Ursula Brady recently placed second in a state figure competition.

For Ursula Brady, fitness in nothing new. She’s a certified personal trainer, a certified group exercise instructor, and has been around the world of fitness for 20 years, thanks mostly to her husband, a former Mr. Louisville and Mr. Kentucky.

But this past year has been something different for the 43-year old mother of two. Brady herself has stepped on stage twice, competing in figure competitions.

And she hasn’t done too bad for herself, placing sixth in her first competition, the Northern Kentucky Bodybuilding and Figure Expo in March. Then last month, she took second in the Kentucky Bodybuilding and Figure Championships, held at the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington on August 25. Brady competed in the Figure Open Class, for women 5-2 to 5-4.

“People were always asking me why I don’t compete,” Brady said. “My husband, Dan, always told me I should compete, but I didn’t want to do the diet thing. I knew what to expect from his experience.”

But she also knew that she wanted to challenge herself, and the only way to do it was to enter a competition.

That meant one of three routes: Bodybuilding, figure or fitness.

“I felt figure was better suited for my size and body type,” Brady said. “When people think “female bodybuilder” they think big and ugly. That’s not what I wanted. And I wasn’t into gymnastics, so fitness was out.”

And she always wanted to maintain a feminine look. Her motto is “Be Fit, Be Strong, Be A Girl.”

Once a person decides to enter a competition, their whole world becomes centered around that goal. People outside of the fitness scene have a hard time understanding that drive and commitment.

“Sometimes when I would be working out, people would stop and stare and make comments to me, or just want to talk,” Brady said. “It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to them; I was just in a zone.” And she said that she really doesn’t like people watching her while she works out.

So Brady had to find a place where she and her husband, who also trains her and is working on returning to the bodybuilding stage himself, could workout in peace.

Enter “The Cave.”

Like Batman has his Batcave, the Brady’s have a secret location where they workout that they call “the Cave.” It has a full assortment of weights and benches, everything they need to get in their early morning workouts.

“We’re working out by 4:30 a.m.” Brady said. “All my work is done by 6:30. We do two bodyparts, then 30-40 minutes of cardio.” She would up that to two cardio sessions about five weeks prior to the contest date.

When her husband was competing, Brady would help him prepare for his contest, and watching him eat only chicken breasts and broccoli didn’t really appeal to her. Now she said times have changed with diet requirements, and that has really helped.

“With certain condiments you can spice things up,” Brady said. “You can eat any kind of fish, tuna, egg whites and lean beef.” Even with those improvements, Brady said 12 weeks of dieting right before the contest can take its toll. “You just don’t have any energy.”

And her students in a step aerobic class she teaches also felt what it was like to be getting ready for contest shape.

“Sometimes I would work extra hard on my cardio during class, which meant they were doing just as much as I was,” Brady said. “They were glad when the competition was over.”

Brady noted that it’s frustrating sometimes to put so much effort into getting her body in shape only to have it put out there for subjective judging.

“It can be frustrating to put in all the hard work and have it decided by judges,” Brady said. “They take so much into consideration. You are judged head to toe. Your hair, makeup, the look on your face. They want to see if you are confident or scared.”

While Brady felt she was in top shape for the Kentucky, she was actually told afterwards by the judges that she was “too lean.”

“They (judges) don’t want to see muscle striations, but they were also very complimentary of me,” Brady said. She also noted that she will probably try again in March at the Northern Kentucky competition.

And she wants people to understand that this isn’t some sort of vanity on her part.

“That’s not my intention for anybody to look at this as a vain thing,” Brady said. “It is very athletic, and if I can be an inspiration to anybody to take care of themselves, I have accomplished something.”

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