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Name: Sharla Boychuk
Year of Birth: 1986
Height: 5’5”
Weight: varies in the 100-107lb range, depending on where I am at in competition prep
Birthplace: Swan River, Manitoba, Canada
Current Residence: Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
Sports: Previously a long distance and marathon runner and now a fitness competitor. I enjoy many other sports but these two have taken precedence in my fitness training

Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have.
I grew up in a small town in rural Manitoba. In 2004 I moved to a small prairie city to obtain a higher level of education and four years later graduated with my Bachelor of Environmental Sciences. I have since been employed in the environmental and water resources field.

I now live in Brandon, Manitoba with my partner Josh and our Morkie puppy Loala. I am a voracious reader, love to travel as frequently as possible and consider myself a fitness enthusiast. I trained for and ran marathons for a number of years until a knee injury required for me to take a change in focus and I entered into the world of fitness competition training. I am currently taking my personal trainers and love to share my passion for fitness with others.

Why did you become vegan?
I became vegan in April 2011. Throughout my post-secondary education I had begun to follow an increasingly plant-based diet, however it was actually a close friend of mine that convinced me to go vegan. It started with a 30 day challenge that just stuck for me. I felt great once I made the switch and dropped dairy.

When I decided to stick with the switch to a vegan diet I consulted a dietician and read intently into the subject, I wanted to make sure I was getting the nutrients I needed and incorporating as many whole, plant-based foods into my diet as possible. It was during this time that I discovered Brendan Brazier’s Thrive books and Vega, both of which have been crucial in my success as a plant-based athlete and competitor.

When and why did you become interested in fitness?

I am not sure I can remember a time when fitness was not part of my life. Even as a child I remember being outside all of the time, playing tag with my brothers and riding my horse. In the fall of 2004 I battled a nasty bout of mono, which confined me to bed rest for 21 days. I never wanted to be that sick again. The spring following I ran my first half marathon, from that point on I made a conscious effort to incorporate fitness into my lifestyle and continue to push myself.

How would you describe your nutrition program?
Full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and almond milk! Topped with a little red wine and dark chocolate (when my training program permits!). I like to cook and especially enjoy making my own soups and bean dips, I have made all varieties of hummus. I enjoy good quality food and like to explore ethnic cuisine. I do have a sweet tooth (hence the red wine and dark chocolate) but believe in balance and enjoying your food. Food is your fuel and I feel it is important to fill up on good quality, whole foods.

How would you describe your training program?

At the moment it is very focused on strength training. I have just come out of my first fitness competition (mid November) and am now training for a spring competition. To facilitate muscle growth and due to my very lean frame my cardio has been cut to almost zero, something which has been a bit of adjustment for this retired marathon runner. However I have come to appreciate and look forward to lifting weights. Strength training has helped to balance me out and pushed me in a way I had not pushed my body previously.

What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
That we are radical, preach daily and that we are all skinny! When others ask me what I eat as a vegan I love to tell them deep-fried lettuce J their reaction is priceless (who eats deep fried lettuce??)

What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with veganism or training?
Read, read, read! Do your research and locate others with similar interests who will support you. Make goals and work towards achieving them. Experiment a little bit as well, everyone is unique and has individual needs. Find yourself a good personal trainer if you are interested in training, discuss your goals and aspirations with your trainer so you can work towards them together.

Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Whether it is fitness or any other aspect in your life, set goals for yourself, label them with timelines and push yourself towards them. Share your goals with others and surround yourself with those who support you and share common interests. And where you can return the favour, help others become involved in fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Being there for others is rewarding and gratifying.