A Winkler resident is among the best bodybuilders in North America after a top finish last month.
Kim Derksen finished top in her class in the figure division at the North American Championships on August 30 in Pittsburgh.
That win makes her an International Federation of Body Building (IFBB) Pro and puts her among the best in Canada, The United States and Mexico.
Derksen’s road to bodybuilding started with running. She said she never used to be athletic in high school, but after she graduated and had her second son she decided to take up running to get into shape. “I decided I was going to be able to run six miles, that was my goal,” she said. “When I first started I remember going up and down my street. I went from my house, which is in the middle of the street, to the stop sign and I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to throw up, my legs were itchy, and I thought, ‘This is absolutely ridiculous. This is unacceptable.’”
Derksen stuck with running, and after a few weeks was running three miles. Her six mile goal came shortly after and then she was running relay races and marathons.
“I’m one of those people that always needs a goal and something to do,” she said. “Once I’ve accomplished one, then I want the next.”
One day while browsing one of her husband’s body building magazines, she found a picture of a bodybuilder and decided that would be her next goal.
“I was hesitant to start the whole thing,” she said. “He’d offered to take me to the gym and teach me many times and I was always hesitant. I didn’t know if that was something I was really interested in.”
After a bit of coaxing, Derksen’s husband Vern trained her, and she said she saw results quickly and wanted to do something more. Vern suggested competing.
“I was terrified,” she said. “I had been to a couple of his competitions and the thought of being on stage and having everyone stare at me… I was terrified of that thought but yet, I needed a goal.”
Vern took her to Winnipeg and introduced her to Darren Mehling, owner of Freak Fitness, who became her coach. Derksen’s first show was a novice show in October 2015. She placed second in both her classes, which she said left her heartbroken.
“I put everything I had into that show and I thought for sure that I was going to win,” she said. “I actually ended up losing because I was over-conditioned.”
Derksen went on to win both her classes at the provincial level in May 2016. She immediately went to the national competition in Vancouver and placed second last and last in her classes.
“It was a hard hit for me,” she said. “I got off stage and bawled my eyes out and said, ‘I suck. I’m never doing this again.’ My coach said, ‘My athletes don’t act like this. We pick ourselves up, we learn from the experience, we move forward and come back better.’”
Derksen returned to the national competition in 2017 and was first in her class. From there it was on to the North American competition, where she placed in the middle. Derksen and Mehling made a plan to return and win, and Derksen spent the last nine months working to perfect everything she needed to.
At the end of August, that hard work paid off and she earned her Pro Card, which she likened to making it into the NHL. Now Derksen can compete all over the world, not just in North America.
Before the competition, Derksen said she had a bit of a meltdown in the airport in Toronto and told her coach she wasn’t sure if she could make it or not.
“He said, ‘Adversity gives us two choices, we can either break or we become champions,’” she said. “He said to me, ‘If you can get your butt down to Pittsburgh I have a funny feeling you’re going to win your Pro Card.”
Derksen said she still gets shivers thinking about the moment she won. “They don’t call your name normally, you have a number,” she said. “My number that day was 579 and I’ll never forget it. I had goosebumps from corner to corner, put my hands over my mouth in disbelief and started to bawl. I couldn’t believe it.”
“I’m still in disbelief,” she added. “A lot of people say, ‘So you’re done now?’ Absolutely not. If your son or daughter made the NHL, would you tell them to stop playing? I’m just getting started.”
Mehling decided last year that he would donate $1,000 to the Children’s Wish Foundation for any of his athletes who won their Pro Card. That day, three of his athletes won, and Mehling donated $3,000 to the charity.
Derksen said her goal for next year is to compete in her first pro show. “[It’s] a whole new level,” she said. “It’s going to be really tough because a lot of these people have been in the industry for a long time. I’m kind of a newbie at three years and three months. I have a lot of work to do.”
“Just to have made it here in such a short period of time where there’s some athletes that have worked at this for years and years, I’m lucky,” she added. “I’m 42, and I want to put it out there that age is just a number. You can do anything you want to do. I started this when I was 39 years old and I never in my wildest dreams anticipated to do what I’ve accomplished in such a short period of time.”
If Derksen wins a pro show or places in the top five over a number of shows, she can compete in the Olympia, which happens once a year and features the best bodybuilders in the world.
To prepare, Derksen weight trains five days a week and does cardio every day. She also did 20 weeks of straight dieting in the last year to keep herself in shape. “I believe as an athlete you train all year round, so I don’t ever stop training,” she said. “For 20 weeks everything is portion controlled. I’m told what I can eat, what time I can eat. The training isn’t the hard part, it’s the mind control of the diet. It’s really hard when you want to have some chips knowing that those chips could make or break you becoming the champion.”
Derksen said many people have a misconception that dieting for a bodybuilding competition involves starving. “I eat six to seven meals a day, a protein, carbohydrate and vegetable for every single meal,” she said. “I eat more than probably most people do.”
“It’s a lot of work,” she added. “In my brain it’s a full-time job because your sleep matters, your training matters, your food prep matters, the time you’re eating matters. Your whole life is focused on prepping for the show.”
Derksen said that while the sport is about how she looks and about her body, it’s hard to see the reception body building sometimes gets. “It hurts that my sport isn’t recognized,” she said. “Everyone was given a gift whether it’s an athletic gift, a cooking gift, a sewing gift, everyone was born with a talent. I really think that we need to celebrate each other’s gifts even if we don’t like or agree with the gift that they were given. I think we need to celebrate that and be happy for each other’s achievements.”
Derksen also had some sage advice for anyone worried about stepping inside a gym. “It’s like the gym is a fearful place and that is the last thing that anybody should be thinking,” she said. “Everyone that steps foot into the gym is there for the same reason. My reason is a little extreme compared to a lot of other people’s reasons but they’re there to better themselves. No one should ever be fearful to better themselves.”
Derksen said bodybuilding has bettered her as a human being, reduced stress and anxiety and helped her realize she can achieve anything. “We better ourselves to go to church, we better ourselves to go to school, we better ourselves for everything, but our mental health and our physically health should be the most important attribute that we give to ourselves,” she said. “No one should ever be fearful of wanting to better themselves by coming to the gym. What it’s done for me mentally is way more than what it’s done for me physically.”