To most of her colleagues, Maureen Connolly is known as the director of Brock University’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technology. She is also a popular teacher and 3M Teaching Fellow. But to others she is Maureen Connolly, professional bodybuilder.
A professor of physical education and kinesiology, Dr. Connolly has been participating in bodybuilding competitions for more than 20 years, the last five professionally. She had been involved in competitive sports as a student, but lost interest after her undergrad years. However, she says she had always liked the weight training that was part of her training regimen and so kept to it. Then one day at the gym someone suggested she try bodybuilding, and away she went.
Her involvement in the sport has informed her academic work. She looks at it as a cultural phenomenon “in terms of what’s our fascination with the body in the culture, and what kinds of bodies have value.”
Dr. Connolly usually competes once a year, often at regional events in nearby New York State. Her most recent competition was in October 2006, but she’s unsure if she’ll be competing this year because of a nagging injury. Now 51, she says the recovery after each event is taking longer than in the past.
The training leading up to an event is no picnic either. She follows a 12-week regimen where you progressively eliminate certain foods, starting with all junk food in the first week. Then go the starchy carbohydrates at week 4, followed by dairy products around week 7 and all fruit at week 8 or 9, leaving just vegetables and protein.
Then, about 48 hours before the event, you stop drinking liquids. “That’s what gives you that look. You dehydrate to get the skin really, really tight,” she says. Finally, just before the show, you stuff yourself with carbs to bulk up. You also have to practise your posing during this time so that you don’t cramp up at the competition – and don’t forget to smile, either. Then there are the numerous coats of tanning cream to get the skin looking deep brown “because you really wash out under the lights” during a competition.
“So you stink, you’re dehydrated and you feel like you’re going to crack out of your skin. But boy, you look good,” she says with a laugh.