Thinking Beyond the Tans and Baby Oil

A couple of days ago  I noticed a lady in her early to mid 50’s watching me at the gym as I finished a few reps of bench presses. We were both in the free weight area of the facility and she was performing bicep curls. After I finished my final rep of my final set, she asked, “you want to be the um…how you call dis? The body trainer eh?” I thought for a few seconds, bodytrainer....bodytrainer and replied, “Ohhhh! Bodybuilder. Do I want to be a bodybuilder?” I asked, pointing to myself. “No, no. Just trying to get in better shape.”  The lady went on to say that she mostly sees me in the free weight area. We work out at generally the same time and usually in the same area and have exchanged friendly smiles and nods, but no conversation had ensued until this day. We beat the nine to five crew, so sometimes it’s just the two of us.  I explained that I love free weights and the results from lifting, but a bodybuilder is serious about their regime and lifestyle. Someone who trains and eats like a bodybuilder, usually has hopes of looking somewhere along these lines if they don’t already. I Googled this picture on my phone of one of my fitness idols, the gorgeous Gladys Portuguese and showed it to the lady:

Beauty and brawn. Gladys Porteguese
Gladys Portuguese

Photo source

“She’s a bodybuilder and they live a very strict, unique lifestyle,” I smiled. I wasn’t sure if she understood, as her English seemed a tad limited, but oh yes, she did.
“No candy, no booze, no living!” she exclaimed, throwing up her expressive hands.
“Exactly!” I replied as we both started laughing out loud, high fiving each other.
“I no like so much muscle,” she said, vigorously shaking her finger. “I just want to….to.” She scratched her temple with a pensive look on her face, “I want to take off my flabs.”
“Oh me too,” I replied, pinching at my tricep skin, causing further bouts laughter.
“The trainer she tells me do the weights, so I do the weights,” she said. We parted ways, with a “see you tomorrow.” (same time, same place.)

On my walk home from the gym that evening, I wondered about this. What is a bodybuilder? Is it someone who competes on centre stage? Someone with an oiled up body and deep copper tan? Has an x amount of body fat and x amount of muscles mass? Eats six small meals a day, consisting primarily of protein? Is it that muscled up lunker at the local gym, grunting out with each rep? Does she look like Rachel Mclish or he like Flex Wheeler?

Do I have to look like this before I can consider myself a bodybuilder?


I bench press, bicep curl, squat and dead lift until my legs are dead.  I do all those things and more, but I don’t and realistically will never look that way. Although, I gotta tell ya, paying the $1.29 to superimpose my face in that body sure was worth it. I would never even consider calling myself a bodybuilder, because I thought it was all those things listed above and more. A physique and lifestyle that is different from my own. Then I came across an article in answering the question What is a Bodybuilder? The author goes on to state that it can be anyone who is making a conscious effort to improve their bodies. Here is the last paragraph of his article:

So next time you hear the term “bodybuilder”, hopefully you won’t limit your thoughts to bottles of baby oil and posing briefs. The concept of the bodybuilder is much deeper and far-reaching than that. And if you look closely, you’ll see that bodybuilders are everywhere.

Simply put, a bodybuilder builds a better body.

So then, maybe I am a bodybuilder, along with the lady I see regularly on the weight room floor at 3:45pm almost daily. Yes, we are trying to reduce our flab, but yes, we pump iron. We are trying to build our bodies.  We are both making a conscious effort to do so. I can’t wait to see her again. I’m going to smile and say, “M’am we are bodybuilders!” We may not be oiled up and tanned, with a tapered, V-shaped upper body and bulging calves ready to execute poses on a stage. We may not look remotely close to Mrs. Jean Claude VanDamme (aka Gladys Portuguese).  We may not bulk or lunk or eat steak and egg whites for breakfast, but my golly, we are ladies who lift and we should own that. (Hey, I’ve heard that weight training builds confidence too.)  We “bodybuilders” need to stick together.

Paragraph Source: to read the full article click here.

8 thoughts on “Thinking Beyond the Tans and Baby Oil

  1. LOL, I love your bodybuilding picture! You look great, lol! That lady at the gym sounds sweet and I love the conversation you had! I don’t ever want to look like a “real” bodybuilder, but I agree with you, I guess we are all bodybuilders if we’re in the gym and trying to improve our bodies!

    1. Haha! Thanks. I’m looking buffed right? That lady is very sweet and I’m glad we finally spoke. I think we’re all bodybuilders with various goals.

  2. haha…that pic of you is awesome! I don’t think I would ever want to compete and/or look like that (like ever ever) but I am impressed with the discipline of those who do!!

  3. I love this! It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I accepted myself as a bodybuilder. I have never competed or anything, but realized everything I do is most that of a bodybuilder. I’m always trying to build my body, so how am I not right? I think maybe it’s the stereotype of the meat head, spaghetti strap, fanny pack wearing stigma that is often thought of with bodybuilders, but that’s not right either. Ever sense I had that realization I’ve always called myself a bodybuilder without batting an eye.

    1. Thanks! It’s so true. Bodybuilders have that awful stigma. I completely agree with you. You do all the work of a bodybuilder, and look awesome so own it! I always thought I didn’t earn the right to call myself a bodybuilder, but I am changing that way of thinking because I work hard in the gym. I even own a mini fanny pack so I don’t misplace my locker keys 🙂

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