Female body builders defy nature and bust the boundaries of what many believe to be socially acceptable in terms of femininity. Many have thighs and back muscles that are more developed than the average man, and they are proud of it. But, this is only when they are competing. The female bodybuilder when not on the stage and in front of a judge looks like any other well toned and fit female. In fact, she could pass off as what society deems as feminine perfection.
The sport of female body building began in the late 1970s. This came after the sexual revolution where women gained rights to vote, buy property and enter into the world reserved for men. However, when it comes to femininity and the shape, size and composition of the female body, society still has very strict guidelines. Perfection is a firm and well toned body complete with a thin waist, ample bust and legs that travel all the way to heaven. And, this is what the art of female bodybuilding delivers, a form of heaven.
Vanessa Auditore, a human behaviour and wellbeing specialist, began bodybuilding in 2000. For Vanessa, who has been a qualified personal trainer (PT) since 1998, it was a natural progression from what she refers to as her ‘sporty gal’ mentality.
“I have always been athletic and played sport such as netball and athletics, mainly distance, cross country and field events, at national levels throughout my primary and high school years,” Auditore said. “I had a break to pursue life a little and came back to sport when my son was about 5-years-old. He’s now almost 20,” she said.
Vanessa’s bodybuilding journey began as a form of rehabilitation.
“I wanted to challenge myself essentially. After years of being a PT I specialised in rehabilitation. This was partly due to an ankle reconstruction and I needed to heal myself, ” said Auditore. “I always like to know the ‘how’ of things. I evolved into a transformational life coach and then progressed onto counselling,” she said. “I could see that there was more to the healing process than working one dimensionally just with exercise.”
“In this respect, natural bodybuilding is the ultimate holistic transformational process,” said Auditore. “It is physical, mental, emotional, and hormonal, plus it builds esteem, especially when relationships with yourself and others comes under the microscope,” she said. “These need to be completely aligned to succeed.”
Having now competed for four years in Sydney, Vanessa is changing federations to the International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB), as her aspirations have shifted from national competition to the World Titles.
“My first competition was the New South Wales Titles,” said Auditore. “I placed and within two weeks I was on a plane to Melbourne to compete in the Australian Titles. This was my second competition,” she said. “I didn’t place here, but I was so thrilled to be there. To make it to the Australian Titles was an exhilarating and amazing experience. I was exhausted.”
“Planning is the key. And that is exactly what I did for competition three, the Australian Titles held in Sydney,” said Auditore. “I placed and I was determined to improve. I walked off that stage with a trophy in hand and a massive smile.”
Competition in Australia is open for competitors aged 16 years and over. There are varying levels of competition such as bodybuilder, figure, model and fitness. Judges of women’s competition typically look for defined well developed muscle and balance among the muscle groups. Good posture and posing along with a lean physique and stage presence also contribute to good results.
“To achieve results in natural body building you are training hard for most of the year,” said Auditore. “The last 12 weeks are the toughest because you begin to eat clean. Some call it dieting. Personally, I would rather see it as fine-tuning as diet implies restriction and that word does interesting things to people’s psyche which can affect the result,” she said. “For me it’s a disciplined choice to enhance my hours and hours of hard work, and to maximise my opportunities for success.”
“I use visualisation and sports psychology as a part of my process to prepare for that success,” said Auditore. “To push through when the training is really tough or for the moments when my motivation slips, because I am tired,” she said. “This is when I need to clarify my visions, give myself compelling reason, and to remain disciplined to eat completely clean when it counts.”
“My fuel is always the same,” said Auditore. “It’s only the portions that get adjusted. I find that a Paleo style diet works best for me. I am always gluten free, regardless of whether I am competing or not,” she said. “I also take supplements such as vital greens, slippery elm powder, apple cider vinegar, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D. I also follow biosignature protocols and take fish oil.”
The lead up to a competition is when Vanessa focuses on her building her body to meet the judges standards.
“Six months before competition, I am just training in stages. These focus on what body parts require attention so that the desired symmetry is developed by competition day,” said Auditore. “I also eat clean with occasional free days thrown in, where I eat what I like, throughout the week.”
