Mary Eva Simmons has experienced her share of success in bodybuilding over the past 25 years, while earning a reputation for hard work, intelligent nutritional consumption, and a never-say-die determination.
Now, she has her sites on one of the sport’s biggest prizes -- an International Federation of Body Building professional card.
Simmons started lifting weights and competing at the age of 15 while growing up in Utah. At 18, she won the Western States Natural Body Building Contest. In 1996, she first competed in an International Bodybuilding Association (INBA) contest.
“Then I had a Top 3 placing at a pro INBA show, and received my pro card in 1999,” said the 42-year old Simmons.
After a brief retirement from competition and relocating to Helena in the early 2000s, Simmons returned to the stage and placed runner-up in the figures divisions at the 2009 Emerald Cup NPC Bodybuilding and Fitness Expo in Bellevue, Washington.
At the 2011 USA Nationals, she finished in the Top 15 among 800 competitors.
Since then, Simmons has been hammering away at weight training and cardio workouts, while entering the big bodybuilding meets as she goes.
“You just have to keep hitting nationals and get better at traveling to shows and dialing in your physique,” she explained.
Simmons left the Capital City several years ago, returning to her home state of Utah, where she trained national and pro level golfers. Next she trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and at “the top pro gym in the U.S.,” while finishing her degree to obtain the CSCS certification from NSCA.
Along the way, Simmons’ physique and expertise attracted the attention of several national magazines and bodybuilding companies.
“I was the example model for the New Physique division at nationals in Atlanta,” recounted Simmons. “I was also featured in Fitness X and Muscular Development, as well as having training and nutrition articles published in Fitness X.”
She was also a fitness model for the Vitrix and Isatori Supplement Companies.
In addition to working out and competing, the energetic Simmons has always stayed involved with strength training and exercise. Her instruction covers a vast, eclectic group of clientele, from ordinary folk just trying to get in better shape, to professional athletes.
Among her specialties are perfecting body mechanics to prevent injuries, and building strength and power for maximum potential.
Simmons eventually made her way back Montana, first residing in Butte. There she served as the Butte Cobras hockey team’s strength coach, and rehabbed a Butte Lady Bulldogs softball pitcher back from a debilitating injury, all the way the State championship game.
Since returning to Helena last fall, Simmons has opened another gym -- she has operated several over the years -- which she calls The Fitness Factory, at 1015 Poplar Street. Among her clients are several Capital High wrestlers.
As Simmons prepares to obtain her IFBB card, her objective is to increase the size of her already impressive physique. As if performing 135-pound deadlifts for 20 reps, at a bodyweight of just 125 pounds, isn’t strong enough.
She also does 25 pull-ups and is capable of ripping off 100 pushups.
“The last three years I have been putting on muscle and losing some in other areas to balance out symmetry,” Simmons explained. “My personal goal is stay under 9 percent body fat so I don’t damage my metabolism during contest prep.”
She said among the subtle changes she makes to her regimen are adding 30 minutes of cardio at 3 a.m., before training clients at 5 a.m., and “very specific” nutrients per meal.
“So here starts the pro card run -- I’ll just keep hitting nationals till I get it,” said Mary Eva with her usual determination, in preparation for the Pittsburgh Nationals in July. “Doing it the old-fashioned way, with nutrition and training. It’s a big physical, mental and financial commitment.”