MHS support educator believes strong body fuels the mind

Matthew Smith  | Staff Writer 

Ria Parikh | Staff Writer

The body fuels the mind. That’s the approach Su Kamiki takes when she spends time building her body in the gym. 

Kamiki, a support education aide at Mason High School is a bodybuilder. She started lifting four years ago, after realizing that typical aerobics classes were not challenging enough for her body. Kamiki said that her development into lifting was gradual, and she was met with shock when she first recognized herself as a bodybuilder.

“It was a picture someone took of me, I didn’t even know about,” Kamiki said. “They showed it to me and said, ‘look at your back, look what you’ve done.’ That was the reality, I didn’t know I looked like that. I liked it though. I liked that look. It was empowering.”

Now, after lifting for years, Kamiki said she appreciates both the physical and mental challenge that comes with it.

“It’s given me an outlook. I don’t want to stop learning and researching,” Kamiki said. “It’s a great mental stress relief as well. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll say okay, I’m going to the gym for an hour.”  

According to Kamiki, one of the keys to succeeding as a bodybuilder is viewing food as fuel. Growing up as a gymnast, she was trained from a young age to view food in a more negative context, but as a bodybuilder Kamiki said that she has been able to make her relationship with food more positive.

“When I grew up in gymnastics, it wasn’t taught that I needed food and protein to build muscle,” Kamiki said. “Food was looked at negatively because I needed to be tiny. I had to change my thought process and realize that I need a lot of food and protein to build muscle, otherwise I’ll fatigue out.”

A popular aspect of lifting are the competitions. Each competition is separated by gender, and the competitors are divided into four categories: Swimsuit, Physique, Figure, Bodybuilding. Kamiki said while the competitions are inevitable, she does not view them as motivation to keep lifting.

“To me the competitions are the worst part of bodybuilding. I’ll do the diet and the weight training, but to get on stage and have someone tell me what looks good and what doesn’t is tough. It’s not about the competitions, it’s about trying to push my body, seeing that change, and challenging myself.”  

Su Kamiki focuses on her shoulders during a recent
workout after school.

When she first started lifting, Kamiki said she was conscious about being one of the only women in the gym, but now she just wants to make the most of her workouts, even if she stands out. 

“I was the only women in my gym when I started. There will be times when I’m the only women in the free weight section and not on the treadmills or in the classes,” Kamiki said. “Doing that isn’t the right thing for me, I like (the lifting) and that’s how I push myself.”

Kamiki has received criticism from both her kids and parents on the grounds of bodybuilding not being a typical hobby. Despite the criticism and stereotypes of lifting, Kamiki said that few understand the planning and dedication that go into it.

“People don’t look at the mental and physical challenges behind it (bodybuilding),” Kamiki said. “I don’t think people realize how smart and dedicated bodybuilders are. They have to know their body, and have to keep their diets. Society doesn’t understand the thought process behind everything.”

Not only does Kamiki want to show the brains behind bodybuilding, but she uses her experiences to help empower other women who want to become bodybuilders.

“I’ve worked with a couple of girls to train towards competing, and I’ve done some coaching as well,” Kamiki said. “There’s not many of us (girls) doing this, but it’s nice to know there are some girls that enjoy the training as well.”

Kamiki said that an important part of encouraging women to take lifting seriously is to recognize them as knowledgeable people in regards to the weightroom. Kamiki believes it takes a lot more effort for a woman to build credibility in the gym.

“It’s interesting to see that people assume women don’t know much about lifting and building muscle,” Kamiki said. “It’s great when you have someone like Coach Castner tell his students they can learn more about building muscle from me. Even then, the kids don’t believe it until I show them pictures of myself. Then they get it.”

In the future, Kamiki hopes other women will view lifting as a lifelong sport that builds both muscles and camaraderie. 

“Any girls that do other sports, lifting is something to seriously think about. It’s something different that you can do, and it’s something you can do with another person. I wish girls would look at it as a great mental and physical challenge. You can learn a lot.”

Photos by Tanner Pearson.