Bodybuilding has changed my life in more ways than one. I never thought it would have this effect on me, and if only I’d known just what a wonderful part it would play in my life When I talk about bodybuilding, it tends to build a couple of entirely different pictures in mind. One is of a hugely muscular man and lifts hundreds of kilograms of weight. Then you have the other picture of a man who’s always at the gym, lifting weights, drinking—a pre-workout and constantly on a diet.Both of these guys are probably competing and on stage with an oiled and tanned up body. Does the word also produce a woman who is athletic and muscular when it comes to bodybuilding? Most likely not. This is what I want to change about the whole concept of bodybuilding – there are plenty of us women out there who are benefiting from lifting weights all the time. I first started my bodybuilding journey when I wanted to lose my post-baby weight gain. I started with body pump and religiously attended classes a couple of times a week. The first time I did my first class, I could not walk up and downstairs. Every step hurt so much, but I was determined to keep doing it, as I wanted to change my body. That began my bodybuilding journey where it continues and will for as long as I occupy space on the plant. I never really consider myself a bodybuilder. From a consumer point of view, I don’t fit into the category of bodybuilder at all. That’s the beauty of this industry; you don’t have to slot yourself in a particular box. When you start to compete in bodybuilding shows, the title of an athlete is immediately placed on you. That suited me quite well because I consider myself a dedicated individual willing to do what it takes. I compete with myself, and with every show, I’m dedicated to becoming better than I was initially. I believe all bodybuilders are very similar. We all want to exceed our expectations somehow, and we become somewhat obsessed with sculpting the best physique. I loved the aspect of pushing myself beyond the capabilities of my body. I believe that’s what set’s a person apart from an athlete. Athleticism isn’t always about getting to the Olympics; it’s overcoming the battle we have built inside ourselves. Everyone starts to train for various reasons. Perhaps it begins with something simple and then moves onto something a little more internal. It does take a bit of time to figure out what it will be for you, but I knew that it was more than weight loss earlier on. When I became the size that I wanted, there was something more for me. Every day, exercising would bring some therapeutic value to my heart and soul. It was never the cardio aspect; lifting weights is what made the difference to me. My never-ending love affair with bodybuilding has a little to do with the self-image factor and a lot to do with busting my limitations. Usually, when you start lifting, you don’t believe that you would ever perform certain things that are challenging to your strength. Slowly, as you keep pushing yourself, all these limitations start to collapse. Sometimes I felt like a baby in training – every single thing I overcome, I just wanted to keep going to the next level. It filters through to other areas of my life, such as career, goals and anything else I’ve developed a passion for (including writing). You can spot these people from a mile away in the gym. They are working the hardest and look like they know what they are doing. It happens to be the byproduct of dedication and commitment that comes with the weight training package. I love seeing women transform from the person they are to what they want to become. It’s incredibly empowering. It’s the catalyst for life-changing events moving forward. I certainly feel that If I achieve all of my lifting goals, then everything else will come to me very quickly. That’s something I’ve built for myself for over 15 years. It’s nice to tap into that inner strength and use it any time you need it or when things get rough in your life. As I type this, my most challenging life moment is yet to come. My mum has pancreatic cancer, and her kindeys are slowly shutting down. There will come a time when she won’t be around anymore, and that scares me to pieces. When are we ever comfortable or ready to lose the person we love? I don’t know how I will cope or what I’ll do. But the one thing I can turn to every day to make my inner and outer body strong is to keep on lifting. When I’m crying, scared or confused, all I have to do is go to the gym and raise the bar. There isn’t a need to think about what’s going on or what will happen in the future. Right now, all I can see and think about is the bar. That 30–45 minutes of complete focus on only that. The outside world seems to silence itself. For a reason beyond my understanding, it calms and soothes my mind and body. I feel like now I’m ready and can cope with anything painful or uncomfortable that comes my way. That’s how lifting has changed my own life.