Wearing a bikini, colored with greasepaint, Zhao Xiaoyu made a pose to show her muscles to the judges and audience. Her confident performance was greeted with cheers.
It was her first time for Zhao, 26, to attend a body-building contest. "I got third prize in my first competition. Since then, I made up my mind to become a professional bodybuilder," Zhao recalled.
MUSCLE IS NO LONGER FOR MEN ONLY
Zhao is quite outstanding among other girls, since she is much more muscular.
"Traditionally, a muscular body was not popular among women, some people even thought women with strong muscles looked weird. But now, a well-built body shape is coming into favor," Zhao said.
When she started to go to the gym two years ago, Zhao was the only girl in the exercising area. "Girls seldom use sports equipment, for fear of gaining too much muscle," Zhao said.
Now, women think differently. More and more women are learning to use equipments to do abdominal muscle and hip training.
"Muscle is no longer for men only. Women have come to know that when using the equipment properly, they can be more good-shaped and dynamic, " Zhao said.
I BECAME A BETTER VERSION OF MYSELF
Many women have experienced the changes brought by physical exercises.
Wang Nan, a fitness enthusiast, has been going to the gym for three years. She started working out because of her failure in a physical fitness test during college.
"I was thin and weak back then, and always failed to pass the test," Wang said. After years of practice, she now feels healthier and physically endurant.
"I even could hardly finish 800-meter running before, but now I can run for 6 kilometers without rest," Wang said.
Being an office worker, Wang is often faced with huge amounts of stress. Aiming to let go of the pressure, Wang goes to the gym everyday after work.
"Sports is a great outlet for negative emotions, and I became a better version of myself through doing sports," Wang said.
A STRONG BODY LEADS TO A STRONG MIND
For modern women, being slimmer is not the only target for working out any more.
Liu Kehong, a female boxing trainer, said that this traditionally male sport is now welcomed by more and more women.
"Boxing was unpopular among women before. When I started teaching, few women came to learn it, and there were no more than five female trainers in Lanzhou," Liu said.
This 23-year-old trainer dealt with lots of misunderstandings herself at the beginning. "Girls thought fighting is too violent to learn, and they preferred dancing and yoga classes," Liu said.
Recruiting students was a challenge for Liu. She came up with the idea of opening free trial classes.
"I demonstrated how to box and fight, and through my persuasive performance, many set aside their prejudice and realized that girls can also box," Liu recalled.
Liu hoped that more women could be interested in boxing. Though strenuous, it helps women lose weight, keep a good shape, and even to protect themselves in an emergency.
"A strong body can lead women to a strong mind," Liu said.
WOMEN BECOME THE FRESH TROOP IN FITNESS MARKET
More and more gyms in China are now providing women-oriented training programs and sporting apparatus, and more women are now setting foot in gyms to pursue better health.
"Going to the gym is considered as the way to a healthier, prettier and stronger self by more and more women," Zhao concluded.