International Spotlight: IFBB Physique Pro Marlene Koekemoer
In "Pumping Iron," Arnold Schwarzenneger and Lou Ferrigno brought bodybuilding to the world. The documentary illustrated the many different backgrounds and circumstances that can foster an elite bodybuilder. Although still very much a niche sport as it was in the 1970's, bodybuilding has seen its popularity rise, especially in the age of social media. Bodybuilding has always been able to transcend national and ethnic boundaries due to its adherence to the virtues of persistence, hard work, and dedication. International competitors may not be able to attend as many shows as they'd like, but that makes them all the more focused to create a lasting impression in the industry as well as make waves at the judges table. The first in a series of International Spotlights focuses on South African competitor Marlene Koekemoer.
Tell me about yourself:
I was born in Pretoria, Gauteng South Africa and stay on a small holding out of town. I am working at Body Guru Physique Enhancement Professionals as a personal fitness trainer and consultant for athletes competing in Bikini, Figure, and Physique divisions. I am also a National judge for IFBB South Africa and became an IFBB Pro in 2011. I am married and have a 16 year old son. My family is my back bone, my husband, although he is very busy, he totally supports me in my ventures and my son loves the outdoors and knows what he wants out of life.
I am lucky to have my hobby as a career but I also love the outdoors and traveling.
How did you get into fitness?
From childhood my father inspired me to pursue sport. I did gymnastics for the age of 4 to 8 and participate in athletics mostly sprinting 100m and hurdles and long jump. I only started to do weight training after school, but it was only after my son was born that I started to train more seriously. I started to work as a personal trainer and it was then when the owner of the gym told me that I have the potential to compete as a figure athlete. In my first year of competing I came from placing 7th in my first competition to win the World Championships in France the same year in a small federation. After that I was hooked. The following year I joined the amateur IFBB federation.
What is your favorite part of being a bodybuilder? Least favorite?
I love the discipline and the ability to push myself that the sport gives me.
The least favourite is that we do not get the recognition and support that other sports get.
How many shows have you done?
I been competing for 10 years -
20 Local shows: I off which I have won 16.
Three times the South African Figure champion and twice the overall champion.
8 International amateur shows:
Arnold Amateur Classic 2011 3rd place
IFBB Amateur Master Worlds Championships 2009 14th place
IFBB Amateur Woman's Worlds Championships 2008 10th place
IFBB Amateur Woman's Worlds Championships 2007 10th place
IFBB Amateur Woman's Worlds Championships 2006 11th place
WPF Universe Championship 2005 1st place
WPF Universe Championship 2007 3st place
IFBB Professional Shows: 4 Pro shows (2 as a Figure athlete and 2 as a Physique Athlete
My best placing was 5th out of a line- up of 23 in 2014 at the Ferringo Legacy Pro show.
How do you approach contest prep?
Because I have to travel to the USA to compete it takes more planning. I look at the IFBB Pro calendar in January to decide on a competition date. I train year round but I start to increase my focus and diet 16-18 weeks before my show date. My training consists of 45 min per day of weight training and 40 min of cardio 6 days per week. I follow a split training program. I also do field work once a week. When it is closer to my competition date I incorporate more cardio. To keep training fun I do include kettle bells, bodyweight exercises and a lot of compound exercises.
I keep my diet simple...
I eat 6 meals per day that consist of 120g protein and 150g carbohydrates (mostly green vegetables, oats and basmati rice) per meal. I also include good oils - avocado, flax seed, omega Coconut oil.
My supplements includes – Vitamin C, Multi-vitamin, Vitamin B, MSM, CLA, BBCA and Glutamine.
I do not drink pre and post workout shakes.
How does being on stage for a contest make you feel?
I always feel a sense of achievement and proudness to see the final result of all the hard work.
Greatest Moment of your career? Lowest?
The greatest moment was when I received my IFBB Pro card! It was a long road getting there.
As a South African athlete it is a complicated process as we still follow a different protocol than in the USA to qualify and apply for a Pro card. You have to win the IFBB South African National Championships and place in the Top 3 at the IFBB Amateur World Championships or in an International IFBB show. In the past we did not compete at most of the International IFBB shows; it was mostly the IFBB Amateur World championships that we attended. Only in the last few years did South African women start competing in more IFBB international shows which is wonderful for the sport in South Africa.
Do you feel like you are at an advantage or disadvantage as an international competitor?
The advantage is that you get more exposure and meet athletes from all over the world, and gain the experience to carry over to upcoming athletes in South Africa.
The biggest disadvantage is mostly the financially impact, which is mostly funded out of your own pocket and with the exchange rate it becomes very expensive.Travelling to the USA can take up to two days, and very difficult to keep with one's diet as not all the venues caters to your needs. It is usually a battle to get a hold of the right foods to have it prepared when traveling. Also by competing only once or twice a year abroad you do not get the exposure you need. I would like to do more shows but it is just so expensive and without sponsorship it becomes impossible.
Where have your competition travels brought you? Where is your favorite place to travel?
I have been to Spain, Poland, France, and to the USA - New York, San Diego, Louisville Kentucky, Ohio Atlanta, and Santa Barbara, California. I love traveling! I think I can easily be a mermaid; the ocean has that feel good effect on me.
How do you approach your physical appearance (cover up, show it off, dress up, dress down)? What do you feel is the advantage and disadvantages of having a physique like you?
I don't over dress and I am not the show off type - It is so nice to get compliments when you are just yourself without all the thrills. Normally in public places my physique draws attention with a lot of head turning when you walk past. The disadvantage is that not everybody appreciates ladies that are more muscular, but I have learned to just smile and ignore bad comments. The advantage of having a strong and healthy physique is the ability to inspire people to be healthy. I am proud with what I have achieved and how I look at 49 years old.
Do you see yourself as a role model for those living a fit lifestyle?
Yes I do, and it is my passion to help other athletes to achieve there fitness and competition goals and to give back to others what I learned in the sport.
Who are your role models?
Most of the International Figure and Physique athletes inspire me and it is hard to single out anyone.
How has competing affected your relationships?
I am lucky to have a supporting family who can endure the constant dieting and moods while preparing for competition.
What is your favorite cheat food? What is your favourite supplement?
My favorite cheat food is dark chocolates with nuts.
My favorite supplement is Primary Greens (vital veggies & protective fruits.)
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Without a support system I don't think that I would be able to reach my goals. I truly believe that God places people on your path to help. Therefore, I praise God for the blessings and talents I receive every day. I have the most incredible husband who is my main sponsor and supporter.