The Body Challenge
Bodybuilding is becoming a popular sport in Bhutan – and contributing to national unity.
Bodybuilding is a favorite sport in Bhutan and
has created fresh interest in recent years.
Sports are an essential part of the national culture of Bhutan. As a matter of fact, the Bhutanese people encourage participation in a variety of sports since childhood. Due to this enthusiasm at all levels, professional sports in Bhutan have become a part of everyday life. Bodybuilding is the latest rage in the country along with other sports.
Bodybuilding is all about developing the physique through exercise and diet, often for competitive exhibition. It aims at displaying pronounced muscle tone and exaggerated muscle mass for an overall aesthetic effect. Weight training is the principal exercise whereas high protein foods and vitamin and mineral supplements contribute to the diet. Bodybuilders often take part in competitions which are held across the globe and are now considered a sport.
Bodybuilding grew largely out of the 19th century European theatrical and circus acts. The first important international competition was the Mr. Universe contest, which started in 1947. It was followed by the even more prestigious Mr. Olympia contest in 1965, while competitions for women began in the 1970s. In 1998, bodybuilding was granted provisional status by the International Olympic Committee. Since then, athletes from all over the world participate in bodybuilding and weight lifting competitions which are held at local, national and global level.
With the sport gaining immense popularity among the Bhutanese, more and more young people are coming forward and participating in professional bodybuilding competitions, according to the Bhutan Bodybuilding and Weight Lifting Federation. The number of bodybuilders, fitness and cover models who join gymnasiums both for the purpose of becoming professional athletes as well as hobbyists is increasing with time.
Ever since Bhutanese athletes started representing their country at international competitions, the sport has become exceedingly well-liked by the masses. Seeing sportsmen making Bhutan proud with their fitness and weight lifting skills, many young people have become interested in the sport and have joined various fitness clubs. The most interesting part of this growing trend is that most aficionados come from different walks of life and may not necessarily have athletic tendencies in their childhood.
According to Sangay Tsheltrim, an ex-armed forces officer, athlete and executive member of the Bhutan Bodybuilding and Weight Lifting Federation, some of the participants show initial wariness but as they continue with the training and the required diet, they begin to develop interest. Seeing other athletes working out in the gym also motivates young men to attain the ideal fitness level to participate in the competition. However, there are many bodybuilding enthusiasts in Bhutan who do not necessarily want to take part in competitions, but want to pursue it as a hobby. After all, who doesn’t want to look good?
In Bhutan, the first nationallevel bodybuilding competition took place in 2008. Since then, athletes from Bhutan have been participating in various national and international competitions. Recently, four Bhutanese athletes, including a female, participated in the 48th Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship and Annual Congress in Macau, China.
Their enthusiasm has also increased because Bhutan will be hosting the 2016 Asian championship, which will definitely provide more opportunities to the people of Bhutan. This is because the event will not only attract more participants to take interest in bodybuilding but those participating will receive more exposure internationally, which is much needed for the promotion of the sport in Bhutan and for the country’s image.
“It is not only about participating and winning, but it is more about representing your country,” Tsheltrim says.
On the challenges faced by bodybuilders in Bhutan, he adds that in order to succeed, athletes need a lot of time, dedication, discipline, effort and support from the family to dedicate themselves to this field.
Some people, who might not have an interest in competing on stage, still take up bodybuilding as an activity. For all such hobbyists, professional athletes are always there to give tips.
Earlier, bodybuilding and weightlifting was solely considered a male-dominated field and female participation in bodybuilding was confined to the west. However, with the increasing popularity of the sport, women from Asian countries have also started participating in professional bodybuilding competitions.
In Bhutan, participation of women in the sport was unheard of in the past. In 2013, however, the first ever Bhutanese female athlete took part in the World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship in Hungary. The athlete, Yeatoeh Lhamu Penjore, aged 22, was a school teacher by profession. She won a medal of appreciation for representing Bhutan for the very first time in the category of model physique. Owing to her passion for fitness and
for being the first female to take such an initiative, Penjore is seen with respect by the masses as well as her male counterparts. Participation of a female in bodybuilding is a particularly difficult task because in Bhutanese culture a female with a bodybuilder’s physique is not considered feminine and desirable.
Moreover, due to cultural inhibitions, many women in Bhutan do not feel comfortable in exposing their bodies on stage. However, the love of sports and fitness among the Bhutanese people can be gauged from the fact that they wholeheartedly supported Yeatoeh Lhamu Penjore when she competed and represented Bhutan at an international level. This year, she again participated in the 48th Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship and Annual Congress in Macau, China.
Although bodybuilding has become quite popular in Bhutan, there are many people who want to participate in the sport but are held back because of some prevalent myths.
It is believed that bodybuilders use steroids excessively to gain weight. When people hear about bodybuilding, they immediately assume all kinds of negative things about bodybuilders but their assumptions are mostly wrong, especially with regard to natural bodybuilders.
People have a limited understanding of what is possible to achieve with their own bodies and even when someone has an impressive natural physique, people consider it fake. It takes a lot of dedication and training outside the gym that contributes to natural bodybuilding and not all athletes use steroids.
Though performance enhancement supplements are always required but what is more important is that it actually takes a lot of hard work and intelligence to learn about nutrition and to apply different exercise techniques in the gym.
“It is important to remove some myths so that people can make informed choices if they want to take up bodybuilding and weight lifting as a profession. Young people understand this fact and I can see a bright future for all athletes in Bhutan,” Tsheltrim said.