As a shy schoolgirl, Mariah Stock would not wear a bikini in public until the age of 15.
She certainly never expected that in just a few years, she would be up on stage, glistening in fake tan while she contorted her body into poses for one of the Australian Bodybuilding Federation’s bikini competitions.
The journey towards that ‘performance’ began when Stock’s entire Year 12 group was given a year’s membership at their local gym in order to counter the stress of the HSC.
One of her classmates had already transformed himself through exercise and Stock, a petite young woman, decided that she could do it as well.
The gym quickly became her sanctuary where she not only recreated her body but worked on her mindset.
Amid the bitchiness and constant criticism of some of those in her private school cohort, she started to feel powerful and in control.
Training for a bikini contest while she was at university was just another stage in her evolution. She dared herself to compete in such a public setting as a way of getting over her crippling self-consciousness and owning her womanliness.
“That first time that I was on stage, I couldn’t stop shaking. My lips were shaking, my hands were shaking but somehow I placed fourth among 24 competitors. Then when it was all over, I immediately wanted to do it again,” Stock said.
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Progress. Do you keep track of your progress? Celebrating the little wins can mean the difference between feeling like you’ll never get to your goals and jumping out of bed to work towards them every day. Today I found this video of me (swipe right) after 4 years of consistent training. Dips were something I really struggled with. I couldn’t do them at all. I asked so many people for tips. Was it the grip? How I was leaning? They felt awkward, but mostly because of how weak I was. That video was a win for me at the time. Feet elevated and weighted. I was proud. I’m not naturally physically strong but I’ve always admired strong people, and set myself the goal to become strong. Very happy with where I am now 😃 #femalefitnessmotivation #shredded #simplyshredded #shreddedgirls #abs #girlswithabs #calisthenics #femalecalisthenics #stronggirls #strongnotskinny #fitnessfirstau
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Stock is one of a growing number of women who are redefining the notion of femininity by moving into an area that was once the domain of men.
Perhaps it’s a subconscious way of announcing to the world that they will never be pushovers, which in the current #MeToo climate is understandable.
Now the 25-year-old diplomat’s daughter with a business degree from UTS with a major in marketing is the veteran of 10 bikini competitions, placing first three times.
Last year she left a high-profile job in the music industry to pursue opportunities in the health, exercise and nutrition space.
“It had got to the point that every Friday night I would dread returning to the office on Monday morning,” she said.
“I knew it was time to leave.”
Importantly, working for herself allows her the freedom to exercise twice a day, six days a week.
Once too embarrassed to go to the beach in a bikini, Stock is now a regular at the open-air gym at Bondi Beach, where her record is 21 push-ups on the monkey bars and where Instagram videos of her taking on blokes have been viewed by at least one million people around the world from her @fitnesscube page. She’s no Jane to their Tarzan, she’s Ms Tarzan herself.
“I enjoy being strong,” she said, simply.
Ready for a challenge
Not far away in Sydney’s Double Bay, another shy woman, Jini Han, in her 30s, shocked her celebrity clientele at her eyelash extension salon, The Lash Room, by also competing in a body building bikini competition.
No one expected the polite Korean, who talks in a whisper while attending to their lashes, would be returning home to undertake a Spartan exercise routine while also creating a red, spangly bikini costume.
Han embarked on the lifestyle almost by accident when she was looking to reach a weight-loss goal.
“I signed on with a trainer who was also a bodybuilder, so then I decided that I needed to be in the best shape of my life,” Han said.
She started going to the gym, twice a day, seven days a week and was also on a restrictive diet, which she found difficult.
“You can also miss out on having a social life while you’re training,” she said.
“Some people say that they still go out, but I can’t understand how that’s possible.”
However, just by challenging herself to do something so rigorous and unexpected, Jini Han has also signalled her intention that she is ready and willing to take on any challenges that might come her way.
Like Mariah Stock, she’s definitely someone to watch.