by Shelly Pinkerton
There are times when I look in the mirror and think,
“What I’d give to have just one day of no bulging muscles…” And then
my next immediate thought is “Oh, but thank God I do!” Talk about a
love-hate relationship! It seems that in the life of figure competitors
there are challenges that are particular to each and every one of us.
To the outside world, we seem the picture of perfection; but little
do they know, we, too, have our pet peeves, nags and quirks that can
eat away at us and leave us feeling just as insecure as the next person.
For me, it’s always the topic of muscularity. Ironically, the very thing
that makes me a strong figure competitor can leave me feeling self-conscious
and insecure as well. Over the years, I have learned to take these emotions
in stride and diffuse the negative energy created by them. As a young
girl, I was stocky and strong, always able to keep up with the boys
in sports, never faltering in drive and endurance – and always MUCH
tougher and stronger than the other girls – who, for the most part,
were soft, tiny-boned smooth creatures with delicate features and small
hands. I always felt like a big, solid masculine “thing” next to them,
even though I was reassured time and time again by family and close
friends that that was not the image I evoked. Easy for them to say –
they weren't feeling it! Needless to say, I have matured to the point
of knowing that I am not the ogre I often felt like and, in fact, am
a beautiful, strong woman with a figure that many would pay money to
have (and do). I have come to embrace my natural muscularity as a gift
– for that's truly what it is, to allow me to pursue my dreams and desires
as a successful personal trainer and figure competitor. But I would
be lying if I didn't admit that there are times when I would like to
have a soft, smooth body with no rippling veins, no visible striations,
no squared-off abs…even for a minute!
The upside of having so much natural muscularity, in the bodybuilding
world, is that it is easy to bring that muscle into competition shape
in a relatively short amount of time. I can build muscle extremely fast.
My body responds to training like a sponge sucks up water. With my diet
dialed in and my cardio sessions on target, my conditioning is like
clockwork, and I can count on it being that way time and time again.
The flip side of this coin is two-fold; one, by reaching competition
shape easily, the risk of coming in too soon, or being ready too early
can be a pitfall. You don't want to be show-ready four weeks out and
then blow it because you are playing the “maintaining” game for too
long. Two, too much muscularity, which is considerable gray area in
the world of figure these days, is always a guessing game. To be super
lean, striated and hard is completely subjective; what one person considers
too much may be another person’s ideal. This is my greatest challenge
– physically and mentally! My body looks best when it is tight and hard,
with plenty of vascularity – but it seems this is often considered too
much in the figure arena. When I try to go for a “softer” look, I come
across as flat and unconditioned - again, not what is looked for in
a figure competitor. The answer? What I have learned is to present the
package that suits YOU the best. What makes you feel good? How do you
look when you are at your best, when you feel the most confident and
poised and in control of your physical and mental being? This is what
makes a champion – what comes from within. I have learned to accept
and embrace the fact that the veins in my arms will stand at attention,
that the separation in my quads will show no matter what, and this is
what and who I am, and I am proud of myself – and when I step on stage,
you will know it!
About the Author...
Shelly Pinkerton CPFT & National-level Figure
I grew up in rural northern California
where extracurricular activities were few and far between - I
can remember my mom driving two to three hours a day to get me
to gymnastics and ballet lessons. Naturally athletic and blessed
with good genetics, I involved myself in all school sports and
cheerleading, and when I started college at CSU, Chico, I found
myself joining my first gym and learning about weight training
– I was hooked!
After my son was born in 1992 I
became certified to teach group fitness and shortly after attained
my personal training certification. I have been working with people
to improve their lifestyles ever since. In 2004, after a difficult
move to Southern California, I accepted a new challenge – figure
competing – and found renewed personal satisfaction and success.
I plan to continue to share my passion for fitness with others
by helping them develop their own happy, healthy lifestyle through
my personal training business, BodyWise Total Fitness, and through
my experiences in figure competing.