An Aberdeen bodybuilder has revealed how “empowering” it feels to be a woman in the industry and how it has helped boost her confidence.
Steff Noble, 35, a former professional dancer, got into bodybuilding after setting herself a new goal to get her body in shape.
Before long she was taking part in competitions – and she even met her partner through their love of the sport.
The couple first met when she was taking part in her first competition in 2012 and he was on the judging panel.
Now Steff and her partner Dr Andrew Chappell run a coaching business in Aberdeen to help show others the benefits of bodybuilding and achieve their goals too.
‘Best shape of my life’
Steff, of Aberdeen, explained how she first got into bodybuilding.
She said: “I’d just come off the back of a professional dance career, I was looking for a new goal to continue my training in the gym and get into the best shape of my life.
“The goal I focused on was a holiday to Brazil with my best friend, she went over there and had asked me to come and see her.
“I thought I’d use my training to get to a certain body fat percentage and as I was doing it, somebody approached me and said ‘Have you ever thought about competing?'”
‘I was inspired by action movie stars’
Andrew was inspired by top action film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone to get into the sport and also quickly realised the benefits of bodybuilding.
“I’ve always been athletic and done sports. When I was around 16 or 17 I studied an HNC in health and fitness and I loved exercising and working out in the gym,” he said.
“I’m a bit of an extrovert as well, bodybuilding is a good combination of athleticism, art and entertainment, it just kind of fit for me.
“I did my first competition in 2006, I did very well, winning the junior Scottish title at the time.
“Then I thought, ‘Wow, I’m good at this, I should see how far I can take it.’
“Now we’re looking at almost 20 years later and I’m still doing it.”
‘Stigma as a woman’
The couple often train together, but Steff also finds comfort in having a “network of women” around her on some of the days she trains.
“As a female there is a stigma, there’s a stereotype that you’re going to get massive – really muscly – and it’s not a feminine look,” she said.
“It’s a complete misconception, you’re not going to become big and bulky from lifting weights, you’ll build more muscle which in turn will help you lose more fat.
“And there is a limit to how much muscle naturally a female can build. You end up looking toned, firm and change your body composition to being a lot leaner.
“Being a woman in the bodybuilding industry is actually really empowering. With my training, I find an inner confidence that’s transferred to all areas of my life.”
‘Push and motivate each other’
Steff says the couple help motivate each other during their workouts at the city’s Warehouse gym.
“We go into the gym together four or five times a week and our sessions will predominantly be an hour of weight training on a specific area,” she said.
“For example, we might split our sessions into upper and then lower body.
“We’ll push and motivate each other through different exercises.”
We want to make the sport clean
Since becoming presidents of the WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) the pair launched ‘The Super Naturals’ competition in October.
It was a big success with 150 athletes from across the UK taking part.
Steff stressed the importance of making sure it’s a clean sport for athletes with no performance-enhancing drugs used.
In 2018, public health experts reported that up to 1 million people in the UK were using anabolic steroids, and other image and performance-enhancing drugs, to change their appearance.
This ranged from teenagers trying to achieve the perfect physique to elderly people trying to hold onto their youth.
A recent study conducted by Ukad for Clean Sport found that 34% of gym-goers were aware of these drugs in their gym or club.
You end up gaining weight with extreme diets
Dr Andrew Chappell also has a PhD in Nutrition and uses this to educate clients on how to meet their individual needs and of the benefits for bodybuilding.
“There’s a huge amount of mystery, misinformation and blatant mis-selling of ‘nutrition’ products. If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true,” he says.
“The difficulty with these diet strategies is they are often extreme and eliminate entire food groups which isn’t particularly healthy.
“The overwhelming majority of people have poor adherence to it and end up gaining extra weight compared to what they managed to get off at some point.”
Benefits of bodybuilding
Andrew wants to encourage more people to take part and be motivated by the prospect of competing abroad.
“In 2022, WNBF UK is running a ‘first timers’ event,” he said.
“If you’ve never considered stepping foot on stage in your life, or been a bit nervous, then we can take some of the nerves away and replace that with excitement.
“We’ll have multiple shows across the UK culminating in our grand finale in October, next year’s ‘Worlds’ will also be in Los Angeles in November, so that’s one very cool bit of motivation if you want to try something new and get competitive.”
Steff also encouraged more women to find out about the benefits of bodybuilding and start lifting weights.
“For me, it’s about showing women not to be scared of the gym and lifting weights because it’ll give you more benefit than three hours standing on a treadmill or on a bike,” she said.
“I would love to give more women access to confident areas in the gym or trainers like myself who can give them access in a really healthy way and then see the benefits.
“If you have a plan, stick to it and have a good support network around you, you will get to your goal and that will be your own, it’s an amazing process.”