Valdosta Daily Times

April 18, 2014

Factor X Fitness holds Fitness Classic

Mark Lastinger
Thomasville Times-Enterprise

Thomasville — South Georgia is on the verge of muscling its way back into the national bodybuilding scene, ending a lengthy absence.

Factor X Fitness will present the NPC Factor X Fitness Classic at Valdosta’s Mathis City Auditorium on June 7. Divisions include bodybuilding, men’s physique, women’s physique, figure bikini and teen.

“South Georgia has not had an NPC-sanctioned show in 24 years,” said Maria Wells, Factor X Fitness’ marketing director and head of personal training. “NPC is the world’s largest amateur bodybuilding federation. It’s No. 1.”

Wells, a 55-year-old former bodybuilding competitor, is confident the event will boost both Factor X Fitness locations (Valdosta and Thomasville) and her favorite sport. She has been in the fitness industry for 36 years and used to compete in the NPC.

The NPC (National Physique Committee) had to be persuaded to return to the area. Its Georgia shows — there have only been four — in the last 24 years have been confined to metro Atlanta.

“I guess Atlanta just seemed to be the Mecca at that time for bodybuilding (in the state), but if you look around south Georgia there seems to be a gym on every corner,” Wells said.

Late last year, Wells visited Georgia NPC Chairman Tyrone “Ropeman” Felder in Atlanta to make the case for south Georgia and Factor X Fitness. It took two months of phone calls to set up the meeting.

“Everybody told me I would not get that sanction,” Wells said. “I had been out of bodybuilding and (Factor X Fitness owner) Mr. (Hal) Jackson is not a bodybuilder and had only been the fitness industry for a short period of time, so we had not paid our dues. We were nobodies, basically.”

Despite the odds, Wells achieved her goal after a four-hour conversation. She credits the success to prayer.

“I know that God opened that door and I believe we are going to flourish,” Wells said.

Thomasville’s Rachel Norris, a Valdosta State University student and Factor X Fitness client, is already flourishing in the NPC. She won three trophies and placed second overall at the recent NPC Atlantic USA in Atlanta. She competed in the novice figure division.

“She’s kind of a Cinderella story,” Wells said.

Norris attended the show, sponsored in part by Factor X Fitness, merely to observe. A judge, however, urged her to enter it less than 24 hours before it was slated to start.

“She won in a borrowed bathing suit,” Wells said. “She got a spray tan and we rushed to get her nails done, and she borrowed some jewelry from me. We’re very proud of her.”

“I went from being thrown into the show at the last minute to being nationally qualified in the NPC,” Norris said. “I’m truly thankful to everyone at Factor X Fitness who helped make my success possible. Some of those people include my amazing trainer Christian Gilsson, Maria Wells, (Factor X Fitness general manager) Donna Hughes, Jake Reeves and Lanie Palmer.

“Factor X Fitness has a huge support system and I’m extremely thankful to be a part of their team.”

Gilsson, a former University of Georgia baseball player, thinks Norris has set the tone for the NPC Factor X Fitness Classic.

“The buzz is really starting to pick up all around the state of Georgia and throughout Florida and Alabama,” he said. “Rachel Norris really got this year’s competition season started with a bang by winning the overall novice figure class at the Atlanta USA and qualifying for nationals in the open category. She has really been a pleasure to coach and really makes my job easy with her dedication and work ethic.

“All of our team members have really followed her lead and are all getting ready for their chance to be on stage. We are all looking forward to making a big impact on the NPC this year individually and by putting on a quality event this June.”

Wells said all signs are pointing to success for NPC’s south Georgia return. She expects 100-125 entrants for the Valdosta event.

“People have embraced us,” she said. “The sports commission of Lowndes County is helping us, and the chamber of commerce, too. People are saying it’s going to be one of the largest first shows ever because we’ve had nothing down here for so long.

“It’s encouraging people in our area who have never competed before or even thought about it to get involved.”

Hughes added, “One of the things that is unique to the industry is that people from many walks of life can come and compete. Many of the competitors have overcome huge obstacles in their life and, for them, standing on that stage represents more than just the trophy they might win. As each competitor walks across the stage, stories begin to unfold. As the audience sits and listen,s they might find themselves mirrored in a competitor.

“For instance, some have lost hundreds of pounds of body fat; others have overcome disease such as cancer, stroke, and spine injuries; and others even being homeless.”

The entry deadline for the Factor X Fitness is May 31. The $50 entry fee should be mailed to NPC Factor X Fitness Classic, P.O. Box 8230, Thomasville, Ga. 31758.

The entry cost for NPC cardholders is $120. Their checks should be made out to the NPC.

For more information, call Wells (229-646-0655) or Hughes (229-469-4292).