She is mild-mannered, calm, confident, and... oh yeah - can leap tall buildings in a single bound! Just like Superman, she also has an ice-based home in Alaska. On the way to the recent Team Universe Championships in New York, her plane developed a "malfunction" and required an emergency landing.
I am not sure, but I think she has a "S" on her chest... Because after two days of waiting for the plane to get fixed, she was in western Canada being held up on the plane, at the airport, on the runway (that's right - no hotel), and finally got to the 2006 NPC Team Universe where she won her class to represent the USA in the World Championships!
Apparently, nothing can stop this new champion. Dude, not only that, but she can also catch fish bigger than your arm and has three kids. Okay, I'm done! My life "do-over"... God... (praying), I want a Karen, please!
The one thing you can say about Karen Patten is that she is "real." This young lady didn't wait for her pro card to get started, she is already promoting youth-based fitness and is a great example for all of us on time management and adaptation in the face of adversity.
She has a smile that makes you pretty much realize where the whole global warming issue is coming from. She lives that close to the North Pole - that is what is "hot up North!" Just wait until you get to see her routine! I am sure we will see her soon in the top shows, but keep your head tilted slightly up, 'cause Karen can fly...
[ DR ] Karen, what got you into this sport?
- KP: I have always been very competitive and as my girls have gotten older, I can't beat them at arm wrestling anymore, so I needed another outlet so my pride can remain intact. Seriously, since my children have been born, I've been a stay-at-home mom, and when my youngest was 2, I started feeling a little isolated.
My solution was to join a gym and start training. My first day there, I was approached about competing in fitness. It sounded like it was just what I needed (since I couldn't compete against my girls - I checked!) and jumped right into training for the Alaska State Fitness competition.
[ DR ] Where are you from originally?
- KP: I was born in New Zealand, but raised in Alaska.
[ DR ] What inspired you to get deeper into your sport?
- KP: Impulse, a desire to be the best, and an excuse to get out of the house - not necessarily in that order. Once I started competing, I was hooked. In everything I do, I try to improve myself and grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. This sport has given me a chance to challenge myself in every way.
[ DR ] Who do you look up to?
- KP: There's something to admire in just about everyone I meet. Each individual has achieved something remarkable, overcome a seemingly impossible obstacle, or has the potential to do so. I remember a show awhile back where a reporter traveled the country and picked out people at random to do a story on.
The premise of the show was that everyone has something to share, and I believe that's mostly true. My favorite people are my family members. I did get to meet Arnold, when I was helping out with the Special Olympic Winter Games, held here in Alaska.
[ DR ] Your stats?
- KP: The ones I am willing to share are:
- Height: 5' 3.5"
- Weight: 113-117 lbs
- Age: 33
[ DR ] What is your favorite exercise, and also your least favorite?
- KP: I simply love to exercise, so it's hard to pick a favorite. My least favorite, however, are pull ups, because I hurt my neck doing them.
[ DR ] What do you like to train and what don't you like to train?
- KP: I love to train everything. I'm convinced the way to be both happy and successful is to do what you're good at, and what you love. I'm very lucky to have found that in fitness!
[ DR ] Who trains you?
- KP: Me!
[ DR ] What do you do for a living?
- KP: I'm a personal fitness trainer and a mom. The training pays better, but the perks are better in the mom role. =)
[ DR ] You are a busy mom, and the demands on a fitness competitor are just insane. How do you compose your schedule and stay in shape?
- KP: I am actually very conservative in my training, nutrition, and contest preparation. I stay very close to competition shape year-round, so I do not have to torture myself to get ready for a competition. I am also very inconsistent, however, as each day presents with a different schedule.
Here's my best average day:
|Karen's Average Day.|
[ DR ] It's amazing that you do all this in Alaska - the social pressures have to be unbelievable, how do you stay motivated?
- KP: Simple, I want to be the best!
[ DR ] Now, another question about your home: Most of us eat orange roughy, tuna, flank steak, asparagus, etc. I would assume that most of those are not native to your area (or they are really expensive to get shipped there). You are obviously lean, so what do you eat to maintain your weight?
