Athletes preparing for competition help motivate others to live healthier lifestyles


Many athletes overcome several obstacles before eventually finding their success.  Two area trainers are taking their knowledge of health and strength to the next level and inspiring others along the way.

Monique Rickett remembers growing up with pain after doctors diagnosed her with scoliosis, an abnormal curving of the spine.

“I’ve had incidents where it dropped me to the ground. I was carrying my text books back to my bedroom one night and I just hit the floor and I couldn’t get up and it was like a back spasm kind of thing,” she said.

Rickett was advised to build her core at the gym and as she did just that the lower back pains went away, but her love for lifting weights grew.  She began training and helping others meet their fitness goals.

“It’s such a rewarding feeling when you know, you can take somebody’s life who’s struggled with their weight or eating habits all their life and turn it around and you know, have them come up to you and thank you, it’s rewarding,” she said.

Last year she decided to take her fitness to the next level and compete with other men and women who share the same love for health and strength.

“I just love fitness. I love to lift heavy weights and over the course of the time, a lot of my good friends have said to me that, I should compete in a bodybuilding or physique competition and so I decided to take that on and start focusing on it,” said athlete Mark Durando, who is also a personal trainer.

Durando is a licensed EMT and was pursuing a career in wild land fire fighting through the Bureau of Land Management, but this Kern Valley Hot Shot soon realized he needed to be at the top of his game.

“The body is taking a huge strain with the heavy loads of equipment you have to carry on our backs, roughly around 75 pounds of equipment not to mention the equipment on our hands such as a scraping tool or a chain saw, an axe, or hammer whatever the case may be. We have to keep up with the endurance as well as our muscular structure to keep our body healthy,” he said.

Durando began dieting and training, focused on living a healthier lifestyle, something he now teaches others as a personal trainer.

“I love working with a very diverse group of people young and old, and people who have medical conditions, like people who are cancer survivors, people who have certain blood and chronic disease or anything in that category and its very humbling to get use to training people in different ways,” he said.

Both athletes are preparing for the NGA Natural Mr. and Ms. Western America, which takes place August 2nd in Bakersfield.  They hope to inspire others while showing off their hard work on that famous stage.

“Not everybody wants to look like a bodybuilder but nevertheless it inspires people to just want to better themselves to look better to maybe lose a little weight, to be healthier, to start eating, to make changes in their life,” said Mark Pacheco, owner of Strength and Health Gym.


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