“Three months out is pretty much same as my six month preparation, except my nutrition is beginning to become more disciplined. I eliminate the “treats” and I still have a day a week that is more relaxed,” said Auditore. “Training really is dependent on what needs fine tuning. This, for me, mostly includes high intensity and circuit work, which helps my physique to become tighter and leaner,” she said. “Meditation and my yoga practice then becomes a strong support to maintain holistic balance. I am also fine-tuning my posing and organising costumes, accessories, hair and makeup.”
“One month out, my diet becomes super clean with no treats and I am super focused on continuing to become as tight and as hard as I can. I can adjust this a few days before competition day by changing my diet, if I need to look a little softer,” said Auditore. “You can do this, but you can’t get harder in a few days, she said. “The last week is crucial and everything is monitored closely. Posing practice and just staying as relaxed and rested as possible are vital.”
Von Eirlys, TV production manager and producer of UnseenTV, Australia’s first online entertainment video network, says that body building for her is a lifestyle choice that enables her to maintain and enjoy excellent health.
“I have to travel a bit between capital cities for work, but I am also in training as a female bodybuilder in the bikini and sports model categories. I have to train for a minimum of four days a week for at least 45 minutes,” said Eirlys. “This is regardless of where I am, at any given point,” she said. “I still need to work out either in a gym, outdoors or in my hotel room.”
“Because I am a bodybuilder, my lifestyle becomes bodybuilding. I incorporate all aspects of my life into my training and diet,” said Eirlys. “It is lifestyle choice not a diet or workout plan. My body and health are an investment, ” she said. “I have to take ownership of my own dieting and exercise because it is impossible for someone else to do it for me.”
“I have shared interests with all of my friends, which not only makes my friendships convenient but 100 percent genuine and committed, ” said Eirlys. “No one in my life is eating badly around me or encouraging me to be negative to my body or health. I also save so much money eating at home or pre-preparing my meals and I have such an amazing work ethic because I am energetic, motivated and healthy, which means zero sick days,” she said.
Von says that preparation is the key to success, especially when she is travelling.
“I am in a long distance relationship so I travel every 10 days for four days,” said Eirlys. “I also travel interstate for work at least once a month for at a minimum of three days. I have been to every continent, including Antarctica, and I have been to every major city in Australia,” she said. “This is mostly for work projects, but I have also backpacked around Europe and South East Asia for leisure.”
“Preparation is important. I always Google where the closest gym is in the area, and I take resistance bands, skipping rope and an interval timer with me everywhere I go, just in case I cannot find a local gym,” said Eirlys. “If I cannot find a gym then I do plyometric interval and circuit training in my hotel room. Plus, I use my creativity to create the necessary program to suit my schedule,” she said. “I also use bodyrockers.tv workouts as they are often very handy.”
“In regards to nutrition, I prepare everything weekly. This means I pre-package all of my protein powders and supplements into individual portions and I always eat clean foods from local supermarkets,” said Eirlys. “If there are no cooking facilities in my room then I am that annoying girl who orders “off the menu” at restaurants and asks for a gluten free, diary free, no dressing, and no cooking oil meal,” she said. “Believe it or not I have never been turned down and if I say it nicely with a smile they are more than happy to oblige.”
Von says that her trainer has a motto that she never forgets — “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” This motto resonates well with her as she is driven to succeed.
“Preparation is my number one tip for health. If you do not prepare you will become very time poor and your fitness and health will falter. I prepare everything, every single Sunday,” said Eirlys. “It takes about 30 minutes of my time to prepare my meal plan and package supplements,” she said. “Therefore I know exactly what I am going to be eating on Thursday for my fourth meal of the day, which prevents me from reaching for that Tim Tam or ordering a meal from a pub.”
Mind over matter is a strong force in Von’s training. She says that by incorporating work, exercise and social time into her life she is able to live pleasurably. This means finding out what you enjoy most so that you commit to it 100 percent.
“It is all about psychology,” said Eirlys. “I love working out because I know what my results are going to be. Yes, it hurts while I am training and my fat is crying (sweat). It is a struggle to push through the last few reps. But, I do it because I love knowing what I am going to achieve and I absolutely love having the body confidence to wear a bikini in public,” she said. “I eat well because I know what I will have to do to burn it off and I am too lazy to run for 45 minutes to burn off a McDonalds burger, especially when it takes 15 minutes to cook up some veggies and lean meat. I am not a mathematician, but I figure this gives me at least 30 minutes of my own time to be lazy and indulge in Facebook or watch television.”
Von says that motivation has allowed her to gain the results that she has wanted and that she does not believe in restricting her diet.
