Meral Ertunc

Ruth Silverman

Strength in Weights

Page 1

Whatever happened to Meral Ertunc? You know—the pretty, dark-haired Turkish-born bodybuilder from Virginia who won her class at the ’92 NPC Nationals, took third at the ’93 Jan Tana Classic and made it to the Olympia in her first year as a pro? In the rush to develop bigger, harder bodies in the female bodybuilding ranks, then as now, a woman who possessed the truly total package of aesthetics—symmetry, proportion and looks—stood out even if she was only 5’2”. Besides, how could you forget a name like Meral Ertunc?

An aerobics instructor who was sidelined by shin splints, Ertunc started weightlifting in 1987 and entered her first show nine months later. After a slew of local and regional competitions—and a close third place at the ’91 Junior Nationals, she took the National Lightweight Championship on her first try, triumphing over a class of 28. Enter the national muscle media, and before you could say Marjo Selin, she was starring in magazine features like, “Beauty and Brawn,” “A Model of Muscular Beauty” and “Meral Ertunc Shows How Basic Movements Build a Feminine Chest.”

Meral got married and moved to Florida. She and her husband opened a gym, and, with her successful training business and her bodybuilding career starting to take off, well, if ever anyone seemed to be on the road to having it all, it was she. Then, suddenly, she disappeared from the scene.

What happened to Meral was every woman’s nightmare: She was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a bodybuilder and personal trainer, however, she had some heavy weapons to use in her fight against the disease. She used them in spades. Not only did she beat it back, but she recently took on the rigors of contest prep again, making her debut in figure at the San Francisco Pro in March.

The bottom line: Meral Ertunc is one gutsy lady. Here’s her story.


IM: When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?

ME: July 4, 1996. I had found a mass under my right armpit.


IM: What was going on in your life then?

ME: I was in great shape, around 140 pounds. Going to Turkey, where I was born and raised, to do seminars and a radio talk show about my life as a Turkish pro female bodybuilder.


IM: What treatments did you undergo?

ME: I had surgery to take out the mass that was under my armpit. They went in three inches to my muscle and scraped. Then they took all my lymph nodes from that area, which is a very tender part of your arm. After that there were four treatments of chemo and nine straight weeks of radiation.


IM: I’ve talked with people who have gone through this, and most of them have said it was devastating. How did you handle it?

ME: I was very scared. I lost my mother to cancer in 1989. She was very young and healthy. She fought for her life for about 2 1/2 years, but the cancer took her life.


IM: What kept you strong?

ME: I saw what my mother went through, and I was determined to beat the disease.

This was a mental focus for me. My ex-husband, Tony Vargas, was there for me mentally and emotionally. I feel very fortunate that he was part of my life back then. He kept me strong and very much loved no matter what I looked like or felt. My family and my friends were my support group as well.


IM: What role did weight training and exercise play?

ME: I looked at my cancer as a bodybuilding challenge. I thought, If I can diet six months out of the year and train like a champion, what’s six months out of my life to overcome a deadly disease? My body was so strong from eating healthy and training with weights—I was so ready and focused to attack this illness.


IM: How soon did you get back into the gym? How did it go once you got there?

ME: Four weeks and I was back in the gym. It was very painful to work out. They said I would not be able to lift my arm over my head for about six months. They were wrong. With my training background and determination I was able to raise my arm over my head in weeks. I went to the gym every day and pushed through the pain and wanted so bad to get back to being normal as soon as possible.


Train With Zane

Frank Zane

Train With Zane

Many bodybuilders don’t realize that weight-training sessions do not build their bodies. When you train with weights, you’re actually destroying your body. Intensive exercise induces microtrauma: Muscles heat up, small capillaries burst, and waste products like cortisol accumulate. Weight training is actually catabolic. For our muscles to grow, recuperation is necessary in the form of sleep and deep-relaxation stress-management techniques based on the principle of entrainment.

Any Chump Can Jump!

Bill Starr • Photography by Michael Neveux

Every sports enthusiast understands how important it is to be able to jump high in certain athletic contests, such as basketball, volleyball and of course the high and long jumps. Many coaches and athletes don’t pay much attention to the skill, but they should because it can make a huge difference in performance and in the outcome of a competition. Take football, for example. If a wide receiver can outjump his defender, he has a decisive edge, and vice versa. If the defensive back can excel in the skill of leaping high, he can intercept or knock down a pass. Field goals and extra points are usually blocked by a player who can go up and get a hand on the ball.

Muscle-Building Excerpts From IRON MAN’s Online E-zine

Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson

Muscle-Building Excerpts From 
IRON MAN’s Online E-zine

It’s one of IRON MAN’s most popular features, and it’s not even published in the magazine. It’s the weekly IM e-zine that’s delivered directly to your e-mail box free—once you sign up (it’s easy and there’s absolutely no charge; see the editor’s note at the end of this feature). Each issue offers insightful commentary, and the authors often dissect new research or analyze how the champs train. They explain exactly how to use the information to make your hardcore muscle-building workouts more efficient—and effective—than ever. In fact, that’s the entire purpose of the online newsletter—to get you bigger faster with quick blasts of useful info.

Hardgainer Heresy

Steve Holman

Hardgainer Heresy

Q: I have small bones, so should I automatically assume I’m a hardgainer? If I am a hardgainer, what’s the best route for building muscle?

A: I like hardgainer questions because I can identify. As most regular readers know, I started lifting in my early teens at 120 pounds, and I built up to weighing more than 200 pounds. (Take that, stinking genetics!) Yes, I have small bones—my wrists measure less than seven inches—but small bones don’t necessarily put you in the hardgainer category. Serge Nubret, an incredible bodybuilder in the ’70s who competed against Arnold, had small bones. Even Arnold looked like a scrawny hardgainer in his early days.

Goals Take You There

Dave Draper

Goals Take You There

You don’t take your bow to an empty field and randomly shoot arrows in the air, do you? You do! Well, so much for my brilliant analogy. Let me put it another way. When Tiger Woods steps onto the golf course and tees his ball, a specific goal consumes his mind, doesn’t it? He chooses his club, addresses the ball, concentrates deeply and swings with just the right amount of force and finesse to put the ball in the distant cup. Without the goal, he might just as well have used a baseball bat in place of a nine iron, a boccie ball in place of a golf ball, and beat the thing into the ground rather than seeking a hole in one or par for the course. He could have stayed home, practiced his swing or made another commercial; it doesn’t matter without the goal.