It’s 5:25 p.m. and she’s barreling through the main floor of the gym. She’s on a mission. Like animals searching for their prey, the boy’s heads turn as she walks by. But she’s focused. Focused on one thing alone. One simple little word that so many people rarely, if ever, dare to say.
“She” is Lauren Gregory, 20, a far from average college student who is choosing to dedicate almost all of her college career to a not so average sport. In January of 2012, Lauren made the life changing decision to train and become a bodybuilder and now she is only one competition away from going pro. Most general assumptions about bodybuilding are negative and some people don’t even consider it a sport, but those who do it take it very seriously.The whole process began in high school for Lauren. She grew up in Dothan, Ala. in a home where exercising and health was very important, “My dad used to wake me up early on Saturday mornings and drag me to the gym,” Lauren said. She tried playing several other sports but was never extremely passionate about them. Although, she knew she loved being at the gym. That utter devotion helped to contribute to her lifestyle today, but Lauren took an unconventional route of getting there.
Everyone knows that being a freshman in college comes
with a few stereotypes, one of those having to do with weight. Some automatically assume that when you go to college, you gain weight. And needless to say, weight is a touchy subject when it comes to women, but Lauren decided to embrace that fact during her freshman year. “I would go to Krispy Kreme and eat about 12 doughnuts at a time. Eventually, I went from about 130 to 150 pounds within three months.” Giving in to her binge eating habits and rebelling against her parent’s belief of staying active, Lauren hit an all time low that made drastic changes to her body.Two months after her weight gain, Lauren lost a jaw dropping 33 pounds and found herself back at an extremely healthy weight of 117 pounds. She changed her diet and started to live a healthy life again. Once Lauren got back on track she began to research bodybuilding and thought “why not?” Her determination to get back in shape led to a successful elimination of the bad food habits.
Lauren made a drastic change to her lifestyle. Training two times a day, six days a week. Eating seven to eight meals a day. Spending up to 40 minutes of cardio in the morning and almost two hours of strength training at night while consuming up to 2,500 calories a day became Laurens life. Along with being a full time student majoring in nutrition. The old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, it’s in the four ounces of Greek yogurt that she eats during her second meal of the day. “It’s all day, everyday. It’s like a twenty-four hour, seven day a week job.” Lauren has competed in four shows over the course of her bodybuilding career and is currently training for another show in April. She will continue that detailed regiment until two to three weeks before the competition. That’s when things change.
One week before each competition, Lauren consumes almost zero carbohydrates. “The final week is hell, let’s just say that. Then the day before the competition, you try to consume as many carbohydrates as you can.” Anyone would automatically wonder how this could be healthy for your body or how it doesn’t harm you. “Health wise, you’re ok. You are depleting and emptying your tank and then filling it back up,” Lauren said. The only unhealthy aspect of bodybuilding takes place after the competition.
A massive conference room, filled with buffets and never-ending food. Most southerners dream of things like this. “It’s a pig fest. You see these muscular, fit, athletic people walking around with overflowing plates of food,” Lauren said, “and of course binge eating after putting your body through what it’s been through isn’t healthy, but then again neither is alcohol.” The hardest part about the sport of bodybuilding is like addressing the elephant in the room. The one thing that is most commonly identified with bodybuilders is the use of illegal substances. Steroids. How could someone transform their body to have that much muscle with no traces of fat? “What people don’t realize is that it takes years to obtain a body like that. Men who have that type of physique have been training since they were 15,” Lauren said.
What’s most shocking is that more women use steroids than anyone would imagine. “Most girls take a steroid called Anavar or a T3 Booster, which cuts your workload in half,” Lauren said. “Some girls even wear a squeem, which is like a corset, to shrink their ribcage.” Proudly declaring that she has never touched steroids, Lauren is where she is today because of hard work and dedication. “It’s just a matter of how disciplined you are.”
The importance of bodybuilding reaches far beyond muscles and stamina. Lauren uses bodybuilding as an escape. Whenever something goes wrong, Lauren can turn to her training and knows it will ease her mind. It’s inspirational. It teaches you characteristics that you can’t learn anywhere else. “Bodybuilding has taught me to go beyond what I feel like doing. And I love the way that makes me feel.”