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The secret lives of fitness models

What price does one have to pay for buns of steel, washboard abs, killer calves and a chiseled chest? It certainly isn't the clichéd model's diet of celery sticks, chewing gum and water. For local fitness model Doug Zimmerman, it takes a huge grocery list to keep publications like Men's Workout Magazine knocking on his door for his genetic gifts. Bodybuilding models like Zimmerman have to juggle complex diets, demanding jobs, love lives, arduous workout regimens, competitions and photo shoots to make it big in a modeling subculture that may come across as intense and masochistic. But more and more people, local gym rats included, are catching on to the fitness lifestyle. This weekend, a multitude of hard bodies will converge at the University of South Florida for the Fitness Universe regional show. Tbt* found four working fitness models with Tampa Bay ties to find out what the job is like. Here are their stories. — Jonathan Milton

Doug Zimmerman, 29

His story: Zimmerman, who lives in Clearwater and South Tampa, books modeling gigs in Tampa Bay, as well as locations like New York City and Los Angeles. His work ranges from gigs with the Home Shopping Network to covers for Men's Workout Magazine. When he's not flying off to a photo shoot, Zimmerman maintains a Web site,, and works as a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in South Tampa. "I'm going to school full-time and I'm also a full-time trainer," he says. He also has to maintain a year-round strict eating habit, the same one that he has been on since he was 19, because he says it's important for him to be ready for any modeling job, anytime.

Kia McKay, 33

Her story: McKay of Brandon is a fitness model and competitor, just like her boyfriend. She also manages a full-time job working in the admissions department at the Art Institute of Tampa. Her fitness itch began at a young age when she would sit and watch fitness competitions on ESPN. It wasn't until college that she actually set goals to get herself in shape. Since 2004, she has competed around the country, placing in the top five at a number of shows. Aside from practically living in the gym, McKay also maintains a healthy eating habit that requires her to eat small meals every two to three hours. In a few weeks, McKay will compete in the Fitness Universe show in Las Vegas.

R.L. Bond, 24

His story: Before Bond left Tampa in 2005 to pursue a modeling career in Miami and New York, the former basketball player for Durant High School and Hillsborough Community College worked at Chili's while doing side modeling jobs for Bealls Outlet and local designers. He also started writing and rapping with local producers in Tampa. In 2006, after a suggestion from a friend, Bond competed in the Fitness Universe show's fitness-modeling category and won first place. He says that his win really helped boost his career, but knew that to make it big, he'd have to leave this area. Now he does runway and ad campaign work for designers like Russell Simmons and Sean "Diddy" Combs.

David Pullman, 27

His story: Pullman used to be a full-time real-estate agent in South Tampa, moonlighting as a model for Bealls, Neiman Marcus and HSN. At the behest of a friend, he decided to compete in the Fitness Universe show in Miami. Now he's living in New York and modeling in Milan, and has booked work with designers like Roberto Cavalli, Hugo Boss and Armani. He says he usually gets up around 8 a.m. to work out before a day filled with modeling jobs and auditions. He says his days don't usually end until after his bartending shift, which ends at 3 a.m. "As awesome as it is to be doing what I'm doing, it's a grind," he says. Ultimately, he wants to parlay his modeling career into an acting career.

Fitness Florida

The bodybuilding show is at 6 p.m. Sunday at the University of South Florida College of Performing Arts, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa. $30., (888) 770-9000.

The secret lives of fitness models 11/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 6, 2008 1:22pm]
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