Almost two weeks ago, I competed in my second bodybuilding show—the Tracey Greenwood
Classic, in Philadelphia. Despite my disappointment at the fact that no one showed up in
my weight class and I won by default, I overcame some personal hurdles and
learned a lot. I spent a few days afterward really trying to decide what I wanted to say,
and even after I wrote my first draft, I decided to wait a little longer and try again. I
am glad I did, because although my goal is to take a candid and
straightforward approach to my experience as a female bodybuilder, there are just some
things that you have to experience on your own and from your own fresh perspective.
In my last column, I pointed out some of my personal struggles as a female bodybuilder,
including the increasing and excessive emphasis on the figure category, as well as my
struggle to come to terms with letting go of the traditional feminine
ideal as I continue to build my body. The Philadelphia show forced me to confront both
issues and make some choices, because I realized that I cannot make any more progress
until I am comfortable with the fact that there will never be room in my
closet for pink ruffles and skinny jeans. I was also forced to confront the fact that the
space given to female bodybuilding is limited, but sacred and reserved in its own
right—and the category is designed specifically to draw a line between the
figure ideal and the bodybuilder ideal. Unfortunately, my struggles were apparent—I was
too hard for figure, but it was probably quite obvious to the trained eye that while I
have potential, I have been holding myself back from a big, nasty
Competing, for me, is about showing up with my best package, taking note of my mistakes,
and going home with a new focus on fixing those mistakes. Here are some of my notes:
1. Ditch the following items forever: skinny jeans, knee high boots, babydoll dresses,
and anything with ruffles.
2. Invest in a good coach. Even though this is about learning my body and pushing
myself, accountability is important. There are a lot of things money can't buy, but it
actually might buy someone who cares about my day-to-day progress and who won't
get sick of hearing about my food or some new vein I found.
3. Invest in a good coach (redundant, but necessary). Girls backstage identify and
categorize themselves by the names of their coaches...and I do not care to theorize here,
but for whatever reason, some coaches really seem to consistently win.
Backstage, there is a pretty clear distinction between the girls who walk in the
confidence of their coach's name, and those who went in alone (ahem...like me).
4. 16 weeks is too long—I over-dieted. Progress pictures from six weeks out make me sad,
because the loss of size is profound. I showed up like “the little bodybuilder who
5. Do a slower posing routine. At last year's show, all of the female bodybuilders did
dance-like, technical posing routines similar to mine, so I thought this was normal.
Maybe it is. But I was blown away by the non-technical, slow, and powerful
posing of the older and more experienced FBB's. And, their pictures don't look stupid or
repeatedly catch them in mid-pose.
6. When it's time to bulk, and oh yes there will be a serious bulk in my near future,
EAT. I spent my last bulk worried about getting fat, too afraid to eat as many carbs as I
should have. Result: 7lb after 4 months. I went on stage 3lb heavier.
7. The key word is body BUILDER. The cutting mentality is addictive, and has inhibited
my building to the extent that I could be more appropriately called a bodyfat reduction
8. Do not, under any circumstances, freak out mid-bulk and start doing crazy cardio or
calorie manipulation for fear of being fat. Last year, I went temporarily insane and
decided I'd rather be a runner. Luckily my fiance put a quick stop to that.
9. Rely more on my FB bodybuilding community for support.
10. Buy more hoodies.
So, clearly my goal is to get more size, but this time I am committed to everything that
this means. Last year, it just seemed like the right thing to do, but without that
commitment I couldn't follow through as effectively. I expect big things
this year, and I plan to compete again in late spring/early summer 2011.
Good luck with your goals, and if you're bulking, help a sister out, because it's not
going to be fun when I outgrow last year's bulking jeans. I am upbeat for now, but my
dieting jeans still fit so far...
Sheena A. Hunter
University of Maine
BA, Women's Studies
"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then
it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” --Audre Lorde