Bodybuilding is often thought to be an activity only enjoyed by the ultra-fit and super-honed. But the Expo held at the Andover Leisure Centre recently revealed – for some – there is much more to it than the mere desire to show off a washboard stomach and rock hard guns.
The Expo is held annually by the leisure centre to give members a challenge to aim for and the chance to highlight their progress in the gym.
It covers weightlifting and other fitness activities, including bodybuilding. And it attracted newcomers as well as people who have been flexing and thrusting for years.
One of the people new to sport who needed extra courage to step out into the stage spotlight in only fake tan and Speedos was 47-year-old Chris Yates from Andover who joined in as part of his healing process.
“I had cancer a few years ago, so I had a large part of my colon removed, which left a big scar on my side.”
“So I felt a bit body-conscious. I felt like my body had let me down due to serious illness,” said the estate manager for a west London hospital.”
“For me, this was more about putting everything behind me. It was about understanding that if something like that happens to you, it’s not your excuse or reason to give up and sit in a chair.”
“It’s a reason for you to carry on, and it means you can still do and achieve things and be better, and healthier, and fitter, despite what may or may not happen to you.”
“Those things are out of your control.”
He added: “If somebody had said to me a year ago that I’d be doing this, I would have gone ‘no chance!’ It’s so far out of my comfort zone. But for me it’s not a last step, to get a bit of body confidence back has been really good.”
Another brave person taking on a very personal challenge at the Expo was 42-year-old Stacy Darbyshire, who was determined to show that even mothers of four still have bodies of which they can be proud.
“My goal three years ago was to get fit. But it wasn’t quite happening, and then because of the Expo last year, I thought ‘that’s what I need to do!’ That’s my goal. As long as I could get to that, I would be happy,” said the full-time mum from Andover.”
“You’ve got to go for it! And having kids is not an excuse.”
“I’ve had four and I’ve got through each pregnancy. So don’t think that because you’re pregnant your life is over afterwards. You can still achieve your goals, it’s not impossible,” said Stacy, who’s children are aged from three to 16.
“So no matter how nervous I am, it doesn’t matter. Because I have to do it for myself,” she said.
The overall winner of the bodybuilding competition was Ryan Andrews, who’s 20, and from Andover. The winner of the powerlifting was Josh Rushton.
The winners of the fitness challenge were Kathryn McKewen in the women’s section and Reece Jemel Lloyd in the men’s.
The Andover Leisure Centre is run by Valley Leisure, a charitable trust, in partnership with Test Valley Borough.