Featured Story

Riverhead woman shines bright on stage at bikini fitness competitions

Two days after her final competition of the season, Rachel Doroski was already back in the gym.

It was mid-morning Monday when Doroski, having recently celebrated her 21st birthday, arrived at Maximus in Riverhead. On tap was a roughly two-hour workout.

The gym is her second home. And in the world of competitive fitness, there is no real offseason.

On any given day, no one in the gym — man or woman — can compare to Doroski.

To maintain her chiseled physique and near-zero body fat requires dedication on multiple fronts: the long workouts, the strict nutrition plan and sacrifices in her social life.

A former standout volleyball and lacrosse player at Riverhead High School, where she graduated in 2015, Doroski began competing in bodybuilding in January 2017. Since then she’s entered six competitions.

“It’s definitely an extreme sport,” she said. “Most people don’t realize how intense it can get.”

All that work led to her best finish yet Saturday at the National Physique Committee Northeast Summer Classic in White Plains. Competing in three divisions, she earned a pair of first-place titles to go with one third place at the amateur competition. The victories put her in the running for the overall title — the first time she had achieved that level. And while she fell short of that title, she qualified for national level competitions, which is the next step in her ultimate goal of turning professional.

“Next year I’m going to go to these national shows and hopefully in 2019 I’ll be pro,” she said.

One of the common misconceptions Doroski often hears is that people think she’s lifting weights during competitions. By the time the competition arrives, the hard work is largely over in terms of any weight lifting. The night before a show, she undergoes two sessions of dark spray tanning. The morning of a show she gets one more spray tan. The tan helps accentuate the muscles for competitors on stage as the bright lights shine on them.

She wears sparkly jewelry and a skimpy bikini — all part of the show.

“We have our little routine to show off all of our angles and it’s like a very elegant movement of a front pose, a back pose and a side pose,” she said. “The judges want to see someone whose makeup looks good and not only those little things but the overall package of symmetrical and your leanness and muscle definition.”

Ms. Doroski works out at Maximus in Riverhead. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Before taking the leap into competitive fitness, Doroski had always loved working out. She frequented the gym so often, she’d sometimes get asked whether she was training for competition.

It got her thinking.

“I’m here 24/7, why not put it to use?” said Doroski, who also attends Suffolk County Community College and works as a waitress in Southold.

Working out had always been fun, but to take the next step she knew she needed to narrow her focus. She found a coach online who could instruct her on the particular workouts necessary to begin sculpting her body to the next level. She needed to focus on the smallest details of her body and commit to a nutrition plan. She communicates with her coach nearly every day in the peak week leading up to a show and then checks in at least once a week at other times.

Bodybuilding for women falls under several categories: physique, fitness, figure and bikini. The physique division is for women building the largest muscles. The bikini division, in which Doroski competes, is for the smallest physiques. She plans to stick to the bikini competitions rather than bulking up even more.

At her most recent competition, she won first place in the Novice B division, topping a group of 16 women. She also won first in the Open D division and her third place came in the Junior division, which is for women under 23.

Doroski said her parents, Rob and Lynn, have been her biggest supporters.

Ms. Doroski competing at the Garden State Championships in June. (Credit: Chris Hayden)
She said her parents were naturally skeptical when she first told them about her plans. She had to explain to them what it entailed and they quickly bought in after seeing her first show.

“They’re beyond, more than I could ever ask for, supportive,” she said. “They’ve been to every single show.”

Her father said she told them it would be a healthy lifestyle that afforded her a chance to travel and meet new people. He said she was an athlete from an early age, playing T-ball, softball and then lacrosse and volleyball in high school.

“She always strives to win,” he said. “She likes to win.”

When she walks onto the stage at competitions, she often can hear her dad in the crowd cheering for her.

“I can hear my dad for sure,” she said. “I love it. Whenever I hear someone cheering my number, I know that makes the judges look at me.”

Her former lacrosse coach at Riverhead, Ashley Schandel, remembered Doroski as a petite girl when she came up through the program. Doroski had been a key player on attack for the Blue Waves at a time when the program was just beginning to post winning seasons. Her senior season got cut short because of an ACL injury, which ended any thoughts of possibly playing the sport in college. Schandel said Doroski had the talent to continue the sport if she had wanted.

Schandel said it was amazing to see how Doroski has taken off in this new athletic pursuit. She wasn’t so much shocked when she found out what Doroski was doing, but more so amazed.

“She’s always been very determined and conscious of her body throughout high school,” she said. “But to take that step a bit further, it’s really cool to see.”

Schandel described Doroski as a humble and motivated woman.

It can be a draining sport, Doroski said, in more ways than one.

“Physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said. “You have your high days and your low days for sure. Some days I’m on a high and loving it in here and other days I want to go to bed. That’s all part of the process. You can’t beat yourself up when you’re having a low day.”

Doroski competes on the Riverhead lacrosse team in 2015. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

It’s the end goal that keeps her pushing, that pursuit of winning the next competition. In the gym, she has no one there to push her during those low days, so she relies on her inner strength.

“It’s her own mind that’s made up,” her father said. “This is what she wants to do and she finds her avenues to train differently and to work out different body parts. She does that all on her own.”

After sticking to a strict diet of chicken, fish, lean ground meats and rice, Doroski rewards herself by indulging in one celebratory meal after each competition. Her favorite destination is Cheesecake Factory.

After last Saturday’s show, she continued that tradition by celebrating with her parents and other family members. She ordered spinach and artichoke dip — one of her favorites — and a burger and dessert. She even toasted the victory with an alcoholic beverage.

There was no other way she’d rather celebrate turning 21.

Top photo caption: Rachel Doroski strikes a pose at Maximus in Riverhead Monday morning. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

[email protected]