Why I Compete in Fitness

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bikini fitness women on stage

So happy to be on stage surrounded by these lovely ladies.

Someone asked me recently why I take part in fitness competitions. Maybe it’s not the obvious thing for the 30-something mom of a 10-month-old baby to be doing; standing on stage in a sparkly bikini, unnaturally dark fake tan, and too much makeup. Probably not. Most women can’t picture themselves doing what I do, no matter there age, body type, or life circumstances. I get it. Those of us who chose to compete in physique competitions are a different breed.

Let me try to explain our obsession.

The Process

I love working out. I always have. I’m not saying I love every moment or every exercise I have to do to get the results that I want, but on the whole I love exercise. I’ve been a natural bodybuilder for over 23 years. It seems like an odd thing to say and maybe you wouldn’t necessarily guess it by looking at me, but I’ve done more than my share of punishing hours in the iron game. I love the process of sculpting my body with targeted weights exercises, and building muscular strength to feel powerful.

I’ll probably write another blog post about what I love about bodybuilding, but for now let’s just leave it at this: I love the process of preparing for a competition – the training, the eating, the focus.

Once a Competitor…

I’ve always considered myself an athlete and that’s something that’s tough to let go of. I competed for fourteen years in Karate – provincially, nationally, and internationally. I even earned a National title and was IKA World Cup champion. Karate competition was my life for a long time. I gave up work and social opportunities, and put my education second when I was in school. I even left home at the age of 21 to live in England for almost 6 years and train with the best instructors and fighters in the world.

That kind of drive doesn’t just disappear because you’re a little older and have a gorgeous husband and an enchanting baby. My outlook has changed a lot though. I wouldn’t let my family life suffer for my sport. My priorities have changed, but the desire hasn’t.

Winning is Nice and Losing is Educational

Yes, it’s nice to win things. Championships, lotteries…and the heart of someone you really love. I like to win, but I’m not a sore loser. That’s an asset in a sport that’s essentially a beauty pageant for people who work out. There’s a lot of subjectivity involved in the judging. You can’t control the outcome and you won’t always have the strengths of those you compete against. Many people are more gifted genetically or have a look that’s appealing, regardless of how long they’ve been training. Despite all my training experience and knowledge of physique sculpting, I could lose to a woman who’s only been weight training for a year and has a desirable natural shape and genetics. That doesn’t bother me.

I focus on what I can do to improve and how I can overcome my limitations. I only compete with myself and I always try to be better for each competition.

The Love of Performing

I’m no beauty pageant girl. I’m way more comfortable in my workout clothes and running shoes than in heels. I did, however, spend about five years doing acting and TV presenting, and I’ve been modelling since I was sixteen.

I like dressing up and feeling like a different character. I even enjoy speaking in public because it gives me an opportunity to share my experiences with an audience. There’s definitely a performer in me. I also love expressing myself with my body, both in training and when posing on stage during shows.

The Challenge

It’s tough to get on stage in front of hundreds of people in a bikini. Most people can probably understand that part. Walking in 5 inch heels isn’t my specialty, that’s for sure. I’ve spent most of my life in runners and “sensible” flats because I’m 5’10.

Stepping outside my comfort zone is something I embrace though, and that’s what these competitions were for me when I started. I’m a lot more comfortable now, eight shows later, but there are always challenges to face in fitness competitions.

The People

I love to be around positive, energetic, athletic people who passionately pursue their goals. Fitness competitions are full of them. Being around enthusiastic people with similar interests puts a fire under me. It juices me up and gets me motivated to do more with myself. Essentially, I’m a more enthusiastic and energetic person when I push myself to compete. If I can share that enthusiasm with others then I make a greater contribution to this world.

And that’s what life’s all about, isn’t it?

Ivana Chapman 

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 6-year-old boy. She is a writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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