I was recently interviewed about running by Women’s Day radio & the bodybuilding post below is something Ive yammered about for a while.
It’s new & old Monday up in herre I guess.
Too long post below? MizFit in general? NotSoMuch.
Please to enjoy…
Body by my design
What would motivate a 32-year-old woman to diet like an ascetic for 12 weeks, pedal more miles on a stationary bike than Lance Armstrong, faux tan herself a dark orangey-brown, glue on a string bikini with nail glue, and parade in front of 1,000 strangers? The answer, frighteningly, is herself.
I started lifting weights in 1991 when the movie “Terminator 2” was released. I had never seen anything like Linda Hamilton’s arms in that film. They were buff and strong and yet decidedly feminine. I wanted those arms.
Flash forward 10 years and I needed a new goal. A new source of inspiration. And then I saw “it” as I flipped through a fitness magazine: bodybuilding. I would enter a bodybuilding competition. It seemed like fate that there would be a competition in San Antonio eight weeks later.
Although the event name terrified me (The Texas House of Pain), I was ready to try anything.
The look of a bodybuilder
First I needed to purchase a posing suit for the competition. This suit, not unlike a string bikini, is made of minimal fabric to best display the body. This suit is not sold in stores and must be purchased either online or via catalog.
Next, I needed to muddle through the vast array of self-tanners to find one that would turn me some shade in the brown family. Yes, there is actually a reason and a necessity behind the fact that bodybuilders often parade around in an orangey color not found in nature. When you are “tan” your muscles look bigger.
Lastly, I needed to decide upon 60 seconds worth of music and choreograph a posing routine. While devising a routine out of the six mandatory poses sounds fairly simple, it isn’t. The audience that attends the evening show pays upward of $20 a ticket and expects to be entertained. I learned quickly, after attending bodybuilding shows, that while the most muscular women may win the judges’ approval, those who can perform an erotic dance, minus the brass pole, gain the audience’s attention.
Rules and more rules
The competition weekend began with a competitor weigh-in at a hotel. This weigh-in room was teeming with the fittest people I had ever seen. And their fit friends and family. Then I saw a doctor’s scale in the front of the room facing all of the folding chairs.
“Open-class women come forward to be weighed,” the man at the front of the room called out over the crowd’s loud murmurings.
Six of the largest women imaginable strode confidently to the front of the room and peeled off their clothes. They all stood, both patiently and with muscles flexed, waiting to be weighed. They were tanned and they were ripped. And they were thankfully not the women I’d be competing against.
“Novice women come front to be weighed.”
I took one last look at my husband and walked to the front of the room.
I pulled my linen dress over my head and jumped on the scale. Barely giving the weights time to register, I hopped off.
“Uh, you need to glue your suit down tomorrow,” a man said.
I looked down at myself and voila, my suit had shifted.
Alas, I didn’t have too much time to worry about revealing myself to the judges. I was suddenly pushed to a corner where they shoved all new competitors who had made some sort of grave error.
“You will not wear that suit tomorrow,” a large man said. “It is velour and no velour allowed during the morning show.”
With that he propelled me toward an enormously muscular woman who presented me with a lime green posing suit and said, “60 dollars.” She then paused, looked down at me and said,
“This won’t fit you. Maybe you could try Victoria’s Secret in the mall?”
“I’ll take that suit,” I said.
After all of my preparation, I would rather look as though I had a lumpy, bumpy behind than not compete.
Then my savior appeared. To this day I have no idea who she was, but to her I shall be eternally grateful (and 60 dollars richer).
This woman dragged me up to the competition promoter and commanded me to take off my dress.
“She didn’t know” the women explained. “She only brought the (dramatic pause) velour.”
“Fine,” the promoter sighed. “She can wear it.”
Tanned and glued
Very few hours of sleep and many practice poses in my hotel room mirror later, it was time for the morning show.
As I looked around the auditorium, it was evident that most of us hadn’t slept. Perhaps we had all risen too early to apply fake tanner. (I myself had successfully tanned most of the towels, the sheets, the toilet seat and half of the sink. My apologies to the hotel staff.)
I was excited to be there and, amazed at the way that I looked. I was stunned when I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw.
I waited with our other women in the novice class until it was our turn to go onstage.
“Did you glue your suit down?” one woman asked me.
Before I could answer she whipped out a tube of the glue.
“Pull down the top of your suit” she instructed.
I felt an intense burning sensation as the glue hit my flesh.
“Press the suit down. Now!!”
I pressed the cloth against my skin for a moment. Then I gently tugged at the fabric. She was right. That cloth was going nowhere.
It was finally our turn, and we all filed onstage. We did four turns so that the judges could view us from all angles and then performed all of the mandatory poses.
After relatively few minutes given all our work to get here, we were told to file off stage. It was noon. We were free to go until 6 p.m. that night.
I’m a winner
Returning that evening everyone looked frayed and exhausted. The end was in sight, though. After weeks of dieting we had a few more hours to endure and then we could feast on our favorite foods.
And then it was time.
We all filed up the stairs to the stage once and got ready to do our routines. “And next from Austin, Texas, is Carla Birnberg,” emcee Lonnie Teper announced.
Not realizing that the emcee could see past the curtains, I threw my arms up in the air and pretended to scream and cheer for myself.
“Carla’s a little excited!” Lonnie said to the crowd.
The music started and I walked out on to the stage. I posed, and I flexed, and I remembered all the important things like “keeping my stomach tight.”
I finished and as I waved and ran off stage, I heard the emcee say “Well Carla is having a great time!” And with that I had won. I had reached my goal of achieving the look that I wanted.
I had enjoyed both the process of getting to the competition and the experience of being there.
I had done it.
The judges weren’t as excited with either my achievement or my experience. According to their calculations I came in last.
What do they know though? They obviously couldn’t see what I saw reflected back at me in my mirror.