How Does It Feel....to Become a Bodybuilder?
Written by: Violet Myers
The ideal female form is a forever changing phenomenon. Each decade seems to harbour it’s own unique standard of beauty, from the hourglass figure of the 50’s to the slender boyish look of the 60’s. We’re still waiting for round, stretched and flabby to make a sweeping come back…any day now girls, any day. The 90’s saw the rise of ‘Heroin Chic’ – a look inspired by the super sexy figures of those dealing with crippling drug addictions, because nothing screams ‘FASHUN’ louder than a heart murmur and chronic liver damage. Following this, thin body shapes remained fashionable for several years in different variations: from the enigmatic thin and tall to the controversial return of tall and thin.
But now the ideal body has evolved again, with women shunning the ‘don’t hug me I’m as delicate as a baby bird’ look and embracing the arms, the abs and the all-important strong ass. The 2010’s is all about muscle and social media won’t rest until everybody knows. A daily barrage of bulging biceps, ripped abs and glutes rounder than Danny Devito are pinned, tagged and shared across the web and for many of us, this is where they stay. But for a few committed individuals these goals are a way of life.
Charlotte Clarke is 24, a former dancer and is competing in her first body building competition in April. We asked Charlotte to tell us about the realities of intense fitness, in an attempt to de-mystify the world of body building and extreme health:
“I’ve wanted to do it for years, but never thought I’d get the opportunity or be able to afford it. It can be very expensive, but my trainer put together a package for me. It can be £30 upwards for an hour with a trainer, so luckily the programme makes it more affordable. I met him while I was filming a TV advert for our gym, he asked me if I’d like him to train me and as soon as he suggested it a little seed started to grow. Then I knew I wanted to do it and that we’d do it together.”
“Since deciding to take this step I’ve had mixed reviews. A lot of people have given so much support, much more than I thought I’d get, while some are under the impression I want to be a female version of Arnold Schwaternegger. I don’t want to get like that, I physically couldn’t get like that, I have a small frame so it would look ridiculous anyway. I didn’t tell my parents straight away. I was nervous to tell them, it’s not everyday your daughter wants to be a body builder. But they’re really excited, they want to buy my first bikini. My Mum had two conditions; no steroids and she has to be there on the day. Their support was overwhelming, it made me cry!”
“I’m a vegan and people can be very judgmental about my food, they assume I’m not getting enough protein and that I can’t possibly reach my goals with this diet. But there are a lot of body builders who are vegan, some guys who are huge. You can get a lot of protein from a vegan diet you just have to track it. I’m bulking at the moment, so what I’m on right now is about 2,700 calories a day, it’s great, I eat round the clock and I love to eat! It’ll be a completely different story when I’m cutting – I’ll be begging for my food back!”
“Training comes in six week cycles. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are legs, then Tuesday is chest and back, Thursday is arms and shoulders and on top of that I do three days of HIIT training and core. Three times a week I do double gym days, interval sprints and three rounds of core. I have a full time bar job, so I have to workout between my shifts. Sometimes when I work a short shift, I’ll go do weights beforehand with my trainer then do my shift and then come back to the gym to do cardio, people say ‘“Charlotte you’re crazy, I’m going to bed!” but I’ve got to do it. My social life is kind of on hold at the moment but I’m not one to go out drinking anyway, I’ll have a very occasional drink. I don’t enjoy being drunk, I have catchups over coffee and lunch but don’t socialise in the evening. I’m 24 and I sound so old!”
“I was born with a heart defect. I would get heart palpitations for about 3 hours at a time, at 180 beats, so sat still I’d be exhausted. I had an operation at the end of my first year at uni, I took a couple of months out without doing any exercise. It was really weird to not exercise for so long. It was the longest I’ve taken out since I was about 2 years old. It was strange. I was scared when I came back to it, but then I started dancing again, moved to London and started lifting weights.”
“I feel like a specific type of person becomes a bodybuilder. You have to be completely dedicated and committed to it. I’m not the sort of person who could give up. I think a lot of people would like to give it a go as it can look quite glamorous on the competition side. But they don’t see just how much training goes into it and how much effort goes into the diet. You have to be in it the whole way, you can’t half heart it.”
“Generally, I’m feeling good, even with the double gym sessions. I do get tired though, but my body is responding well to the training – my body fat has gone down but my weight has gone up, I’ve put on four kilos of muscle. I’m quite a small girl and it’s weird that I get on the scales and I’m actually excited when the weight has gone up!”
Charlotte will be competing in Pure Elite. You can track her journey by following her blog.
Photos: Michael Barry
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