Behind the scenes of a female body building competition.
Twenty-year-old Lauretta Curtis is petite, blonde and bubbly with a warm Derbyshire accent… She could also rip your arm off and grapple you to the floor in seconds – not that she would, she’s too nice for that. But while she may look slim and sweet wrapped up in her winter layers, Lauretta is not to be messed with. See her in a bikini and you’ll realise the girl is pure muscle, and a champion body builder to boot. We asked her how the devil she got into the sport, what’s with those tans and is it all backstabbing and bitching backstage?
Why on earth choose bodybuilding?
I’d been working in fitness for a couple of years and while sport and exercise have always been part of my life – Lauretta is a Personal trainer, English schools sprinting champion and ex gymnast – I was ready for my next challenge.
While many people look at photos of female body builders and think eurgh, I’ve always had a lot of respect for them and the work they put into their bodies. So I decided ‘why not have a crack?’
The bodybuilding mentor
I moved to London last summer and met bodybuilding trainer Tracey-Anne King at a gym near my home in South London. She looked me up and down and went, ‘yeah, you can do it’. And that was that. I was booked into the UKBFF Stars of Tomorrow 2012 competition and my bodybuilding journey started.
The hardcore training schedule
As the competition was only five weeks away, I had a lot of hard work to do. Fast. Luckily I had a good muscle base from my general gym training but the bodybuilding look is very different. It’s all about being nipped in in the right places – female body builders have tiny waists, wide backs and very strong tight glutes – so we really worked on those areas.
It took a LOT of dedication. My plan involved intense weight-training sessions and lots of steady state cardio. A typical day would be:
Get up at 5.30am to train clients, followed by my own steady state cardio session to keep my weight down – typically an incline walk on the treadmill or an uphill session on the stepper. Then I’d try and get some rest before heading back to the gym for an hour of weight training, focusing on different body parts each day. I’d then train more clients, do some more cardio and train my core and abs at home. I was constantly knackered!
The lean and clean diet
While I was training I had the cleanest diet ever. To accentuate your muscles for competition you need to be ultra lean. I dropped around a stone eating lean protein like turkey, chicken and fish and green veg such as broccoli, kale, asparagus and green beans. I also had sweet potatoes, eggs (lots and lots of eggs) oats and steak. I had to cut out salt as it affects water balance. It was a very strict diet and although it’s good to do it now and again it’s not sustainable long term.
The mental challenge
Training for this competition was probably the biggest challenge of my life. Mentally you’re so tired that even the smallest things become difficult. I remember trying to walk home from the train station and calling my flatmate in tears because I was so tired I didn’t think I could make it. It’s really important to have a good support network around you – you really do need it.
The body changes
The change in my body was dramatic. My waist was tiny! I’d look at my body in the mirror and everyday I’d see small changes. You have to be so disciplined but seeing those changes is a great reward.
The skimpy outfits
Most of the bikinis are made-to-order. I got mine from Harlequin who make costumes for Jody Marsh. You need something that is going to make you stand out and show your personality on stage. I had a black one and also royal blue, as it works well with my blonde hair. There were a few diamantés on there too as a bit of sparkle catches the light. While bodybuilding outfits have a reputation for being garish, they follow fashion more these day so they’re a lot less outrageous than you might think.
Fake tans show muscle definition on stage. Generally speaking, the higher the category you’re in – ie the more muscular you are – the darker you go! I had two spray tans a couple of days in a row and shimmer oil for competition day. There are specialist spray tanners who know all about bodybuilding and spray most of the competitors.
The backstage atmosphere
When the day came I wasn’t actually nervous I was just so focused… and tired and dehydrated too. You don’t drink the day before a competition to define your muscles and then on the day itself you carb up as the glycogen makes your muscles plump out.
There’s a lot of eyeing each other up as you go and sign in but everyone was really friendly. I was expecting quite a bit of rivalry but there was no bitchiness. Backstage everyone was helping each other with their tans and makeup. I did have a moment though where I stepped back, looked around to see all these body obsessed people oiling each other up and thought, ‘what on earth am I doing?’
Going on stage was an amazing experience. I loved it. You walk around, do quarter turns and flex your muscles. It’s very strange when you think that you’re being judged on your body when, as a woman, you already have body issues but the judges look at your personality and how you present yourself too.
I’m very competitive and I expected to place, I wasn’t doing all that work for nothing! So when I came second it was great. Apparently my posing wasn’t perfect – I hadn’t shown my back off enough – which meant I missed out on first place. That was pretty humbling but it gives me something to work on for next time.
The first thing I did when I came off stage was cry – tears of joy obviously. I gave my coach Tracey a big hug and then I went on the search for some peanut butter and crackers and a big bar of chocolate! Tracey warned me not too eat too much as when your body’s not used to it after all that clean eating it can make you really ill. Luckily, I didn’t have that problem. I got home and polished off a Dominos pizza, potato wedges and cookie dough ice cream.
Next up is The National’s in April where I hope to qualify for the British Champs. I’m also moving to Leicester (where I lived previously) where I will be personal training and training myself at The Warehouse Gym with a great bunch of likeminded people. I would also like to say a special thank you to my coach, friends and family who have helped me along my journey, without them it would not have been possible.