If someone had asked me two years ago if I would ever consider being a bodybuilder, my answer would have been an emphatic, “No way!.” I heard a friend’s stories about training and dieting to prepare for her first Figure competition, and truthfully it sounded like something straight out of a nightmare. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why anyone would want to put themselves through all of that. Not to mention that my opinion on how those women look was not really a favorable one. I felt that women should be soft, but toned. Yes, I lifted weights (if that’s what you want to call it) but spent five hours a week on an elliptical where I wasted myself away to 98 pounds.
How things change.
A couple things brought me to my current love affair with iron. My Figure competitor friend encouraged me to compete; I already love working out, she pointed out. Why not have a purpose? I was hesitant. The look of a woman with muscle was still off-putting to me. She mentioned the Bikini category to me and I was all over that. Those girls appear very toned and have some definition but it wasn’t so far off from where I was. It seemed doable to me.
I started reading and researching and taking in more information than my brain knew what to do with about training and diet and competing. I spoke online to women who have been at this for years. I saw pictures of fitness models and bodybuilding pros, and somehow what was once so off-putting to me became the epitome of beauty, strength, and dedication. And I wanted it for myself.
The gym became my sanctuary in a way it wasn’t for the decade that I had been going there every day. I didn’t have to be Mommy, I didn’t have to be anything else but me. I began to push myself harder than I thought I ever could. And when I look back on those days compared to now, I almost can’t believe how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve learned about myself along the way.
I set a date for myself to compete of October 2012. I started my first bulk in October 2011, and I planned to bulk until sometime in June. Like a good first-time bulker, I did my calculations and came up with what I thought was the appropriate calorie range. I got over my fear of all the boys in the weight room and started playing with real weights. And I got stronger and started lifting even heavier weights. It was great! But the scale didn’t budge, which is a problem when you’re bulking and you’re supposed to be gaining weight. I knew this. But secretly I was quite relieved because I was still terrified to see the number on the scale moving up. After all, women aren’t supposed to gain weight. Women are supposed to be on a perpetual diet. Aren’t they? Or so we are all taught to think.
Eventually I had to get over myself and admit I was holding myself back. If I wanted to compete in October, I needed a serious amount of mass and doing what I was doing was getting me nowhere fast. I upped my calories and started seeing changes. I started gaining weight. I got even stronger. But July was upon me pretty quickly, and in the preceding months, some personal problems crept up as well which derailed any hopes I had of competing. It was disappointing for me to admit that but it was what I had to do at the time. I told myself I could plan for next year. After all, the stage isn’t going anywhere and will be there when I’m ready.
I still wanted to see what I had built so I started to cut as I had originally planned – which brought some more disappointment. It became apparent very quickly that I did not gain the mass I had hoped for, and not nearly as much as I thought I had. I knew muscle-building was going to be tough. Women have so much stacked against them in that respect. But I had worked so hard. I thought for certain there would be more there. To say I was knocked down a few pegs is an understatement.
But it wasn’t an epic fail. I got over all of the fears that come with bulking. And I learned a lot. I was able to see where I went wrong and I had to admit to myself that while I worked very hard, I could have worked harder and I could have worked smarter. And it made me determined to do it right next time.
I am currently 14 weeks into my second bulk which I started in October of 2012. I have gained 10 pounds and am following a program written by a professional, instead of just attempting to do my own thing. I am pushing through so many mental barriers and I am astounded at the things my body has been capable of. I have a long way to go, and it is extremely hard to see any changes on my own body except to focus in on the fat gains at this point. But I know the changes are there.
Sadly, competition is still off the table for me for this year due to the same personal problems. But I’m plugging through and I won’t quit. Bodybuilding is so much more than walking across a stage and doing a bunch of poses in a competition suit and hooker heels with a fake tan. It’s about strength. It’s about pushing your body in ways you never thought possible. It’s about looking in the mirror and seeing the results of all your hard work, and believing in the beauty that’s reflected there. And my hope is that all women can feel that way, no matter what their path is. My hope is that all women find a way to embrace their strength.
During this uncertain time in my life when it sometimes takes all of my energy to get out of bed in the morning to face the day, if I know I can inspire even one person, woman or man, to find their inner strength, it would touch my heart beyond words.
If you use Chatter, Danielle needs no introduction.