Elle Joyce Sagadraca works out at the Iqaluit Aquatic Centre gym twice a day, seven days a week.
She gets up at 6:45 in the morning and does 45 minutes on the stair machine, goes to work at her job with the government of Nunavut, then goes back to the gym after work for a bit more cardio and weights.
All this work helped Sagadraca earn the confidence — and get into the shape — that allowed her to win in two categories at the 2019 Cobourg Naturals bodybuilding competition in Cobourg, Ontario this past weekend.
She won a gold and silver medal in two bikini competitions.
"I do live in the gym," she says, "sometimes I'm just like, 'I should just bring my luggage here.'"
She follows a strict diet of vegetables and meat, and works online with a coach out of Toronto.
After seeing the women she was competing against, Sagadraca said she was surprised to win.
"It's very unexpected for me," she says. "I'm just so blessed."
The judges told her that she has the right face and a proportional body. On top of that, her confidence showed.
"So if you go to that stage and be confident ... even if you have a nice body if you don't know how to actually show it to the judges ... you won't get any points."
Sagadraca performed a routine on stage for judges. She wore heels and a sparkly turquoise bikini.
'It's my passion'
Sagadraca discovered her passion for bodybuilding after moving with her family from the Philippines to Iqaluit four years ago, when she was in high school.
She started to gain weight.
"It was like, 'Oh there are so many foods.' So I just kept eating and then like some people were like, 'Yeah, you're getting big.'"
Sagadraca started working out when she went to St. Lawrence college in Kingston, Ontario three years ago. She realized some people workout to compete, and Sagadraca said she liked the idea of being motivated by competition.
Now, it's not just a hobby for her. "I love what I do," she says. "It's my passion."
Sights set high
After winning at the regional competition, Sagadraca qualifies to compete at the national level. She plans to do that in 2020.
She wants to keep living in Iqaluit. She is still overwhelmed to have won, because, she said people told her that no one ever did this, coming from Nunavut.
"Like, it's cold in the morning; negative 40 you're going through your cardio," she said. "It's a lot of dedication and discipline to do so which is I'm pretty proud of."
Sagadraca's long-term goal is to compete among the sport's best in the Arnold Sports Festival, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger.