Pumping iron creates an image of sweating men inside a gym lifting 100-pound barbells. But some Columbia women bodybuilders are shedding this image. They know it takes a lot more than just pumping iron to to make a healthy body. It also takes eating the right foods and getting encouragement from a friend or spouse. Della Wagnon,28,was born in England and has been a bodybuilder for eight years. Wagnon said it took hard work to develop her body. The first step she said was joining a health club in 1981. During the same year, she entered the Stars of Tomorrow, a regional women’s bodybuilding contest held in London. After successfully competing in other local contests, Wagnon found herself eligible to compete in the British Women’s Bodybuilding Championships, which she won twice before moving to the U.S. After finishing fourth in the 1988 Arnold Schwarzneggar Contest, Wagnon became a professional bodybuilder. Wagnon said a woman’s muscles will not start to bulge simply from lifting weights because a woman’s testosterone level is too low. A woman would also have to take steroids, she said. Since turning pro in 1988, Wagnon has set her sights on the Miss Olympia title. But first she must place in the top five of the National Women’s World Bodybuilding Competition. Wagnon, who is married, said her husband has been very supportive. “He thinks my training is positive so he trains too,” Wagnon said.
Professional bodybuilder Cindy Smith said, “To be married and to have a supportive husband is thrilling. You don’t need your family in support of it. But it is nice.” Smith, a 33-year old teacher at Heyward-Gibbes Middle School, has been training for several years. This year Smith placed second in the University of South Carolina Capitol City Women’s Bodybuilding Championships, and she also placed second in the Mid south Bodybuilding Contest held in Orangeburg. Smith said she got her start in 1978 when a friend encouraged her to give the sport a try. In 1985, Smith met professional female bodybuilder Candy Garner, Garner was a positive role model, Smith said. But it was bodybuilder Barry Glymph who brought out her full potential, which contributed to her successes in the 1990 competitions. Smith said the sport isn’t as negative toward women as it once was. More information is coming through the media, educating the public about women’s bodybuilding, smith said.
Bodybuilder Donna Thornton said she wants to show women they can body build naturally without the use of steroids. “Fitness has always been a passion with me, Thornton said. Thornton said she got into the sport because she needed training to help her as a marathon runner. After winning the South Carolina Women’s Bodybuilding Championship in 1984, Thornton was the only woman from South Carolina to attempt to go to the National U.S.A Women’s Bodybuilding Championships in 1985. She finished 11th out of 21. In 1985, Thornton also competed in the Gold’s Classic in North Carolina, and in 1986 she competed in the same contest in South Carolina. She said the only thing she wants to do now is compete on the masters level, which is for women in their 30s. Thornton said she wants to see more women involved in the sport. “I want to get women in the sport because it’s a male dominated. Definitely in South Carolina I want to show women they can body build without artificial aids.”
Meri Shumpert, 27, is new to the sport. She said she wants to get as muscular as possible without the use of steroids. Shumpert works as a bodybuilding trainer, but has only been in the sport a little more than a year. Shumpert said she first got introduced to the sport when she went to a gym to do aerobics. Bodybuilding was the farthest thing from her mind, Shumpert said. But after being told she had the body makeup for it, she trained for three months. Shumpert said she liked the change. Since that time, she calls herself a natural to the sport. Shumpert said she wants to get muscular naturally because steroids and drugs destroy a woman’s body. Shumpert said usually the first stage of steroids is the appearance of facial hair, then a woman’s voice deepens. The woman will loose her breasts permanently because the breasts are made of fatty tissue. In fact, Shumpert said a lot of women take steroids to get rid of body fat. Shumpert said as a trainer she does get a reaction from some men. It encourages a man to push himself because they feel if a woman can do it, a man can do it better.” By next year she said, “I’ll be ready to compete.” Right now Shumpert doesn’t have any particular contest in mind. But she said she will definitely represent her place of business.Interviewing local women bodybuildersfinding out more women in the sport oppose steroids and drug enhancementsWomen cannot and it is nearly impossible for women to grow”super” or “ultra” muscular without the use of steroids or other drugs.