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A Feat of Mind Over Body

Mary Davis transformed herself from a pack-a-day smoker to a ­winning bikini competitor

<< Brian Schneider Photography >>

Today’s Mary Davis is not the Mary Davis she once was.
    Chiseled and ripped, with no body fat that shows in a bikini, the 35-year-old mother and businesswoman is a trophy-winning competitive bodybuilder. This month she competes in the Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders Catonsville Conquer to add two more trophies to her legend. In last October’s competition, she came in second as a Novice, the only category she could enter as a newcomer to the sport.
    Davis competes in the Bikini championships, the least muscular of the four championship groups, Bodybuilding, Figure, Physique and Bikini. In bodybuilding and physique, women showcase a leaner, shredded body profile with muscles more striated and lined.
    Bikini competitors simply pose, twisting and turning, creating angles.
    “I get on stage with a sequined bikini and high heels and pose around,” says Davis, who lives in Edgewater. “It’s an illusion, all about accentuating your positives.”
    Positives are what bikini competitors have already developed. “Big broad shoulders, a small waist and a big butt” are the qualities that make a champion in this arena.
    After her first win, Davis took November and December off. Then the bug set in for the next challenge. For April, she set higher goals. Davis plans to win the bikini trophy in the Novice and Open categories. She’ll go up against every single bikini competitor at this show.

The Turnaround
    Challenge inspires Davis.
    It’s the force that she’s used to transform herself, over seven years from a pack-a-day smoker.
    “My father had died of lung cancer. It wasn’t connected to smoking, but it still encouraged me to stop. I gave cigarettes up on his birthday, February 4, 2010. In his honor, I wanted to raise money for lung cancer research,” she says of the push that got her started.
    “Losing my Dad, I realized every day is a gift,” Davis says, reflecting on the period of self-examination that followed his death. “A few too many happy hours and a nagging feeling told me I was on the wrong path,” she says.
    Her eating habits weren’t very bad. “My parents cooked a lot at home, we never used to order carryout. I had the odd Twinkie.” She was a runner, too, as a child and teen. But by her late 20s, she was an out-of-shape smoker.
    She started her transformation online, with guidance on how to run a half-marathon and free exercise calendars that laid out training schedules.
    “I trained and trained and ran the Zooma half-marathon in June 2010,” she says. “I haven’t had a cigarette since. That’s what spiraled me to more goal setting.”
    She kept training and the same year ran the full Marine Corps Marathon — plus shorter races.
    “Running led to spinning,” she said. “I began taking 5:45am classes every day before the start of my work day in Baltimore.” Soon she’d qualified as a trainer and was teaching as well.
    This was just the tip of the iceberg. Davis kept setting bigger goals and tougher challenges.
    “As a runner,” Davis said, “I’d focused on cardio training. Then I made weight training part of my week’s exercise regime, which was new to me and to many women who think cardio is the answer to the figure that they want.
    “As we get older our muscle mass starts to decline. Pairing the right exercise regime, including cardio and lifting weights, with the right diet will show a big difference.
    “I love weight training,” Davis says. “I am building muscle and feeling strong.”
    The differences Davis saw in her body were so impressive that she was ready to stack herself up against women she saw online prepping for bikini competitions.
    “It looked hard, and I wanted a challenge to push me out of my comfort zone,” she says.

Focused on New Goals
    It takes many weeks of training to develop winning qualities in bikini competitions, Davis says. This time around, she’s spent 13 weeks with a personal coach specializing in bodybuilding competition.
    “My coach and I have discovered together that I build muscle easily,” she says. “I am now trying to lose muscle in my biceps, back and triceps and gain muscle in my shoulders and glutes.”
    Doing higher reps and lifting lighter weights, she’s achieved personal bests of a 215-pound deadlift and a 335-pound glute bridge.
    More challenging still is diet because, she says, “I am not eating as much as I use to, and I am working out more. In the last competition, I was including crackers, cereal and some packaged goods. This time I wanted to train in a healthy way. My diet is whole foods, veggies, lean meat, egg whites, nothing processed, nothing in a packet — except peanut butter, my one weakness.”
    Eating close to 1,600 calories a day six weeks away from the show, Davis will reduce calorie intake each week. Still, she’s added about 15 pounds due to muscle mass.
    To get in shape to show so much — and win against women just as tough and younger than her — she lives by a regime that seems tough even to her husband Justin, an assistant coach/outside linebacker for Navy football.
    “My husband thinks I am nuts,” she says. “When I complain, he says that it was my decision, so he doesn’t tolerate much. As a football coach, he understands commitment and hard work.”
    Davis keeps herself accountable, monitoring her progress with before- and after-photos, posted on her blog to journal her progress and to develop a following. Three weeks from competiting, she is primed.
    “It’s very hard,” she says, “but I am feeling good.”
    She wants you to hear that message too.
    “You can do anything you want at any age you want,” Davis says. “The only thing that will stand in the way is you.