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Building more than muscle

Read about Jordan’s only woman body builder

By Abigail Roberts | Contributor

Sweat glistens off of Dana Soumbouloglou’s face as weights rise and fall behind her.

On May 12, Jordanian college student, Soumbouloglou will be competing in Canada’s Stephanie Worsfold Natural Classic division bodybuilder competition.

Dana Soumbouloglou stands as a symbol for women empowerment. (Photograph provided by Abigail Roberts)

Dana Soumbouloglou stands as a symbol for women empowerment. (Photograph provided by Abigail Roberts)

The first woman bodybuilder of Jordan, nothing will satisfy Soumbouloglou but gold.

“I am excited to prove myself and that dreams really do come true,” Soumbouloglou said.

Now, the idea of flexing on stage in a bikini is not necessarily accepted in Middle Eastern countries. Culturally and religiously it breaks social norms.

No other women in Jordan practice this sport and there are no bodybuilding tournaments open to women in Jordan.

“I’ve gotten criticism for sure, comments from people in the gym,” Soumbouloglou said. “Usually men asking, ‘Why are you building up your muscles like that, like a man?’ ‘Calm down.’ ‘You’re too big.’ etc.”

Yet at the same time, Soumbouloglou has many supporters. Besides her family, friends and boyfriend she often gets approached by other gym members wanting to hear her story or get tips for their workouts.

The last two months Soumbouloglou has dedicated all of her time and energy to building and defining muscle. The basic equation is water retention, muscle buildup and diet. Soumbouloglou’s current training regime is made up of three workouts a day, six days a week along with a strict diet of six small meals a day, high in proteins, fat and lots of water.

“I am always hungry . . . I’ve been craving bananas, imagine, bananas,” Soumbouloglou said.

Yet in spite of her constant exertion, Soumbouloglou makes lifting dumbbells, performing pull-ups and running up stairs for 30 minutes look easy.  Soumbouloglou  reminds fans that training is a lot harder than it looks.

Soumbouloglou’s has held bodybuilders as role models since she was young. However, it was not until she studied journalism in Greece that she began working out and fell in love with the idea of bodybuilding. A few years ago, she moved back to Jordan and began studying exercise science and working as a personal trainer.

“Bodybuilding makes me feel unique and strong,” Soumbouloglou said. “And it helps me accept the fact that I don’t care what other people think of me.”
As Soumbouloglou flies to Canada in two weeks she carries with her the important task of proving that being a Jordanian woman bodybuilder is not only possible, but may lead to victory.

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