Athlete and trainer Karma Schopp, originally from Prince Albert, won the National Physique Committee women’s physique championship last weekend for the second year in a row. Submitted photo
The swords presented to winners of the National Physique Committee (NPC) MuscleContest championships are widely viewed as one of the more prestigious awards in modern bodybuilding.
Athletes who participate in the NPC bodybuilding and physique competitions see winning one of the swords as a singularly impressive honour.
Winning two swords is an even rarer feat, as two-time NPC women’s physique champion Karma Schopp can attest.
Schopp, who was born in Saskatoon and raised in Prince Albert, won her second women’s physique division overall title earlier this month at the 2013 NPC Excalibur Bodybuilding, Figure, Physique and Bikini Championships in Culver City, Calif.
“It was a really good feeling because there were just so many things in the whole preparation … even up to the night before the competition, so many obstacles,” she said.
“So it felt good to just to be able to conquer all that, win first place and then go on to win the overall title again.”
Schopp described the women’s physique competition as a “somewhat scaled-down version of women’s bodybuilding.” The main difference is that athletes in bodybuilding contests clench their fists when posing instead of keeping their hands open.
In either category, athletes are judged in terms of conditioning, muscle tone, posing, symmetry and overall presentation.
Schopp’s recent victory in the women’s physique contest follows her first-place finish in the same event at the Orange County Classic in August 2012.
She credits her trainer, professional bodybuilder Lionel Brown -- aka L-Train -- for her recent success.
“I’ve won before, but with him, I was able to take my physique and my conditioning to a whole different level,” Schopp said.
“Now when we go to shows … we have the reputation that if I show up at the show, I’m most likely going to win,” she added.
“People are expecting a certain degree of conditioning and excellence, basically, when I show up for the stage.”
From her childhood days growing up in Prince Albert, Schopp has always had a strong interest in athletics.
Her parents enrolled her in swimming lessons early on, and she played softball for at least 10 years before moving to Calgary in her mid-20s to work in a gym.
“Even as a teenager, when other girls would have pictures of movie stars, I’d have pictures of bodybuilders,” she recalled.
It was while working at the gym in Calgary that someone first suggested Schopp try her hand at a competitive event.
Initially unsure, she soon had a change of heart.
“I remember driving to the gym one day and (thought), ‘Why don’t I do a show? I’ve always wanted to do one.’ So then I just kind of took it from there,” she said.
“It was just sort of a cross between an ‘aha!’ moment and just natural progression, I think, from what I was doing.”
Schopp entered her first competition in the fall of 2005 with the goal of simply gaining experience. After completing the contest, she decided that next time around, she wanted to win.
Second-place finishes soon began to follow at various provincial physique competitions.
“With the exception of only a few competitions, I’ve always placed really quite high or … taken first place,” Schopp said.
“I’m such a competitive person,” she added. “It’s nothing personal to any other athlete. But I’d always just want to strive to be the best and be a little bit better than the next person or really make a really positive impression, so I’ve always just been a really competitive athlete.”
In the runup to a competition, Schopp will typically do cardio every day and weight-training five to six days per week. During the final four weeks, she ups her cardio to twice a day.
A longtime writer who studied journalism in school, Schopp is also a trainer and nutrition coach who has written for various fitness magazines and websites.
When preparing for a competition, however, she generally follows the advice of her own trainer.
“Essentially I know what to do, but it’s nice just to have somebody to tell you where you don’t really have to think about it,” she noted.
“They can just look at your body, see how it’s changing and then do what they know needs to be done to get you to your goal. So whatever he told me to do, I just did.”
With a second NPC women’s physique championship under her belt, Schopp plans to use the remainder of the month to give her body time to recover from training.
Her next competition, the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation National Championships, takes place on July 5 in Edmonton.
The competition will allow her to complete her main goal for the year -- earning professional status with the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness.
Schopp’s string of successes has greatly increased her reputation in the bodybuilding world, but she welcomed the added pressure accompanying that rise in status.
“It’s a good position,” she said.
“It creates pressure, but I don’t mind that because I do want to be the best -- so I want to be able to live up to and exceed those expectations.”