Flexing on failure

Bodybuilder dedicates extreme lifestyle to competition


The gym can seem daunting to women. Weight rooms are commonly filled with muscular men lifting heavy weights. Sweat. Anger. Testosterone. Such a dank environment causes many women to hesitate to enter the gym.

“A lot of women are scared to take up space in the gym, and they think it’s only for guys or that it’ll make them bulky,” Tatum Reading ‘23 said.

After years of playing basketball, Reading discovered a passion for weightlifting. After months in the gym, she discovered a new way to move her body.

Bodybuilding, extensive exercise used to control and build one’s muscular physique, is much harder than at first glance.

“At first, I saw it online, and it was just a dream,” Reading said. “After working out in the gym for a while, I decided I wanted to make a goal out of it, so I found a coach and started prepping.”

A rigorous process, the preparation involved with bodybuilding tended to be so controlled that oftentimes, Reading felt the concern of disordered eating habits.

“The body building process was full of ups and downs,” Reading said. “There were times when I wanted to quit. I wanted to stop being on a strict meal plan, and having to drink a gallon of water a day. I would be unmotivated, tired, and I felt as if I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Bouts of depression and anxiety regarding the future began to swallow Reading whole.

“What if I don’t win? What happens if I do win? How do I release this obsession of control,” Reading said.

Luckily for Reading, it was worth it in the end. At her final bodybuilding competition on Aug. 20, 2022 in Denver, Reading won the teen, novice, and open divisions.

“When I won, I was shell shocked,” Reading said. “I didn’t believe I could win against all of the amazing women out there, but when I did, everyone was so proud of me. My friends were cheering for me, and I just felt so grateful I got to experience it. It opened a whole new world for me.”

Months after the show, Reading had to learn how to enjoy life without strict planning and control. While Reading experienced newfound freedom, she also felt lost. However, soon she found a new passion.

“Right after the show, my brain immediately went to power lifting,” Reading said. “I felt I had to find something else to keep me busy. But eventually I decided I just want to enjoy my senior year, feel free, and regain strength in the gym lost from prep.”

Bodybuilding revealed to Reading the empowerment and strength she could carry. She hopes to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and embrace any endeavor they set their mind to.

“In the end, don’t be intimidated to go to the gym,” Reading said. “This is going to sound so cheesy, but nothing is impossible. Go for your dreams.”