Lenda Murray was a professional bodybuilding champion who changed the sport forever. Her record breaking wins and the physique she presented left an enduring impact. Lenda became prominent at a time when the aesthetics of the sport were shifting. Women were no longer afraid to add size and present a stronger looking physique. The structure of Lenda’s body became the standard in which most female bodybuilders today are judged. Wide back, hour glass figure, and developed lower body are areas female bodybuilders focus on. Today she still has a presence in fitness training and advising new athletes. Lenda runs her own business Operation Boot Camp, is a physical fitness trainer, and serves as a NPC promoter. Lenda besides winning multiple sports titles has gained recognition in sports awards for excellence. Among bodybuilding fans she is an essential favorite and quickly recognizable. Other than appearing on a bodybuilding stage Lenda was on Geraldo, Jerry Springer, ESPN, and other daytime talk shows. Lenda was prevalent in magazines such as Muscle and Fitness, Women’s Physique World, Sports Illustrated, and even glamour magazines such as Vanity Fair . Looking back at her long athletic career it becomes clear to see why she was so popular.
Lenda when she first started out did not even have an in depth understanding of bodybuilding. She was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1962. Her participation in athletics started at the age of 15. From there a simple past time became a passion. When she attended Henry Ford High School she was both a track and field athlete as well as a cheerleader. While attending Western Michigan University Lenda majored in political science with the intention of becoming a lawyer. She did continue to engage in cheerleading. Lenda Murray did do cheerleading for the Michigan Panthers in the 1980s. She was also invited to try out for cheerleading for the Dallas Cowboys. It was suggested to her that she needed to slim down a little. Her genetics would not allow that and Lenda gradually left cheerleading. Her true calling came when she met Ron Love. Lenda was going to Power House Gym in Highland Park. He suggested that Lenda compete in bodybuilding competitions. From 1984 onward, Lenda would embark on a monumental journey. Just after a year of training she entered the Ms. Michigan Championships in 1985. She placed fourth in her first competition. Lenda was at first hesitant about the sport saying ” I thought bodybuilders were weird.” The stated further ” they would sleep, eat, stay inside, eat egg whites, chicken, and brown rice all day.”
Lenda to her own admission said ” If she had made the team ( cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys) she probably would not have been a bodybuilder.” Lenda’s family was not supportive of her decision initially. Her father did not even come to her first competition. Both her parents did not understand why she wanted to do this. Lenda explained her parents reaction as “have you lost your mind?”Eventually they came around to accepting their daughter’s choice and came to competitions. They became proud that she was winning and becoming notable in bodybuilding circles. Gradually, she was becoming a force to be reckoned with. She came in first place in 1988 NPC Michigan, 1985 NPC Eastern Michigan, 1989 NPC Junior Nationals, and the 1989 IFBB North America Championships. Every contest she competed in she was always in the top three. There was only onetime she placed lower than that and it was in her first competition. There is a reason for this and it had to do with the type of physique she built.
Lenda Murray when competing was 153 lbs standing at 5ft 5 in. The phsyique she built was a new archetype that female bodybuilders have been emulating since 1990. It was a much larger musculature, but not enormous. It was balanced, but not the sleeker physiques of the female bodybuilders of the 1980s. Her latissimus dorsi muscles were very developed creating a wide back and a small waist in comparison. This created an hour glass figure of a more athletic variety. Her torso had the classic v taper which accentuated the female figure. There was a balance between her upper and lower body. Neither was too over developed. From 1984 to 2004 Lenda built her body to the standard female bodybuilder model. When she began her career she looked like the more sleeker bodybuilders that were common on stage.
The shift was when she added more size for her first Ms. Olympia contest. She added more size while balancing her physique. Judging was going to more strict on a professional stage, so some strategy had to be utilized. Lenda’s training involved are large portion of lower body exercises. Squats, lunges, and barbell rows Lenda did extensively. Lenda said they did not benefit just her hamstrings and glutes, but her core. She claims they also improved her posture and a stronger core meant a better work out. She added low cardio training to her regimen. She did not want to do too much, because it could effect her physique in unintended ways. He diet and supplements were also essential. Lenda Murray would take omega 3, a daily multivitamin, and meal replacements. These meal replacements were health bars and basic protein powders. Lenda reveals that the flavor added in the meal replacement allowed her to consume food the would otherwise be flavorless. Training as one can see to build such a body is a very scientific as well as trial and error process. Lenda did have competitors she admired which included Cory Everson, Carla Dunlap, and even a future rival Bev Francis. Carla Dunlap as Lenda articulated opened doors for African American women in the sport. Lenda Murray was quoted “Cory’s physique was muscular yet beautiful” and “Bev Francis stepped outside the box challenging our image of women.” The reason she had admiration for these women is that they were pioneers who were changing the boundaries and paradigms in regards to the athletic female body. What Lenda did was to combine various elements of aesthetics of these competitors and present it on her physique. The size of Bev Francis, the shape of Cory Everson, and the balance of Carla Dunlap Lenda Murray was able to capture in her multiple Olympia appearances.
