Asian women at the gym

Who is the strongest woman in the world? Arguably, it’s Iris Kyle, who has had ten Ms. Olympia wins – the most to have been achieved, ever – and seven Ms. International wins. The Ms. Olympia competition is the highest goal there is for female bodybuilders, while the Ms. International title is considered the second most prestigious award.

In the Philippines, there are many bodybuilders. One of the most well-known is Lorelei Rosa Deloria and Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz. We interviewed three Filipina women with muscular bodies. They share some of their stories and tips on how to aspire to be the strongest women in the world.

Lyllian Banzon, 34

As a consequence of her active lifestyle, Lyllian Banzon is a strong, muscular woman. She averages one hour in the gym every day. Throughout her childhood, she went to the beach and was exposed to various sports and activities. Gymnastics, ballet, biking, rollerblading, swimming, badminton, golf, weightlifting, water polo, basketball, and rugby are just part of what she has done throughout her life.

She thinks that most people, especially men, find her aptitude for fitness and the way she looks intimidating. Strangers like security guards, salesclerks, and other people ask her about what she does to acquire her muscles, be it boxing or going to the gym. “Ano pong sport niyo? ” she is often asked.

Banzon is not a personal trainer, nor does she work in the field of . It’s just something she enjoys doing. “I like to maintain a good base of fitness. I am ready to do almost anything I want to do. I do different activities – sometimes it's running, or strength and conditioning at the gym or at home, sometimes it's playing a sport. I join events or training or just have fun with friends.”

“The questions used to bother me because I assumed that they meant it in a bad way, but now, I just answer. They neither bother nor inspire me. I don't attach meanings to what every person says, especially if those people are not important to me. You cannot be affected by what every single person says about you,” Lyllian shares.

She believes that having a more muscular frame is partly due to genetics, but it is mainly the result of her lifestyle choices: what she chooses to do with her time and how she nourishes her body. “Until I change my preferences, it’s the status quo.”

Jennifer Sawaki, 21 years old

Jennifer Sawaki started young. She took ballet at two years old. By elementary school, she was playing soccer, basketball, badminton, tennis, and baseball – all while still dancing ballet. When she tore the ACL on her right knee at 14 years old, she realized that sports and fitness were something she wanted to take more seriously in her life.

Jennifer used to be a personal trainer at an international gym chain but stopped. She shares that for about a year, she didn’t have a and just recently got back to one. She tries to three times a week.

Muscular women are often seen as intimidating or different, and it isn’t any different for Sawaki. “Everywhere I go, I get comments. At the beach, the mall, at parties, at work, and even at home, there is bound to be a person who inevitably mentions my physique.” However, she thinks that times are changing. “Before, muscular women were perceived as intense and manly. But perceptions are changing. People are aware of and there's more respect [for muscular women now].”

Sawaki says that she doesn’t like pushing people to go to the gym and has a freewheeling attitude about physical fitness. “I just want to stay physically fit where it enables me to go about my daily life the way I want to. I like having a nice bum and legs and I don’t see my fitness routine changing in the future.”.

Leah Velasco, 24 years old

Leah Velasco, a personal trainer, says she was on the heavier side when she was a child. As a teenager, her crush told her he didn’t like fat girls. So, Velasco danced, went on a diet, and enrolled in a gym. She claims that she became a gymaholic and was well on her way to becoming one of the few muscular women you see at fitness centers. She got a degree in Sports and Wellness Management from the University of Santo Tomas and hasn’t looked back since.

“People often tell me I look sexy and hot. That . The more people compliment me, the more I want to maintain my physical appearance.” Being a personal trainer makes her want to aim even higher in her fitness goals. “I need to set a good example. I have a meal of 1500 calories per day. It is a low carb and high protein diet with food like Adlai rice, chicken breast, vegetables, tuna, salmon, and beef.”

She thinks that many people find muscular women attractive, strong, and powerful. At the end of the day, she says, “Let's just admire and respect a girl who respects her body. If she puts in the time to pump all that muscle to look and feel good, then let her be.”

Our last word: although muscular women make up a small sector of society, they're making a big impact because of their strength, resiliency, and commitment to their bodies.

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