My Bodybuilding Years

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Barbara, 1948-

“It built my body and my self-esteem. I could lift my head up again.”

Oh, I forgot to tell you!

Look there, at that photo. See? I was a big bodybuilder back in the day. Started at 21 years old, and did it for nine years, before HIV. Back then, I was doing time in penitentiary. Five years, now what? I thought. I had nothing better to do, so I started exercising. Every day, after my kitchen duties, and whatever, whatever, or whatever, I’d start my routine. And once I started, I loved it! I loved the high, it’s a natural high.

When I got out of jail, I kept working out. I’d work out till I got burned out, six days a week. Sometimes I’d work out two hours, take a break downtown, then back more. I worked hard, I was in competition with myself. I had to do something to make me feel good about myself. And it did, it built my body and my self-esteem. I could lift my head up again.

The strongest part of my body? My arms, baby! And thighs! I used to love doing dog-man squats, that’s how we called them back in my day. We didn’t use the modern machines they use today, big discs on a bar, not that fancy stuff. We worked hard!

And then the illness got me. God, then everything just stopped! I lost my self-esteem and body, I lost everything. I sometimes want to go back to it, but now I have asthma from smoking cigarettes and osteoarthritis. And I’m 67 now. 67! God knows I didn’t think I would make it this long. . .

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