There are so many misconceptions about women in fitness it’s almost hard to keep track of. From fat shaming those without a six pack of abs year round to claiming that Figure athletes look like men or that Bikini isn’t really bodybuilding, the list goes on and on. Not only are people bashing bodybuilding in general, but many are even shaming fitness enthusiasts who are proud to share their progress pics on social media and hoping to maybe offer up some inspiration. It’s sad to think that taking care of your physical self first has brought out the worst in people.
Let’s start off with one particular myth that really grinds my gears: Women being portrayed as overexposed, provocative sex-kittens. This one really bothers me because it is partially true, but it’s not always the case. Yes, in men’s fitness magazines most features of women are rather provocative and showcase photos of models and athletes dressed fairly scantily-clad. I will say that in some circumstances I have a hard time differentiating certain athletes from porn stars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; if anyone feels comfortable and confident in themselves to pose and dress that way, then more power to you! It’s just not for me and it certainly isn’t the standard for all female athletes and fitness models. This style of photography certainly does cater to their main market and audience, and it’s what sells magazines, but it’s not as though every woman in fitness has to be a smoldering temptress all the time.
The next big myth is that female bodybuilders and women who lift weight and train hard will look like men. This usually refers to the concept of women who “bulk up”, which is really hard to do. For any woman who is hesitant of working out hard and hitting the weight room for fear of bulking up, trust me when I say that you won’t. I’ve been trying to mass gain for 2 years and it is a very slow and long process that doesn’t just happen because you tried out the leg press machine. That being said, there’s a lot of negative talk around female bodybuilders in that many will scoff at the athletes claiming that they are too muscular, unfeminine and flat chested. It’s really tragic to hear these things and to notice when these dedicated athletes may get stares from strangers in public. I see these ladies as impressive, strong and inspiring; it takes so much to build and sculpt yourself. What most people don’t realize is the work that goes into it and not just in the gym or in the kitchen, but also with one’s entire lifestyle as well. And while some may say “I would never want to look like that” I say “Don’t worry, you never will”.
As for Bikini not being taken seriously as bodybuilding, well I’d like to respond to these naysayers personally by saying this: Come work out with me just once and see if you still think that when we’re done. Bikini competitors have to work out just as hard as other bodybuilders, if not harder because we are looking to build muscle in the right areas, stay balanced, proportional and symmetrical while leaning out but not getting too shredded either. We are just as regimented with nutrition and spend hours working out in the gym each day. What’s really terrible is that a lot of this comes from people in the bodybuilding community. For example, at the first competition that I saw the group sitting behind me started grumbling about Bikini when the athletes came onstage saying some pretty ignorant things. Another example that really hit close to home came from my lovely husband who, when I told my family that I was going to compete, felt the need to utter the following”For 5 minutes onstage you’re going to look like a stripper”. Needless to say my crazy eyes were enough to bring him back down to earth before my urge to take a swing at him kicked in.
For some reason most people just can’t see past the fact that it’s a woman in a two piece. Male bodybuilders aren’t exactly covered up either; their posing trunks would shame even the tiniest of speedos. There is a reason why posing suits are that size…it’s because the more material on the suit, the wider your waist and glutes will look. On stage we pose a certain way to showcase both muscle mass and symmetry. All divisions require different styles of posing because weight classes and body shapes across each categories will vary and seeing someone like holding front double biceps would be very underwhelming and unimpressive as well.
Going back to the whole “sex-kitten” myth, it’s very frustrating. Maybe some women compete because they want to feel that way and are proud of it, what’s so wrong with that? Seriously! When did it become a bad thing to be so proud of how you look that you choose to stand on stage with the highest self-esteem imaginable among other strong women? In my case, I can honestly say that I compete because of the journey to stage, the process of contest prep and because it’s really fun to get glamed up and be onstage. I’m not trying to be all smoking hot (that’s just an added perk!), I’m an athlete and bodybuilder and I am proud of it. This process, this lifestyle is not about how others view me or their opinions of me either, it’s about bringing my best to each day, giving my all to each workout and challenging myself to prioritize my health above all else all the time.
As for fat shaming those without the “perfect body” honestly, just shut your stupid face, because chances are you’re no prize either and there is no such thing as the perfect body.
As I sit here finishing this rant, I am 7 weeks out from hitting the stage for a second time and I can’t wait. On show day I choose to focus on myself and presenting my best instead of scoping out the competition and sizing up the other athletes. What others think or say doesn’t matter to me anymore; this process has taught me how easy it is to move past this. All anyone really has is this one body in this life, so take care of it, nurture it and instead of finding flaws in others, consider changing gears towards bettering yourself each day forward.
Start Strong, Finish Strong