Saturday, 31 October 2015

(Spooky Halloween) Pic of the Week

Well, I must say that I never thought I'd see a picture of my beloved Tarna looking anything less than 100% gorgeous, but there you are, "never say never"...

Tarna - recipient of an IFBB pro card this year (see Reasons to Be Cheerful @NPC USAs 2015) - was showing off the other professional qualification she has gained recently on her Instagram this week. She is now a licensed cosmetologist in her home state of Washington. Apparently, a cosmetologist is a person who specialises in the study and application of beauty treatment, and includes everything from hairstyling to skin care to cosmetics and manicures/pedicures, and even electrology.

And, it seems, Halloween spookiness as well.

With thighs like those she can come play trick or treat at my house anytime...
[you can stop that right now - ed.]

Here's a treat. Tarna, looking considerably less green, performs her guest posing routine at the NPC Northern Classic three weeks ago. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

Friday, 30 October 2015

FBBUK Extra: Kristina Vassilieva

To the person who was kind enough to comment on yesterday's post,

Thank you so much for your comment, I am so sorry but I accidentally deleted it - I was using my phone and the Publish and Delete buttons are side by side and... Anyway, wanted you to know I did read and appreciate it. Always glad to hear from readers. Just didn't want you to think I hadn't published for some other reason.

Sorry again.

OK, on with the last of the British female muscle posts for a while...

It is, I grant you, a very unBritish-sounding name. Kristina Vassilieva, pronounced vas-I-li-yava, I believe. Russian origin, but she's been here since she was three, so we are most definitely claiming Kristina. And do you blame us? Wouldn't you?

It was a name that kept cropping up while I was researching last week's posts. There she was, winner of the Bodyfitness class at the UKBFF South Coast Championships in April. And again, in August, runner-up to current UK Bodyfitness #1 Michelle Morris at the Scottish Grand Prix. And again, at the recent British Championships, 5th place in the taller of the two Bodyfitness classes. She gets around, I thought to myself. And so I looked for her in 2014. Nothing. I went back to 2013. I needn't have bothered. She'd accomplished all these results in her very first year as a competitive Figure girl. That UKBFF South Coast Championships victory had come at her first ever show.

Kristina is a former model who was, in her own words, a sporty, athletic child, always interested in fitness and health. But things didn't stay that way. From about the age of 18 or 19, she says, I unfortunately descended into a whirlwind of eating disorders.

No surprise that it was the gym, coupled with the lessons she had learned as a teenage athlete good enough to represent her borough, that got her back on the road to fitness. And she discusses this, and many other things, in a candid and very engaging podcast interview with Paul Burgess that you can watch in full (all 56 minutes of it) here.

These days, when she's not training or competing, Kristina is happy to be on the other side of the camera taking the photographs. She's heavily into psychology, and she also helps out her brother with his various e-commerce concerns. And very happily for Kristina fans, her family never fail to film her in action. So you can see Kristina - and the women she lines up with - in all three of her contests to date.

Get comfy and click below to get a load of Kristina strutting her stuff at the...

UKBFF South Coast

USN Scottish Grand Prix

UKBFF British Championships

At 5'7" (1.70m) she is on the tall side for a female bodybuilder, and there's no getting away from the fact that she is also quite a stunner. Add the inspirational fightback from anorexia and bulimia plus the obvious brains and you've got quite a package. So it's hardly surprising that despite still being an amateur, Kristina's already attracted the attention of a pretty major sponsor - Twana Barnett-Ferguson is sponsored by the same people, which is more than enough to impress the hell out of me anyway.

And on top of that, she's also caught the eye of Fit Vids, who are certainly far from slouches when it comes to spotting the best in upcoming UK female muscle talent.

More? There's another Fit Vids preview here.

Kristina is very clear that her ambitions lie beyond these shores, and you wouldn't bet against her achieving them. The prospect of qualifying and potentially competing internationally for the IFBB European or World Championships, to compete successfully and earn my pro card is a dream. The IFBB is the largest bodybuilding and fitness federation in the world, so there are some incredible opportunities to take your competition worldwide... And travel is a big passion of mine, she says.

We'd better make the most of it while she's still here.

Kristina - as you would imagine someone savvy in e-commerce would be - has all bases covered. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her own personal training website.

Enjoy! More FBBUK on FMS before long.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

FBBUK Extra: Her Body of Armour Pierced? The "Disappearance" of Rene Campbell

Last week, while compiling a set of posts about some of the UK's muscle goddesses perhaps less familiar to readers, an old post from way back in 2012 about a very familiar British female bodybuilder unexpectedly started to get hundreds of hits.

At the time I'd written Size Matters: Rene Campbell, she'd recently become the UKBFF British champion, and had appeared in two of the UK's best-selling newspapers. In The Sun, among other things, Rene was quoted as saying how much happier and more confident she was as a muscular woman, while an article in The Daily Mail claimed that her muscles were making it hard for her to find a man.

