Hot female bodybuilders
Body building training is very intense and demanding Contrary to popular belief, bodybuilding doesn't make women to look manly. Women's muscles are naturally different from men's muscles Although most bodybuilders in the country are natural, the sport still struggles against the use of steroids

Rippling muscles, daunting weights, barely there costumes and adoring fans. Three champions give us a peek into their world.

I meet her at a gym in Parklands. It's 8:30 am and she's just finished a session with a client. She is a fitness trainer.

Her skin is glowing and beneath her fitting gym wear, I spy well-formed muscles and an enviably curvy figure.

 Evelyne

At first seen as a man's sport, bodybuilding is also attracting a fair number of women. One of them is Evelyne Okinyi, who quit her job as a bank manager to focus on a career in fitness and bodybuilding. In 2016, she won Ms Kenya in the Figure category.

"Contrary to popular belief, bodybuilding doesn't make women to look manly. Women's muscles are naturally different from men's muscles.

In addition, women have the hormone oestrogen which depletes muscles. A woman has to train intensely to achieve visibly toned muscles. Lifting weights won't make you look like a man, it will only enhance your curves," she intimates.

Evelyne got into the world of bodybuilding in 2013. "My husband has always been into fitness, so he encouraged me to train with weights instead of concentrating on aerobics, like many women do.

He loves my body as is. Friends started encouraging me to get on the bodybuilding stage and in 2013, I finally did. " she says.

She remembers her first time on stage as quite daunting. "Coming from a strict Christian background, I was quite nervous about posing in skimpy bikinis.

I had to convince myself that the bikini was just like any other sporting outfit. I got to second place in the figure category. I hadn't even told my parents that I would be participating in a bodybuilding competition. They were surprised when they saw my picture in the papers in just a bikini! " she laughs.

Since then, she has participated in many competitions and is excited about taking part in more.

In addition to bodybuilding, I run a personal training business. My husband and I discussed and decided that one of us could pursue a business while the other would stay in employment.

The first two months were horrible; I didn't get even a single client. But after that the clients started streaming in. Now I make even more money from my business than I did at the bank," she says.'

Meet Mr Kenya

Rashid 'Gift' Wasamwa Issa's body is made up of thick rippling chiselled muscles. Yet, somehow, when he moves he has a gracefulness that defies his bulk. With such an impossible combination, it's no wonder that he's Kenya's reigning bodybuilding champion. He has also previously been a Mr Kakamega, Mr Kericho, Mr Nakuru and Mr Nairobi.

 Rashid 'Gift' Wasamwa Issa

He gets so much attention from the ladies because of his buffed body.

"My lovely wife gets insecure at times because of all attention from the ladies on social media and even on the streets. But she doesn't need to worry about that at all," He says with a laugh.

I then ask him if he is on steroids.

No. I am a natural body builder. In most of the events I have participated in, there's no testing before a competition. Last year for the Mr Kenya competition, we got tested. For the other events we didn't have any tests.

This might give people who use steroids an edge above natural bodybuilders. I have been approached by someone who wanted to sell me steroids for him to other bodybuilders. I refused." he says.

This year, he successfully defended his Mr Kenya title against 130 competitors. "People call me 'Gift' because I'm gifted with great genes when it comes to bodybuilding," confides the 34-year-old personal trainer with a smile.

When he started lifting weights in 2007, he didn't think he would end up being a bodybuilder. "I had always been a sporty person. I started out as a sprinter, then took up boxing, and later got involved in football.

When I first hit the gym, I wanted to get fit to be a better football player. My friends encouraged me to participate in body building competitions. My first time on stage was in 2008. I came third in the middleweight category in Kericho. That was how it all begun," he says.

In 2008 and 2009, Rashid competed again, attaining second and first place respectively. He was hooked. But due to unfavourable job schedules, he only pumped iron again in 2014.

 "I was able to change my working schedule to night shift instead of day. I would go to bed in the morning and then wake up at 1:00pm and go to the gym, where I'd train for a few hours before going to work. I won the Mr. Nakuru title later that year," he remembers with pride.

Does body building pay?

"No. There's very little money to be made from bodybuilding in Kenya. Professional international bodybuilders can make quite a decent income from the sport but here in Kenya, we do it for the passion.

 In fact, I spend more than half the prize money on buying supplements for just a month," he explains

According to Kenya Bodybuilding Federation Chairman, Chris Omedo, the sport has grown considerably over the last few years, although it doesn't have any financial support from the government.

"We have more events for the athletes to compete and are getting more attention from the media and the public. We've also seen a spike in interested sponsors." he opines.

Echoing Omedo's words, Rashid says that the competition is getting "very stiff" and he knows that he has to work hard to maintain his titles.

"When I started in 2007, the only competition available was Mr Kericho. Now there are more bodybuilding events and titles," he says.

