As a therapist, I find the world of bodybuilding intriguing. This sport offers a unique set of potential challenges and rewards, as it is a sport that requires lifestyle and behavioural commitments and is judged based on aesthetics.
Preparing to compete involves daily effort and influences physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of athletes’ lives.
One area of concern that has been identified in recent literature is the potential risk for bodybuilding to negatively influence body image.
Specific concerns have included the potential for athletes to develop extreme or unhealthy ideas about ideal weight and shape  and the potential risks associated with the requirements of participating in this sport including: self-evaluation and emphasis on achieving certain body shape and size, dieting and eating behaviours to alter appearance, & training practices to effect shape and size [2, 3].
In a sport where body image concerns may be a risk for athletes, stories of resilience may help to inspire and encourage other athletes to care for their whole selves as a vital part of staying resilient and thriving in this sport.
I was excited to sit down with Jasmin Schenk, competitive bikini athlete and RMT, and talk to her about how her passion for health, genuine nature, and grounded sense of self helps her to deal effectively with the challenges of competing and maintain her passion for this sport.
Inspiring Pathways Interview:
Jasmin Schenk is a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT).
Jasmin has also completed a Bachelor of Health Sciences from Thompson Rivers University and is continuing her studies in holistic nutrition.
Jasmin is passionate about helping others achieve and maintain optimal health in their lives.
What first inspired you to compete in a bodybuilding competition?
J: I’m goal driven and I wanted a challenge where I could push myself. It’s an all around challenge-it’s physical, mental, and emotional. I think that the overall encompassing lifestyle can be healthy.
How would you describe how you felt about your body and about yourself before you competed?
J: Who doesn’t hate their body in some way in high school? I didn’t start to appreciate my body until massage school, nine years ago. My body has changed so much and I have grown to love my body firstly for what it is capable of and secondly for what it looks like.
What were some of the highlights of preparing for your competition?
J: I loved that I was able to share my experiences with my clients as a part of building deeper relationships with them. I’ve had friends and clients who’ve shared that they now want to pursue their own health goals.
Another one of my favourite things about prep is that the lessons that I learn during prep can be applied to other areas of my life too.
Did you experience any changes in how you felt about your body or about yourself?
J: I’m goal driven and wanted to push myself and experience the journey and see what I’m capable of more than I thought if I do this I will love myself more.
I believe individuals should have a strong foundation or sense of self to effectively cope with the mental struggles that come with competition prep.
My few “low points” didn’t last very long. I think maybe I was strong enough to deal with it. I also have a partner who is very supportive of me.
Goals are always a huge thing for me and as long as I am working towards them, I am happy.Jasmin Schenk
As you look back on this experience, what helped you to feel good about your body and about yourself?
J: Goals are always a huge thing for me and as long as I am working towards them, I am happy. I also have a supportive partner and my coaches were great. I think it’s harder for athletes who maybe don’t have the support and maybe feel like they are alone and others don’t understand or get it.
I also recommend taking pictures of your progress. You might not notice notice the small changes but when you look at them after they look dramatically different.
What was it like to finally after all that hard work, take the stage?
J: I remember talking to my friend about this is what a wedding day feelings like. You spend a year prepping for one single moment and it’s over like that. While I was happy with coming in second, I also felt like I disappointed my coaches. I talked to them about it and they told me that they had encouraged me because they see so much potential in me in this sport. I think that communication is everything.
What was post-competition recovery like for you?
J: I was physically sore after my competition but I don’t think I was as sore as I would have been if I wasn’t proactive. I get massage therapy, acupuncture, have a naturopath and take care of myself.
Did your recovery experience influence how you felt about yourself?
J: I took the next day after the show to reflect. I still trained hard the first week, but I felt lost without a goal.
I talked with my coaches about my experiences and felt a complete 180. I talked about the things I didn’t talk about it before.
Authenticity is important to me and I think a lot of people feel a need to fit a certain image or wear that mask that everybody wears. My coaches clarified that they weren’t disappointed in me and they see the potential in me and for my future in this sport.
What did you take away from this experience in terms of appreciating your body from a functional perspective?
J: While I’m still not 100% comfortable with how small I am, I love the strength and love the definition. When I think about what I’m capable of doing now, that part’s great. One of the most amazing things that I get to share with my patients is that as tired as I am right now, I feel stronger when I’m working now than I did in my first year of practicing. I actually work more hours in the week than when I first started as an RMT.
I have grown to love my body firstly for what it is capable of and secondly for what it looks like.Jasmin Schenk
What can readers do if they are interested in finding out more about your journey or getting in touch with you?
Jasmin’s experiences highlight the role that a strong sense of identity, adequate support, and overall health focus contributed to her effective coping with the demands of competing in this sport.
Her story provides one example of the vital role that a multifaceted approach to health and well-being can support athletes with experiencing resilience in this sport.
For athletes who are struggling with body image, accessing adequate support and re-focusing on overall health may be first steps to fostering increased resilience and improved well-being.
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1. Smith, A., & Stewart, B. (2012). Body perceptions and health behaviours in an online bodybuilding community. Qualitative Health Research, 22(7), 971-985. doi:10.1177/1049732312443425
2. Aragon, A., Helms, E., & Fitschen, P. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(20). doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
3. Brace-Govan, J. (2002). Looking at bodywork: women and three physical activities. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 26(4), 403-420. doi: 10.1177/0193732502238256
1st & 2nd images by byistolethetv@flickr.
3rd image by Tim Dardis, www.timdardisphotography.com