June 4, 2011
Seven months ago, Courtney Parker was working out at Club Sierra, as she had done off and on for more than 15 years. She began swimming in the club’s pool when she was 7 years old.
On this day, however, David Williams, a longtime trainer and retired professional body builder, approached her.
“She had a lot of will, and I don’t see that in many people,” said Williams. “When I do, I grab it and take it as far as I can.”
He asked her to give him a month to see what he could do.
For Parker, it did not take that long.
“It took about a week,” she said. “I was hooked.”
Since then, the UC Davis senior who also holds down a job at Tofanelli’s restaurant has dedicated the little spare time she has to her passion – body building.
For someone who has always been interested in athletics, it has now become an integral part of her life. She trains with Dave at least five days each week, often twice a day.
“I used to think of excuses, like work or school, which do take up a lot of time,” said Parker. “But somehow, you can make fitness a part of your life.”
As dedicated at she is, it is the support of those around Parker that makes what she does possible.
In a week, she will graduate from Davis with a degree in communication, all the while maintaining a workout routine from which most would blanch and turn away.
“I don’t think I would have been able to finish school and do all this without my mom,” she said. “My mom is 100 percent supportive. My boyfriend is above and beyond supportive. Everybody’s been fantastic.”
Parker does weights four times a week and cardio exercises six times a week. The goal is to improve physique, tone, balance and structure.
Williams, who has worked at Club Sierra for a year and a half, started training in Southern California and has nearly 40 years experience in the field.
Though he has trained hundreds of athletes over the years, there is something special about Parker, he said.
“It’s not just how inspired she is,” said Williams. “It’s her willingness to push as hard as I can push someone.”
It does not always come easy. In addition to working in the gym, Parker adheres to a strict diet of no fat, sugar, sodium, bread or alcohol.
That kind of devotion is not common, said Williams. One has to be willing to change her whole lifestyle, to plan around the working out, rather than simply fitting it in the day.
“Dave’s an awesome man,” said Parker. “He has a quality. He makes you believe you can do it.”
One day, Williams had Parker doing a grueling leg workout of supersets – which consist of high repetitions at moderate weight with no breaks between sets.
As she dripped with sweat and struggled to breathe, the idea that she could not do it sprang up in the back of her mind. Her legs unsteady, she went into her squats,
“Dave got down, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You can do this,'” said Parker. “I did it, and there was this rush, like clearing an impossible hurdle.”
The first job Parker ever had was behind the front desk at Club Sierra. From the beginning, the club nurtured her fitness aspirations before she knew she had them.
“Just being immersed in this environment with Dave and in this facility has sparked all possibility in my mind,” she said. “This is a special place, and Dave’s got years of knowledge and experience that you just can’t compete with.”
Moving forward, Parker hopes to use everything she has learned in her years at Club Sierra to open her own fitness center.
Her communications degree, she said, will help her handle the business side of the operation, and though she will need a certification before working with others, her training at the club has been invaluable in preparing her.
“The priceless part – the experience – I’ve already acquired,” said Parker. “I feel strong, and I feel motivated. I want to share that with people.”
If starting a business is her goal in the long-term, then her goal in the short-term is to take part in a body building competition and to put on display all that she and Williams have worked so hard to accomplish.
She planned to attend a National Physique Committee (NPC) show in July in San Jose, but the event proved to be cost prohibitive.
The entrance fees were nearly $200 and did not include supplies, travel and arrangements for staying in San Jose. The price for two custom-fit competition suits is $1,000.
For a body builder who is being judged on shape, structure and tone, it is important to have a suit that fits “almost like a second skin,” she said.
Though competitions take place all the time, Parker is holding out for the next NPC event. The NPC is a nationally recognized organization, well respected in the body building community.
She is not phased by missing out on the competition in San Jose nor by having to wait for the next opportunity.
“It’s like I went through a mini-Rennaissance, and I think the show would be the end marker of that,” said Parker. “But, it’s about changing my life, too. The process has been the most amazing part.”
It seems likely that the pursuit of her goals will lead Parker out of the Nevada County area, but the area will always be a part of her.
“I am looking to expand and grow and to find a dynamic environment,” she said. “This place has been an important part of my whole life, and Dave will always be a part of my life. I don’t ever want to lose him as a mentor.”
For Williams’ part, Parker will always be a special person to him.
“She’s like a daughter to me,” he said. “To see her look at herself and to see her smile, I just think to myself, ‘I’ve done it. I’ve won.'”
That satisfaction – both in helping others and in seeing the results of their work – is what keeps Parker and Williams returning to the gym day in and day out.
The last seven months have put the wheels in motion for what she wants to do for the rest of her life, said Parker.
“Dave was the light that shone the way,” she said. “Now, I have this passion that I can’t extinguish, that I don’t think I want to extinguish.”
To contact Sports Writer Anthony Barstow, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4232.