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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C

Column The rise of bodybuilding shows strong is the new skinny

Bodybuilding might not be for everyone – but I’m glad to see more varied and healthy role models for young girls, writes Jenny Conlon.

I HAVE ALWAYS felt intimidated by the weights section in the gym. It sounds a bit ridiculous – but it always seemed to be so dominated by men. I also had no clue what to actually do with the weights once I got there. I’m a little more clued in now and that’s because of Julija Laurusonyte. She opened my eyes to the serious world of body building – and I’ve learned along the way that you don’t have to always go to a bar or a club to meet the love of your life, you might actually find them in the weights section of your gym.

Julija Laurusonyte is currently flying the flag for Ireland after been crowned Miss Toned Figure Ireland 2013 by the National Amateur Bodybuilding Association (NABBA) on their tenth anniversary in Ireland. She then also went on to represent Ireland in NABBA Universe which took place in England earlier this month. Go on the girls!

Her sheer passion, endurance, focus and drive to get where she is today is motivational for all young women. The amount of physical work and dedication that goes into the training of a bodybuilder is mind-blowing. She is a strong inspirational lady, who flips any negativity about the industry onto its head.

Revolutionising the image of female bodybuilding

Laurusonyte is revolutionising the image of bodybuilding for Irish females; she has made it cool and would give any man a run for their money in the weights section of the gym. She brings a new swagga and contemporary edge to the sport, something that I’ve never seen before.

I’ve always wanted to know what a bodybuilder eats, and I can tell you that I was surprised to find that it’s not actually that exotic. Foods such as chicken, turkey, lean beef, white fish, eggs, sweet potato, protein shakes and nuts are all on the menu, so there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

imageImage: Julija Laurusonyte

Those coming from a fitness, nutrition and personal training background know exactly what they put into their bodies, bringing the ‘you are what you eat’ plate to the table. Many create their own recipes to sustain their rigorous workouts. It is all about eating clean, eliminating any processed foods, and feeding your body with natural goodness.

There’s no time for slackers in the business of bodybuilding – discipline is imperative if you want to compete successfully and be taken seriously. It’s not just a competition for a lot of people, it’s a career. You need to have a strong mindset, focus and, above all, surround yourself with the right people who give you the right support when you need it.

Moving away from the size-zero-lollipop look

It’s extremely refreshing to see young girls moving away from the size-zero-lollipop look and instead showing more interest in becoming strong and toned. Strong and lean is the new skinny; there appears to be a big future in Ireland with more and more women signing up and competing every year.

After chatting to Laurusonyte, I discovered that it wasn’t until she met Mr Fitness Universe, NABBA 2012, Vincent Timmons that she gained confidence and realised she wanted to explore and experience the sport competitively. The couple, who had their first date in the weights area of the gym, have without a doubt paved the way for Ireland on the world stage.

Laurusonyte told me that she genuinely enjoys every set, every rep, every minute, and loves the feeling of achieving something after each session. Nearing competitions can get quite intense for a bodybuilder as it involves training twice a day to get the desired results. But, to quote Laurusonyte, ‘If you train in moderation, you get moderate results’.

Bodybuilding might not be for everyone but I’m glad to see that Julija Laurusonyte is a healthy role model and representative for Ireland who brings an admirable new glamour to the sport. She emulates and embodies the statement that strong is definitely the new skinny.

Jenny Conlon is an Irish journalist living in London.

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