Written by Kaila Sept

One event took Nadine Dumas from accountant to world class fitness model and competitor. The 28-year-old personal trainer is living life on her own terms.

Dumas at a photo shoot in 2007.
Photo provided by Nadine Dumas. Taken by MHP Models.

It’s 9 a.m.  Starbucks is filled with coffee junkies, coming in for their jolt of caffeine. Nadine Dumas walks up to the table, dressed in black sweat pants and a gray sweater, her hair loosely tied back and she has no makeup on. She is 5’8’ with dark brown hair, and even though she’s wearing layers due to the chilly Calgary winter, you can tell by her slim figure that this woman has toned and defined her body to perfection. Although she can drink regular coffee while dieting, she declines. She is on a strict eating schedule for her next competition. We sit at a table in the corner; ready to talk about everything she does for a living, which proves to be a long list. She has suffered ups and downs in life, like everyone else, but lives by her motto to ‘ride the wave, and things will always fall into place.’ This positive thinking has worked in her favour because now she is one of the top fitness competitors in Canada.

Born on May 2nd, 1981 in Red Deer, Alta., Dumas describes herself a very shy child. The older of two (her sister Jessica is 25), her parents divorced when she was seven. She decided at 16 to apply for a job at BDO Dunwoody LLP, an accounting firm in Red Deer. Her goal was to work her way to the top of the corporate ladder in accounting.

Cherry Smillie has been a friend of Dumas’ since they were in junior high together. She says that Dumas was always there if someone needed a good laugh.

“Growing up with Nadine was hilarious, we had a lot of silly times involving a lot of laughter,” Smillie said. “We chased and were chased by a lot of boys too, so that always added a little fun and intrigue."

Smillie said that growing up, Dumas was never very aware about the way she looked.

“She has always been beautiful, but she was kind of oblivious of how good looking her body was,” Smillie said.

Dumas attended Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High in Red Deer and decided that she wanted to go to college and get a degree in business. Everything was running smoothly for Dumas, that is until her life took an unexpected turn at the age of 24.

“I got dumped after a five year relationship,” Dumas said, “I felt like I needed to do something for myself, get out of my comfort zone. I guess I was a little lost because I gave everything to that relationship and kind of lost myself in the process.”

Dumas’ boss referred her to a job working as a controller for a TV station in the Cayman Islands. She gladly took it, and decided to make the big move.

Dumas posing with other competitors at the 2008 WNBF Worlds Best Body in New York City.
Photo provided by Nadine Dumas

Dumas went through a series of phone interviews with the company in the Cayman Islands. They put her through HIV testing, a medical background check and x-rays.

“It’s very strict down there,” Dumas said. “Once they decided to hire me, I was granted a permit for one year to work.”

On October 15, 2005, she arrived in the Cayman Islands.

Dumas’ mother, Lorraine Miller, wasn’t sure how to feel.  “I had mixed emotions about her leaving,” said Miller. “I was more than happy to see her succeed in accounting, and felt bad for the reason that she left.”

When Dumas arrived in the Cayman Islands, she says it was difficult to get used to. “I was so shy and I really needed direction,” says Dumas. “It was hard because I moved there not knowing anyone. I was gaining weight, was so stressed out, and couldn’t get a handle on things.”

One day Dumas was watching TV at her apartment and she happened to turn to the Caribbean Grand Prix, a bodybuilding competition held on the island.


“Right after seeing it I thought ‘I can do that.’ I decided that for four months I would diet and train, I probably had never had never been over 140 pounds and didn’t have a lot of muscle, so someone trained me, and then I competed in my first show in 2006.”

She placed third out of 25 in that show, and received a lot of negative feedback from the people around her and in the business.

Dumas believes that taking control of your body is important, especially for people who have been through a rough time in their life, physically or emotionally.

“They just said ‘you’re too small, you can’t do this, you need to put on a lot more muscle, and you’re too tall.” Dumas said, “so I kind of got that ‘screw you’ attitude and for nine months. I trained, dieted and went to the gym. About nine months later I competed and won the show.”

Dumas’ friend Cherry Smillie said she was shocked that Dumas decided to compete.

“I didn’t even know she was truly interested,” Smillie said. “Honestly we were not the most active teenagers; we walked a lot because we didn't have a car. We danced but that was recreational.”

Photo by Paul Aiken, taken in the Grand Cayman Islands, provided by Nadine Dumas.

This experience launched Dumas into the world of fitness competition. She is a specialist in the Best Body category, which awards points for appearance, symmetry, muscle tone, poise, presence, and the swimsuit look. She adopts a strict diet, wears a bikini on stage (something she never thought she had the confidence to do. Judges award a score.

Dumas has successfully made her way up in both fitness competition and personal training. She is one of the top competitors in Canada, and a six-time model for fitness magazines like Vex and Inside Fitness Canada. She also holds workshops for people wanting to compete, helping them with posing and what they should do in order to win. Dumas believes that taking control of your body is important, especially for people who have been through a rough time in their life, physically or emotionally. She also believes the goal setting that comes with fitness competing helps people feel good about themselves. Fitness competition and training have brought her out of her shell and helped with confidence that she once lacked.

