Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Pursuit of Michaela Aycock

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The big clue to the correct answer is in the name of the post, but if I'd asked you yesterday who Florida's youngest ever IFBB Physique pro was before today, you'd probably have reasoned that Dani Reardon is a Floridian, Dani started young - at high school - and Dani didn't hang around when it came to rising through the amateur ranks. So, your answer would probably have been Dani Reardon, no?

I know it's what I would have said.

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I'd have been wrong. The correct answer, it turns out, is Michaela Aycock. Just 20 when she turned pro at the NPC USAs last year. And she is not just Florida's youngest ever, she's the youngest ever Physique pro full stop.

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Now a ripe old 21, Michaela (whose middle name, apparently, is the somewhat prophetic "Destiny") recently made her pro debut at the Europa Orlando. In a field of 22 women that included women with years of professional competitive experience, former Olympians among them, Michaela finished 3rd.

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The feeling when they call your number for first callout... Indescribable emotion, she wrote afterwards (I mentioned yesterday this was a week of something that was hard to define, and there you go!) And you can follow her adventures in Orlando in a short film, The Debut Pursuit, here on vimeo.

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It's kind of a keyword for Michaela that, "pursuit". After the show in Orlando, "the debut is over, the pursuit continues", every day before and since the show "the pursuit continues" according to her Instagram posts. It's not, it seems to me, the pursuit of something tangible, like a pro win, an Olympia appearance or the title itself. Rather it is the thing itself, the "ultimate pursuit".

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I am an "all in" type of person and I started going to the gym in 2013, she told Christian Duque last year. I really fell in love and found a passion in it and continued making goals for myself. It has just progressed from there.

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I think all of us competitors are a little crazy, we love a chase and we love a challenge. Sure we all have moments, some harder than others, but I wouldn’t call any of them either "easy" or "hurdles". When you are doing something out of pure passion and pursuit [that word again] to a greater result, with your eyes fixated on whatever your goal may be, nothing can come against you and nothing can faze you.

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Nothing's fazed her so far, partly, perhaps, because she's always had it all mapped out - her Road to... the Future, in two parts on her YouTube channel will tell you how.

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This obsession, this fixation, this single-minded determination... Up close and personal with Michaela probably doesn't even exist unless you're one of the team involved in her "pursuit". But from afar, from here, an ocean away from Florida and Michaela, it's all incredibly attractive. The gains, the insane definition, the freakish muscular development, well it won't come as a surprise that I am swooning all over the place, and judging by the buzz around Michaela on the forums I am far from alone.

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Below is the most recent pic of Michaela at the time of writing. The pursuit continues.

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Watch an excellent compilation of Michaela in all her vascular freakish glory - Perfect Female Muscle - on World of Muscle Girls. And to see what a difference three years can make, you can also see what Michaela looked like in 2013, competing in Figure, not long after she had started lifting, at the NPC Kentucky in 2013 on RxMuscle.

Enjoy!

Monday, 23 May 2016

A Theme with No Name: More Than A Feeling?

Just over a week ago, pdgde - one of FMS' favourite Tumblr blogs, one of the very few other blogs we have previously flagged up here - disappeared completely. There were rumours, accusations of shenanigans, and of a shadowy FBB-hating demon who had taken down our hero and a year and a half's worth of posting.

Within what seemed like a few hours though, pdgde2 had been born. I’m baaaaaaaaaack!!! he exclaimed - in about his tenth post, talk about getting your priorities right! "Bodies" had been the one-word description he used for his former blog, "Huge f*cking fbbs" was the title of the new. And he's been as busy as ever, loading up his er, new archive with exactly what he boldly promises on the tin.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, mainly so you visit his blog - check this post out, for example.

As well as that though, I wanted to credit him with helping me out in defining, well, sort of defining, this week's theme on FMS. I'm not about to tread on his big girl territory, but the problem is I can't tell you what this week's theme is, but I can show you. And one of pdgde's very first posts on his new blog turned out to be absolutely perfect.

So, what is this week's theme?

Well, it's a bit of this...

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Julianne Trebing in full prep

And definitely a bit of this, as well.

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Asha: fully pumped

And there is a little bit of this, too.



Yes, indeed!

But it's also these. And, next to them, THAT!

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Shanique Grant's vascular thighs, and Heidi Krochter feels it

And it's the final image that pdgde provided me with, and perhaps it's the one that captures what this week is all about best of all.

