When Brenda Anzeze returned to Kenya last year after staying in the US for 18 years, her main aim was to reduce weight. She tried everything including going on a diet but her body did not undergo any significant change.
“Then my mentor Atieno Ayegba, a bodybuilder who lives in the US, told me to try bodybuilding,” she says.
Bodybuilding was not meant to help Brenda lose weight but build muscle. She started lifting weights while watching what she ate.
“In the process of working out, I discovered that I was not a bodybuilder, rather a powerlifter. I could lift heavier weights than most people,” she says.
Unlike bodybuilding, powerlifting is a sport of attaining as much raw strength as possible. The weights lighted are heavier. Powerlifting is unquestionably hard-core, and for a woman doing it is no child's play.
A powerlifter repeatedly does three seemingly simple exercises — the dead lift, squat, and bench presses. The essence is to keep increasing the weights gradually
Brenda now dead-lifts 160 kgs weights, does a farmer’s walk with 165 kgs weights on both hands and squats with 110 kgs. For her, being a burly woman is the new sexy.
Last August, she weighed 115 kgs and now she has increased to 127 kgs, additional kilos she attributes to muscle build-up.
“Women are afraid of looking toned and toned is the new sexy. It shows you're disciplined and dedicated. For women who fear powerlifting, you can never look like a man by any means. However, the general rule is if you lift heavy and want to bulk then it's all about the calorie surplus while to drop weight it's all about the calorie deficit,” says the 40-year-old.
Also, powerlifting helps shed excess fat and in strength training which makes it easier to do other exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and crazy yoga poses without strain.
“When you powerlift, you replace the excess fat with muscles. Although it takes time to turn the fat to muscles, the less fat means you're getting stronger. I love being thick and strong but in a healthy way,” Brenda says, adding that to increase her chances of winning in next year's competition, she may have to reduce more fat for better performance.
Besides exercises, she now watches her diet.
“I eat fewer carbohydrates than before. I also take supplements that help in body recovery after a high-intensity exercise. I also eat plenty of fish,” she says. However, she advises against high intake of bodybuilding supplements since they may have excess quantities of sodium content that is not good in the long-term.
Powerlifting is not for the faint-hearted but Brenda says she had to push herself in the gym to build resilience, a skill that has helped her in running her business. “The sport has its challenges among them body torture, perennial pains and high cost,” says Brenda, who runs a consulting firm that offers services to Kenyans in diaspora.
She says that before one embraces powerlifting, exercise gradually to avoid injuries. “I train five to six times a week. However, the least that a powerlifter should train is four times a week,” she says. Whenever she travels, she ensures that she carries her powerlifting kit so as not to miss exercises.
“Exercising lowers my risks of getting lifestyle diseases. I sleep better than before especially when I combine lifting weights with cardio exercises. It has also improved my metabolism, balanced the hormones naturally and now I feel good about myself,” Brenda says.