An award-winning television producer has revealed she overcame “horrible health problems” in her quest to become the world’s oldest first time bodybuilder.
Grandmother Nia Ceidiog, 63, from Cardiff, chose the muscle sculpting sport as the ultimate step in a fitness regime she originally embarked on in an attempt to look good for her son’s wedding.
In the autumn of 2016 she began an intense programme to hone her body to the high standard necessary to compete in a major national competition.
But six months in she says she was on the point of giving up on her dream because of the “nasty” things happening to her body.
She developed a form of psoriasis which led to the build-up of a “disgusting” and painful fungus under her fingernails which became thick, brown and misshapen.
Nia will tell the inspiring story of her journey – including the dark times – in a documentary she’s made for S4C due to be screened at 9.30pm on Tuesday, January 9.
Nia, originally from Wrexham, runs a production company and is the creative mind behind many children’s TV programmes including the BAFTA Cymru winning Dwylo’r Enfys.
Another series, Y Diwrnod Mawr, was five times nominated for prestigious worldwide awards, however, she remains probably best known for writing the original Fireman Sam children’s TV series which ran from 1987-94.
Her bodybuilding documentary, Dim Ond Rhif, (Only a Number), will focus on her journey to a lean size 6 and what can be achieved through exercise and sheer determination.
It was an invitation to her son’s wedding eight years ago that turned Nia’s life around. A size 16, with an unhealthy lifestyle, she threw herself into exercise and yoga.
“At first it was vanity and I embarked on a process of making myself presentable, she said. “At the time I was a very stressed overweight female in my fifties with a staff of between eight and 12. I was working too hard and self-medicating with wine and ready meals.
“I also realised along the way that as our prospects of living to an older age previous generations are very high – I could easily be looking at another 30 years. I wanted to enjoy those and keep the bad elements of ageing at bay.”
Nia, who has two children and two grandchildren, went to India to study yoga and now teaches classes. She’s also trained in Naturopathy which offers a natural route to well-being.
Last autumn she embarked on her new challenge. She started bodybuilding “just to see how far a 63 year-old body could go”.
Nia was already down to a size 12 with a relatively high level of fitness but wanted to try something unusual as she’d never been sporty at school, nor been very happy in her skin.
She chose bodybuilding, a sport which works on the aesthetics of the physical body, and set as her goal reaching the standard required to make her debut – wearing just a tiny bikini decorated with crystals and spray tan – in the Physical Culture Association (PCA) Xplosive Ape Grand Prix competition in Birmingham where over 300 bodybuilders showcased their rippling torsos.
Nia said: “What an amazing journey it turned out to be – transformational physically, spiritually and intellectually.
“But it was also extremely challenging and there were dark times along the way. In fact, at the lowest point I was on the brink of giving it all up.
“Eight years ago, as part of my new lifestyle, I gave up eating dairy and about two years ago also gave up meat.
“However, the bodybuilding programme meant I had to start eating them both again to build up muscle by taking in protein.
“As part of the bulking process at one stage I was eating 3,000 calories a day. I saw it as a short term sacrifice of my morals and principles to achieve my goal but it made me feel quite ill.
“I became very dull physically and mentally. I was getting heavier and heavier, although it was with muscle and not fat.
“Another worrying thing which happened was that I developed a version of psoriasis affecting the nails. Things which looked like fungus started to grow under my fingernails because my skin cells were abnormally over-reproducing. The nails were also thick, misshapen and brown in colour.
“These were big problems that indicated to me that something horrible was going on inside my body and a sign that I urgently needed to make changes.”
Nia added: “I saw a doctor but he wasn’t able to give me any reassurance. I then spoke to my naturopath who gave me a diet which meant that I very much resumed my normal eating pattern and stopped eating dairy and meat again.
“I started to recover and despite having been on the brink of giving up, I was spurred by a new enthusiasm.
“I had experienced a terrible feeling of failure, sadness and worry, so I was very pleased that I became more energetic.
“It was extremely hard work but I learned so much from my journey.”
Lining up against people 20 years younger than herself in the competition, she fought her way to a medal in the class for over 35s, becoming only one of three in the whole contest to be awarded a medal.
“My family were there to cheer me on and I got to see an amazing world and working within that world was a very pleasing and humbling experience,” she recalled.
“I consider myself as a winner as it was very important to me that I reached that stage and I have grown so much through the process.
“The whole thing has taken 10 years off me – the way I look, the way I think and the confidence it has given me
“I’m also thinking of competing in bodybuilding again sometime in the coming year, although at this stage I’m not sure how.”
Nia’s documentary Dim Ond Rhif follows the highs and lows of her bodybuilding journey and will be shown on S4C at 9.30pm on Tuesday, January 9.