“I love to see what I can do to change how I look just through training and diet,” Dumas said. “It keeps me on a schedule and I live for structure.”

Fitness competition is growing in popularity. Shows are held all over the world, and there are usually around 25 people competing at a time. The different types of shows include: bodybuilding, which aims for a muscular look; figure, which is more of a lean muscle, feminine look; swimsuit modeling, and best body.

Dumas explains that when a woman walks off the stage a winner, she can win a few different things. Depending on the type of competition, she can win a pro-card, meaning they have reached professional status in the industry. They can also win a certain amount of money, and have the chance to be in magazines.

“Some women I work with, all their mind is set on is getting their face in a magazine and I am like give me a break, it’s a freakin’ magazine,” Dumas said. “You need to find your niche somewhere else. Not only do I compete and get in magazines but I also give back and I try and help other people.”

Dumas advises anyone who wants to compete to do it for the right reasons.

“A lot of women do it because they are going through some sort of life change, they have had children, their husband has left them, they’ve lost a ton of weight from emotional issues,” Dumas said. “I view it more as giving someone the opportunity for 12 weeks at least to concentrate on them and only them.”

In 2007, at the age of 26, Dumas decided to come back to Canada and finish her degree in accounting, but life seemed to be pulling her in a different direction.

“I came home and I was miserable. I didn’t want to do accounting anymore, so I put it all on the backburner and decided to become a personal trainer.”

Dumas says that personal training was so closely related to fitness competition that she thought it would be a good fit for her. She loved competing and training, and wanted to start using her passion to help others.

The decision to follow her new dream wasn’t something that was easily accepted by her family at first.

“I come from an army family where education was really important and we didn’t do personal training as a job, or view it as important,” Dumas said. “My family was really not happy that I was doing it.”

“Everything changed the day my grandparents saw me in my first magazine,” Dumas said. “Now, they go to the store and buy the magazines and they stand at the checkout counter and they tell the cashier who I am and show them pictures and they are really proud of me.”

Dumas’ mother Lorraine [Miller] is happy that her daughter is doing something she loves so much.

“They just said ‘you’re too small, you can’t do this, you need to put on a lot more muscle, and you’re too tall.” Dumas said, “so I kind of got that ‘screw you’ attitude and for nine months. I trained, dieted and went to the gym. About nine months later I competed and won the show.”


“I was more than happy to see her succeed,” Miller said. “I was very proud when I saw her compete for the first time. I flew down to Texas to see her and she was so calm, cool and collected. She knew what she had to do.”

Dumas says that her ambitions have changed drastically.

“I had wanted to be at the top of the corporate ladder, making a lot of money, working behind a desk, up there with all of the big wigs, and now, I only want to do what makes me happy,” Dumas said. “Now I work long hours but with a huge smile on my face. I want to change people’s life and I didn’t feel like I could when I was in accounting.”

Eventually, she left Red Deer and moved to Calgary, Alta. to finish up her degree in accounting in 2007, through SAIT and Athabasca University. She has also received her personal training, wellness and nutrition coaching certificates.

Although Dumas didn’t pursue accounting as a career, she has found a way to put her degree to good use. Right now she is working at The Edge School for Athletes in Calgary, a private school near Springbank. “I make sure that parents are making their payments and that their kids are coming in, schedules are done, and that there is no conflict of schedules.”

She also works as a personal  trainer. Walking into Only Women’s Fitness, the gym in Calgary where Dumas currently trains, you can spot her right away. Rushing around the gym, getting equipment ready for her next client and taking a few minutes to chat with the people she works around. Many of the members pick her out of the crowd and comment on her looks. You would never guess that she was once shy and somewhat self conscious of herself.

Dumas has been training clients for almost three years. She says she loves learning about people and finding out why they are the way they are.

“I don’t like to promote my lifestyle on others,” says Dumas. “I believe that you only have one life to live, and you have to take care of yourself.”

Dumas says that her days typically begin at 4 a.m. and last until 11 p.m. She wakes up, and will eat right away, following the rules of her diet, which helps lower her body fat, and creates lean muscle for her next show. Her morning meal usually consists of oatmeal, eggs and a small source of fat, which sometimes comes in the form of liquid, which she puts into the food she is eating. She must eat every three hours, and the rest of the day consists of veggies and chicken for dinner, lunch and snacks. If she does add any carbohydrates to her diet, it’s usually sweet potatoes and brown rice. She then packs her food for the rest of the day and heads out to see her first client at 5:30 a.m.

“Twelve weeks before a show I start a strict diet and hard core training, focusing on myself” Dumas said. “The other nine months out of the year I try to eat clean but I still try to enjoy life a little bit.”

