Burma’s female bodybuilders have been joining international competitions since 2012. This year, Aye Aye Soe, 24, became the first female Burmese bodybuilder to win a gold medal in a competition at Women’s Athletic Physique contest held in Singapore’s NUS center this month. Female bodybuilders from seven other Southeast Asian countries joined the competition.
Irrawaddy reporter May Sitt Paing spoke with Burma’s first female prize-winning bodybuilder about her experiences, training regime and how Burmese society views her sport.
Question: Could you tell me about your win at the contest held at the NUS center?
Answer: This was the fourth overseas contest for me. I didn’t expect to win a gold medal as my rival from the host country was really good. There were also several body builders who were senior to me. I feel satisfied to win the gold medal as the success represents Myanmar.
Q: How long have you been joining body builder contests?
A: I have joined several times in Yangon. This is the first time I earned a gold medal in an international contest. Before, I won a third prize in Guangzhou, and I finished sixth in Bangkok and fifth in Vietnam.
Q: When did you become interested in bodybuilding?
A: After my matriculation exam, I worked as a clerk at Myanmar Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Federation. There, my mentor Maung Maung Kyi, who is a bodybuilder himself, encouraged me to join the sport. Later, I gradually grew interested in it.
Q: To what extent Burmese women are interested in bodybuilding?
A: Not many are, only a few dozens, probably. So, if you compare with other countries, the interest in bodybuilding here is not very high. But now we have opportunities to take part in contests, it’s good for us.
Q: Why are most Burmese women not interested in it?
A: They are afraid that they will have bigger muscles and will no longer be feminine if they do bodybuilding. It’s not true. Even though you take the exercise seriously, you are still a woman. If you exercise regularly and keep a strict diet, it will be OK. I want to tell them: Don’t be afraid of bodybuilding.
Q: What are the important things in body building?
A: Only doing exercise can’t help you. You have to refill energy that you lost during the exercise. You have to be strict on the time you go to bed and wake up. But the most important thing is diet. You have to learn to enjoy bland [but healthy] food. No matter how hard you exercise, you will not improve if there is no strict regimen on food.
Q: What are the advantages of being a bodybuilder?
A: When female bodybuilders get older, they still have a beautiful body structure because they have no fat and they still look like young women.
Q: How long do you think it will take before bodybuilding becomes popular among Burmese women?
A: Abroad, women have been taking part in body building contests for a long time. But here we were only allowed to join in 2012. It’s quite late if you compare it with other counties. We have to work hard to keep abreast with them.
Q: Do you ever receive criticism for being a female body builder?
A: Traditionally, bodybuilding is regarded as men’s sport. So it’s quite strange or alarming for some people here to see a female bodybuilder. But I want to tell them: Please don’t be afraid of us—support us!