Bodybuilding is fast becoming a craze among Korean women. The bizarre fad, which originated in the U.K. in the late 19th century, is being promoted by personalities like Yoo Seung-ok, who regularly flash their six-packs on TV.
Celebrities including singer Insooni recently jumped on the bandwagon, showing off their bulging bodies at competitions following months and months of strenuous weightlifting.
Gone are the traditional reservations women had about bulging out of their sleeves or walking with the swinging gait of a person whose thighs get in their own way.
Even two years ago, only two or three big fitness centers in downtown Seoul offered proper bodybuilding classes, but now many run muscle-building workout programs including customized personal training.
Fitness buffs say that the only thing they seem to have control over is their body. It is tough to get into a top university or land a job with a major conglomerate. But bodybuilding yields results commensurate with the amount of work done.
Jung A-reum, a former beauty contestant who now works as a fitness trainer, "I was attracted to working out when I was in my mid-20s. I was going through a tough time and had serious doubts about my future. It was then that I realized that my body was the only thing that rewarded me for the amount of work I put in."
Park Song-min (34), an office worker, said, "After working in an office for five years, I developed back problems and was constantly tired. Lifting weights has made a huge difference."
When you exercise, your body secretes beta-endorphin, a type of morphine that creates a feeling of pleasure. Exercise addicts who stop working out experience withdrawal symptoms for such pleasure. Skipping even one day of exercise can leave them feeling anxious and guilty. In order to feel pleasure, they may exercise until they literally wear themselves out, continually increasing the amount and intensity of their workouts, even to the point of causing themselves severe pain.