The fireball

Sheetal Kotak is petite with a very well-defined body. She's the reigning Ms Kenya figure, a title she first won in 2015 and has successfully defended since then.

 Sheetal Kotak

She won first place in women's category of Muscle Mania-Africa for three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015. In addition, she has won other titles such as Ms Nairobi, Ms WBFF DIVA South Africa, and Ms Muscle Mania bikini.

A 37-year-old divorcee is also a mother of two boys aged 18 and 12. Sheetal first started lifting weights in an effort to lose weight.

"When I gave birth to my second son in 2006, I had obviously put on weight and someone made a sarcastic remark about how I couldn't lose weight even if 10 dogs were to chase after me," she recalls.

Although made in jest, comments like that cut her deeply and drove her determination to lose weight. She joined a gym in 2008 and like most beginners, at first she favoured aerobics. But unlike many, Sheetal became obsessed with exercising and dieting. She became anorexic.

"My exercise routine became excessive. My relationship with food also took a turn. The more weight I lost, the more I restricted my food. I was also drinking heavily. My need to control my body turned into a disorder- I became anorexic," she recalls with sadness.

Worried, Sheetal's friends and family would force her to eat. Later in private, she would force herself to vomit it all out.

 "A food disorder goes beyond food- it was the idea that the thinner I got, the more people would love me. Depressed, I was also seeing a psychiatrist. I went to rehab three times but each time I would come back and slip into the same self-destructive pattern," she says.

However, she kept on exercising. She eventually started seeing a different psychiatrist who encouraged her to talk about it and to develop a positive relationship with fitness.

While she was recovering from anorexia and depression, her father died suddenly of cardiac arrest and her brother died the following year in an accident. This was a hard time for her but she motivated herself to keep on exercising.

And as they say, the rest is history.

Did the bullying end?

"No. Just before the current competition, I was training in the gym when someone told me I was the size of her 10-year-old girl. That I looked scary.

 I went to the bathroom and cried and almost gave up on competing. And then now, when I am on my off season, some say I have gained too much weight. People can be really harsh and that's why I have a support system to remind me that I am doing fine."

In 2018, Sheetal will be taking part in the Arnold Classics-South Africa, an international competition with over 1000 participants from all over the world.

 "I will not compete locally anymore. I will act as a role model, mentor and provide any help I can to the women here in order to bring them up to international standards and give them a chance to be great too. My goal is to move from an amateur ranking and get a Pro-Card.," she says.

Doping

Although most bodybuilders in the country are natural, the sport still struggles against doping, says the Kenya Bodybuilding Federation Chairman, Chris Omedo. "The usage of drugs to enhance performance is one of the biggest challenges we face.

 Some bodybuilders ignore the health risks these steroids pose because they want to look defined and maybe win the competitions.

 We work together with the Kenya Anti-Doping agency to test participants before competitions. The tests are expensive, especially because the samples have to be taken to countries like South Africa and Qatar to be analysed."

Evelyne, also a natural body builder, feels that bodybuilding competitions should have different categories to accommodate both those who use steroids and those who don't.

"If someone makes a conscious decision to take steroids, it's their body. You can't complain about that. However, it's unfair for them to compete against natural bodybuilders."

Glance box: The basics of body building

Body building training is very intense and demanding.

During off season (not competing) the bodybuilders have to maintain a strict training schedule to keep their bodies in shape.

 "I train for five days a week and rest for two. Off season, I lift heavier weights to build the muscle. But when preparing for a competition, I lift lighter weights and focus more on creating muscle definition," Rashid says.

Women have to train harder than men to retain their physiques. In season, Evelyne trains twice a day for 1-2 hours. Sheetal trains twice a day, five days a week.

"I train in the early mornings at 5-7am and 6-8pm in the evenings. I rest on weekends. If I stay away from the gym I actually feel sick and depressed," Sheetal says. You have to be on healthy meals and supplements. Eat five to six small and well-balanced meals a day.

"Supplements are very important to a bodybuilder. Food alone can't give you the kind of muscle you need to compete on stage.

 When we're preparing for a competition, we boost our supplement intake because we're also losing a lot of fat. Low body fat percentage leaves the body susceptible to infections such as pneumonia and flu," Rashid says.

 GLANCE BOX

What steroids can do to you. 

There are two types of steroids; anabolic and corticosteroids.

Anabolics help build muscle. Corticosteroids reduce swelling and dampen immune response. What athletes abuse are a synthentic form of testosterone.

The use of anabolic steroids can cause men to

1. Develop breasts

2. Have painful erections

3. Become sterile and cause testicles to shrink.

Women get

1.Deeper voices,

2.Smaller breasts

3. Enlarged clitoris

4. Increased body hair

5. Acne

They can also contribute to liver damage and liver cancer, heart conditions and will increase the levels of bad cholesterol.