food for that day. If I want to cook a whole week’s worth, it’ll take me about an hour and a half on a Sunday and that’s me for the entire week.
“To be honest, I’m not that knowledgeable when it comes to nutrition! That’s why I’m so lucky that Guy helps me by putting together the perfect diet plan. I follow it religiously, even in the off season. Some competitors will eat whatever they want during that time but I like to stick to my diet all year round.
“I can still enjoy treats during the off season though. If I want a takeaway, a few drinks or some chocolate, I’ll have it. The important thing is making sure I continue to stick to the diet and just enjoy these things as extras.
“It’s a very strict and disciplined lifestyle, but it’s one that becomes second nature once you get into the right habits. You just have to learn to live life around it – for example, last year I managed to go to two hen-dos, a wedding and a big boxing event, all during my preparations.”
Scottish and British titles were great but Kerri was also now competing at the World Championships. She’d come a long way from first walking through the doors of the Body Academy, and she had now earned the right to go toe-to-toe with the best on the planet in Miami, Florida.
Initially, she just wanted to see what it was like to compete at that level. She didn’t just compete though – she did a lot more than that. Kerri went on to win the World title, something that she says left her in disbelief.
“It was incredible – never in a million years was I going over there expecting to win. I really just wanted to dip my toes into the water and see what the other competitors at that level were like. I thought I’d go there and learn a lot from it but to win it was unbelievable.
“The World Championships are just an amazing experience and you’re never doing it by yourself. The BNBF (British National Bodybuilding Federation) team is massive – competitors, workers, volunteers, families – it’s huge. They all give you great support and give you the best possible chance to do as well as possible.
“You get to enjoy a big pool party together after it and it’s a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to going back in 2018 and trying to defend my title!”
All of this success has made Kerri an in-demand athlete and that has in turn led to sponsorship opportunities. Perth Honda has been supporting Kerri in her bodybuilding over the past few years, something that she is extremely grateful for.
“The Perth Honda guys have been excellent; I can’t speak highly enough of them. They’ve given me a car and they’re always on hand to help me out with things wherever they can. I’ve just been up to pick up some gym clothing from them and it’s great that they support me in such ways.
“The car is brilliant and it’s got my name, pictures and titles on it which is pretty cool. They’re really promoting my success and hopefully I’m helping them to get a few people through the door, buying some cars!”
Even though she’s now a world champion and huge success in female bodybuilding, Kerri still remembers where it all began for her. Training at the Body Academy still feels special to her, even though her new job as a firefighter in Kirkcaldy can sometimes restrict her ability to head down there to train.
It’s a place with a fantastic reputation throughout the country, and Kerri is full of praise for her two mentors, Vicki and Guy.
“If it wasn’t for them I’d not have been able to achieve what I have. It’s an amazing gym with amazing people and they’ve really made all of this possible for me. If it wasn't for Vicki and Guy, I'd not have been able to achieve what I have.
“I can still remember when I first walked into the Body Academy and saw Vicki for the first time. I’d never seen a female bodybuilder before and I can just remember thinking to myself, ‘that’s where I want to get to’. She immediately became an inspiration for me and getting to train and learn from her has been a privilege.
“I always pop in to see everyone when I can. It’s a great gym and you don’t have to want to be a bodybuilder to go there either. They’ll give you advice and help you with anything, whether you’re looking to gain weight, lose weight or just try to keep healthy. Everybody’s so knowledgeable and friendly.”
Heading back over to the United States to defend her title is Kerri’s main objective in the next 12 months and she’s already developed a name for herself on the sport’s biggest scene. With the support of Vicki and Guy at the Body Academy, the BNBF and her family – there’s no reason why she can’t go on and beat the best again.
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