It is fascinating how enthusiasm for unusual things can be contagious.  At the YMCA where I exercise, I have observed a distinctive-looking woman working out for long periods every day.  She is my height or shorter, with past-the-shoulder length long white-blonde or pale grey hair (more “white” than grey.) She started talking to me one day when she noticed I was doing the Pilates’ 100. (You lie on your back with your legs up and stiff at a 45 degree angle, shoulders off the mat as well,  then pump your stiff arms up and down fast for a minute (or 100 beats). Your neck and shoulders are to be relaxed, so the only strain is on your abdominal muscles. Better than sit-ups, for it doesn’t hurt your back if done right.) She does them, plus some variations. I learned that she is preparing for her first body-builder competition.  I learned that there are four categories: Bikini, Figure, Physique, and Body Building.  Within each level there are competitions for beginners (never competed), novices (competed but never won), and professionals, and most also are divided into age categories.  As a “going on 40” mother of three, she thought that information would sway judges.  Like all of her competitors, she has between 8-10 percent body fat, and great muscle tone. 

From her I learned a new definition of “shredding.”  In body building, it means how distinct the muscle divisions are: can you see the ligaments and divisions? In Bikini, no shredding, just “look fit.” Figure, more muscles, but no real shredding. Physique, shredding there. Body building, shredding very visible, emphasized.  But it is more than muscles:  poses, confidence, “presence” and presentation (hair, bathing suit, body oiled, perfect make-up) make a big difference.  For some reason, wearing high heels is important to her, which is done in the first two categories. (That part did not make sense to me, but given she repeated it several times, I did not challenge.) She is going to compete in either beginner Bikini or Physique, at a competition in Duluth on Friday the 13th* (which she viewed as positive, since 13 is her lucky number).  

Her enthusiasm was contagious. Not that I am going to get into body-building (I am still trying to lose the weight I gained since retiring), but captivated me enough to go on-line to learn more about what she was talking about. And I will be watching for coverage in the Duluth newspaper.   

I cheer her on, and admire her efforts, even though I am still mostly clueless.  But now, “body building competitions” are not something done far away, but by someone I have met, and who will be competing locally. It is now real.  

Off topic, yet on a similar vein: via NetFlix, I watched a documentary called Chicken People, about people who raise chickens for competition. I knew of dog shows, cat shows, horse shows. I did not know there were chicken shows. Besides interviewing four or five competitors and tracking them as they prepared for a big show, the filmmakers interviewed their family members as well.  These noble souls (spouses, parents, kids) did their best to explain the loved one’s chicken obsession.  Again, a whole new world opened up before me.  And, if I hear of a chicken competition locally, I may attend!  

People are fascinating, in that so often there is more going on in others’ lives (and loves) than we may expect. The world is wondrous, in how many things can captivate and challenge us, if we are open to learning and being challenged.  If we are bored and/or stuck in neutral, maybe we have closed our eyes to the everyday small miracles that surround us!  


*Update: I saw the body-builder yesterday.  She was delighted to have taken 5th place in the competition and is now aiming for a competition in May.