So You Want To Do A Competition?
The following is an excerpt from my memoir, She’s Losing It! available on Amazon.com. It’s the story of how I went from being an overweight self-conscious woman to a bikini competitor at age 38. It’s like a Rocky for moms.
Daniel, my new trainer, is sitting at the desk. “So you want to do a body building competition,” he says smiling.
“Yes. Texas Shredder. My husband wants me to reiterate that I don’t want to look like a scary gorilla woman, just very good in a bikini.”
“You won’t look like a gorilla woman.”
Some other trainer holding a stability ball walks by with a client and sniggers at the comment. Did I ask something stupid?
“Oh, good,” I said.
“Have you ever done a competition before?”
“Why do you want to do this?” he inquires, his head tilted to the side.
“Well, my high school reunion is coming up in the fall and I seem to do better when I’m training for something specific. Just saying, ‘I want to be healthy forever’ is not really working for me.”
“Which competition did you want to enter?”
“Shredder?” (I have no idea what “Shredder” even means, but the really fit people in the gym are all training for it, and I want to be really fit, so that’s what I’m signing up for.)
“No offense, but the other girls have had a huge head start on their training and you’re not going to be ready for Shredder.”
Ouch. I laugh though. At least he’s honest and not blowing smoke up my size 14 ass. I don’t want to go on stage and look ridiculous.
“There’s a competition in June called the Adela. That’s the one I want you to sign up for. But before you do that, you need to do some research. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into.” He writes down some things on a piece of paper that mean nothing to me. NPC. Adela Garcia. Figure posing. “These are some websites I want you to check out. Watch YouTube videos of female bodybuilding competitions, specifically bikini and figure. Next time we meet, tell me what you think, and if you still want to do this.”
Well, now I’m nervous. What am I getting myself into?
So after I put the kids to bed that night I do extensive research (I read wikipedia.org) and discovered the following things:
- Bodybuilding is changing the physique of your body through strength training and diet.
- Modern bodybuilding was started in the 1880’s by some German guy who moved to England named Eugen Sandow. In the past there were “strong men” who used to lift heavy items for audiences but Eugen was the first guy to do poses showing off his muscles during a stage show. The crowd went wild and a new sport was born.
- But is bodybuilding really a sport? There seems to be controversy over this. Powerlifting is a sport based on strength, whereas bodybuilding is a cosmetic sport, meaning strength is a nice benefit but the important part is that your muscles look plumb, well defined and symmetrical. So, a powerlifter dude says, “Hey! Look at me! Look how strong I am!” whereas a bodybuilder dude says, “Hey! Look at me! Look how strong I look!”
I knew Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder (doesn’t everyone?) but never heard of anyone else. Or so I thought! Lou Ferrigno, aka The Incredible Hulk, was a bodybuilder. Who knew? And you know who also started as a bodybuilder? Sean Connery aka 007 James Bond. He was in the 1950 Mr. Universe contest which got him noticed for more acting roles.
Name dropping time – I actually met Arnold Schwarzenegger once. It was at one of his 50th birthday fundraisers in San Diego for some proposition he was trying to pass in the state legislature. Other people paid like $10,000 for a formal picture with him; I just jumped next to him and smiled while my husband took a pic with his phone. Arnold probably took pity on me because I looked pregnant. (I took pity on myself because I actually wasn’t pregnant, just chubby. Some women are apple-shaped, others are pear-shaped. My shape? Bun in the oven.) But I digress…
Who is Adela Garcia and why should I enter her competition? Whoa! She won the Ms. Olympia Fitness seven (7) times! I watched her YouTube video and was amazed watching her weave gymnastic moves between things like one-handed push-ups. OK, now I know that the fitness division is totally out of my league, but at least I know why the local competition is named after her. Her competition (also called a show) follows NPC rules. NPC is the National Physique Committee and they put on a ton of amateur bodybuilding competitions all year long. I had no idea that bodybuilding was so popular.
But most of the information online seems to be about men. What about the women? Do they all look like dudes? Hardly! Well, let me quantify that. I saw some YouTube videos with things that said, “Open Women’s Bodybuilding” and those women looked crazy muscular. To each her own, but I wanted to be strong but still look feminine. Enter the figure and bikini divisions.
Bikini is like the entry level for women’s bodybuilding. The women have great muscle tone but still look soft and feminine. (Teeny tiny bikinis and 5″ heels will do that.) Their poses were sexy and fun and they had this swagger to them. Figure division had women with bikinis that crisscrossed in the back. They did four poses: Front, 1/4 turn to the right, Face Back, 1/4 to the other side, and then return to front pose. They looked beautiful. Strong, confident, poised.
What struck me the most was how at ease all these women seemed in their bodies. At 50 lbs. overweight I just can’t even imagine myself standing on stage in a bikini (!!!) let alone being sassy and flirty. But I know I want to be confident again, and maybe this is the way?
“Well, what do you think about bodybuilding?” Daniel asked me at our next training session.
“I don’t know,” I said shaking my head. “I don’t think I could ever have that many people look at me in a bikini.” I’m wearing my sweat pants that feel too tight and a ratty old green T-shirt from Walmart that covers my flabby arms.
“That’s ’cause you don’t like your body right now. After you put in hard work, trust me, you’re going to want people to look at you.”
I half smile. I’m looking down, playing with some paper at the trainer’s desk. I feel like I’m jumping off a cliff into the unknown. “I’ll never be able to do this,” I think. He is reading my mind.
“Lisa, you’re going to be amazed by what you’re going to accomplish in one month. You won’t recognize your body.” He picks up his clipboard and begins to walk towards a machine. I take a deep breath and follow him.
Let the bodybuilding begin.
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Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!
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