It's unapologetic, it's in your face (sadly not literally). It's sexy, it's pumped, it's freaky and unfortunately it's not something I have been able to find a way of describing in a single word or phrase. Pdgde's title for his first (now gone) blog was "Passion FBB", and that is probably as close as I can get to it. It's not a thing, you see, it's a feeling.

And yet it's more than a feeling...

Sunday, 22 May 2016

FBBUK: Linda & Fay Win in the North

Congratulations are in order to two of FMS' favourite UK muscle ladies, both already winners in 2016.

LINDA GARTSIDE
Winner, Women's Physique UKBFF North-west Championships 2016

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Linda booked her place at the British finals later in the year with her (I think I'm right in saying) first ever win at the UKBFF North-west Championships. And apart from all the other reasons to celebrate, she was especially chuffed to have been awarded the trophy by none other than IFBB Pro Wendy McCready, who guest posed at the show.

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First time I saw Wendy McCready in Evolution [gym] I was in awe and didn't dare speak to her, Linda said afterwards. Now many years later we are good friends, and to be awarded the trophy by a Lady I have admired since the day I started lifting properly is something I will cherish.

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All in all, Linda "had the best day", and if anyone deserves to have a bumper year, then it's her. After such a successful time as a NABBA athlete (see previously on FMS) she's had little success in terms of placings within the UKBFF, but has never even come close to resting on her former laurels. She tirelessly continues to refine and improve her physique year on year.

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I know my own weaknesses, she says, I embrace challenging myself, I know I have more in me, I know I will beat the old me. I can easily look in the mirror and smile because there is so much more to give.

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As always, actual concrete news of the show is hard to come by. I have no idea, for example, how many women there were in the Physique division at the show (I would bet not many) but eagle-eyed readers may have spotted a familiar face (and body) to Linda's right there. Presumably, given that she is on Linda's left, she was runner-up on this occasion.

FAY ELLIS
Winner, Athletic Figure NABBA North-east Championships 2016

But Fay Ellis (aka Fay Simone, see previously on FMS), didn't have to wait long after the Warrington show for her first win of the year.

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Again, not a lot of news about this other than what I have gleaned from Fay's own Instagram feed, but she definitely won, and with her victory she qualified for the NABBA Britain finals, which take place in the last weekend of May.

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Footage from international NABBA shows generally turns up on YouTube, domestic shows not so much, but the FMS research team are on it, and if any of Fay's routine does turn up, we'll be sure to let you know.

Congratulations again to our Northern muscle beauties!

Enjoy!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Clip of the Week

TREINO DE QUADRÍCEPS COM GEISI CYBORG

She seems to be quite a lot smaller than she was when we last saw her on FMS, those legs have definitely lost some of their shock and awe capability. But on the plus side, she's training, she's training legs, and for many of the movements she's training them até a falha. And all in a very fetching outfit.



Geisi is on Instagram (you'll need to request a follow and keep your fingers crossed).

Diverta-se!

Friday, 20 May 2016

A New Golden Age? Part VIII

A follow-up to FMS' recent conversation with PumpItUp regarding the past and present "Golden Ages" today. Big big love to JT for this stimulating (in thought and...) piece.

ALINA HD

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I too started with traumatic magazine-buying missions, but I don't miss those days. I have a theory that the internet 'Golden Age' really took off with the quality improvements in HD images and videos. In particular, this coincided with the rise to the top of one of the most incredible stars of the past few years: Alina Popa.

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I remember seeing images of her 'before' things really took off. I'm thinking the short blond hair, big chunky muscles... She had 'something' but didn't especially stand out.

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Then she went high definition.

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Not just the images, but Alina too. There are images of Alina that are almost impossibly beautiful: the sharpness of her muscle definition; the shiny bulging peaks, abs, quads; the sharp beauty of her cheekbones...

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Everything worked together and we could see her in absolute clarity.

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Alina's transformation into a high definition muscle goddess was made doubly impressive as the images of her changed to high definition at the same time.

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For me, Alina characterises now as being THE Golden Age for female muscle fans because all these images are readily available and can stay this sharp for ever.

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No dodgy scans of creased and crumpled magazine pages! 

