The moment Sharlin Maldonado walked into the free posing clinic in Eagle River around a year ago, she knew immediately it was where she was meant to be. She knew bodybuilding was what she was meant to do.
“I just love it that much,” Maldonado said. “When you find your passion, it’s just so clear, you want to scream, ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing! I figured it out!’”
Unlike a lot of people who discover their life’s passion earlier, Maldonado is 37, which she says results in her feeling the pain of the sport a bit more, but it does not stifle the heart she puts into everything she does.
“I guess I don’t really feel sore anymore,” she said. “It’s just normal now. I kind of get excited sometimes to feel the pain and experience the struggles behind this sport. At the end, it’s all very rewarding.”
In addition to the title of bodybuilder, Maldonado proudly wears the tags of wife and mother. She met her husband at a dance academy when she was just 16. Since, the two have had three children, the middle of which has competed in a fitness contest with her mom.
“I think that was the best night of my life,” Maldonado said, remembering the night her 11-year-old daughter took first place on the same evening Maldonado won her competition.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Maldonado moved to Alaska with her husband, stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The family spent five years in the Last Frontier before moving to Las Vegas, where they spent another five years. They were sent back to Anchorage, where they have been for the last two and a half years.
“It feels like home here,” Maldonado said, adding that she and her husband have discussed staying in Alaska for the long term.
The bodybuilding scene in Alaska is small, but growing, and the stay-at-home mom said it really was destiny that led her to the sport. All her life, people have assumed she would become a gymnast, being petite and strong. She was approached by an acquaintance about the idea of competing while living in Las Vegas, but Maldonado immediately said no. After teaching zumba at an Alaska Club, Maldonado said she wanted new energy and to do something for herself. She heard about the free posing clinic in Eagle River and began to research the sport online. It was at that clinic that her hobby really took off.
“The coaches there, Cinzia and Shawn Clapp, who are now my coaches, were very interested in helping me and were very supportive. They believed in me from the very beginning, and ever since, they have encouraged me to push myself, set goals, and work hard to achieve them,” Maldonado said, adding that she believes they saw potential in her and that her background in dance is to blame for how natural posing comes to her, a facet of the sport that a lot of people struggle with.
Maldonado spends about three hours every day but Sunday at CMC Training Studio and works once a week on posing with the bodybuilding group 907 Muscle Girls.
“It’s a great group to belong to,” she said. “We all help and encourage each other. We are like a family, and we are always excited to welcome more women ready to take fitness to a new level.”
Her dedication had already made her a name throughout bodybuilding in Alaska, but her real chance to shine came in the national competition in New York on July 2. She won there and received her IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) Pro Card.. “I want to help people eventually,” she said, “and my Pro Card will help with that dream”.
After joining the gym in Eagle River, she received her personal training certification and is currently training individuals through the gym. With her professional bodybuilding card, Maldonado hopes to train people and coach interested competitors full time.
“I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to let me coach them without this experience,” she said. “After competing at the professional level, and with the continued mentoring of my amazing coaches, I’ll have real knowledge and experience to help other people get there, too.”
Not only does Maldonado hope to coach athletes like her, people looking to compete in the sport, but she also wants to coach non-competitors as well.
“People are unaware of the sport in general,” she said, “but it’s about more than just working out and looking good in a tiny swimsuit. The stories behind this sport are wonderful. The transformations people see in themselves is what I love. It’s what makes me feel passionate about it all. It’s empowering. I want other people to feel empowered.”