Nicole Janveaux doesn’t like to talk about herself.

She doesn’t see what the big deal is, really.

She’s just a regular person who struggled with homelessness, depression, addiction issues and self-harm in her youth before turning to the gym. So what if she’s now a 47-year-old mother of two who happens to also have a lifetime exemption into the national bodybuilding championships, right?

“I’ve been weightlifting since I was 19,” she says, taking a short break from her workout routine at The Yard in Campbellton, “but I guess I’ve been doing it competitively for about four years.”

She first went into the gym 30 or so years ago because she was dealing with some physical and emotional issues. She had some thyroid problems affecting her weight and she was struggling with her mental health.

“I wasn’t so much running away from anything, as it turned out, I was running towards something.”

“The gym became kind of my escape,” she says. “I wasn’t so much running away from anything, as it turned out, I was running towards something. It gave me an outlet where I have been able to work through my past and it has given me more than I could have ever hoped for.”

Throughout the years, she and husband Adam say they have taken what they call “some time off” from the gym, but only long enough to have a couple of kids – they have a girl and a boy now – and to recover from various injuries.

The most major of these came in 2011, when the Janveauxs were in a serious car accident.

“They told us that if we didn’t weightlift, we wouldn’t be here. They basically said our muscles held us together,” Nicole says, looking over at Adam with a smile.

Shortly after the recovery from the wreck, Nicole decided to get serious about her sport. While the first 25 years in the gym were certainly productive, she’d basically been lifting what she wanted, when she wanted, and eating what she wanted, when she wanted, and that just wasn’t going to cut it if she was going to take herself to the next level: actual competition.

So she got herself a coach and got to work.

Much of what she needed coaching in was diet, she says. Her coach now controls her intake with a regimented program designed to optimize the calories going in and energy coming out at the gym.

And that diet changes drastically depending on the time of the year and how close she is to a competition.

“When I was in show prep, I hated it,” she says. “It’s a pretty harsh diet, but right now I’m eating six meals a day, but there are only carbs in two of them, and the rest are mainly fats and proteins.” That sounds…expensive. “We spend easily $250 a week on food,” agrees Adam.

“And that’s not even including the supplements or anything like that,” Nicole adds. “Protein powder is probably another $150 a month.”

“I could have bought two houses with how much food we’ve eaten,” Adam says with a laugh. He lifts, too, and says he’ll be getting into competitions, as well, as of next year.

You go through a lot of food when two of you need the energy to be in the gym for 2.5 hours a day, lifting weights five days a week to go alongside your seven cardio workouts.

While there are some genetic dispositions that help some people build muscle easier than others, Janveaux says she’s not really one of those lucky few.

“There’s definitely some genetics involved in bodybuilding, but for me, it’s a lot of effort. I don’t have the best genetics for this,” she says. “Some people can really builflexingd easily, and I can build legs really easily, but you want everything to be in proportion, and I don’t build upper body very easily, so for me that’s a struggle.”

And then there’s all the additional cardio work she’s had to incorporate since she turned from an enthusiast into a serious competitor.

So let’s get down to the brass tacks. How much can you pick up off the ground, Nicole?

“It’s not really about that,” she says. “Some people think it’s about lifting heavy, but I don’t lift as heavy as half the people who do this. It’s more about controlling the weight and being connected to your muscles. I see guys flinging 60-pound weights around, but I have bigger arms than them, so who’s doing it right?”

And speaking of not being all about something, while the gym has become an integral part of who she is, it’s not what life is all about.

For years, Nicole and Adam have been helping troubled youth, as well.

They used to detox kids with addictions struggles and stabilize them, right in their own home. They don’t do it right now, Nicole says, but they may again one day.

“I miss it,” Nicole says, looking again at Adam, who nods knowingly.

“I get that,” he says. “She’s so good at it. She’s able to connect to those kids on a level that nobody else has been able to. With her past, she’s able to show that where you are right now doesn’t matter. You can change. To be able to show kids that, first hand, really has an impact, and that’s what she’s able to do.”

And who knows, maybe if the whole bodybuilding thing doesn’t work out – which is hard to fathom at this point – they could open a petting zoo.

“I’m a big animal person,” she admits. “For quite a while my daughter and I would just welcome animals into our home that someone else didn’t want or couldn’t take care of.”

She says it like it’s in the past, but Adam lovingly interrupts.

“She just brought home a pig,” he says with another laugh. “We had 25 animals at one point. Everything from dogs to snakes to birds to flying squirrels.”

For now, however, they are focused on the next goal in their sport. Nicole is trying to turn professional.

Right now, Nicole has graduated from competing under the banner of the British Columbia Amateur Bodybuilding Association and competes on the national stage through the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation. Next year she hopes to win the overall title at the national championships and move on to the International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) to compete at a professional level.

They’re the ones people see on television. They are why we know the name Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And while she’s working on that goal, she’ll be working in the gym helping others realize them down at The Yard in Campbellton, where she both manages and takes on personal training clients.

“For me, a huge part of this journey is helping others, especially women, feel empowered through lifting,” she says. “I want others to know that no matter what you’ve been through or where you come from in life, you can do whatever you want.

“Don’t let anyone put limits on your goals.”