Today I have a special interview from a friend of mine from grade school and high school. Her name is Amy and she participates in body building competitions.
Me: Amy thanks for agreeing to this interview and let me start with a few basics. First off, I know this is taboo since you are a lady, but how old are you and how long have you been into fitness training/body building? What gym or trainers do you use? Are there contractual obligations?
Amy: 41 years old. Started training in 2010, first competition in 2012. Started out with Bombshell (in Florida) for a year but moved on after that to current gym Muscle King for more customized training program. Usually there are contracts that last for a year at a time.
Me: Forgive me but I remember you from high school and farther back as literally the girl next door (since you lived basically across the street). I know you did some athletics and such for school and I always viewed you as very smart. So give me some broad overview of how you came to be living in Georgia, became an assistant Physics Professor and got into weight training/body building for competitions?
Amy: Was employed at LSU (Louisiana State University) as an Assistant Physics Professor. Wanted to feel healthier (felt overweight) after getting divorced. EX was into fitness training.
Me: So you deal with Physics regularly – is that a bit like rocket science since there is so much math involved?
Amy: (Laughs) Applied physics is involved in astronomy so it’s a natural extension.
Me: As a casual observer to weight training/body building for a female, let me throw out some perceptions or maybe misconceptions and you can correct me if I’m wrong. Female body building, by some opinions, is not embraced as fully as men’s body building. Would you agree or disagree and why or why not?
Amy: Have not really heard anything negative. Get stared at a lot. Guys in the grocery store, in public or at the local gym get intimidated. In the free weight section, the guys clear out when (I) start working out. (I) can lift a 150 pound dumbbell but usually workout with 50 pound dumbbells.
Me: Have you experienced any backlash or attempted intimidation from individuals for competing in a male dominated sport?
Amy: Not really. Competitors are generally very constructive and encouraging. Once you get to the competition site all the work is done. Other competitors are often helpful in the training process too, helping push through difficult times when food cravings hit or days when motivation is lacking.
Me: Doing what you do in preparing for a competition takes incredible resolve, focus and planning. How does your support system (family, friends, fellow competitors, etc) help drive you to the finish line and get you ready to compete?
Amy: My support system is great and absolutely essential. Without them (I) couldn’t do this. There is no way. Tony (husband) would always say encouraging things: Keep your eye on the prize or don’t blow it on cravings. Victoria (daughter) always wants to go to the competitions and do my hair and makeup.
Me: OK now for some less heavy questions. Most people I see in weight training/body building competitions seem to be very tan. Instantly I am jealous as I am slightly darker than copy paper. Is being tan a requirement? Do most competitors use tanning products or just go to tanning places?
Amy: Being tan is essential. The more tan the better the definition of the muscles comes out (on stage). (I) use tanning beds plus at the competitions you can get spray tan – usually at least two coats and an oil glaze.
Me: Do a lot of body builder types get tattoos or is that frowned upon considering you are showing off your body and the definition and that makes it harder to see that? Do you have any?
Amy: (I) would say at least half the competitors have tattoos. Obviously placement (visibility) on the body and how large, dark, subject matter etc are a consideration. Yes, (I) have one tattoo on my right thigh of a pentagram with a mystic purple flame inside.
Me: For the official competitions, how much paperwork is involved? Is there an interview process or can anyone enter? Is it like boxing where there are weight classes? I would assume there is some sort of drug testing for illegal substances along with performance enhancing drugs? Steroids?
Amy: The paperwork is minimal. Standard application stuff. Age, verifying residency. Divisions are done by height for women’s physique. For men’s body builder done by weight. To be a member of the NPC costs $100-125 per year (guestimating). You can enter multiple classes as well. (I) have entered Open 35 and Over and also 40 and Over — you just have you just have to pay for each class you enter for each competition. There is no testing for steroids.
Me: In football the endgame for all teams is the Superbowl. Is there any kind of weight training/body building Superbowl for your sport?
Amy: For amateurs it is Nationals, the week before Thanksgiving and that location usually moves year to year. For the pros, it is Oylmpia which was mid September and it is now fixed in Las Vegas.
Me: Sorry if I jump around as I tend to have ideas come to me at random sometimes. You obviously enjoy your sport or you wouldn’t put yourself through the mental and physical rigors needed to compete. I know when kids start playing baseball, coaches generally try to dissuade their athletes from doing potentially harmful things like trying to throw curve balls because of the stress on the elbow and increased chance of injury. In your opinion when is an appropriate time for a young person to begin the training regimes needed to compete in body building and strong person competitions?
Amy: Victoria (daughter) wants to start training. A good time to start for young people is around high school age. When (I) asked her what her goal was, she said to be bigger than Miss Olympia.
Me: I know when I am at work or working on a personal project, music is vital for me. The right mix of songs is essential to pep me up and get me on a roll. Besides the music you perform with, what music gets you going and puts you in zone? And I beg of you please do not say Justin Bieber (lol).
Amy: (Laughs) (I) put on Pandora Radio. Some of my favorites are Korn, Static X, White Zombie, Disturbed, etc.
