Senior Kristina Arakelov puts on her favorite Flag Nor Fail shirt, laces up her black Nike tennis shoes and grabs her Powerbeats 2 headphones. She begins her drive to the Carriage Club, a place she considers her second home. For the past four years, she has spent nearly every day working out in the club’s fitness room.
Arakelov started bodybuilding at the end of her freshman year because she wanted a more sculpted figure and found that it the perfect way to build both confidence and character. Currently, Arakelov is bodybuilding for personal reasons, but has considered entering competitions in the future when she reaches a more advanced level.
Throughout Arakelov’s childhood, she considered herself overweight and was insecure about how others perceived her. She struggled with her appearance and thought everything needed improvement. Her body was the main thing she wanted to change about herself, but she didn’t know where to begin.
Arakelov played tennis, but the sport alone wasn’t enough to lose the weight she wanted. She researched different training and nutritional information and became interested in bodybuilding.
“Bodybuilding is like an art,” Arakelov said. “You get to shape your body any way you want.”
Before Arakelov started to bodybuild, she weighed 140 pounds, which according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) was overweight for a person of her height. She lost around 30 pounds by doing cardio, but then her weight went back up to 120 pounds because of muscle gain through weight training. She got workout ideas from famous bodybuilder Bradley Martyn, and began a regimented training program. On Mondays she focuses on her arms by using the curl bar, Tuesdays are devoted to chest workouts such as the bench press, and so on.
“No one is perfect, but that keeps me motivated, knowing that there is always something that can be improved,” Arakelov said.
Arakelov put together a strict diet for herself based on foods praised by famous female bodybuilder, Paige Hathaway. For breakfast, she eats up to four eggs (her favorite source of protein) and a piece of fruit, usually a banana. Lunch consists of vegetables and a protein shake. For dinner she eats meat (either chicken or steak), salad and a couple of slices of bread. She follows her diet on a daily basis but sets aside one “cheat day” per week where she can eat sweets.
At first, Arakelov found it difficult to stay motivated. She didn’t feel like she knew what she was doing, and she would always compare her diet to others. Arakelov also didn’t have anyone who supported her decision to bodybuild. Her parents tried to hold her back from the activity because they thought it would make her seem less feminine, and her classmates would judge her for being a female in a male dominated practice.
“At times throughout the process I would feel alone and empty inside,” Arakelov said.
Her inspirations, Martyn and Hathaway, helped her from feeling alone because she saw how they overcame negativity and continued doing what they loved with a strong and confident attitude.
“I’m a huge advocate for women to do weight training,” Hathaway said in an interview with Women’s Health. “One misconception I’m sure you’ve heard a lot is that if girls go to the gym, they’re going to look manly, they’re going to look bulky, or they’re just not going to look feminine anymore.”
Arakelov’s advice for anyone who is wanting to start bodybuilding is to only add a little weight each session and to take it slow. Overtraining can lead to serious injuries which can occur due to many things such as working at a high intensity for too long, lack of nutrition or lack of recovery time in between workouts.
“People think that if a girl does bodybuilding she will look like a guy,” Arakelov said. “I want people to know that just because I lift, doesn’t mean I’m any less of a girl.”