Miss Muscle

Jackie Gerster

At 67, Jackie Gerster may seem too old to be a bodybuilder. But don’t be fooled. She’s in top shape and has won gold or silver medals the last three years at the Natural Olympia bodybuilding championships in Reno, Nev., a “natural athlete” competition produced by the International Natural Bodybuilding Association that boasts strict drug-testing practices administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency. While Gerster is still going strong, the female side of the sport is in decline, as was evident when she was one of only two entrants competing in the women’s bodybuilding portion of the Chico Bodybuilding, Figure and Bikini Contest on June 1, at Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium.

How do you stay in shape?

My body is a science project. I eat healthy, work out at gyms in Rancho Cordova, and have been lifting weights since the ’70s. I hope women realize there are no excuses for not keeping in shape and that age doesn’t matter. You must commit and keep moving on, work hard and stay clean. That’s what bodybuilding is all about.

How did you get started working out?

My husband, Pierre Gerster, is my biggest fan. He competed with nationally known bodybuilders like Jack LaLanne in the early 1950s. He told me I could compete with the right trainer, and I found her eight years ago in Joan Lopez, who was the other woman competing with me today.

Why are there so few women bodybuilders?

Not that many women want to work hard enough to compete. That’s OK, but you should still take care of yourself. You don’t need to sit on the couch eating bonbons.

What advice do you have for others?

It’s alarming how many women take the easy way out. Today you can live a long healthy life or you can live in an old-folks home. You might live as long, but your quality of life will not be there. The most important thing is to move your body. That, and eating well, will give you quality of life.

Could you beat me up?

[laughs] I have a lot of muscles, but I’m not aggressive.

What is your next big project?

At the end of July my husband and I will ride our three-wheeled motorcycles from our home in Grass Valley, 2,500 miles to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D. We’ll camp out along the way. I love seeing America, but it’s alarming how few healthy eating choices there are outside of California. I’ll also continue working out. The last three years I’ve said, “This will be my last year of bodybuilding,” but I just keep on keeping on.