LOCAL history of female bodybuilding is being written.
Sarawak’s very first female bodybuilder is trying her luck in the International Bodybuilding Association Tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on July 2.
Chaser Chan Shu Jun could very well be the state’s first female bodybuilder to bag a medal in this tournament where Sabah and West Malaysia have won one medal each. She is competing in the fitness category.
Not only writing history, this 23-year-old fitness enthusiast is also making a fashion statement. Fully aware of the adverse among perceptions, especially local males, on muscle-bound females, she shrugs them off, saying femininity is not lost among the muscles.
“Instead, muscles give femininity a further boost by offering a new dimension to the word.”
She said the woman of today exudes confidence and independence.
“Gone are the days of damsels in distress, waiting for their knights in shining armour to come to the rescue. Now, it’s all about confident and independent women who are in control of their lives.”
Together with the aesthetics, her fitness level has shot to a much higher level. She feels fitter than ever before and that makes her feel good about herself.
What better analogy is there which defines being in control of one’s life than that of a former insecure fat person who has transformed into a slim confidence-radiating person.
Chaser belongs to a group of people who have morphed from a lump of flab into a piece of art. Packed with lean muscles, she has a body that many would die for. Her physique is an epitome of beauty and fitness.
Never thinking she could go this far, she confessed all she wanted was to lose some weight. Without heels, she stands 165cm tall, and weighs 70kg.
She started her weight-loss regime in a local gym – Java Juice – where she had the privilege of a personal trainer. A customised dietiary plan was drawn up for her.
Training five times a week and within half a year, she dropped a whopping 10kgs and was ecstatic.
Chan loves food, from kola mee to muffins – in fact, anything that is a “no no” for bodybuilding.
She frequently faltered in her pursuit of a slimmer silhouette but each time, she bounced back even harder as her trainer would push her beyond the limits to shed the extra pounds gained when she indulged.
Three years later, after acquiring a taut and slender physique, Chan stopped training in the gym, thinking she could continue on her own but was proven wrong as she constantly found herself straying from a fitness diet.
Soon, all the flab started coming back and in no time, she put on unwanted pounds that distorted her once well-chiselled physique.
She had gained back her old weight. Instead of returning to her old gym, she enrolled in the MSN gym at the Civic Centre in Kuching. Using knowledge from her past training, she began whipping herself into shape with a vengence.
Slowly but surely, she trimmed the inches of loose body fat. Working out with other bodybuilders in the gym, she was soon drawn into the world of body sculpting.
She was intrigued by the well-built physiques of some of her gym mates. She wanted to be like them and they taught her the ropes. Soon, she was getting more musculature definitions than she ever dreamed.
“I made good progress and got hooked to the sport full time,” she recalled.
Chaser knew it was harder for females to build muscle mass due to the absence of testosterone in their bodies but she remained undaunted.
Wanting to see how far she could push her body, she put herself through a tough training regime, supplemented by a strict diet. And it helped to have a training partner who is also a bodybuilder.
“It’s a gruelling experience,” she confessed, alluding to not only to the vigorous workout but also the no-nonsense diet.
“My weakness is food – it has always been that. I have to discipline myself against eating stuff that is bad for my sport.”
She said all effective weight-loss programmes started in the kitchen and “that’s the hardest part.”
Coping with the drudgery of training became easier after a while but abstaining from “those wickedly delicious foods” required a steely determination, she added.
Chaser said she would look longingly at the goodies in the menu whenever she ate out. The temptation to indulge was difficult to resist so much so that she restricted herself to eating home most of the time.
She eats six small meals a day, preparing them herself and carefully measuring the portions. And it was through trial and error that she came up with the right balance.
“I browsed the Net for information and from various bodybuilding websites, created a diet plan for myself.”
There were many wrong hits but she managed to get it the right, eventually. There were no nutritionists she could turn and like her bodybuilding friends, she had to train on her own most of the time.
But with strong will power, she accomplished her goal – her weight dropped to 56kg and her waistline shrank from 34 to 26 inches. But it wasn’t enough – she wanted more.
So to prove herself in a male-dominated sport, Chaser decided to join competitions.
“It’s not so much proving to others as to myself. I have sacrificed a lot (especially food) and trained very hard – I’m not giving it all up. No way. It has become my passion.”
As passionate as she is about her sport, the young self-employed lady won’t dare offend her father – so, by her own admission, she is a closet bodybuilder.
“Both my parents were very supportive of my weight-loss programme. In fact, they put me up to it as they want a slender and petite daughter. I am neither.”
Her parents share the same perception with most locals on female bodybuilders, explained Chaser whose only wish is to share her success with mum and dad if she ever won a bodybulding contest.
To her parents, muscles are unfeminine and ugly on females. They also believe if not primed through regular workout, muscles turn flabby quickly. This not only spoils a person’s looks and health but also means when a person starts bodybuilding, it’s for life!
So Chan has no choice but to keep her passion a secret. She hides her muscles by wearing baggy clothing but she knows sooner or later, her parents will find out.
“I want them to be proud of me and what I try to achieve.”
She said she is a bodybuilder when it comes to competitions but at normal times, she is just a fitness buff.
Win or lose in the Melbourne tournament, this determined young lady has rightly earned a place in Sarawak’s history of bodybuilding with the guts to chase her dream in a sport where female participation is still frowned upon by the local society.