Dumas shows off what she usually puts in her meals on a day to day basis.
Photo: Kaila Sept

Janna Ball, Dumas’ roommate of a year and a half, said that although the dieting and competing doesn’t affect Dumas too badly, sometimes it can make her a little spacey.

“It doesn’t make her irritable, but the closer she gets to a show, the ‘stupider’ she gets,” Ball said. “She forgets things easily and tends to be sort of spaced out.”

Dumas said that training for competition takes a toll on her social life, but she has good friends who understand. She says it’s important to have a good support system.

“I have dated people that are in the industry and that are not in the industry,” Dumas said. “For ones that are not in the industry my experience is that they think it’s pretty cool dating a girl that is a 'fitness chick’ and a model, but they do not take into consideration that you are constantly dieting, have to be working out regularly. Attending social functions can be quite tough.”

Dumas said that she has dated people involved in the industry, but thinks it can be just as difficult to maintain a relationship that way.

“It sometimes becomes a competition amongst each other and can cause some harsh feelings,” Dumas said. “Either way it is a passion that I have and would love to find someone that just supports me in what I do no matter if they are in the industry or not, to me it doesn't matter.”

Dumas said that the experience before she left Red Deer allowed her to have more freedom to figure out what she wanted, and where she wanted to be.

Dumas eventually decided she wanted to help other women who wanted to compete. She joined her current business partner, Mat Park, in creating International Body Building Federation Canada, which is for people who compete and are drug free.

Park and Dumas bring in professionals that use polygraph tests on each contestant to be sure they are following the rules.

Mat Park has been in business with Dumas for two years, working for INBF.


“There are no politics, the judging panel is totally fair, and when the show is complete, everyone is happy,” Park said. “The biggest thing is fairness and integrity for us.”

Dumas contacted Park by e-mail, and they decided to work on the business together.

“She’s a go-getter,” Park said of Dumas. “Our vision is very similar, and we both have big aspirations and love helping people. INBF wouldn’t be where it is without the help of Nadine.”

Park has been in the fitness industry for 14 years, and has been competing for three years. He says a show usually consists of 14 to 20 weeks of training, dieting, and doing cardio. Then, you practice posing and plan for the show; it’s a 24-hour job for the contestants. Five women are compared at a time, and are usually on stage for about a minute by themselves to be judged.

Dumas relaxing at her home in Calgary, Alta.
Photo: Kaila Sept

Dumas finds it very rewarding to see people walk off the stage with smiles on their faces.

“People walk off stage and are so happy, and so thankful for what we do, it’s great,” Dumas said. “We pay attention, go out of our way to help them out with whatever they need.”

Dumas also heads a variety of different workshops, including Perfect Presentations, which helps the competitors with their posing for the stage, and Life after Competing, where she helps the contestants keep their eating habits and emotional issues under control after a show.

“Right after you’re done a show you incorporate things back into your diet, so you can tend to go overboard very easily,” Dumas said. “You have a really tough time, and that’s why I created a life after competing seminar, because it teaches girls how to cope. I went through it and I didn’t know what the hell to do with myself because I was bloated, and didn’t have control of my eating. So I am helping them create a goal for their off season.”

Rozanne Pyper, who is currently training to compete, is getting all the help she can from Dumas.

“Nadine is really thoughtful and kind, and because of that she has given me more confidence,” Pyper said. “I have been to all of her workshops, because I think if you want to learn and be your best, you have to go to someone who knows their stuff.”

“She really believed that I had what it takes to compete, and this experience [going to New York City to compete] would have never happened if it weren’t for her.” Pyper said.

Dumas has competed in nine shows in total and has been on the cover of two magazines. She is living the life of a model, but says that even though it seems glamorous to have your picture taken and your hair and makeup done for you, it can be grueling some days.

“We’ll just say I love it,” Dumas said. “But it’s so tiring, it’s sometimes like six hours of shooting, and it’s a bunch of hurrying up and then waiting. It is an amazing opportunity, but also a lengthy process as well.”

Dumas could be labeled a workaholic­–with her long hours, and different jobs to do-but she does occasionally take some time out for herself.

“I do go on vacation, but not very often,” says Dumas. “When I am in off season I still try and eat good portions of food, and sometimes I will allow myself to pig out on things like pizza.”

“They think it’s pretty cool dating a girl that is a 'fitness chick’ and a model, but they do not take into consideration that you are constantly dieting, have to be working out regularly. Attending social functions can be quite tough.”


In her spare time, Dumas says she loves shopping and reading. She will also do some travelling on her holidays, usually to places like Florida.

When Dumas is up on stage, she walks like a pro. She stands tall and doesn’t falter, acting as if the four inch heels she is wearing are merely running shoes. Her confidence shines through as she flashes a smile to the judges. She moves in the correct way, and poses in different ways to accentuate each muscle she has worked so hard to tone. She automatically wins them over with her charisma, and the nine months of hard work and dieting all the sudden pay off. The self-conscious girl from Red Deer disappears, and the person she has become shows us what she’s got.