About a year ago, I reached out to Shante Little hoping to feature her on a running website I had started. She was very humble, kind and friendly. She quickly responded and answered my questions. I then followed her track races and hoped for her success. One day I realized her social media posts started to take a different direction. It was obvious I must have missed something. I reached out to her and she confirmed that she had made the decision to move on from track and into a new sport and passion. I noticed her continue improvements with her daily and weekly posts. At one point she seemed to show just a slight glimpse of possible doubt. Whether I was right or wrong, I felt the need to encourage her to follow through with the first competition that she signed up for. Yes she was a rookie about to go up against more experienced competition and possible veterans. But I knew the experience would be a huge benefit no matter the result. Sure enough, she was going through with it. This past week she entered her first official body building competition and placed in 2 divisions, winning one of them. I was so happy for her knowing what she had gone through. Once again, she was extremely kind and open to talk with me and answer the following questions.
What encouraged you to put a hold on and a potentially permanent end to your running dreams for body building?
I'd been slowly falling out of love with track & field for a little over a year. I still enjoy watching the sport and keeping up with the meets and times but purely as a spectator and as a fan. After sustaining an injury last spring that went undiagnosed for some time, I was given a lot of downtime for recovery. I don't know how else to explain it other than to say it was almost like a way out. I had to decide if I was coming back or not and I realized that all of my reasons to come back, were less about me and more about everyone else. I ran a little bit in the beginning with a teammate who was also coming back from an injury but it was mostly just a means of me getting my fitness back. I didn't want to just stop doing anything so I spent some time thinking about the type of training I enjoyed and ways to work that into some form of competition. What it came down to was lifting. The options from there were power lifting, weight lifting and body building. I'm pretty impulsive and once I get an idea in my head, that's it. I knew I only liked certain lifts (snatches, squats and deads) and that's not the way power or weight lifting works. So bodybuilding it was.
What are the eating habit and food changes like now?
I wrote in a recent blog post that 'I eat so much now'. When I began training I started tracking my food intake with My Fitness Pal. I realized that I was severely undereating. I decided to track my macros to make sure that I was getting enough protein, carbohydrates and fat each day and found that this was the best way for me to fulfill my nutritionally goals without becoming obsessed with the amount of calories I was eating. It also helped ease my fear of carbs. I know there are some competitors who follow very strict diets and I think I've been really lucky to have had an experience where I am now fueling my body properly and understanding that it takes food to grow and thrive. It's been a definite matter of 'coming to light'.
What is a typical training week like now vs when you were running?
I train 6 days a week now. I lift on all 6 of those days and I do some form of cardio (usually intervals on the Curve or steady-state cardio on the elliptical) 4 to 5 days a week. I can't say I miss track workouts that much.
In what ways would you say running has helped you mentally and physically in the transition?
I've been lifting since college so the transition training-wise wasn't that crazy. In terms of competition, I think I benefitted largely because I'm so used to those type of nerves as well as performing when the time comes. When I was waiting backstage I felt like I was waiting on the line. There was so much adrenaline going through my body and my heart was beating like crazy. It was exhilarating. Once it was time for me to go on stage though, I felt in control and everything just clicked. It was like the gun went off.
With body building having rounds like track has heats, how was that process similar and different?
I told a former coach that it was similar to going to a track meet when you're only competing in the 4x400m. There was so much waiting. In terms of the roads, there really wasn't much to it (at this show). After I finished prejudging for Bikini Novice, I got right back in line backstage to wait for Bikini Open. I definitely felt less of the nervous anxiousness and more of the nervous/excited adrenaline for Bikini Open since I had already gotten a chance to get onstage and see what the whole process would be like.
Describe your emotions as you found out you placed in 2 categories and won one of them.
I was so excited!
As competitive as I am, I was confident that I had the ability to do well from the beginning. I really do believe that I can do anything as long as I am willing to commit to the work. I hold myself to a high standard and 12 weeks ago I was telling my coach that I wanted a medal. I knew that because this was my first show, I had absolutely no reason to expect that, but I'm an athlete through and through and I wanted one. When I was getting ready to go onstage all I was thinking was 'be confident, keep smiling, nail your poses'. After I got first call-outs in prejudging, I was beaming. I was like 'okay, I fit in, I belong here' and that's when actually placing became a reality. When they called my number during the finals I was ecstatic. I was so proud and happy to be honored, really, with the other women who trained for the exact same moment.
Women usually get more negative reactions than men in this sport so how have your family, friends and fans responded overall?
You know, I thought about this as I began training for my first competition. Initially, I had wanted to enter as a figure competitor because I thought that would garner more respect. Women in figure or physique are usually thought of as more competitive, or more hard-working, when compared to bikini competitors. I followed this same line of thinking when I first became interested in the world of bodybuilding as a college athlete. This couldn't be further from the truth. I ultimately settled on bikini because I would need much more time to gain the type of muscle mass needed to compete in figure.
Training for any type of bodybuilding competition is hard, It doesn't matter how much glitz and glam you put on the final package. I met a bikini competitor this weekend who was maybe 5'2" and could dead lift over 300 lbs. I wasn't worried about the reaction from people so much as I was about whether or not I would be challenged on the idea of competing in a sport where you are judged by how you look given my history with ED and my overall stance on body positivity and female empowerment. That being said, everyone has been very supportive (granted, I am in a place now where my decision to choose happiness would trump any negative feedback I might receive) and it has been to know that no matter what I do, the people in my corner support my decisions.
Do you have any competitions planned coming up?
I'll be competing at the NPC Desert Storm (Mesa, AZ) in September.