Since her college days at the University of the Philippines, Ruby Gan has been a fitness enthusiast, being a casual jazz dancer and an aerobics addict. After getting married and giving birth to two sons, she began lifting at a time when female gyms were phased out by the unisex ones that began sprouting around the metro. These allowed her to do masculine exercises that no longer limited her to waist shapers. From there, she never stopped, and the weight she could carry just got heavier and heavier. “I’m just fascinated that I can still lift despite being 56 now,” she shares. “But I’m more concerned about the strength. It’s more than looking good. I want to be strong.”In 2006, trainers at her gym asked her to join their powerlifting team. This was an opportunity she wholeheartedly accepted, and she was eager to have a goal in mind. Many friends and family were initially worried about Ruby bulking up from all the bench presses and there were times they grew frustrated about her injuries. But reactions aside, her broken knees and shoulders are what she proudly considers as her medals.
She competed and won in local competitions before joining the International Asian Bench Press. From then on, she continued competing every year for six years, winning a slew of medals at the Asian Bench Press including gold and double gold in the open and masters category. When she took an indefinite pause in 2012, she explored other forms of exercises to complement her lifting, from long distance marathons to boxing to indoor cycling. “I’m willing to try anything just to challenge my body,” she says.Last October, she stumbled upon natural bodybuilding, a movement that had her trimming down and defining her muscles. “At this age,” she thought then, “can I still do it?” She immediately looked for the right trainer and the right program her body would respond to, which included a strict diet plan that needed unwavering discipline. She started her training officially January of this year in preparation for a competition last May. This allowed her to qualify for an international competition this coming October, which is what she’s currently preparing for with her trainer Irene Rafil.
“It’s difficult to look for the right trainer. You need one who knows how to pose, who knows how to develop the right muscles, and basically do everything the right way. This is the first time I’m ever training with a woman,” Ruby shares. “It’s exciting because we’re two women who are very serious about lifting. We’re both motivated and focused on reaching the goal. It’s important you’re on the same wavelength as your trainer.”Being strong is a way for Ruby to be practical. In doing things on her own and, most especially, lifting things on her own, she says that there’s not always somebody there ready to help. But she emphasizes she is no damsel in distress. “I’m independent and I would rather do something by myself than bother someone else to do it for me,” she says.
Photography by Renzo Navarro
Sittings by Mags Ocampo
TO READ UP ON BODY BUILDING, GO TO BODYBUILDING.COM, OR APPROACH A TRAINER AT KERRY SPORTS MANILA IN SHANGRI-LA FORT WHERE RUBY GAN TRAINS. YOU CAN FIND HER ON INSTAGRAM AS @_RUBYWOO.