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Body of Work: Dana Collin adopts strict regimen to compete in physique events

WORTHINGTON -- When most people are still snug in their beds, fast asleep, Dana Collin is beginning her first workout of the day at 2:30 in the morning.A person watching his or her weight might skip dessert and snacks between meals, but Dana limi...

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Dana spends at least six hours a day working out at Prairie Rehab and Fitness in Worthington. (Photos by Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - When most people are still snug in their beds, fast asleep, Dana Collin is beginning her first workout of the day at 2:30 in the morning.
A person watching his or her weight might skip dessert and snacks between meals, but Dana limits her entire diet to just two foods - the absolute leanest fish and the most nutrient-packed vegetable.
The average American works out three times a week for at least 30 minutes; Dana spends six hours a day in the gym, seven days a week.
Dana has taken her lifestyle to the extreme as a competitor in International Federation of Physique Athletes events. IFPA promotes drug-free competitive bodybuilding. Dana’s ultimate goal is to earn her IFPA pro card - which she can accomplish by placing first overall - and to do so she must push her body to its limits.
Working as a personal trainer in Worthington, Dana was first exposed to physique competition when one of her co-workers started training for it. Her son got involved, too, and she helped him to train and eventually began working toward that goal herself.
“I was five weeks from my competition in 2006 when I was in a boating accident,” Dana related. “It took them six and a half hours to fix one shoulder and two and a half for the other.”
Her recovery took a while, but Dana wouldn’t be derailed for long. Encouraged by her brother, an IFPA pro, she got herself back into competition shape.
“In May 2013, I was in Duluth, which is where he’s from, and I decided I’m healthy and ready to go again, and that October I started competing again,” she explained.
Dana participates in two IFPA divisions: Bikini and Figure.
“Bikini is more of a softer look,” she explained. “They judge the way you walk. I have to be in my heels two hours a day in front of the mirror. Everything has to be so lined up; you are judged on that. The judges definitely look for symmetry, the way you move - is it smooth? - the transitions, your facial expressions, certain lines you’ve worked on.
“For Figure, you are leaned out. I’m in the crossover - I have the shape for Bikini, but I’m hard - so I can do both. You are very ripped, very veiny - your striations are popped out.
“Figure is very hard. There are four poses they are looking for, you have to hold them. You are dehydrated and food deprived, so crushing is hard on stage without shaking. … I’ve seen people go to their knees after they leave the stage.”
This competition season, Dana feels she is in the best shape of her life, and her outcomes have showed it. At the Sioux Falls, S.D., Battle of the Falls, she placed first in Bikini Masters, second overall Bikini by height; second in Figure Masters, second overall Figure by height.
“That’s the best I’ve done,” she said with a big smile. “I’ve gotten a lot of thirds.”
Dana attributes her success to the intense regimen she sets for herself, as well as a positive attitude.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said about her competition preparation. “Everything is to the extreme - your diet, the workouts. I’ll explain what I do, which is harder than everyone else does, but it’s a good challenge.
“Water is my biggest thing in my diet. That’s my key. I drink three gallons a day now, but I start depleting the closer I get to competition. The trick is my water depletion.
“For food, I eat strictly tilapia and asparagus, every three hours. Two weeks before (competition), I start taking meals away, and my meals are the size of a 2-year-old’s.”
Tilapia, according to Dana, is the leanest protein the human body can absorb, while asparagus is “the power vegetable.” She also ingests a few vitamin supplements, but always in liquid form.
“I keep a food journal, and I keep a workout journal,” she continued. “I keep a calendar for my weight and measurements so I know where I need to be every day.”
Dana’s daily routine is very regimented.
“It’s 24/7,” she stressed. “I get up at 2:30 in the morning and do my first workout until about 6. From 9 to 10:30 I take a nap, and by 12:30 I’m back in the gym. I will stay there until 6 to 7 at night. By 7:30 I’m in bed. It’s demanding, but I like that intensity. It’s a rush to me. Yes, people think you are crazy … but then there are people who golf every weekend. This is my thing.”
To keep her on track, Dana relies on a few key people in her life. If she’s feeling overwhelmed, she can send out a text and know she will get an encouraging response that allows her to push through the pain.
In the gym at Prairie Rehab & Fitness, Dana’s go-to person is her weightlifting partner, Jaime Salinas.
“We are both serious and intense, and I feel this way: It’s a job, go to work,” she described about her time in the gym. “The payoff is huge. There’s a level of trust I need when lifting heavy, and partnering up almost two years ago, I’ve got that. For me, that says a lot. Weights came into my program almost two years ago, and now my gym time is 90 percent weightlifting.”
When it comes to competitions, Dana strives to be her fellow competitors’ go-to person, especially those who are new to the scene.
“I want to get everyone comfortable, because it’s a scary world,” she said. “You are behind stage for hours, so the quicker you can break the ice, the better. If it’s their first one, I say, ‘You should come over and set up camp with me.’ That’s because the first one I went to, they weren’t nice. … I’m not threatened. I know I did my job, and it will be a good competition if everyone is at your level, too.
“People make impacts, and you’ve got to remember that,” she added. “I don’t want to go out as the mean girl. I’m the go-to girl.”
Her competition garb - a leave-nothing-to-the-imagination, rhinestone-bedecked bikini, clear 5 ½-inch-heeled shoes and theatrical makeup - is another extreme aspect of the IFPA events, but Dana knows it is all intended to show her physique to best advantage.
“Some people are like, ‘Why would you wear that?’” she related. “But when I put that suit on, all I can think about is how I came in. … It’s part of what you worked so hard for.”
With a number of competitions in the coming months - Duluth in June, Sioux Falls two times in July, October in Duluth, one in Elk River and a possible new competition in Fargo, N.D. - Dana will need to be in tip-top shape for the foreseeable future. For motivation, she keeps her “hardware” - the trophies she’s accumulated so far - in her bedroom, so it’s the first thing she sees when she gets up in the morning and the last thing she sees as she falls asleep at night.
“I have not strayed from my diet and workout,” Dana asserted. “It’s a job to me. I don’t think of it that far ahead. I’m just getting ready for the next show.”

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