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.