Naga woman professional bodybuilder breaking the stereotype
Dimapur | March 7
“I felt like giving up every single day ... what helped me focus, stay on track and keep going was thinking long term, picturing myself and seeing myself at the end of the journey.” - These are the words of Neithongunuo Rio Achumi, who broke the stereotype and overcame hardships to become one of the first Naga women to step on an Olympia Stage and make it to the finals.
Neithongunuo, a professional bodybuilder won the title of WABBA (World Amateur Bodybuilding Association) India NE Miss Fitness Model in 2018. Neithongunuo from City Gym, Dimapur won the Gold medal while Lily Hasnu from Isaac National Gym, Dimapur bagged the Silver in the ‘first ever’ participation of female athletes from Nagaland in the bodybuilding and fitness sporting event.
Neithongunuo is also the first Naga female athlete who participated in IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) Bikini Athlete at the Amateur Olympia India 2018. She represented India and made it to the finals.
She is one among few female bodybuilders who are changing the way bodybuilding is seen as a man’s sport. Married to Agapeto Achumi, 38 year old Neithongunuo is now a mother of two and also a teacher by profession and still passionately pursues her journey with bodybuilding and fitness
MExN: Regarding your journey in bodybuilding, what inspired you to pursue a career in the field?
Neithongunuo: It all started with watching lot of female fitness motivational videos on the recommendation of my husband. Then I started working out to keep fit and have a sense of general well being, gradually I began really enjoying the workouts and benefits they brought, as a result I got hooked and my passion for fitness grew leading me to desire to compete on stage.
MExN: Did you have any role models who made an impact on your choices?
Neithongunuo: I always looked up to Paige Hathaway and Ashley Kaltwasser who was a two time Mr. Olympia Bikini Champion. They are still my role models.
MExN: What was it like competing at the WABBA competition?
Neithongunuo: It was very intimidating because it was my first time and neither I nor my family had a clue about how it was going to be in the field of bikini fitness. I had no mentors in the field except my husband who also had limited knowledge, but I envisioned the experience and wanted it to be a reality before I got old and wrinkly. I was nervous and excited at the same time but in the end I am glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and competed instead of living with regret.
MExN: You said it was your first time competing, how did it feel when you actually won the competition.
Neithongunuo: I really did not compete hoping to win. I competed hoping for experience and because I loved this sport. However, on winning the competition it was hard to believe and definitely felt proud to have won.
MExN: During your preparation for the competition what were some obstacles that you face?
Neithongunuo: Apart from the fact that when I began contemplating competing, there were no mentors or athletes in India from whom I could draw inspiration from. I struggled with my diet, working out was the easy part, the hard part was watching what I eat especially being a working mother and teacher. My meals were timed and calculated and I ate the same food for a year. I also did not have a lot of support on the journey apart from my husband.
MExN: During all these experiences did you ever feel like giving up on your journey? If so what helped you to get back up again?
Neithongunuo: I felt like giving up every single day because it was not easy eating the same type of food every day for a year. I also felt guilty because I felt like I was not being able to spend more time with my son, those were times I felt like giving up and that was almost every day. What helped me focus, stay on track and keep going was thinking long term, picturing myself and seeing myself at the end of the journey. It was “Passion” I guess, I wanted this so bad.
MExN: What words of advice would you have for the youths that are considering becoming a professional athlete?
Neithongunuo: In fitness there are no shortcuts. It involves discipline, hard work and sacrifice. So, you need to be mentally prepared and strong. Also, not everyone will support, agree or be proud of what you do, but ignore the naysayers and just keep doing what you are passionate about no matter what. 5-10 yrs from now, you would be amazed by how far you've come.
Lastly, while working towards your goal, be prepared for failure, remember “failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success.” You will fail your way to success.
The writer is a student of BAMC 2018-21 batch of Doon Business School, Dehradun and an intern at The Morung Express.