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'Love yourself': Local bodybuilder hopes to inspire others

Photo provided by staff.

POSTED: Friday, May 9, 2014 - 4:49pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 9, 2014 - 4:55pm

Competition season has just begun for bodybuilders. Around the country, bodybuilders are putting the finishing touches on months of preparations, including Delaney Smallwood. The Baton Rouge fitness fanatic is gearing up for her very first competition, but it's taken a long time for her to get to this point.

Discipline, dedication and drive, they are all things that Delaney Smallwood has. That's what it takes to be an athlete. She's been one all her life.

"I was a gymnast. I was a national champion. I was planning on going on to amazing things," Smallwood said.

After 13 years of gymnastics, Delaney's gymnastics dreams came to a crashing halt.

"When I was in high school, I broke my neck. I got hurt really bad, and I was like that's about it for me," Smallwood explained.

Then, Delaney got more bad news.

"I think when my mom got sick, that really triggered me to find something that could get my mind off of something different," Smallwood said.

Delaney started hitting the gym hard.

"Then I found powerlifting and I started doing that. I love heavy lifting, and for some reason I got so into it, and I started seeing all these amazing changes," Smallwood said. "I was like 'Wow! This is awesome!'"

When Delaney was 16, her mom lost her battle with breast cancer.

"I remember the day like it was yesterday. I completely didn't know what to do anymore. She was gone," Smallwood said. "I was lost, and I remember that day, I left about twenty minutes after it happened, and I went to the gym for about four or five hours. I zoned out into a completely different world."

It was her refuge, and the work she was doing there was paying off.

"People started telling me that I should do a show, that I have the body for it, that I have the genetics for it," Smallwood said.

The encouragement inspired Delaney to make fitness an even bigger priority. That's when she started bodybuilding and decided the physique category is where her odds of success were best.

"You get this stigma of 'Oh, you know, she looks like a man' or anything like that. To me my goal in life as a trainer as a gym owner eventually someday, is to change the way women are viewed in fitness," Smallwood said.

Bodybuilding stirred up some controversy over the years because there was so much talk of steroid use.

"I think people don't really know the whole story.That's why female bodybuilding right now is actually thought of being banned because of how criticized they get, and to make it more of a natural thing," Smallwood said.

Even though Delaney is bodybuilding the natural way, she thinks people should stop stereotyping.

"I think people need to be more educated on it for sure. I just don't think people know what they're talking about," Smallwood said.

Besides the presumption of steroid use many bodybuilders face, Delaney thinks there is also a misconception about the way people in the sport get their bodies ready to compete, much of which centers around their diets.

"If you go all year long dieting super strict and if you go all year long doing super amounts of cardio and all this kind of stuff to keep yourself lean, you're going to burn out," Smallwood said. "So keeping it semi-moderate, but not going extreme in either direction for long periods of time is what keeps it not to be as dangerous for your health."

But she said, it comes with the territory.

"But that's just part of the sport like with powerlifting or with wrestling or fighting, any thing like that, when you have to do those cutting periods, it's not healthy, but it's not long term," Smallwood explained. "As long as you know how to do it and you do it with moderation, that's going to be your key to prevent dangers."

Right now, Delaney is prepping for her first official competition which means dieting and hours upon hours in the gym.

"Basically it's mental now, keeping my mind in the game is important because I am young. There's other things that I definitely could be doing than what I'm doing this summer," Smallwood said.

Delaney said she is not doing this for the fame or the money, but if she inspires a girl or two, that would be great.

"I don't want girls to every be discouraged if they gain muscle that they're not going to be attractive to somebody because it's about themselves. If you like the way you look, love yourself," Smallwood said.

Delaney is three months out from her from competition. She will be wearing pink for breast cancer to honor her mom.

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