Bodybuilder Severine Bertret trains to compete

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Bodybuilder Severine Bertret sticks to a strict diet, exercise and pose-practicing regimen when training for a competition. She works out seven days a week; her “rest day” is cardio only. Photo courtesy of Martyn Kyle. Bodybuilder Severine Bertret sticks to a strict diet, exercise and pose-practicing regimen when training for a competition. She works out seven days a week; her “rest day” is cardio only. Photo courtesy of Martyn Kyle.

Charlottesville is dark and quiet when Severine Bertret starts her day at 4am. First on her schedule is fasting cardio, so she doesn’t eat before hopping on the treadmill or doing sprints around a track. She measures and weighs her food, eats, then lifts: high repetitions of heavy weights (with, say, a 15-pound dumbbell in each hand)—she’s training for her fourth bodybuilding competition. She drinks her beloved cup of coffee and subtracts it from her two-gallons per day water intake.

Bertret’s regimen is extremely strict for three months, with meal plans and workouts carefully composed by her coach. She works out seven days a week; her “rest day” is cardio only. She eats six times a day, every two to three hours, and has nightly cardio sessions to shed the layer of fat that forms naturally over muscles, so that the muscles are more visible. The 5-foot, 1-inch 39-year-old is also a hot yoga teacher and pole fitness enthusiast. She’s asleep by 8:30 every night.

Bodybuilding wasn’t always on Bertret’s radar; the opportunity arose last year when she met a male bodybuilder—her first coach—at the gym.

“I always like new challenges,” she says. “I get bored quickly. That’s part of why I went into bodybuilding.” She started hot yoga 20 years ago after moving to the United States from France—the practice helped her beat a 10-year-long battle with anorexia. Fitness became her literal lifesaver and passion.

“My main goal is to show people that it’s possible to get better, and I like to inspire people if I can,” Bertret says.

She competes in the bikini and figure categories of bodybuilding. Bikini competitors are toned and lean; figure competitors have larger muscles that are as toned and symmetrical as possible. Achieving these body requirements is difficult, but posing is Bertret’s foe.

“[Posing is] maybe more important than how you look,” says Bertret, because a good pose best shows off a competitor’s muscles. Bertret practices often because poor posing could cost her the podium.

In the Lenda Murray Pro AM in Norfolk on July 8, Bertret placed third in the masters bikini category and fifth in true novice figure.

“I didn’t place as well as I wanted, but I’m content with what I brought on stage. Just got to put more work into it and decide which category I’m going to stick with,” Bertret says. She’s competing again in August in a natural competition, which does not allow steroids and aligns with Bertret’s own practices. She has high hopes for what’s to follow.

“I want to get my pro card down the road,” she says, which would allow her to only compete with other professionals and give her opportunities to qualify for the world-renowned Olympia competition. Ultimately, though, she says her goal is simple: to “stay in fitness for as long as I can.”

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