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Gym sessions her way through grief

FAEANZA Whaitiri started going to the gym late at night as part of processing the anger she felt after her sister Stella (Cuzzy) Solomon passed away.

“It was my way of dealing with the grief,” she said.

“People can drink and take drugs, but I've chosen to go to the gym and take on a good distraction.”

That distraction quickly became a passion, and now she has gained a second-place finish at the ICN NZ (ICompete Natural New Zealand) National Championships, just six months into her bodybuilding journey.

She had found herself slowly getting stronger, and then she met Gina McNeely, one of the region's top bodybuilders.

“She saw my determination,” Whaitiri said.

“She's told me that what I've achieved in six months is pretty awesome.”

Having played sport all her life, Whaitiri says bodybuilding as a sport requires a “whole other level” of dedication and discipline.

“You've got to put in the yards; you're almost living at the gym.”

She does it on top of full-time work and family life.

Whaitiri says it takes a small village to raise one bodybuilder to the stage.

“That acknowledgement that lots of people help you on your journey, like kaiako ‘Peeps' and kaiako Kathrine Waehling . . . my husband Mafe and kids, my mum (Mirana Solomon) and dad (Thomas) and brother (Thomas), sister-in-law Toni Solomon, Trudi, BB, Karen and my Mareikura paddling whanau. And I can't forget the crew at Anytime Fitness either.”

One of the hardest things about the sport is getting the nutrition right, she says. Bodybuilders try to maintain a calorie deficit to lose weight and lean out, while maintaining energy to keep training.

Whaitiri says that instead of having a lot of food infrequently, she'd typically eat small meals often, relying on protein for energy.

“People think we're always hungry, but that's not true.

“When it's time to eat, you've got to eat . . . you just don't have a lot of food.

“A treat for me was chicken and peas . . . the vegetables you eat the most are broccoli and beans because peas have sugar in them.

“There's a real science around the food you eat and the body and the outcomes you get.”

Another challenge bodybuilders face is the constant critiquing of how they look.

Whaitiri says competitors have to be very centred to be able to take on board the critique without its being too mentally taxing.

“I've written down on a piece of paper why I think the other lady won and when the judges' report comes back, I want to see how my notes compare.”

After competing, she treated herself to some Subway, but she is already back at the grindstone preparing for the NABBA (National Amateur Body-Builders Association)East Coast event in 18 weeks.

“As long as I'm enjoying it, I will keep doing it.

“If wins come from that, then that's another story, but I just like the discipline of it and testing my own limits.

“I've put all the trophies on my sister's headstone. I wouldn't have done it if she hadn't passed away. It's been a good journey.”

awards: Bodybuilder Faeanza Whaitiri (right) says Gina McNeely (left) is 'at the top of her game' and won the Classic Figure and 40+ divisions, and finished second in the Open Figure division at the ICN NZ National Championships. Whaitiri won the Best Transformation and Angels divisions, and was second in the Open Bodybuilding division just six months after taking up the sport.Picture by Rebecca Grunwell