BEIRUT: On May 10, after three months of training and strict dieting, Maya Nassar, a half-Dutch, half-Lebanese, certified trainer and sports nutritionist, will be competing in the World Beauty Fitness and Fashion bodybuilding event in Fredericia, Denmark.
Recently endorsed by the Sports and Youth Ministry to represent Lebanon as an athlete, the 27-year-old’s chosen sport is not one that is widely recognized at home.
“It’s something that people don’t really know about,” Nassar says. “When I say I have a [bodybuilding] competition, they think I’m planning to become like those really muscular women.”
Although she is clearly in shape, Nassar doesn’t fit the image that most people would associate with the sport. This is due to the different categories in bodybuilding competitions, she explains.
A total of five categories exist to allow for different levels of muscle. The least extreme of them is the relatively new “bikini” category. When it was introduced back in 2010, Nasser knew she finally had a category appropriate to her own body goals.
“I want to be fit, I want to be lean, I want to be cut, but I don’t want to be [muscular] to the extent of those other categories,” she explains.
Her first competition, which took place last summer in London, was an enjoyable learning experience.
“One thing I struggled with was posing. Abroad, they have workshops, they have training camps, they have professional instructors that help you with everything.”
Determined to overcome these disadvantages, she hired a dance choreographer to help her with the posing and has worked with trainer Bashar Diab for the past three months. Diab is not specialized in this kind of training – no one in Lebanon is – but together they designed a program that has intensified as the competition draws near.
World bodybuilding events fall under different federations, Nassar says, explaining why she chose the WBFF.
“It’s one of the fastest growing organizations in the world. It’s also one of the biggest. Their shows are different than regular bodybuilding because they also have fashion,” she says.
Nassar also favors this federation because, unlike some of the others, “it basically promotes beauty and being sophisticated. ... They mark you down if you have very provocative poses on stage.”
The benefit to coming first in one of these competitions is obvious for a fitness professional such as Nassar. “If you win, basically you turn pro,” she says.
“You can win a lot of contracts for training in top notch gyms or a lot of exposure. ... It’s also a boost for your career. Most people that participate are in the fitness industry, so if you are a trainer and people know that you are a pro, more clients want to train with you. And if you are a sports nutritionist, more people want to come to you for consultations. And if you have a gym, more people want to come and be a member of your gym because they feel that you are more qualified.”
Nassar’s next goal is to set up a gym and spa with a nutrition center. She is also the founder of her own healthy living website, where she offers advice, information and fitness and diet plans.
The website came about through Nassar’s own transformation. “I never used to be healthy,” she says. “I used to eat a lot of junk food, never used to work out. I would sleep late, wake up late ... I ended up gaining a lot of weight, to the point that I was trying to put on a pair of jeans, they stopped at my knees, they wouldn’t come up to my hips. That was my wake up call.”
“I went from eating bad food to eating healthily. I started going to the gym. I started lifting weights, which was something I never did, and in three months, I had lost about three clothing sizes and 10 or 15 kilos of fat. My body changed. I started having muscle definition and I went from insecure to very confident.”
Nassar hopes her site will “educate other people, because when I started I didn’t know anything about fitness, I didn’t know anything about nutrition. I used to think the chicken at KFC was healthy because it’s chicken. I was so naive.”
Nassar’s transition to a fitness professional competing in next month's contest took hard work and dedication. She offers three tips for those looking to make a long-lasting improvement to their levels of fitness.
“First of all, give it three weeks ... it takes three weeks to really create a habit. ... Second of all is to have mental strength. ... Number three is convenience. ... Don’t train in the morning if you hate waking up early, train in the afternoon, so you are more likely to stick to your plan.”
Follow Maya Nassar’s training regimen and competition results online at www.startlivingright.net.