As soon as you mention the word “bodybuilding”, big bulky images of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson pop into many people’s heads. Well, rest assured that is not the only aspect of it. I like to think I’m part of the other side. I’m just the normal gal, experimenting with health and wellness.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? I first began being interested in fitness back in the Fall of 2011. However, much like most journeys begin, my goal was simply “weight loss”. I’ve never been “large” per se, but I did think I needed to drop a couple of pounds. Hey, it was post-freshman year of college. I had traded my 5 days of Ballet, Dance, and home-cooked meals in high school to late-night munchies and delivery.com dinners in college.
It all started on a good note, mostly working on incorporating whole food ingredients into my homemade meals and at least 1 hr elliptical sessions every night after class.
Unfortunately, I ended up getting carried away. Being the perfectionist I am, once I started noticing results I pushed for more and more progress. Cutting meals, skimping on calories, longer cardio sessions… the whole shebang. Long story short, it wasn’t healthy and consumed most of my life/time/energy. If I could rewind I would take it all back. This (unfortunately) persisted for a year until I was completely depleted, tired, and quite literally hungry. Note to everyone, if you notice you’re cutting down to under 1,200 calories a day, you aren’t doing it right and you’re doing yourself and your metabolism a disservice. Yes, I could run 8 miles on sheer willpower, but a flight of stairs got me winded! It just wasn’t right.
Now, fast forward to December 2012. Once I had realized the error in my ways, I started researching on different workout methods that could keep me in shape and keep me strong. And that, my friends, is when I made a resolution for the new year (2013) to get a personal trainer, start lifting weights, and go vegan. A long shot, but if you are as determined as I am, anything is possible.
I started training with weights at least 5 times a week, 3 days with a trainer, and only 2 days of cardio ( a mixture of rowing, spinning, and running). I also started incorporating more and more calories into my diet. Mind you, this was all while being vegan and mostly gluten-free. My diet consisted of greens, legumes, tofu (2x weekly), grains (i.e. quinoa, oatmeal, etc.), fruit, healthy fats (i.e. nut butters, hummus, avocado, etc.), Sun Warrior Protein, and other whole foods. In conjunction with weight lifting and working on main muscle groups such as biceps, triceps, back, chest, and legs, I incorporated plyometric movements such as box jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, and the like to stay lean while gaining muscle.
You think vegans can’t gain muscle? I challenge you. Not only can vegans gain muscle but they can stay lean as well. And here’s the evidence. I was able to make this transformation in 6 months:
I know the quality of the pictures are not the best, but here you have first hand evidence that vegan bodybuilding is real, it’s possible, and has helped me reach body peace. I fuel myself with carbohydrates, eat when I’m hungry WITHOUT guilt, and have enough energy and strength to lift weights, run, and go to school/work. My “skinny fat” arms from hours of cardio have been replaced with strong, sculpted limbs. I couldn’t even perform ONE push-up last year, now I can perform 20, deadlift, curl, press, everything. Yes, sometimes I feel like a meathead being the only female in the weights section of my gym, but there’s nothing I would change. Ladies, you can hang out in that area too! And, I promise you won’t get HUGE from lifting weights, you’ll just get the curves you’ve always desired.
Moral of the story? Treat yourself well, respect yourself, try new things, and experiment with your diet and routine. Disclaimer: by diet, I don’t mean it in the “cut calories” diet way. I mean MEAL PLAN. You don’t have to go vegan but remember that you are what you eat, and I choose to be wholesome as opposed to “unhealthy”. I choose to fuel my body as opposed to depriving myself. Going vegan and lifting weights helped me reach a happy place and I would never go back.
I challenge you to switch up your routine. You just might be impressed with your results.
What has helped you reach “body peace”? What are you willing to try?
Featured photo: Thinkstock