Monday, October 27, 2008

Keeping Fitness Interesting

Professional figure competitor Debbie Leung keeps her workouts varied
By Cary Castagna

Variety is the spice of gym life for Debbie Leung.

The 34-year-old Alberta bombshell, you see, doesn't like to do the same workout twice.
It's a training concept developed partly to stave off boredom. But it also ensures that Leung blasts her taut, shapely muscles from different angles. Blindsides 'em and keeps 'em guessing, in other words.

"Every workout, I'm trying to do something different. ... You're switching it up constantly, so your body doesn't know what's hitting it," she explains. "Because each workout's different, my body is always shocked with it and it stimulates the muscle fibres."
Leung knows what she's talking about.

The five-foot-two hard body competes in professional figure contests - a streamlined offshoot of bodybuilding - in the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB).
She's also vice-president of the Alberta Bodybuilding Association (ABBA).

The Winnipeg-born Leung, now living in Calgary with hubby David Leung - who is serving as ABBA president - began religiously pumping iron about a decade ago.
She recalls that she first dabbled with weights while studying physical therapy at the University of Winnipeg.

Thanks to a sedentary post-secondary lifestyle, Leung had succumbed to the dreaded Freshman 15.

"I just sat on my butt and ate, and put on my 15 pounds," she says, noting she soon managed to sweat off that excess weight and found a new hobby in the process.
In 1998, a couple of years after graduating as a physical therapist, Leung took the Body-for-Life challenge - a 12-week healthy living contest based on the book of the same name by American fitness guru Bill Phillips.

By then, Leung was already hooked on weights.

After making some solid progress in the gym, she decided to take her bulging biceps and hop onto the posing dais in 2000.

Leung won the lightweight class in her first show - the 2000 Southern Alberta Bodybuilding Championships - which heralded a meteoric rise through the sport's tiered ranks.

She captured a provincial bodybuilding title in 2001 and a national title in 2002, before making the switch to figure competition.

The following year she took her class at figure nationals. And in 2004, she turned pro by virtue of an overall triumph at figure nationals.

Leung's pro career has been highlighted by a 16th-place finish at the IFBB's prestigious Figure Olympia and three top-15 appearances at the Figure International.

These days, Leung - who competes at around 115 pounds while weighing 125 pounds in the offseason - hits Gold's Gym in Calgary three times a week.

The owner of a physical therapy and acupuncture business doesn't waste much time during her 45-minute weight-training throwdowns.

While taking minimal rest between exercises, Leung strives to perform as many sets as she can in the short period of time.

She describes it as "boot camp-style," noting she executes a variety of athletic-type exercises, including plyometrics.

"It almost seems like I'd wither away doing what I do," she explains. "But you don't lose a blink of muscle and it keeps everything tight year-round."

In addition to weights, Leung does cardio four times a week for 30-45 minutes. As expected, she's not partial to one particular piece of cardio equipment.

"I'll use everything - the StepMill, different ellipticals, the treadmill, inclines, flats, sprinting," she says. "That's the key - keep changing it."

Prior to a contest, Leung jacks up her training frequency to five weight workouts and 10 cardio sessions per week.

She also follows a stringent pre-contest diet.

"Right now, I eat everything. If I'm dieting, it's obviously stricter," she says, pointing out that she consumes a lot of high-protein foods, fruits and veggies, dairy and some starch fare.
Although bodybuilding has been a big part of her life for the past eight years, Leung - who ran track in her younger years - isn't afraid to give new sports a go.

She tried skeleton (similar to bobsled and luge) for a year, has her yellow belt in judo and recently took up Aussie rules football with the Calgary Kookaburras.

"I'm always up for trying new sports. If I like them, I stick around," she says. "I don't necessarily get bored. I just like to keep things a little bit more interesting."

As ABBA vice-president, Leung is helping to organize an entry-level bodybuilding show this weekend in Edmonton. The 2008 Alberta Annual Fall Classic is slated for Saturday at the Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts, 10210 108 Ave. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

For more on Leung, visit

1 comment:

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