Since then, of course, Rene has been one of the last women to be crowned IFBB World champion, earned her pro card, and competed - in 2013 in Chicago and again this year in Omaha - in pro shows in the USA. And she's also appeared in the British media on numerous occasions, some of those appearances documented right here, most recently in Closer magazine at the end of last year soon after FMS had been approached by the author of the piece - see Rene Goes Public (FMS Stays Private).

Turns out that the source of these hits for the original 2012 Rene post was yet another example of the UK's mainstream media's fascination with Rene - and, it should be said, her continued willingness to be their subject. The short film, It's My Body of Armour: My Life As a Female Bodybuilder, appeared on the website of the (serious) UK newspaper The Guardian in their "Women's Lifestyle" section on October 21st.

Guardian readers were, it seems, not only curious enough about Rene to search for more on her after watching the film, but they were also, unlike readers of The Sun and all the other UK media sources Rene has appeared in before, turning up at FMS!

Much of the first part of the film covers familiar territory. "Bigorexia", lots of chicken etc. etc. But far from being bored, I was, initially, elated that Rene looked so damn good. Tanned, ripped, enjoying the sunshine in (as it turns out) Gran Canaria, posing with fans, supermarket shopping, posing in the gym, clothes shopping (sort of), posing in the dunes. I'm enjoying this, I feel a swoon coming on, and Rene's talking about preparing for big shows in North America. She must be talking about next year...

And then, as the sparkling waves fade to black after four minutes and twenty seconds, it dawns on me that she's not been talking about next year at all. "During the competition in the USA, Rene began to experience physical difficulties..."

The 10th (out of 11) place in Omaha, the subsequent no-show in Toronto, and the silence on her Twitter account since May all made sense now. Rene had spent a year preparing for the 2015 season, and it had barely started when she was told she needed to "get rid of those muscles" for the good of her health. And despite her lovely smile and bravado in the last couple of minutes of the film, the pain is there in her voice.

It's heart-breaking stuff.

I wish I could bring you some good news about Rene at this stage. I wish I could tell you that Rene hasn't, as she promises she won't in the film, stopped training. I wish I could tell you that Rene has resolved her health issues, or at least identified what exactly it was about her preparations last year that caused her body to react so violently. I wish I could tell you that having identified what it was that she has worked out how she can do things differently in the future and avoid such problems.

But, I'm afraid, I can't.

The only straw I can clutch at is that while her Twitter remains dormant, her Facebook page has had a few posts added since the end of August, although none of them give any clues about Rene's health now or her future as a pro female bodybuilder.

Rene is, without doubt, FMS readers' favourite British female bodybuilder, voted into the top 20 of our annual Hot and Hard 100 poll two years in a row. I'm sure I speak for all of them in hoping she's made a full recovery, and enjoys the very best possible health in future. And, most of all, I speak for all of them in hoping that she is once again able to continue to build the beautiful, strong and muscular body of her dreams.

Any news you may have about Rene's current situation will be gratefully received.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

FBBUK Extra: Coin, Confidence & A Comeback

So I'm flicking through the catch-up TV options a few weeks ago, and one of the stills sends my female muscle radar berserk. I've hit the download button before I've even clocked the name of the programme because that's... that's Kate Austin!

We first met Kate, who we dubbed "The Welsh Princess of Power" after learning one of her muscle inspirations was She-ra from the old He-Man cartoon, back in 2013 (see FMS, March 2013), and though we caught up with her showing off on the beach in May last year, and enjoyed a thirty-second Fit Vids preview (short, yes, but well worth a watch) from around the same time, we hadn't had much news of her since.

So, what was Kate doing on the BBC?

Young people in the South Wales valleys spend more on looking good than in the most prosperous parts of London, said the programme information. Tattoos, tans, botox and boobs - a journey into the world of looking good and feeling poor as young Welsh men and women reveal all in their pursuit of the body beautiful.

The title? Young Welsh and Pretty Skint. Which doesn't shed any light on Kate's role in all of this. So, perhaps we should just have a watch. Kate's bit starts at 7.48...

So, one of our Welsh She-ra's superpowers turns out to be that she is recession-proof! This industry hasn't suffered. I've opened two gyms in the past two years...

And this isn't going to be the only time Kate will be on the BBC. Apparently, there is more to look forward to. Quite a lot more, in fact. Filming a documentary for the BBC based around me and my members next month, she said on Instagram recently. Also going to be in another documentary specifically about female bodybuilders before next year. Well that sounds like a documentary that (unlike "Young Welsh and Pretty Skint") is going to be worth watching from start to finish. Over and over again.

What's more, Kate is going to elsewhere in the media, specifically in a music video that will be part of a "massive" nationwide anti-bullying campaign launching this month.