Lenda’s workout routine involved training five days a week. The fascinating aspect of this is that she would focus on one body part. The first day was devoted to her chest and the following would be her legs. Day three and four were devoted to biceps and calves. Back, shoulders, and triceps would be exercised in the remaining days. Lenda Murray loved doing weight that allowed 12 to 15 repetitions. Between weight lifting and cardio her time in the gym would normally be about an hour and 15 minutes.She would also work out later in the afternoon for a fe more hours. Using her inspirations as guides on how she wanted to look, it was not surprise that she won her first Olympia.
The 1990 Ms.Olympia saw Lenda Murray defeat Bev Francis.This was her first one and she was able to beat a veteran. Bev Francis at one point was attempting to meet the demands of the judges and downsized her physique. The second place result made her change her mind and she decided to present a much larger physique. Lenda who was influenced by Francis also decided to add some improvements in her physique for the 1991 Ms.Olympia.
The 1991 contest Bev Francis was formidable having an even larger size than before. Lenda had the edge in terms of having the better developed lower body. Both their posing routines were well choreographed. When it came down to the actual look Lenda won, because she balanced size between the upper and lower body. Francis put more emphasis on size while putting less attention on symmetry and conditioning. Both competitors changed the sport forever and women that day were not longer afraid to be as muscular as possible. Lenda would go on to win more Olympia titles, but more rivals would appear on stage. Laura Creavalle who was 3rd palce in 1991 would provide a challenge to Murray in the 1992 Ms. Olympia. Creavalle had more experience and had been on the Olympia stage since 1988. Lenda once exposed in an interview “Laura challenged me with her great condition and her mouth. Lenda explained that “she was good at getting inside your head.” Under the smiles on stage, there seems to be psychological games that competitors do to get at their rivals. It is not just a physical game, but a psychological one.
Laura would be Lenda’s main rival from 1992 to 1995. During these years it was common to see her follow behind Lenda Murray in contest rankings. Although there was rivalry between these two there was not seething animosity. This was a friendly rivalry born out of the love of competition. Lenda had to continually adjust to keep Laura at bay. Mainly this involved adding more size to her upper body to still rival Laura. Lenda Murray was once again able to win more Olympia titles. There then came a competitor in 1996 that dethroned Lenda Murray. Lenda has stated that Kim Chizevsky ” was a rock on stage completely unmovable.” Lenda Murray believed she was unbeatable.
Lenda met her match in terms of size, symmetry, and conditioning on the Olympia stage. She would face her twice in 1996 and 1997. Around that that time she decided to retire from the sport. Six wins was not a terrible record, but it seems she was used to being a winner. These two losses may have been a motivation for her decision. Lenda had already made an immense impression. Female bodybuilder everywhere were attempting to imitate her look.
Lenda Murray could not stay away for too long. She made a comeback in 2002 winning the Ms.Olympia again. The following she won it once more. The year 2004 saw the rise of Iris Kyle . Lenda never considered her a real threat and that is why this loss was shocking. Iris would go on to break Lenda’s record just like Lenda did with Cory Everson’s. Lenda Murray’s thoughts on Iris Kyle have not been the most polite. Lenda once stated that Kyle “sacrificed her look as a woman.” This criticism is thrown at female bodybuilders for not being “feminine enough.”Lenda even in her post competition years seemed to still be critical. These comments and criticisms seem odd because their bodies were very similar. Her comments suggested that Iris Kyle was not feminine enough and did not represent the sport well . These may seem like closed minded or hateful comments, but it seems they are coming from an athlete who was angry she was dethroned. It is unclear whether they both have reconciled. Lenda did interview her for Muscular Development.
