Debbie Keen, a 52-year-old personal trainer and mum-of-two has just returned triumphant from an ‘I Compete Natural (ICN)’ bodybuilding competition in Sydney, winning gold in her age group and category. While she is still considered an amateur natural bodybuilder (drug free), Debbie has had over 10 years’ experience and won a huge collection of trophies and titles.
Growing up in the New South Wales outback town of Broken Hill in the early 70s, Debbie had no idea that the world of female bodybuilding even existed. Back then it was all about eating meat-and-two-veg and playing team sport. Her first foray into the world of fitness began following the birth of her first child, Trent.
“I felt really uncomfortable with the extra baby weight I had gained, so with a few other mums, I joined a local gym in my then home of Dubbo,” she says.
“In 1993 it was all about aerobics, but not long after I joined up, the only female instructor left town. The gym owner introduced me to Phil, a muscly African American weight-lifting enthusiast. At first, I thought it was hilarious and slightly intimidating to be in the ‘proper gym’, but Phil was a fantastic trainer and as the weight fell off and my shape changed, I grew more confident in my ability.”
Debbie and husband Randy had a daughter Brittany in 1997, by which time Debbie’s love of keeping fit was well established. Encouraged by another local gym owner who saw Debbie’s potential as an instructor, she studied for a certificate III in fitness to help run the aerobics classes.
After a move to Newcastle in 2001, Debbie continued working as an instructor and completed a certificate IV in fitness, giving her the qualifications to take on personal training clients.
“I discovered a love for helping people achieve their individual fitness goals, and in 2006 one of my clients, a new mum, asked me to train her up for a bodybuilding show in Sydney.
“I hadn’t heard much about these shows before, so I did some research and we got cracking on her weight training and healthy eating program. I went to watch her compete and while she looked fabulously lean, she didn’t have the muscle tone and definition of her competitors and I was confused as to why not.”
For more stories from inspiration women, Mia Freedman had the honour of catching up with mummy blogger royalty Constance Hall. Post continues after audio.
To learn more about what was involved in looking as muscular as the women on stage in Sydney, Debbie found a local trainer to show her how to get her own body to competition level.