Body building iron maiden

2012-11-23 10:42

When she was little, Lorraine Canham never dreamed she’d become a firefighter – even less a body builder.

It’s almost un-believable that a 1.63m woman can pack in so many muscles.

And even when she’s not competing, the 38-year-old is showered with compliments from strangers when they see her perfectly toned physique.

‘People say very nice things to me, and are interested in my training,’ she says. ‘I laugh when my teenage son’s friends say, “Ooh, don’t mess with his mom or you’ll be in trouble!”’

Lorraine says that body building totally transformed her life – more than just changing her physical look, she went from being shy and reserved to confident and disciplined.

‘It sort of changed my personality; I even dress differently now because I have more confidence. I guess standing on a stage and impressing judges can have that effect on you!’

She began training at 29 when she met her trainer, who introduced her to the sport.

‘He took me to a body building show in 2003, and I walked away in such awe of the body builders, I started training right away!’ It took two years of hard work at the gym to prepare for her first competition.


Apart from her son, her biggest fans are her team at work.

‘I work for Transnet and my job as a firefighter is more about prevention of fire at Durban port. A lot of chemicals are used and some are brought in by the ships, so there is always a risk of fire. Fires are truly devastating, so being part of a team that prevents that is amazing. I love the rush of adrenaline I get when we respond to an emergency situation.’

Body building has naturally has an effect on her job, too.

‘It helps me achieve much more in an emergency situation because I am physically stronger,’ she says, and adds that her male colleagues have total confidence in her as a team-mate during dangerous situations.

Lorraine began her career as a firefighter at Durban airport, where she worked for 13 years. She had started out in security but found it boring, so when an opportunity to train as a firefighter came up, she grabbed it.

Apart from the need to become super fit for her job, ‘Firefighting really took me out of my comfort zone, both physically and emotionally because you work as a team and you have to count on other people.’

At work Lorraine says women are fairly represented; it’s not quite the same in body building.

Though there are many white female participants, she is usually the only coloured female body builder at a competition, ‘and the one black woman who used to compete decided to stop for a few years.

I think we need to encourage more women of colour to participate,’ she says.

Eye on the prize

Competitions are a big part of the sport.

There are many held around the country by different body building associations, such as National Amateur Body Building Association of South Africa (NABBASA) and International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB).

There are local, provincial and national competitions for all types of body builders. Lorraine participates in a number of them, and has brought home 13 trophies since she started competing.

‘October is competition season for me. I’ve just done the NABBASA provincial where I came second, and now I’m preparing for the nationals,’ says Lorraine.

 The IFBB cancelled the ladies category in Durban two years ago because of a lack of participants.

‘This was devastating for me because I really enjoyed that competition.’

The competitions don’t pay prize money – winning is the reward for anyone who’s worked really hard.

The costs of body building can be high because of the training and supplements required and those who’ve made a career of it depend on sponsorship from health and supplement companies, and often work as trainers or run their own gyms.

‘It’s my dream to turn my body building into a full-time job, and do personal training as well,’ says Lorraine.

Pumping iron
Body building requires passionate commitment, and for Lorraine it has become a way of life.

‘At first you have to be disciplined, but when you get used to your routine it becomes normal,’ she says.

Her job requires her to be fit anyway. ‘I train five times a week for two hours a day with my body building team, otherwise an hour on my own. I work shifts, so I fit my exercise sessions in whenever I have the time.’

Her gym sessions usually involve lifting weights of up to 200kg.

Lorraine does cardio in the mornings and works on toning her muscles during competition season. Each day she’ll do one muscle group – legs on Mondays, shoulders on Tuesdays, arms on Wednesdays.

‘My routine is about maintaining what I have.

I don’t want to build more muscle; I think some people do get carried away, and that’s why they end up using steroids.’

Power diet
Body builders are known to eat a lot more protein than most people, but there is method to the madness and the results show in muscle mass.

Lorraine’s diet consists of vegetables, protein and carbohydrates, ideally taken in six small meals a day.

‘I’ve changed it a bit. I’m not good at eating six small meals, so I eat when I’m hungry,’ she says.

‘But I keep it clean – no processed or starchy foods. I mainly get my carbs from vegetables and brown rice. I eat oats with honey, or with a sprinkling of protein shake for a bit of flavour.’ She eats carbohydrates before training, which gives her the energy ‘to go the extra mile’.

Off season, Lorraine does indulge in her favourite treats – ice cream, chocolate, cake – which she counteracts with a good work-out. During competition season, however, her diet is strictly protein and veg only.


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