Abel Dzobo : Lifestyle Correspondent
ON August 6 her muscles scared away other contestants at International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (IBFF) Classic and they pulled out leaving her to pick the gong uncontested. She was crowned IBFF 2016 Ms Figure in a scenario they call walkover in soccer diction. Two weeks ago, Juliet Anderson (nee Chimbadzo (in pictures)) also won at the Mr and Ms Iron Man competitions at Longcheng Plaza and she is basking in glory of being a bodybuilding champion.
But many people take bodybuilding as an unusual sport for females and participants have often been criticised in their communities.
Developing muscles has for time immemorial been associated with males while women were always supposed to be the fairer sex.
“Bodybuilding does not in any way take away your femininity. I think it’s just the mentality of people. Bodybuilding makes you live a healthier lifestyle, you feel good about yourself and look fit. You feel confident in your skin,” she says with a giggle.
Anderson says on stage one tenses their muscles to bring out the abs, but that does not necessarily mean one now has permanently tough tissue.
“When I am preparing for a competition, I go to extremes. I go harder on my work regime. Normally what you look like on stage is not really what you look like every day. I still look amazing, I still feel great,” she says as she flicks a strand of hair from her face.
Some ladies are of the view that bodybuilding will actually destroy their figures
“To the ladies out there, go to the gym and work on your awesome looks. Fitness won’t take away your curves, it actually accentuates them. That is why I won Ms Figure at IBFF Classic 2016, you actually look better, great even. I also won Ms Iron Man 2016 recently,” she says.
She intimates that being a well-rounded woman actually makes you win in competitions, not just being muscular.
“Winning a body-building competition means the judges believe you are a more rounded woman, no fat. You are fit. They look at your hair. They look at your skin, its tone, is it healthy skin? Your nails, your dressing sense, do clothes fit? Your heels, are you comfortable wearing heels? So even competitions reward you for being more of a woman, a healthy woman, rather than for looking like a man,” she says.
Zimbabwean men are fast waking up to the fact that being fat with a big pot-belly is not a wealth symbol anymore.
“As a man you cannot let yourself fall prey to heart diseases just because you want to appear rich. If you are rich then have a fat bank account, but not that pot-belly. It’s irresponsible for a man to stuff himself with food just for the sake of putting up a semblance of affluence.”
In Zimbabwe, as in the rest of Africa, women are also now aware of the fact that being huge is opening a portal for attack from various cardio-vascular ailments such as high blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes.
“Society should stop stereotypes against women in body-building because all they are doing is robbing women of their freedom. Fitness is now a matter of life and death. With all the fast food outlets sprouting up everywhere in Harare streets, and affordable too, some of them international, it’s a health time bomb for women. The need to exercise has never been greater,” Anderson says.
The conversation goes to the type of food she eats when not on competition. Organic is the way to go, she says.
“I stick to a clean diet of lots of protein and vegetables, sweet potatoes and brown rice, among other organic foods. If you want to lose weight, then go on diet and don’t eat too much starch. No sadza. Then exercises will burn excess fat, but you have to make sure you are not adding more fat through eating starch.”
When preparing for a competition, then her diet becomes even more interesting.
“When I’m on competition I eat strictly boiled chicken breast, not fried. I also have boiled fish and boiled vegetables with only water.”
So does she ever spoil herself?
“After competitions I can spoil myself with cake, just once in a while.”
And which areas of her body does she develop for the competition?
“I develop the biceps, triceps, the back and the abdominal area. Then on the legs there is more work to be done, that is, the hamstring, quads and the calf. The moment you start, you don’t want to stop.”
And the type of exercises?
“When preparing for competitions I normally do lots of cardio-vascular exercises, weight lifting, roller wheel about 200, then 100 leg raises and 100 crunches for the stomach each day,.”
What started as a hobby has now become an all-consuming passion for the mother of three, who is also a wife and businesswoman. She started professional body-building only last year, though she had been working out in the gym on general body fitness for years.
She is excited at the chance of going to the Arnold Classic in South Africa next year that winning at the Mr and Ms Ironman competition presented.
“My husband, Ben, is a former body-builder and he encourages me, he has been very supportive. Also my son Denzel and two daughters, Rutendo and Marshia have been cheering me on,” she says with a smile.
“I’ve always been into fitness, but my father, Edward Chimbadzo, has made a mark. He is a body-builder and I have always admired the hard work he puts in taking care of his body and he has always looked younger than his age and that inspires me. My former trainer, Barbra Jambwa, after seeing my passion for the sport, encouraged me to try competing. I have never looked back, and with the support of my current trainer, Samson Mapuranga, the dream is coming true.”
And now she wants other women to take up body-building.
But another challenge would be on the cultural angle, whereby some feel slim women, or size zero, is a Western stereotype, that the typical African woman is big and rounded.
Anderson laughs her lungs out.
“Fitness is not size zero. It’s the absence of excess fat. That big African woman was big physically, but it was real flesh not fat. The African rural woman would have a baby on her back and a bundle of firewood on her head.
“Then she would be working in the fields, a baby strapped on her back while the men would have gone to war, to hunt or later on, to town as employees. After working in the fields the woman would go to fetch water, the same baby strapped on her back. Cooking was not even counted as work.”
Anderson pauses, then her eyes light up.
“The huge African woman was superwoman, she was fit. But today’s big woman is big because she is eating junk food and works in the office, not the fields. She is just building up those calories, and then cholesterol comes and the misery begins as hypertension takes its toll. Don’t let that happen to you.”
Then the other concern is that gyms are not friendly towards women as they are more male-oriented and women could be called names or whistled at.
“As women we spend more time with men in the workplace than in the gym, yet we cannot say workplaces are not suitable for women.
“Actually you get more respect from men in the gym. They are actually more willing to help you with your exercises, but you don’t even need the help. So it’s all good.”
And more instructors are male, can husbands trust instructors with their wives?
“Instructors are professionals. Just like the doctor, the dentist. So if a woman is upright she is upright. Actually today the laws are more protective of women than ever before. My husband trusts me, and it has never been an issue that my body-building instructor is a man.”
She also feels a home gym could do the trick.
“One should also consider installing gym equipment at home. One can have a treadmill, a spin bike, a few dumbbells, skipping rope and a roller wheel, and the gym is set.”
Body-building is also seen as an expensive sport.
“A skip rope costs $2 while general practitioner’s (doctor) consultation fees is $20. If one wants to take the gym route, gyms fees per month are from $40. Employers should also consider paying gym fees for their employees, it’s cheaper than having them miss work while sick because of weight issues,” she says.
And what is her opinion on herbs that are being sold in town and touted as the panacea to weight problems?
“Workout and diet are the real remedies. Who knows the ingredients of those herbs, and why leave your life to the unknown,” she says.
She also hopes she can inspire other women in Zimbabwe.
“I want to see myself competing internationally and also inspiring other women, young and old, to get into fitness and body-building. To the women out there, burn that excess fat, and look great.”