- KP: Halibut is my favorite lean fish, and everyone around here has a freezer full of the stuff. I also eat a lot of chicken, egg whites, tuna, cottage cheese, and some protein powder. My husband likes to hunt, but you will never find me eating the hundred pounds of caribou sitting next to the halibut in the freezer!
He has to take that to work to get it out of my house... I do not even like the smell of it (side note that reindeer is out, too!) Contrary to what everyone recommends, most of my carbohydrate calories come from fruit, and I eat a lot of vegetables, too.
[ DR ] How much weight do you add in the off season?
- KP: I will not put on more than 5 pounds off-season.
[ DR ] Your personal life outside of the gym involves a role as a mother - tell me about that. What do your kids think of your competing?
- KP: I just asked them, and Kailey, my oldest, said, "I think it's great." Amber, who's 8, thinks it's " sooooo cool, it's so great, it's just cool." She threw my old fitness routine in the talent show last year and had the sixth grade boys impressed (she was in second grade at the time)! I asked my four-year-old, Lexi, what she thinks, and she said, "Can I please have a blue otter pop?" LOL
[ DR ] What other hobbies do you enjoy?
- KP: I love to read, write, bike, ski, skate, and run. I have no artistic talent at all, but I like to do some simple crafts with my girls. I tell people I like to ski, but the truth is, I am scared of heights!
- KP: I have had CeeJay ( Cynthia James) and Christine Marsh make suits for me in the past. I have a local choreographer work on my routine with me, Gabe Harvey from Underground Dance Company. A very dear friend mixes my music - Jaime from Mixed Up Studios. Allure Day Spa supplies my hair care, make up, and nails. Rose Rogers did my hair and make up at Team Universe. And Rose Mlakar spray tans me.
[ DR ] How do you put a routine together? Do you have to modify the routine based on the venue?
- KP: I love working on different tricks, but as I mentioned my lack of artistic talent earlier, I have to get a lot of help in the dance department. Gabe and I have worked together enough that we can put together a routine in good time. Once I have the music, I pick out where my strength moves and other tricks will go, and tell him where I need to get to from where, and in how many counts - and he takes it from there.
[ DR ] How long does it take for you to prepare for a competition?
- KP: I start to " diet" about 3-4 weeks out. The word "diet" is in quotes because I never actually use that word - my kids will tell you it's a "nutrition plan."
It is a defining edge that the top pros have - the higher your jumps in your routine, usually the higher you get in the standings.
[ DR ] It is clear that you have a routine energy similar to Jenny Hendershott, do you do anything special to train for jumping?
- KP: Practice the jumps. I usually work in sets of ten, and every day I will do at least ten of everything I want to put in my routine. It's very practical and specific training.
[ DR ] What are your plans for the future?
- KP: It is my dream to compete (and do well) in the Olympia and the Arnold. I intend to do as much as I can within this sport and push through any challenges and limitations. Two years ago, I would never have dreamed I could do what I have done, and I know that in 2 more years, I will be at a place I can not even imagine today.
[ DR ] Many athletes always want to do something for the sport to help give something back, in your case you are working with younger children to effectively try to involve them in the sport. How is that going, and what have you done with that so far?
- KP: I have given nutritional and training seminars at local high schools and talent agencies. I have trained with young girls looking to compete, and introduced Alaska's first junior fitness champion to the sport. I have initiated a column with Bodybuilding.com to acknowledge junior fitness competitors, and will have the first installment online very soon!
[ DR ] What do you want to do professionally now?
- KP: Keep moving forward. I can not wait to get back on stage in a pro competition! I am always looking for new and exciting adventures and am open to suggestions. It's really still sinking in that I am a Pro now - I guess it will take some getting used to. I have also been active as the Alaska Director of the 911 Fitness Challenge and am excited to continue to promote that.
[ DR ] Do you have any sponsors?
- KP: I have several local sponsors: Elite Physique for tanning, Allure Day Spa for girly things, Powerhouse Gym and The Alaska Club for training facilities, and Mixed Up Studios for music mixing.
[ DR ] What supplements do you take?
- KP: The truth is, I do not take any supplements, not many stores around here have them, either. I love Champion Nutrition for their UltraMet protein shakes, and MET-Rx for their shakes, but that's all I know. I am not adverse to trying and promoting new things, though!