An award-winning TV producer from Wrexham is preparing to step into the spotlight in front of the camera as one of the world’s oldest first time bodybuilding competitors.
Grandmother Nia Ceidiog, 63, is making a documentary for S4C as she prepares to flex her muscles in the Bikini Masters class of a major contest on Sunday after transforming her life and physique.
She will make her debut in the Physical Culture Association (PCA) Xplosive Ape Grand Prix event in Birmingham where more than 300 bodybuilders will showcase their rippling torsos and passion for the sport.
Wearing just a tiny bikini decorated with crystals and a spray tan, the celebrated TV programme-maker will compete in a class for over 35s.
She said: “I’m excited and nervous in equal measure. Bodybuilding is a great sport.
“Taking part will be daunting but I’ve spent a year training for this moment and hope to inspire other women of ‘certain’ age.
“Through the documentary, I want to demonstrate what can be achieved at any age and highlight the health benefits of weight bearing exercise.”
Nia, a former pupil of Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, in 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 nominated for prestigious worldwide awards _ but she remains best known for writing the popular Fireman Sam children’s TV series which ran from 1987-94.
Away from the gym, she has just completed a new series of TiPiNi which airs on S4C’s Cyw slot later this month.
Her bodybuilding film Dim Ond Rhif, (Only a Number) will focus on her journey to a lean size 6 and what can be achieved with healthy eating and exercise.
It was an invitation to her son’s wedding eight years ago that turned her 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. “I was a very stressed overweight female in my 50s with a dozen staff. I worked too hard and self-medicated with wine and ready meals.
“I also realised that as our prospects of living to an older age than previous generations are very high – I could have another 30 years. I want to enjoy those and keep the bad elements of ageing at bay.
“In short, I discovered good health through exercise, studied healthy eating through naturopathy and learned about myself through yoga. I haven’t looked back.”
Nia, who now lives in Cardiff and 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 of bodybuilding “just to see how far a 63-year-old body could go”.
Since May she has been trained and coached by Leica Gelsei, a retired international competitor who has taught her how to pose for judges.
Nia added: “Last October I was down to a size 12 with a relatively high level of fitness but I wanted to try something unusual. I was never sporty at school, nor was I very happy in my skin.
“I chose bodybuilding. A sport which works on the aesthetics of the physical body. This had great appeal. I set about making this happen and sought out people who could help. And what an amazing journey it has been – transformational physically certainly, but also spiritually and intellectually.
“It has been extremely challenging and there have been some dark times along the way. I started to eat meat for example, having previously been vegetarian, and dairy for the first time in years. This made me feel quite unwell so I replaced meat with plant protein powders, fish and eggs.
“Now I am prepared as I ever will be for Sunday. There are many older bodybuilders taking part in the sport – but not many 63-year-old first timers!”
Over the past three months Nia has trained six-days-a-week and stuck to a strict sugar-free diet which also meant no fruit.
Her strength and muscle tone has increased. She can now perform a 22 kilo one-arm row.
Her family are incredibly proud including Tony, her partner of 28 years.
She added: “They’re both bemused and proud, I think. I feel fit and healthy and have more energy than ever before and I will be the very best I can be on that day!
“Win or lose on Sunday, it won’t matter to me. It’s an opportunity to stand proud and celebrate good health.”
Brother Ceidiog Hughes said: “We’re all hugely proud of what Nia has achieved in a relatively short space of time.
“When she was younger she competed a lot in things like public speaking, reciting and playing the harp.
“She was never what you might call a sporty type so this is whole new ball game.
“She has shown utterly remarkable determination and discipline and made massive sacrifices during this challenging and often painful journey.
“Whatever the outcome it will be mission accomplished for Nia because she will have demonstrated unequivocally that age is just a number.”
Nia’s documentary Dim Ond Rhif follows the highs and lows of her bodybuilding journey and will be shown on S4C on January 9.