A WOKING woman new to bodybuilding has scooped the top honours in two prestigious contests.

Kim Valente, founder of the popular Squat2Fit fitness group, was the overall winner in the NPA (Natural Physique Association) Yorkshire Championships, and landed the women’s open bodybuilding division in the UKDFBA (United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association) Championships in Scotland.

The events were held within a week of each other across May and June.

Kim, 46, made her debut at the NPA Championships in Yorkshire, and despite taking on much more experienced competitors walked away with a series of awards: first prize in her division, trained figure for women 40 plus, best first timer, best female overall, and best presentation/routine. She also won a cash prize.

“I’d put in the hard work, and expected this first competition to be a learning exercise, but much to my surprise I won,” Kim said. “I had cleared the first hurdle of a national competition.”

Kim, who is a personal trainer, had a distinguished track-and-field record as an athlete, but decided on a change of disciplines when her plans to compete in the European Masters Athletics Championships in Portugal two years ago were thwarted by the pandemic.

She decided to set herself a new challenge, one that would test her versatility as an athlete, to enter a bodybuilding competition.

Intrigued by competing as a drug-free bodybuilder, she teamed up with expert coach Julia Hubbard, who devised a detailed training programme to make the transition.

Kim said: “I followed Julia’s advice, keeping diet and fitness to the fore, for 12 months with a calorific-controlled diet and exercises to enhance my shape. My self-motivation and determination got me through, helped by my experience as a personal trainer.”

She then took part in the fiercely contested UKDFBA Championships, which were held in Scotland.

“I won the women’s open bodybuilding division because I fitted the judges’ criteria for bodybuilding – power and poise,” Kim added.

Paying tribute to her coach’s “invaluable advice”, she said: “My favourite part of the championship was performing a 60-second posing routine showcasing muscles such as biceps and quads to a background of fast-tempo songs.

“It’s only my first year of bodybuilding but I believe in what I’m doing. Put in the work, trust in the preparation, execute.

“It’s a balance between keeping lean and building muscle. You train as an athlete.

“So much, though, is about performing, how to present yourself, to show your body. Stage presence plays a big part, and I have plenty of experience on stage from when I was a pageant queen in the Bahamas.

“I’m back in training and looking towards the national finals in October, and, hopefully, beyond that world championships.

“I’d still like to get a bit more experience so I’m planning to join the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation and enter its championships at Camberley on 17 July.

“At least that’s close enough for my children to come and watch me!”