Linda McLaughlin: Moves of Strength
The difference between women’s fitness competitions and women’s bodybuilding is one that has sparked much discussion in the past. With fitness competition being a newer sport at that time, it has seen many women switch from the bodybuilding stage to the fitness stage. More recently some fitness competitors have gone into bodybuilding. However, it is quite unique to see someone compete on both stages at the same time.
Boston’s own Linda McLaughlin is one of the first cross-sport athletes to continue competing in both disciplines, with successes at the national level.
Linda says of her beginnings, “I began weight training in high school at the age of 15. My track coach saw my potential to compete in track on a national level with appropriate training. I am thankful to him for his persistence!” That led to a track scholarship in college, where Linda's competitive nature saw her enter her first bodybuilding show in 1991.
Linda’s background and experiences have helped her develop the stage presence she currently possesses. “When I first graduated from college I worked on Norwegian Cruise Lines as the fitness director. As cruise staff we had to wear many hats including a stint in slapstick comedy shows, The Roaring 20’s. Basically whenever you were not in your cabin sleeping, you were ‘on duty’. It was my job to maintain a certain level of energy all day – just like being ‘on stage’ all day long.”
My first fitness competition was heartbreaking because I was penalized for being too muscular. I tried another organization, and the same thing happened again. This drove me right back into bodybuilding where I won the ANBC USA national title in late 1996. “My parents are old fashioned, and they saw me being picked on endlessly when I was a child for having all of these muscles, so they find it difficult to understand why I would want attention now. Little did I know back then that these muscles would actually be appreciated!”
“I still wanted to compete in fitness pageants and decided to try them again in 1997 and 1998. I enjoy fitness more because I am able to express myself and entertain. The bodybuilding is a little more restrictive, yet still enjoyable.”
Although many competitors switch from one sport to the other because of the differences in judging criteria in required muscularity levels. Many also site drug use in competitive bodybuilding.
“I am 100% drug free for life, and very proud of it. I have been blessed with muscular genetics and have always worked out to my maximum potential. I am also 100% against any type of drug use be it steroids, diuretics, or any recreational drugs. I believe that any true athlete is one that can accomplish their goals naturally. I am all for testing athletes. This will level the playing field for all competitors, leaving any and all speculations behind,” says Linda.
As a competitor in both sports she is exposed to the different perspectives. And although there are differences in the physiques on stage, the basics are the same.
Even when she does not compete throughout the year, Linda runs 6-8 miles a day, a weight trains six days a week, while rollerblading in the summer as well. Her training style is different from that of a strict bodybuilder or fitness competitor would be. “I haven’t lifted for max weight in years. I have learned to cross-train and condition my muscles so as to avoid excess stress on the joints. I usually do three sets of 8-12 repetitions per set.
In 1999 Linda won her IFBB Pro card at the NPC Team Universe contest in New York City. Anyone that was at the contest saw her routine to the tune of Van Halen’s ‘Hot for Teacher’, can appreciate her tremendous stage presence and amazing routine.
I think it is important to create a routine that you can feel come from the inside! I choose music that moves me, and will make people watching want to tap their toes. The themes are a collaboration of effort by my choreographer Cathy Savage, my music man Todd Ganci, and myself. Linda admits that coming up with a new routine was fun. “I always have a blast with Cathy and Todd, endless giggle-fests and major creativity!”
After winning her Pro card with IFBB in fitness the organization convinced her to use her IFBB Pro status to compete as a IFBB bodybuilder were Linda placed 2nd in the Jan Tana Classic, a non-tested bodybuilding contest.
Currently Linda is an exercise physiologist and lifestyle counselor, which allows her to reach out and share her knowledge with children. She is also working with Cathy Savage Choreography and helps women compete in the Fitness America Pageant and Ms Bikini America contests. Linda enjoys being involved with a wholesome organization and helps the women with diets and exercise programs and has even judged some contests.
“I spend a lot of time with my family and friends. Usually doing something that involves physical activity like biking, boating, skiing, and skating. And I do like to go out dancing every now and then; Boston has pretty good night life,” she adds.
And when asked if she would ever move from Boston she replied, “Never! I love New England. I love the change of season, the weather, and most importantly, my family is here.”