An instructor in the gym I use mentioned to me that he was training his girlfriend for her first body building competition. My brain flipped out a little. I’ve always been interested in body building culture. The sheer determination of the competitors, the gruelling training, the rigorous diet and the exhausting stage routines rank bodybuilders with the greatest of athletes. There’s also the tiny buggy smugglers (swim trunks) and bikinis and the seemingly excessive tanning. It’s utterly serious and utterly ridiculous - in the best possible way - all at the same time. What I found was a truly supportive community. Talking to the athletes I found that some had endured real hardship, mental health problems, injury and health issues and body building helped them through.