The irony about this opinion of Murray’s is that she contributed to this evolution. Doubtless about one believes the proper look for a woman is, no one can say women are terrible at bodybuilding. Lenda Murray was able to balance various elements of bodybuilding aesthetics giving athletes a model to work from. Iris Kyle was the logical next step in the evolution of the muscular female form. To add more humor to this Lenda said “if you can go toe to toe with Dexter Jackson there’s a problem.” This was again in reference to Iris Kyle and her appearance. Again, Iris could not compete with Dexter seeing as he is over the 200 pound mark. Also, there are many men Lenda and Iris could dominate physically due to their strength. Lenda is known for her blunt opinions, but they should not be taken as vicious attacks. It is just a difference in bodybuilding aesthetics and the role the Ms.Olympia should play.
Lenda Murray became an icon not only because of her athletic performance, but her numerous appearances in magazines and being a major subject in Bill Dobbins photographs. She was very photogenic and fans enjoyed these productions. Lenda Murray has stated that she did enjoy doing photo sessions with Bill Dobbins the most. Being a very attractive woman helped get her on covers and gain notoriety. The girls from Detroit was able to travel the world and have a contract with the Wieder Corporation. Fitness publications would have her photos in foreign language editions as well.
Lenda revealed that when she started the sport, even her friends were not entirely supportive. When she started appearing in magazines and becoming notable they were more accepting. She did photo shoots with GeneX9, SweetMuscle, and Shemuscle. Lenda was ubiquitous in various fitness magazines. All this attention Lenda was receiving was something new to her. She described herself as an introverted personality, but one would not have guessed seeing her on stage. Lenda has spoken in interviews of this period of being another golden age of female bodybuilding. The Ms.Olympia was broadcast on ESPN and Lenda even did color commentary for contests on the network between 1993 and 1996.
What Lenda liked most in her own words was “being the best in the world at something was incredibly satisfying .” Lenda Murray has siad that athletes need to be also concerned about the business aspect of the sport. One of the things that helped her was that she was selective about how her image was presented. This means also trying new things. During her first retirement, Lenda attempting to tryout to be a wrestler for the WWF. That was in 1997 that she auditioned for it. Lenda was quoted : “it was brutal.” She eventually lost interest, but said it was a great opportunity. This would have been amazing to see Lenda wrestle. Lenda has trained wrestlers before including Triple H, Ric Flair, and Stephanie Mcmahon . Lenda Murray trained many athletes and average gym goers. She even opened one called Fitness Burn, which was in operation from 1999 to 2005. She clearly made her mark in media appearances.
Lenda Murray has become a role model to many athletes. Lenda believes that ” when you become a monumental success, people tend to follow or listen.” Lenda Murray was always conscious how she conducted her self say : ” being a female bodybuilder carries a level of stigma and I did my best to smash any negative stereotypes.” Lenda has spoken out against the unfair double standards in which women in the sport are judged. Sexism is obvious, but few talk about the covert racism. Lenda said that “racism was apparent when she won her first Olympia.” She did not get on the cover of Flex until 1993. They argument was that African Americans on cover of magazines do not sell well. The executives at the Weider Corporation had no evidence to support this claim. Many times Lenda Murray had to demand things that white athletes were automatically given. Lenda Murray had in her own way broke racial and gender barriers in the sport. Lenda’s view of the sport is aso long as women continue to show up to compete female bodybuilding will never die. She has praised that women now have more options to compete in multiple divisions including fitness, physique, figure, bikini, and bodybuilding.
She does her part and continues to hold the Lenda Murray Bodybuilding, Fitness, and Bikini Championships at Norfolk State University. Lenda continues to make a name for herself as a promoter in the sport. The IFBB seems to either ignore women’s divisions or wants them eliminated. When it was announced that the Ms.Olympia was ending in 2014, quickly a successor contest took its place. The Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix World Championships replaced the Ms.Olympia and Lenda Murray had involvement serving as an emcee for the event.She really loves the sport and wants it to be shared with a new generation of athletes. They now strive to create the model of body she pioneered in the 1990s. For her dedication and involvement she has won several awards and honors. Lenda Murray was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2010. She also became a member of the National Fitness Hall of Fame . One of the highest honors she received was from the International Sports Hall of Fame. Her recognition is a significant one for the International Sports Hall of Fame. Some claim that bodybuilding is not a real sport, but Lenda has proved that wrong. Lenda Murray’s feats and exploits will certainly be an important part of sports history.