By: Claire Allison
Edited by: Miya Stewart
As cliché as it sounds, fitness really is a journey. Your mindset and goals are always evolving, your body is constantly changing, life throws things at you when you least expect it, and motivation comes and goes, but one thing that always remains is the discipline and work ethic. I started to really take fitness seriously my freshman year of college. I wanted to change my physique in a healthy way, and my brother introduced me to the sport of bodybuilding. What really drew me to this sport was the idea that I build the physique I want by working with the frame I already have – none of this trying to diet down to a shape that my body and bone structure could physically never support. It made me focus on me and trying to become a better version of myself versus trying to look like someone else.
Bodybuilding has changed more than just my physique, as its positive effects have expanded far beyond the gym. I have made so many new friends, learned the value of discipline and delayed gratification, as well as how to overcome setbacks. About 8 months ago, I decided to finally take things to the next level. I hired a coach and prepared myself to compete in my first bodybuilding competition during Spring of 2019 in the Figure Division. It took me two years to make this decision because competing is something you really need to do with a great mindset and honorable intentions. You need to have peace with yourself and a good relationship with food and exercise. This is a goal I never thought was possible, but here I am in my first week of “prep.” This is a term used to describe the period of time you have allocated to achieve the best conditioning possible for show day through absolute precision in nutrition, training, and overall health.
Some of you might be wondering, well what is bodybuilding really? What makes it different than powerlifting or other forms of exercise? This sport is more of an art than anything, as you are training to create an aesthetic physique (proportional, symmetrical, muscular, lean, etc.), not necessarily focusing on strength or functionality. Although the end goal is to compete against others, the reality is that you are competing against yourself.
When one thinks of competitive female bodybuilders, I am sure they imagine women who look extremely lean, with orange “cheetoh” tans, and all glammed up with heels and a sparkling bikini! It definitely looks glamorous, but just know that these girls have been putting in non-stop work for months and even years to achieve a look for competition day. It sounds daunting to be up on a stage, so exposed, and being judged on every aspect of your body. Why would any person want to do something like this?!
It might be easy to look at some of these women and think, “How could they ever feel insecure?” One thing that I have learned is that body image is something we all carry throughout our entire lives and it’s something we are conscious of at any stage in life or fitness level. Competitive bodybuilding is definitely a lifestyle and culture of its own.
For women’s bodybuilding, the main divisions seen today are Bikini, Figure, Women’s Physique, and Fitness. Each of these divisions emphasize different styles, sizes, and levels of conditioning. Based on your shape and muscular maturity, you may be better suited for one division over the others. Below I have pictured competitors for the bikini, figure, and women’s physique divisions at the professional level. This is just to give you a little context of what level of conditioning these women achieve and that, even though they have different physique goals, they are all beautiful, hardworking, and real boss ladies!
(From left to right: Angelica Teixeira 2018 Bikini Olympia, Cidney Gillon 2018 Figure Olympia, Shanique Grant 2018 Women’s Physique Olympia)