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Gentlemen, your thoughts please! Let's keep the conversation going.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Media Watch UK

If you are of the opinion that weight training offers a means of empowering women, or that it is not only one solution, but the best solution to eating disorders resulting in everything from morbid obesity to bulimia, then you would have found plenty of evidence in the online arms of the UK national media recently.

Sadly, not one (as far as I can tell) of the many stories reported by The (famously female muscle friendly) Mail, or The Sun from February to the beginning of May this year are actually new stories. They are all - again, as far as I can tell - regurgitated, sometimes word for word, stories that have appeared elsewhere across the world, and at least one of them dates way back to 2013.

But, having said that, it seems churlish to be critical when each and every one of the stories contains the message that weight training transforms women's lives for the better. So, well done to The Mail and The Sun - but if they need new stories, FMS will happily point them in the right direction. For a small fee, naturally.

Woman who was bullied for being chubby as a teen reveals how she overcame bulimia and transformed her physique to become a ripped bodybuilder with just 9% body fat reads the headline (Mail, 26th April). Sound familiar? It may well do, as the woman in question is none other than Hot and Hard 100 #10 Melissa Sarah Wee, and this story has been around since the Singapore media discovered their girl in the summer of 2013.

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After (re)reporting her story of childhood chubbiness to teenage bulimia and then taking control through fitness and weight training, The Mail brings us up to date with Melissa now. She shows off her progress with pictures from competitions, writes Carly Stern, as well as 'swolfies' - selfies spotlighting her swollen muscles - and plenty of shots of her working out. She also offers inspirational words of body confidence to her fans.

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And she recently came tenth in a poll of the world's hottest muscular women!

Melissa (now this is news) is currently preparing for the Arnold Classic Hong Kong - follow on Instagram. Fifteen weeks out and counting at the time of writing.

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Now I can't help wondering if The Mail ended up recycling the Melissa story because its female muscle thunder was getting stolen by its rival The Sun. Apart from a handful of Rene Campbell pieces in the past, the latter has not previously been as vocal about FBBs and weight training females in general, but if the early months of this year are anything to go by, this may be set to change.

We've had "I'm a chubby girl stuck in a skinny girl's body" (12th February); Chubby woman transforms herself into blonde bombshell bodybuilder (10th March); Woman branded "hippo" in the park slims down to become weightlifting champion (25th March); and Woman branded chubby by bullies overhauls her life to become muscular fitness model (3rd May).

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The "chubby girl in a skinny girl's body" is Conner Rensch from Nebraska, a World Beauty Fitness and Fashion champion who still bears the scars of her former self. I am so proud of my scars and stretch marks as they tell my story and how far I've come, she told whoever wrote the story in the first place after her WBFF title win in June last year.

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Conner's title came in a category called "transformation" in which competitors not only do their T-walk, but also share their stories, complete, apparently, with "before" images. Not a dry eye in the house, I bet. Her website is the appropriately titled My Butterfly Journey.

Next, the "blonde bombshell bodybuilder" (a story reported by The Mail and The Daily Star on the same day as The Sun ran it and four days later on The Mirror) turns out to be Sophie Aris, a secondary school teacher from Manchester. Imagine that! A "blonde bombshell bodybuilder" telling you to stay behind after class...

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Easy now. We're in mainstream media land here, where "bodybuilder" can mean a lot of things, in this case Bikini competitor. Still, Sophie is a winning Bikini competitor, UKBFF North-west champion for the last two years. I tagged along to watch a bodybuilding competition and when I saw all the bikini girls, they just looked incredible, she says. It was so inspiring – I set myself a goal that the next year I would compete in the same competition and when I did I won my category.

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Since taking up weightlifting, Sophie has lost an incredible three stone and four dress sizes, we are told. Not sure how much teaching she's still doing because she's gained her personal training qualifications, started her own business - The Way to Glow - and has sponsorship and upwards of 80,000 IG followers. The only people complaining I imagine are the fathers who used to live for the termly parent-teacher evenings with Ms Aris.

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The Sun's third fat to fit story in a month concerned Virginian Peggy Pullen, who, after being called "a hippopotamus" by a child at a local swimming pool. The 46-year-old mother of four used this as her "spark", the motivation she needed to become a contender for Bodybuilding.com's $200,000 Transformation Challenge. In fact, The Sun's story is nothing more than a highly-edited version of a longer article that had already appeared there.

