“Dear Unsupportive” is a series of letters addressing topics that offend others relating to female bodybuilding. “Unsupportive” is not specifically about you, Dear Reader (or maybe it is), but represents the many people who don’t understand, and in my cases, resent the sport and the women who participate in it. The author of these letters, “Muscle Girl Misunderstood,” represents the collective voices of the many women who live and love the bodybuilding lifestyle, but find support for their craft to be lacking. May these letters help give a voice to those who need it as well as a different perspective to haters everywhere.
We need to talk about the “B” word. You know, that thing that you “secretly” roll your eyes and make snarky comments about (don’t think I don’t notice). Heck, I can’t even say it out loud without having to brace myself for the tension it inevitably provokes. But it needs to be discussed, so we’re doing this. I’m going to say the word out loud and I’m going to explain my point of view and you’re going to totally change your mind about the whole thing and realize I’m a rock star.
Okay. Probably not that last part. I thought I’d throw it out in the universe just in case.
But anyway. Here it goes, are you ready?
Whew. That was tough. I think I might have thrown up in my mouth a little bit.
Ok. Now that the B-word is out of the way, let’s talk about this divisive topic and my decision to participate in a bodybuilding competition. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal in my life. It’s all I ever seem to think about, right?
Right. I’m saying this seriously. You. Are. Right. But let me make something clear: This is more than what outwardly appears to be an obsession with my looks. Because I know you think that’s what it is.
I can’t argue that this contest doesn’t monopolize my thoughts, because it does. After all, I’m preparing to participate in what feels to me like a journey to the Super Bowl or Olympics. I know, that sounds a bit dramatic since I am nowhere near the caliber of real athletes like Tom Brady or Lindsey Vonn. But this moment is just as significant to me as their events are to them, and requires a similar level of commitment if I hope to do well.
And I do hope to do well.
See, bodybuilding is not unlike other sports. And yes, this is a sport. Sure, I can understand how one could consider stepping out on a stage sashaying around in a bikini in front of hundreds of people a task that doesn’t require a whole lot of skill (however, have you ever tried walking in 4” stiletto heels?!). But you see the sport really isn’t what’s happening on that stage.
The sport is all of the training leading up to that moment.
Let me explain what the point of bodybuilding is in the first place.
Bodybuilding is the process of using weight to push the body beyond its physical capabilities in an attempt to increase its number of muscle cells, which reveals itself as visible muscle development. This is not a task that can be accomplished after one workout; it takes repeating the process over and over again to signal the body to create additional muscle tissue. It’s a slow, methodical, and (often) painful process.
So why do people do it, you wonder? I could ask that same question of any sport. Why do people find it exciting to run a ball from one side of a field to another while dodging freakishly large men in helmets? Or how about someone who finds it a thrill to run miles and miles in the shortest amount of time possible? Let’s not forgot the folks who find it fun to punch others in the face in the hopes of knocking them out.
Really, pretty much all sports sound ridiculous when you think about it. But they all have one thing in common.
They create an opportunity to overcome a difficult challenge.
Building new muscle is like that. A challenge. It’s a thrill to see your body – the body you’ve spent practically a lifetime criticizing – respond in a way that suddenly has you seeing beauty where you never did before. How is it possible that this body, this ordinary-average-person body can actually change in this way? Your body becomes something to revere instead of resent. And you keep going because you want to see what else you and your body can accomplish. You want to see how good you can really get.
Not so different than Tom Brady or Lindsey Vonn after all.
I know, you’re thinking get real – it’s all about how you look. And yes, that’s part of it. But how is that different than the vanity involved in deciding what clothes we wear, or how to style our hair, or even the sports we enjoy? All of these say something about us.
For me, my body says I’m strong. I’m dedicated. I’m worth it.
That’s a message I’m proud of.
I want you to be proud of me too.
Wow, I just got really sappy there.
The point is, bodybuilding provides the same challenge, the same commitment, the same satisfaction that characterize all athletes, regardless of their chosen outlet. And like all athletes, we should be celebrated, not criticized. The only thing that differentiates a bodybuilder from a football player is the way we play the game; but in the end, the outcome is the same.
We simply enjoy the thrill of competition. Whether that be with ourselves or others.
Well, okay, there’s one other thing that makes my sport a little different than others. The other thing that makes jaws clench and arms cross. You know, the “D” word.
But I’ll have to catch my breath for that one. And while I’m certain this riveting letter has totally sold you on the sport of bodybuilding, let’s let this conversation soak in just to make sure it sticks.
Yup, just throwing it out in the universe again. Go ahead, roll your eyes, I’ll look away.