Pumped Up About Sculpting Her Body


Sue Farmer can take your breath away.

For the mother of three and full-time teacher, a San Clemente gym has become her other place of work. It is where she lifted, power squatted and sweated her way to the sculpted figure that recently won her a national Amateur Bodybuilding Assn. title, as well as the world amateur title as Ms. Natural World on Nov. 11 in Australia.

A shade over 5 feet tall, she competes in the women’s “short” division. But don’t let her height and 112 pounds fool you, warns gym partner Shawn McHugh.

Judges like her, McHugh said, because she is compact and has a symmetrical and strong body.


“Plus, she’s done it all without steroids” or any other drug enhancements, McHugh said. “I look at her and I see six years of hard work.”

It was a commitment to fitness, mixed with having fun at the gym, that prompted Farmer, 42, to compete. She recalls working out in a Detroit gym one day, when another woman noticed that her figure, if developed, was a natural for bodybuilding competition.

“Well, I started working out for a local contest,” Farmer said. “And, as it turned out, I placed first and the woman who got me started was second. That was it. That told me something.”

She is most proud of the fact that her international title is the Ms. Natural.

“We don’t use steroids. It’s all natural bodybuilding,” said Farmer, who teaches physical education and typing at Lincoln Middle School in Oceanside. “In our contests, you don’t see super-large men or women like in other contests run by the pros.”

“Women on steroids are just so gross,” she said. “It just turned me off and I told myself at the beginning that I wanted to go as far as I could naturally. Women who use steroids change drastically, their voices lower and jaw changes rapidly.”

McHugh and San Clemente gym owner Sean Murray note that Farmer’s enthusiasm for bodybuilding has made her a perfect motivator for gym users.

“Everybody knows who she is,” Murray said. “She’s definitely one in a million. In fact, when people first come in and ask questions about membership, I ask them, ‘How old are you? I want you to meet someone.’ They see her and realize that if she did it, they can do it. And the beauty of a Sue Farmer is no drugs. She’s a fine example of that.”

Being fit in Southern California no longer seems an option. It’s a lifestyle. From health spas crowded with treadmill runners to beach trails loaded with in-line skaters and cyclists, it seems everyone wants the look.

In Hollywood, Linda Hamilton became the prototype for feminine fitness when she toned up for her role in “Terminator II.” When Angela Bassett picked up a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” wearing a spaghetti strap gown that showed off sculpted biceps, the starting gun had gone off. Thousands of women went in search of personal trainers.

Farmer grew up in Saline, a small farming community in Michigan. She attended Michigan State University and received degrees in home economics, nutrition and food, with a minor in physical education.

After she married Robert Farmer, the couple had their first child--a son now 22--and moved to Southern California when Detroit’s auto industry soured. They now have two more sons, ages 8 and 11.

“I didn’t work out much after we came to California,” Farmer said. “I had tiny little kids to be with and didn’t have time.” In 1988, she joined her husband in the ranks of teaching--she works at Lincoln in Oceanside, while he teaches math at San Clemente High School.

The school had a weight-lifting machine that she and another P.E. teacher would use during their lunch hour. She now gets up at 4:30 a.m. and uses a home Stair Master for 45 minutes before waking her sons and helping them get ready for school.

After work, she makes the drive from Oceanside to San Clemente and works out for another 2 1/2 hours at the gym.

She also watches what she eats. As family and friends enjoyed platefuls of Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie last week, Farmer stuck to her high protein diet that allows chicken, fish and turkey, but doesn’t allow things such as turkey stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy. She usually adds a side dish of rice or a baked potato without seasoning.

“I can’t have salt because that retains water,” Farmer said. “I’ve cut out dairy products because they keep the fat in. I don’t even eat any wheat; it retains water too. Fruits and vegetables are my dessert.”

At her school, Farmer’s personality has made her popular with students.

“She’s just a perky, bouncy, fun person to be around,” said Patricia Barnes, Lincoln’s principal. “With our student body we do so much with nutrition and taking care of your body at P.E., and to have her on staff is great. She’s not one to flout the achievement of her new title at school. When she brought the trophy to school and showed it to students, they just thought that was so cool.”