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As is so often the case with such tales, Peggy's road to the gym was littered with empty diet pill bottles. I had tried every possible diet on the planet, she says, every miracle pill and every magical 30-minute workout that promised to transform my life. Not only was I left broke every time, I was left with a sense of failure and knowing that something was obviously wrong with me.

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And as is equally so often the case, she didn't get much love at the gym at first either. All these big guys were like, 'Who is that fat old lady coming here and thinking she's going to lift all that weight?' One guy approached me and said, 'Why don't you just do it this way?' I explained that my way worked better. I said, 'I do 50, so you can do 15 reps, right?' After pushing his way to 15, he looked like he was going to faint. After that, their attitudes changed.

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The Sun story claims she has "several bodybuilding gongs", but there's no mention of these anywhere else. So perhaps Peggy's story isn't quite as by the book as it seems. As far as I know she didn't win the cash either. But she has got herself some sponsorship, and a bunch of "just read your article on Bodybuilding.com and..." fans. And she's met Kai Greene. Follow her future story on Instagram.

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And our final former "chubby", Brazilian Rafaela Ravena, provides probably the most confusing story of those featured by The Sun in recent times. It starts off normally enough though. Bullies, taunts, transformation into "a muscular fitness model" with "a solid six pack and muscly arms and legs". Nothing strange about the mainstream media seeing muscles where I don't, but yes, OK, fair play to Rafaela, she's gone from ordinary to exceptional without a doubt. The only comments she gets about her body now (apart from the odd eejit who has commented below The Sun's story that "she looked better before" - it's subjective, of course, but they are so so wrong - she didn't) are complimentary, but, The Sun reveals, "she’s still the subject of gossip".

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The gossip claims steroid use, and here is where it gets weird. The 23-year-old model became so tired of hearing whispers that she’d used steroids to change her body that she took a drugs test to prove she is all natural, according to the article. People tend to associate a muscular body with steroids, says Rafaela, but that's not true, so I did a test to prove it. And the results of the test are there for all to see, published as part of the article.

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All natural then. Er, no. I did [use steroids] at first, she admits, but I don't anymore because I noticed it's something that's not good for your body. I think a lot of fitness models use them. I think all fitness models should do this test to prove it!

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Let me get this straight. She's 23. She's transformed her body over a period of a few years, "at first" with the help of steroids, and now she's accusing other fitness models and preaching that everyone should get tested?! So, it's OK to use when you are starting out, but once you've got the body and you need to maintain it (not saying it isn't hard work but it isn't as hard cos we all know more muscle burns more calories) then you should become an anti-steroids campaigner?!

An interesting opinion. I think we'll leave Rafaela there and finish off today with a woman so well-known for (actually) being "All Natural" that she made it part of her moniker, Kortney Olson.

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The human nutcracker! screams The Mail's headline. Watch a woman crush THREE watermelons between her muscular thighs before joking it's how you should 'serve a favorite summertime dish'. Actually the story is a combination of two watermelon crushing clips Kortney has made, a year or two apart, as far as I know. She is, as The Mail points out, "slightly more clothed" in the more recent clip.

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It's a long and copiously illustrated piece, as though The Mail was trying to make up for its lack of female muscle compared to The Sun. And it's full of the wisdom of "fitness guru" Kortney. Ask any anthropologist, and they'll tell you women are fierce, she says. Women historically fought till the death protecting their child, whereas men fought for chivalry. Women have wider hips and any athlete knows this is the area for pure power. We have a lower center of gravity, we're more determined, agile, and have great balance. Society/media will soon cease programming young grrrls to fall for the lie that we're weak and belong in the kitchen.

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No arguing with that, but behind all the publicity and dead watermelons, there's a real story with Kortney. A transformation from teenage alcoholism into a figurehead of some kind of Muscle Power equals Feminism movement. It's slightly frustrating that it never really gets told in full because we're too busy marvelling at that exploding fruit.

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It's the same with the other stories, the transformations from bulimia to health, from fat to fit. There is an over-arching narrative. It's one that causes such a stir that the subject becomes part of the popular debate, and ends up with the Secretary of State for Health initialising an extensive weight training programme on the NHS for victims of eating disorders. It's a story that removes the "magic pills" from the shelves once and for all. And we're even pretty clear about what the message on steroid use should be!

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Maybe one day someone will write these stories. Until then, keep an eye on The Sun and The Mail for your mainstream female muscle stories. Just don't expect all of them to be particularly new.

Enjoy!