Most people join a gym in the hopes of losing weight or becoming physically fit. However, when Lindiwe Mchunu walked into the gym to tackle a new challenge, her life was changed forever. She became a champion bodybuilder, and her muscles and spectacular physique tell the story of strength and determination.
She continues to redefine what it means to be a strong woman and proves that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Sporty from a young age
Born in Heidelberg, Johannesburg, Mchunu had to move to her father’s side of the family in KwaZulu-Natal to attend school. She says there were no sporting opportunities in the area, however, it never erased her love for sports.
“I grew up in KZN, and I’m currently residing in Richards Bay, situated in KZN. I had no opportunities to be actively involved in sports in school because no sports activities took place in the area.
“Because I was a sports student, I did athletics, rugby, cycling, and swimming. Currently, I’m at home, but I keep myself active with sporting activities like football, rugby, athletics, being an assistant referee, and bodybuilding,” Mchunu says.
Discovering a love for bodybuilding
The gym enthusiast started bodybuilding in 2020 and has already made remarkable achievements. She got the inspiration from seeing a local bodybuilder go to Dubai and contacted Sakhile Ndwandwe, who had a bodybuilding team with Sabelo Nxumalo called Max’s Team. There she was educated about the dos and don’ts and how to go about bodybuilding and diet.
“I did bodybuilding in 2013 at university, then I stopped and continued bodybuilding in 2020. During Covid, we had to stay indoors with no sporting activities, which, health-wise, was not a good thing for me. I love sports, so to keep my body fit, I started training at home and began training professionally when the lockdown was lifted.
Mchunu also represented South Africa this year (2023) at one of the biggest bodybuilding tournaments, the Arnold Classic Africa Sports Festival, where she competed against 27 countries and took second position. “This was a huge achievement for me because not only was I representing my town or province but the entire country. I felt honoured to achieve this in such a short space of time.”
Challenging and breaking down stereotypes
Being a female bodybuilder is not without challenges, and Mchunu says she has faced numerous bullying, stereotypes, and misconceptions as many still do not understand the sport of bodybuilding.
“If I ever post a picture on social media, I still face a lot of bullying, and sadly, it usually comes from women. Doing bodybuilding as a black woman is still largely misunderstood, and it gets tough. Even where I train at the gym, I still experience stereotypes, but it never discourages me,” she says.
“I’m always prepared to face bullying whenever I post something. At the moment, I’m used to it. I know what I want and will not be redirected by negative comments. I love my body and do not worry about how it is reviewed.”
Mchunu also highlights financial costs as an additional challenge in the bodybuilding sport; from the clothes they wear in competitions, joining fees, travelling, and following a specific diet that may be costly.
“As I’m unemployed, challenges come from getting funds when going to competitions. Paying for gym memberships and my diet can be expensive because I can’t eat anything. However, I have the means to overcome it all. I’m supported by many super houses, including my family and the KZN Referee Max Team.”
Despite the obstacles, Mchunu says bodybuilding teaches discipline, humbleness, and respect, and adds that she is determined to achieve more in the industry.
“Being a bodybuilder is all about discipline. It’s a matter of being strong psychologically, not only physically but also psychologically and spiritually. People will always throw words because there’s still a huge stereotype about female bodybuilders. It’s a matter of keeping your head up as a woman and ignoring the negative body reviews.”
This remarkable woman is an example of not just physical strength, but mental resilience and power.
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