Katie Boynton Go figure: Fitness a passion for South Hampton mom

Over-exposure to granola, it seems, had a profound effect on shaping Katie McKay Boynton's adult life.

"I went to Bennington College as a theater major but so many of the nutty-crunchy types were smoking aromatic things that they turned me into a jock. I started competing in men's triathlons and lifting weights," said Boynton, an energetic 41-year-old South Hampton mother of three and a blossoming star in the emerging discipline of figure and fitness competition.

Not to be confused with bodybuilding, figure and fitness combines aspects of a beauty pageant with tests of endurance, obstacle courses and choreographed two-minute routines. Contestants are judged in all phases of the competition.

"Some people tend to clump it under bodybuilding but it's really separate. Women bodybuilders who are really ripped, especially through the upper body, generally don't do well in these competitions. Figure and fitness is a celebration of femininity and a strong feminine physique. Beauty is very important. This is for girls and women who work hard to have good physiques regardless of their age," said Boynton, a Chicago native who grew up in Newton and most recently lived in Newburyport.

A proficient gymnast in her youth, Boynton attended performing arts high school at the Walnut Hill School in Natick. Figure and fitness allows her to draw upon a natural competitive instinct, her gymnastics background and her knowledge of dance gained as a theater major.

Eyes flashing and arms akimbo while demonstrating and explaining the purpose of a specific routine pose, Boynton is clearly passionate about her new-found outlet.

She has also been inordinately successful for one who has been competing for less than a year - in many cases against women half her age. She won the first event she entered, Ms. New England Figure, last summer and scored a significant victory at The Granite State Open in Portsmouth, N.H., in October.

"I couldn't believe it when they announced my name and I won in Portsmouth. I never went there thinking I could win. I was just enjoying the process. I mean, I was up there against 20-year-olds. I was thoroughly surprised," recalled Boynton, a certified personal trainer and the founder of The Body Connection, operating out of Hard Nock's Gym in Amesbury.

She followed up the Portsmouth win with a second-place finish at The Monster Mash event in Connecticut, then earned her professional card with a ninth-place showing in the Best Body category at last month's World Natural Bodybuilding Federation's World Championships in New York City.

"Competing in New York was a trip and finishing ninth was tremendous. Getting my pro card is huge," Boyton said.

Boynton is convinced the discipline has a far broader appeal than bodybuilding.

"What is so exciting to me is that there are literally thousands of gymnasts, cheerleaders and track athletes out there. Their competitive drive is still there but what do they have? This is something they can compete and achieve in," said Boynton, who began training seriously last year when she decided to enter the annual Tri-Fit competition in Las Vegas.

While a broken arm suffered during training kept her out of that event, the fire was stoked.

A typical week for Boynton incorporates flexibility, endurance, strength, power and cardiovascular training. She adheres to a protein-laden diet and has eliminated all sugar but not fat, saying that "fat is essential for healthy skin and hair."

"A huge step to getting into this kind of shape was to increase my protein intake. You should always eat protein with your carbohydrates. And drinking plenty of water is a key. The biggest thing is eating clean but still enjoying what you eat," she said, admitting to sneaking protein powder into the brownies she bakes for her children - William, 9, Johnny, 7, and Sophie, 3.

She recently started honing her choreography at the Cathy Savage Studio in Walpole and last weekend spearheaded an effort to collect clothing, blankets, water and other basic items for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster.

She sees her competitive life in the sport as being relatively short.

"It's really for 20- and 30-year-olds," said Boynton, who said nothing would be possible without the support of her husband David and who remains in training for the upcoming Fitness Atlantic show and Fitness America events in both Miami and Toronto.

While her personal goal is to earn a "top 10 finish in one of the (national) shows," Boynton hopes her influence extends far beyond the competitive arena.

"Through my work and by competing, I hope I can touch and inspire as many people as I possibly can in whatever way possible. I'd love for that to be my ultimate claim to fame," she said.

By Kevin Doyle
Sports Editor

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