Fitness, enthusiasm, success ...
and a small town

Heidi Malano had just one minute to deliver a prepared speech to judges for the public speaking round of the Ms. Fitness U.S.A. 2009 contest.

What she chose to speak about during that short chance to make an impression on the judges was her love of the small-town community of Pagosa Springs, and how living here has influenced her journey in personal fitness and wellness.

Malano, a three-year resident of Pagosa, placed third in the national Ms. Fitness U.S.A. competition, out of 41 contestants.

This was Malano’s third time at the competition. She took second place in the 2007 competition, and fourth place last year. She told The SUN she was glad about her third-place finish for the 2009 competition (contestants compete for the title for the year when the show will air on television — the competition that was just filmed in September will broadcast in January 2009). With her third-place finish, Malano also won the right to compete in the international Ms. Fitness World competition the day after the national competition.

“I was very happy with my performance this year,” Malano said. “Placing third was wonderful. It’s changed since I did it three years ago; the competition has been getting tougher.”

Indeed, the field of competitors has been growing for a number of years. The first Ms. Fitness U.S.A. competition was held in 1984, and so the competition claims the distinction of being the world’s longest running fitness show on television.

The contest is broken down into three rounds, Malano explained.

“The first round is about poise and projection, you wear an evening gown and do a one-minute prepared speech. You’re judged on voice projection, how you look, and the content of your speech which has to be in regards to fitness.”

The second round is “a contest of physique. They look for muscular symmetry,” Malano said.

“The third round is my favorite round. It is about flexibility, strength and endurance. I like to choreograph my own routine,” said Malano. “I did it to a medley of Michael Jackson music; it’s fun, it’s high energy. I like it because I have a background in dance, gymnastics and cheerleading, and the last round is a combination of dance, gymnastics and strength training.”

Fitness is a life-long passion, Malano told The SUN. “It’s always been important to me to take care of myself, and working out is something I enjoy doing. I decided to make it a full time job when my husband and I moved here. In Pagosa it was easy to follow my passion in fitness. People here in Pagosa were so interested in how to get fit, and then it became a passion of mine to teach other people what I know.”

The speech that helped Malano land third place in the competition and a prize package of $2,000, was focused on her sharing this passion with the people in her community. “My speech this year was all about living in a small community,” she said, “and how I was in awe of the attention I get for the competing I do. Living in a small town, when I decided to compete in fitness, I wasn’t surprised that people would be watching closely, but I was surprised at how much support and attention I got. It was incredible,” Malano said, “I got so many text messages, e-mails and phone calls while I was in Las Vegas for the contest, it was comforting and amazing. And now that I’m back in Pagosa, people I don’t even know come up and say ‘congratulations.’”

But, the inspiration and admiration is not a one-way street, “I actually have clients who inspire me,” she said. “I teach a body sculpting class at the rec center and I have clients who work so hard and are so dedicated. I’m 31 years old, they’re between 50 and 75. That’s inspiring,” she said.

What’s more, Malano is inspired every day to share her love of fitness with the Pagosa Springs cheerleaders that she coaches. “Working with those girls is such an awesome opportunity that I hadn’t anticipated, but that I love. Supporting other people’s fitness is so important, that’s why I got the job coaching, and it’s wonderful to inspire my young athletes and be inspired by them.”

You can see Heidi Malano win third place in the Ms. Fitness U.S.A competition when it airs on television this coming January 2009 on Fox. For more information visit www.msfitness.com or visit Heidi Malano’s own Web site, www.heidifit.com.