Durban: Bodybuilding is becoming more popular among women, particularly Indian women.
Darren Hubraj, the chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal branch of Bodybuilding South Africa, said the sport has grown in popularity over the past five years.
“There is definitely a slow but steady increase in the number of Indian women showing interest in competitive fitness. We have seen increases in both the Beach Bikini and Fitness Bikini categories in this regard,” HE SAID.
Hubraj said the rise could be influenced by social media.
“Social trends and personal physical goal setting are contributing factors for Indian women being more health-conscious. The competitive edge stems from the sense of achievement from being awarded and recognised for their efforts as well as the boost this achievement gives them toward a career within the health and fitness industry.”
He said more women were opting to follow their passion and pursue careers as personal trainers and coaches, of which some decisions started from winning competitions.
“We have also seen a number of Indian females representing their provinces at the South African National Championships and some even qualifying for the world championships.”
Nazreen Ally, of Durban, said she entered bodybuilding to motivate women.
She was raped multiple times at gunpoint at the age of 13 by a man known to her. She said the matter was reported to the police but the charges against the suspect were dropped as she could not continue with the case.
“I was only a teen. This man was dangerous and he threatened to kill me. Mentally, everything took a toll on me. I dropped out of school and I got caught up with the wrong crowd. When I was 15, I was arrested for trying to hijack a car and I was sent to a juvenile facility. This was an eye-opener.” she said.
Ally said a counsellor helped her turn her life around.
When she was 21, she got married and soon afterwards gave birth to her daughter.
“I was always athletic. I use to run and fitness helped me cope with my trauma. I began bodybuilding and got the confidence to share my story with other rape victims to help them heal. I have done motivational talks in schools and in rural areas,” she related.
Today, Ally is a sports coach and a personal trainer. She owns Naz Fitness and Health.
“I encourage more women to get involved in bodybuilding. It is not only about building muscle but it is a way to protect yourself from harm because you build strength from picking up weights.”
Ally has competed in several competitions in South Africa and was placed first in many of them.
Naadiya Rawat, 34, of Westville, is a personal trainer. The single mother said she studied fitness via the Health and Fitness Professionals Association. Rawat said she began training at 16.
“My father, Mo Rawat, was a competitive bodybuilder, so one could say I was born into this sport. I used to go to bodybuilding shows and look through my dad’s bodybuilding magazines. I wanted to grow up looking like the girls in the magazine. I was fascinated by muscle. I started training with my dad when I was 16.”
She said since 2010, she participated in numerous competitions.
“In most of the competitions, I was placed in the top 3. I was chosen to represent KwaZulu-Natal eight times. Although bodybuilding is a male-dominated sport, my male counterparts were supportive. The challenge I faced was being the first Indian girl to step onto a bodybuilding stage when I started competing in 2010. The bikini division was white-dominated. It took courage to break that mould. I often felt overlooked, especially in competitions.”
She said more women were joining the sport.
“It is definitely a growing sport among women and Indian women, which makes me proud. To ensure I always performed at my best, I have a strict routine that has become part of my lifestyle. I train five to six days a week. Each session is about one and half hours, in which I train one or two muscle groups. For example, Monday is legs. Tuesday is back and bicep.”
Rawat said she ate between five and six small meals a day.
“My meals consist of protein, which would be the chicken breast, hake, tuna or lean mince, and carbs, which would be basmati rice and sweet potato. I will also have vegetables or a salad. I usually keep Sundays for my cheat meals, which helps me stay sane.”
Rawat said she trained twice a day when she was closer to competing. This included cardio and weight training.
“I have a passion for training women and making them feel confident and comfortable in their bodies. This is my ultimate goal.”