In Pursuit of the Body Beautiful
Recently I caught up with the very lovely Loretta Watson. Loretta is one of Australia’s elite “Figure” competitors and I thought it might be interesting for her and I (and you) to have a casual chat about her habit. You know – the one where she stands on a stage in front of a big crowd, under bright lights wearing a postage stamp. Yep, that one.
I’m guessing there’s not a lot of baked cheesecake on the pre-contest menu which could be something of a psychological barrier for a potential Body Shaper like me. Stop it. Not that I wouldn’t look awesome on stage in a bikini and heels (shut up), but for the time being, I think will leave the idea as just that; an idea. Not one you want to think about too much.
Here’s our chat. That’s me in bold.
1. So Loretta, tell us a little about body-shaping the sport (is it a sport?)
Yes, I believe it to be a sport – although others may argue otherwise – in that there is no equipment, no skill or tactics involved and the judging criteria is not black and white. Body shaping is actually called Ms Figure in the competition (oops, my bad), so it is more commonly known as “figure”. There are two divisions in female competition – “physique” where the girls are the more muscular (bigger) and “figure” which is me – which means having muscle and being as lean as the physique girls, without compromising the female shape – aiming for a “V-taper” shape, being wide shoulders, narrow waist, and strong, shapely bum and legs. In other words, a strong athletic female body. We are judged on symmetry (top to bottom, left to right), muscularity, condition (how lean we are) and on-stage presentation. Our posing style as well as the fact that we wear stripper shoes(!) on stage (er… is it hot in here?) also distinguishes us from the physique division. We are generally judged in height classes (short, medium, tall), and girls from 18 right up into their 60’s compete.
2. What do you enjoy about being a “Figure” competitor?
Firstly, that I control the whole process. My results depend on what I put in my mouth, whether I decide to do cardio at midnight if necessary, how hard I train whether I’m hungry, injured, grumpy, tired, happy… or it’s rainy and cold. It’s easy to make excuses not to do it, but at the end of the day, I am on stage by myself and my results are purely from my efforts, good or bad (plus the photos stay on record forever… so there’s an incentive!). (Good point.) When they are good, it is an amazing feeling. I also love the athletes I meet, train with and learn from. Their champion attitudes are positive and catching, and make me mentally stronger and more focused every day – which I can then apply to all areas of my life. I love challenging myself to always improve and the discipline involved. I love competition day and being on stage in the heat of the competition – it’s a very exciting feeling. But the best part is getting my hair, nails and make-up done, putting on a sparkly bikini, and being a princess for a day! (A princess with a six-pack and some freaky legs.)
3. What’s the (potential) down side to your sport?
Depending on your personality type and emotional state, I could see (and have seen) how it could become an obsession and be quite unhealthy in terms of seeing yourself as only your body. Another consideration is that it is possible to disrupt normal bodily functions with severe dieting and dehydration, if it is not monitored carefully.
4. How long have you been training (seriously) with weights?
6 years, since 2003.
5. How often do you lift weights and for how long each session?
6 days per week, 45mins – 1 hour. The type of training I do demands efficiency because the intensity is high. If I did any longer, I would be over-training, and not maximising my gains. I always train with a purpose and know exactly what I will be doing that day, so that I don’t waste time or energy. A training diary is a must!
6. What kind of cardio stuff do you do and how often?
Off season (that is, anything outside roughly 20 weeks from competition) I rely on the intensity of my weight training to boost my metabolism as well as my eating (lots of green veggies) to keep me lean, and I do not structure any cardio into my training (but I sneak in 1-2 boxing sessions a week). This is because cardio utilises the calories and recovery time that I need to grow (more muscle). Depending on how far over my contest weight I am, I will generally start cardio (20 minute treadmill walk 3-4 times per week) about 16 weeks from competition and gradually increase this over the next 16 weeks to roughly 30 mins twice per day.
7. How long until your next comp?
8. Can you tell us exactly what you will eat today (Wednesday, June 24, 2009)?
Yes, but it will take a while… 5:00am Protein shake + supplements; 5:30am ½ cup rolled oats in water + ½ banana; 6:00am Pre workout protein shake + supplements; 7:15am Post workout protein shake + supplements; 7:45am 100gms chicken, 100gms brown rice; 8:15am Meal replacement shake + 50gm sweet potato; 9:45am 100gms chicken, 100gms brown rice; 12:15pm 150gms chicken, 50gms brown rice, 200gms green beans + supplements; 2:45pm same as 12:15pm; 5:15pm same as 12:15pm; 8:00pm 150gms steak, 200gms green beans or broccoli; 9:30pm Weight gainer protein + supplements… Bed. (Okay it official; I don’t wanna be a Figure girl. Er, boy.)
9. How do you keep sane, balanced and emotionally healthy being in a sport where you’re judged on your physical appearance?
How do you know I am all of that???! (Good point. Weirdo.) I was worried about that at the beginning when I was deciding whether or not to compete. I didn’t know if I could deal with people criticising me and my body. It can be seen as a very personal attack if you’re not emotionally strong enough. I was very lucky to have a great team of people helping me at first, who really knew what they were doing and kept me grounded. From there I developed a healthy attitude toward the whole process and now I just concentrate on getting the job done. If I’ve made the improvements I want to, then win or lose, I know I’ve done what I set out to do. I also stay away from people who may have a more obsessive outlook. I try to maintain a variety of interests. And I apply the lessons learned from my training to other areas of my life so it balances out – to grow both physically and mentally requires pain, but if you are consistent, focused and positive, it will happen.
10. Do some people lose the plot and step from healthy to unhealthy (physically and emotionally)?
I’ve seen people faint on stage, lose normal bodily functions (especially females), destroy their metabolisms so that even looking at a carbohydrate puts on 5kg, dehydration, emotional ups and downs, relationship break ups, self-obsession and a whole bunch more, but I guess that anything in the extreme can be unhealthy. That’s why I approach the whole process as intelligently and methodically as possible; it keeps me grounded. I think many athletes are predisposed to be a little obsessive as times but my sport is not my life; it’s a one part. A fun part, but a part nonetheless. (Wise words Grasshopper.)
11. You’ve seen my arse and legs, would I make a good body-shaper?
Haven’t seen you in a bikini and stilettos yet, so am going to reserve judgment – great guns though. (I bet you say that to all the middle-aged meatheads you know.)
12. Okay, give your sponsors a plug.
My wonderful sponsor is Johnny (you have a Johnny too?) at AST Sports Science. He provides me with all my supplements including protein, creatine, glutamine, thermogenics, fats, weight gainer (weight gainer?) and lots of competition support. It’s a superior product, I used it long before I was sponsored, and has got me my results to date. Well, it must do something ’cause you look awesome.
Thanks for taking the time Loretta and enjoy your up-coming comp. Thankyou, I will. Want some cheesecake? Idiot. That hurts.
Craig Harper (B.Ex.Sci.) is the #1 ranked Australia Motivational Speaker (according to Google). He is a qualified exercise scientist, life coach, author, columnist, radio presenter, television host and owner of one of the largest personal training centres in the world.