And as well as her two gyms, Kate has launched Ultimate Physiques Fitness Classes and Training Solutions with her bestie Caz Roberts and a team of Kate-trained female instructors. But Kate has also found that her considerable entrepreneurial success has come at a price - and not just to the skint young Welsh (and their parents' and grandparents' savings). When her old Instagram account was deleted (too many racy pictures perhaps?) Kate seems to have got a bit nostalgic for her hardcore female bodybuilder's body as she sifted through some of her old pictures...

God I miss bodybuilding, she said. I miss training heavy and eating right so much but current circumstances just don't allow me to make it a priority at the min[ute]. Life has taken over and to be honest life is great right now but I don't half miss that feeling you get when you know your body's changing and you look in the mirror and smile at yourself and not just get dressed. What I wouldn't give to look like this again.
Kate backstage before her last competition - the UKBFF Cumbrian Classic in 2014

Look at her confident sexy smile in the picture above right. Look at that look on her face in the on stage shot (bottom right, previous set above). I'd bet that look in the mirror in the morning feeling isn't the only feeling Kate has been missing.

Been feeling extremely frustrated with myself lately, she said a few weeks ago. I've been really unmotivated when it comes to my own training. Been too busy taking classes and with work... So I thought what better way to give myself a kick up the butt than NEW GYM CLOTHES! Just arrived from the States! That should do the trick.

And it's totally worked.

Just two weeks ago I was unhappy with the way I looked and stuck in a rut. Decided to do something about it, start training again and BAM! I'm back on form in a matter of weeks. Loving training again and [being] consistent with my diet again. Life is good. Looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks bring. Exciting times...

Indeed. It's real a pleasure to find that Kate has got her hardcore mojo back, and we'll be keeping an eye on her Facebook, (new) Instagram, and her (now functioning again) website over the next few weeks and beyond. FMS will, of course, bring you news of those documentaries as and when it comes, and, fingers crossed, news of our Welsh Princess of Power wearing her posing suit (and that smile) again before too long as well.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

FBBUK Extra: The Passion of Sonia

I got into it [bodybuilding] when I was 16, says Huddersfield's Sonia Armitage. I’d been into gymnastics but I started hitting the gym and found out more about it. It was quite a new activity for women then but I thought let’s just give it a go for a bit of fun. But once I got started it became an obsession. I decided to put my all into it, I like to do things full on, and started competing and went to contests across the UK.

Chances are you've never heard of Sonia, but "it was quite a new activity then" may have alerted you to the fact that she's been bodybuilding as long as any of the most famous names of the sport. After "several years" of competing, Sonia gave it up to put her all into raising her two children, but she never stopped lifting.

In her late 30s, the urge to compete returned again. As a sport, she found that things had changed for the better since those early days when she could only compete locally in one-size-fits-all "Women's Bodybuilding". Now we compete in different categories, even different age classes, she says. The sport has boomed among women. The highlight of her career so far was the IBFA British Finals last year, and her subsequent qualification for the IBFA Worlds in Italy. I thought I’d give up after the World Championships last November, she says, but I would feel lost without it.

Now that's probably a disappointment to her husband. Yes, you read that right. He is, apparently, "not too keen on it". Hard to believe, I know, but then again maybe it's more difficult being married to a female bodybuilder than you or I imagine... Anyway, aside from hubby, Sonia says she's never had any bad comments. People do not realise I am a female bodybuilder until they see the photos. Even at the gym I keep covered up. But when people do find out the response is usually positive, she says.

But it's fairly obvious that Sonia hasn't been weight training for over half of her life for the benefit of her husband or anyone else for that matter. It's her "obsession". She didn't need to start putting her body through the rigours of contest preparation in her late 30s and early 40s, either. She already had a body to be jealous of - People who don't understand the work I have to put in tell me I'm lucky to look this way, she says. She's never earned a penny from her competitions, though she does earn as a self-employed personal trainer. But the years of hard work and the sacrifice and the permanently slightly miffed husband (I wonder if he has any idea how many men would change places with him in a heartbeat) are all worth it. It's her passion.

And this year, Sonia became a promoter. And, according to one report of the event, a "passionate" promoter at that. Sonia's event was the IBFA Mr & Ms England, held in Pudsey, West Yorkshire on 19th September - the date of her 43rd birthday.

There were over 200 competitors, and to the myriad categories (14 in all for men and women), Sonia the passionate promoter added, for the first time in the UK at least, Men's and Ladies' Disability classes. Previously, disabled people have had to compete alongside the able-bodied and that’s far from easy, Sonia explained in the run-up to the show. So I thought: "Let’s do it - give them their own classes".

It's the first time I have done anything like this, Sonia told a local newspaper days before the event. I must be mad! But everything appears to have gone swimmingly, "a great success" as the IBFA UK Facebook page described it, perhaps the best - and certainly the most appropriate - birthday gift she could have had.

Read more about Sonia in the Huddersfield Examiner here and here.