Me: I noticed on one of your personal social media account, you promote your peers and competitions. With the nature of your sport, how do you think social media enhances you as a brand and personality?
Amy: I am on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (amybattles42). I like to put up a lot of pictures for promotion because branding yourself is very important.
Me: To be honest, I am not that familiar with the in’s and out’s of bodybuilding, professional lifting and endurance competitions aside from flipping through the channels and see incredibly defined people on ESPN or on the pages of fitness magazines. How much do you think it costs an athlete in your genre compared to a normal person? Taking into account supplements, gym memberships, home gym equipment, travel, competition wardrobe, entry fees and all the other things that a outsider wouldn’t even think of?
Amy: (Does a mental calculation for about 30 seconds) Huh. Wow. That’s alarming. I would say roughly about $7000 a year. It’s an expensive hobby. Lot’s of extra laundry (from training sessions). Lots of supplements. Things people probably would not think of are in time management. You have to eat every 2-3 hours. So meal prep is a must. Time management is key to organizing schedule and keeping to a routine for eating and training.
Me: So what organizations do you belong to in association with your sport? Is there like minor leagues and major leagues of your sport?
Amy: Presently NPC – National Physique Competition (for Amateurs). Working towards IFBB (the Pros), International Federation of Body Builders (now International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness).
Me: How does someone go from average looking with some muscle tone to rippling muscles that seem to bubble off out of the skin? Isn’t there only so much bulk a frame can add?
Amy: Actually muscle massage is an important factor in bulking and developing muscle. Fascia is the thin layer covering your muscles. It can stretch with massage. Obviously it can tear as well but with massage in conjunction with your workouts the muscles can spread out and get bigger.
Me: I know body builders and fitness athletes are people just like us couch potatoes just more physically imposing (lol). So what are gifts that body builder-types would universally like?
Amy: Haulin Hooks, workout clothes, workout stuff. Versa Gripps made of leather are my favorite. It locks around your wrist to help you get through workouts where your forearm gets tired but you still need to power through on back lifting workouts.
Me: Back on the subject of the beefy stereo-type muscle-heads, let me ask a couple of questions. When you first tell someone that you are into fitness training and bodybuilding, what is predominantly the initial reaction? Also what is the official name for you as this type of athlete?
Amy: (I) get lots of silly questions: Do you workout a lot or go to the gym? Officially classified as a Competitor but to the layman, bodybuilder.
Me: OK how to put this next question gently; how often do people just assume you are a lesbian? I ask because I think a lot of people do not understand the type of sport and how that should correlate with all the traditional swimsuit models and delicately feminine portrayals. Or am I off base here?
Amy: Nope. No offers from lesbians for dates. But that is funny.
Me: Your particular sport I wouldn’t think would have an off season as it is not dependent on weather or venue like tennis or baseball or something of that nature. So how often are competitions open to you? Do you have to qualify for certain events based on prior performances or a point system like golf or racing?
Amy: You do have to qualify for the bigger events. There is a small qualifier in October 2016. Anything more than 2-3 shows per year is too much. With the training involved and down time, your body cannot heal and respond like it needs to. After a show, (I) generally have 3-4 weeks off to binge, and I think ‘why do people do this to their bodies’ because the junk food makes me feel so bad. But sometimes your body just has cravings and (I) need to get it out of my system.
Me: Any one who knows me, knows I am not a morning person. I crawl out of bed cursing the alarm clock and anything else that comes into focus at 5:30 in the morning when I get up. What is your favorite time of day and how does the time of day affect your mood if at all? Do you get the endorphin rush? Because to me it seems like a myth. lol.
Amy: (I) not a morning person. (laughs) Best time to train is after the third meal of the day, generally in the afternoon. No body part should be worked more than an hour a day. More than that is overworking it. And yes I get the endorphin rush.
Me: Is there anything that I haven’t asked or covered that you would like to address either on a serious or just off-the-cuff tidbit?
Amy: Bodybuilding is different a different animal. Casual people are only interested in the freaks, the super hulks, the really out of the ordinary.
Me: OK in closing when and where is your next official competition and will there be any coverage on-line, in-print, via social media or televised that I and my readers can check out?
Amy: The Olympia is televised online – streamed live. Sites like Muscular Development or BodyBuilding.com are good to follow the sport. NPC typically only has pictures and interviews. (I) really like Dave Palumbo as my favorite commentator. And Rich Piana is an amazing competitor.
Me: I have to say your name is not only a great name but also a personal statement that I think is a bonus in branding for your sport: Amy Battles.
Amy: The answer is 42. lol. (see the novel: The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Me: Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences and I hope to maybe do a follow-up interview in the future once I learn enough to ask some more substantial questions about what you do. Cheers!
Please visit these links to see photos and read more about Amy and her journey.
And here are a few throw back pictures from when I knew her in a different life. From a small town (on top of a human pyramid), she is now competing on a national level. I hope she doesn’t hop on plane, come back to Missouri and bear hug me to death for these. 🙂