If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. This is exactly what Ashwini Waskar did and she is now India’s first competitive female bodybuilder. The 32-year-old is doing her best to defy cultural stereotypes to become one of the top performers in this sport.

One year ago, Ashwini was overweight and struggling with it. Coming from Raigad in Konkan, Maharashtra, she worked as a senior researcher at the Central Institute of Fisheries Education.

Her first encounter with the gym was due to her extra weight, but then something changed her life. In February 2013, she attended a male bodybuilding competition and was fascinated by the sport.

In an interview with Mirror , she said “An announcement was being made there about the upcoming first national level female bodybuilding competition and they were asking if anybody wants to participate. So I thought ‘why not give it a try?’”

She did try. She went through strenuous training with a high protein diet, shed the extra kilos and gained muscles.

“Out of enthusiasm I used to lift heavy weights and I followed a rich protein diet. That’s how my body became really strong”

She also says that her family had their own doubts about her changing profession and revealing clothes associated with the profession, but after serious consideration, they rendered full support to her.

Ashwini has contested for seven bodybuilding contests till now, but unlike male competitors, she has struggled to find sponsorship. There have been incidents when her family had to sell their personal belongings in order to sponsor and tap the talents of this astounding woman. But she is still very optimistic and hopes to inspire other women.

“Girls are coming into bodybuilding and some women are being inclined towards fitness. I would really love to train a girl who comes up to me with a wish of participating in competitions.”

Way to go, woman!