“Find something that will motivate you. Rather than thinking “aww do I really have to go to the gym,” think “Excellent, I get to go to the gym now”. I have a personal trainer who checks in on me every single day and if I fail to go to the gym I feel so guilty,” said Eirlys. “Plus, I suffer the next time I workout with him. I pay him to train me so it is my money I am wasting if I lie to myself about my training.”
“Before I got a personal trainer my motivation was competition and judgment. That might sounds negative but it is actually a positive. When I went to the gym I would use other gym goers as motivation to push myself further,” said Eirlys. “Rather than stopping at my eighth repetition because I was fatiguing, I would continue pushing to my sixteenth because I would imagine that other gym goers would be impressed by my efforts.” she said. “I use an interval timer so that I remain honest with myself, if I am doing a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout on the stationary bike, it prevents me from “cheating” on my workout.”
“Eating, it is very important to eat and to eat regularly. I do not calorie count, I do not starve myself,” said Eirlys. “I eat carbs, fats, sugars and proteins. I just eat them at the right time of day and in the correct portions,” she said. “I follow a few rules, 1. Eat five to six times a day and never skip a meal, 2. Eat clean, no pre-packaged products, 3. No take away or fast foods, and 4. Always read food labels.”
The most difficult health and fitness obstacles that Von has needed to overcome whilst travelling have been associated with peer group pressure.
“When I first started training and dieting I was often led by peer pressure. I lacked motivation because colleagues and friends were not very supportive of my goals,” said Eirlys. “I often, for convenience, would eat out a lot, not train and would just be plain lazy,” she said. “But, I noticed dramatic differences in my energy levels, my work ethic, my moods and especially in my body and health. It took time to overcome these.”
Vanessa Auditore says that she relies on her support network as competition is an emotional roller coaster ride that takes nerves of titanium to work through.
“Competition day is long and hard on the nerves. This is probably because of the massive lead up to getting on stage. There is so much expectation. The outcomes are in the hands of the judges who are often looking for something in particular on that day. This can be so subjective, and you can’t really know what they want until you get up there,” said Auditore. “It’s also exhilarating. You have dedicated so much to this one day. It is here. And there is no way of hiding when you’re on stage in a bikini.”
“Nerves can get the better of you,” said Auditore. “I remember my first competition. The adrenaline was pumping. I was flexing so hard and shaking like a leaf. I couldn’t control the twitching nor could I consciously relax the poses,” she said. “It’s the weirdest experience, especially when you’re smiling like a maniac and all you want to do is run off that stage.”
“Nobody succeeds at this level alone. I value the benefits of having people in your corner. For me, I have my training partner George Bishay, known as “G”, he is a very special guy and he makes a massive difference to my training, we help each other along,” said Auditore. “Nathan Page, an IFBB judge, also helps me to build on my body. I work with him on my legs as they are my strongest body part and I need to create a leaner leg,” she said. “Nathan helps me to fine tune and with posing. Nathan is great we have a laugh and he pushes me hard on leg days, harder than I would by myself.”
“I have my family and friends support and my clients love to see me walking my talk,” said Auditore. “I also have an amazing sister, Carlene Fuchs, who is a naturopath. She is invaluable when it comes to ensuring that my hormones and endocrine system stays healthy.”
“I did it alone during my first competition, and that was really tough. People that share your vision offer love and support and are very special to me,” said Auditore. “I am very particular about who is in my space, as some people’s attitudes, beliefs and energies are contagious. I want to ensure that they are adding value not taking it away,” she said. “At this level there isn’t much flexibility. I work hard to achieve my goals and they can slip through your fingers if you aren’t aware of your own return on investment (ROI).”
For those looking to break into the sport of bodybuilding, Vanessa recommends doing a little research and planning beforehand so that you can prepare yourself physically and emotionally.
“You need to plan, research and plan, talk to experienced trainers of competitors and to competitors themselves,” said Auditore. “And as you train, remember that if you feel exhausted, moody and depleted, then something is wrong. Listen to your body and talk to the experts,” she said. “Competition is hard. It is demanding on every single aspect of you, your body, mind, emotions and esteem. You need to know how to maintain a lean, strong body, and to be able to keep enhancing your physique without losing out in other areas of your life. Overall, be prepared to make sacrifices. Bring your determination and leave your attitude at home.”