WHEN I ENTERED THE living room of Domini Alleyne and Ramona Morgan, I couldn’t help but notice the exercise ball, exercise mat and exercise bike, all placed neatly in the corner.
That gave me the first indication that these two women are “gym bunnies”.
But as my eyes further scanned the room, they quickly settled on a nearby bookshelf.
There were no Jerome Dickey or Mills & Boons books, though, as I quickly zeroed in on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding and numerous fitness books and, oh yes, multiple trophies and medals.
It only took one glance at Domini’s ripped six-pack abdominals, which were showing beneath her crop top, and Ramona’s bulging biceps, underneath the sleeves of her tight-fitting dress, to realise these two girls are more than just the usual “gym bunnies” type.
They’re champion fitness queens.
The roommates are both still on a high after capturing their respective divisional and overall titles at the recently concluded National Bodybuilding Championships.
The 29-year-old Guyanese-born Domini was crowned the bikini fitness queen, while Ramona was head and shoulders above her class to comfortably win the body fitness title.
And while the two friends have jumped to the top of their games, they both took different paths to reach their destination.
For Domini, it was an abusive relationship which pushed her to get involved in body fitness.
“It basically stemmed from an abusive marriage, and being a part of the church helped me to find myself.
“I remembering running into a friend and he bought me a six-month membership at a gym . . . but I had to prove to myself first that I really needed it,” she explained to EASY magazine as she sat at her dining room table.
As if it had happened yesterday, Domini candidly recalled how those six months dramatically shaped her life.
“Those six months were something else. I started in February of 2012 and I was able to transform my body in about three months . . . and I saw it just blow up into something amazing.
“In my first time on stage that same year I placed third at the Nationals and I thought that was fantastic,” the former St Lucy Secondary (Daryll Jordan) School student said as she broke out in a huge smile.
Ramona, a veteran of 15 years, has been competing for the past seven years and her name has become synonymous with body fitness in Barbados.
It was while being a spectator at one of the shows that she decided she would give it a try.
“I got involved by going to a show and my trainer at that time, Garth Norris, was competing and I saw the fitness girls and I thought to myself that was something I could do.
“I spoke to Norris after the show and I told him I wanted to do that. He asked me what I meant by ‘that’ and I told him that ‘turning, turning thing that the girls were doing’,” Ramona said.
However, she quickly found out that getting her body in tip-top condition would require a lot of sacrifice and hard work.
It was a sacrifice she was willing to make.
“He sat me down and prepared me mentally for what the diet would be like and what I would have to cut out,” she remembered.
“My weakness is bread and pasta. But he told me I would have to cut them out and I thought to myself maybe I should rethink this.
“But then I thought it would only be for a short period of time and I would only have to do it once so let’s see what happens,” Ramona noted.
That was back in 2007.
A second place finish in her first competition saw her being selected to the national team and that only helped to ignite her passion.
The two may seem like easy success stories, but they both would be quick to point out there could be nothing further from the truth.
Along the way, they have had to sacrifice friends, relationships and most of their social life to reach the top.
They both agree they have literally no social life, with most of their time dedicated to work and the gym.
“If you have friends that don’t understand your life and your passion you have to let them go. If you are in a personal relationship and that person doesn’t understand, you have to let them go too,” Domini maintained.
“I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I’ve had to make some hard choices. In the end I have to do what’s good for me.”
Ramona, 37, agrees wholeheartedly.
“People that come into my life have to understand that I have a routine. Yeah, I don’t mind changing up a bit, but at the end of the day they have to accept me and my lifestyle, and realise I am very focused and dedicated to that.”
“If you want to be the best you have to cut out certain things . . . . Yes, you can still socialise, but it is a balance and you have to know how to operate it,” she noted.
They’ve also had to endure harsh words and criticisms from people who don’t necessarily agree with their choice to “muscle up”.
At 5’ 3’’, Ramona, the more muscular of the two, while very shapely, carries a broad back and biceps which would make most men jealous.
“I think most men are intimidated by me,” she promptly acknowledges.
“I’ve had men come up to me and tell me I would probably headlock them or I would probably beat them up . . . and I’m, like, seriously?
“Females have told me they admire how I look but they wouldn’t like to look like me. I don’t know why they say that. They can’t look like me . . . . Everybody’s body is different,” the former student of Ellerslie Secondary insisted.
Domini readily admits she is quite comfortable in her body.
The personal assistant at the Diagnostic Clinic has embraced the change which her body has gone through over the past couple years.
“I am very comfortable. It’s amazing what the human body can do when you do the right things, and feed it the right things.”
While Dominic is a member of Strike Force Gym, Ramona trains with J&S Fitness Academy. But their eating and training regimes are similarly gruelling.
Dominic revealed that her diet consists mostly of eggs, oats, beef, chicken, fish, rice, sweet potatoes.
At one point in time she said she used to go to the gym five times a week, twice a day before Ramona advised her to cut it back to three times a week.
“My diet has totally changed. Before it was, like, pudding and souse, fried this and fried that. It’s different now because you have restrictions and I’m restricted to certain food groups so I just can’t eat anything anymore,” she admitted with a pout.
Ramona gave a rundown of what her typical day is like.
“My day starts at around four in the morning because I have to go to the gym on mornings and do cardio. I come back, get ready for work and after work I go back to the gym on evenings.
“Sometimes I might do meal prep depending on how far my meals carry me if I start them on Sundays. So I might have to do my meals on Wednesdays to carry me over for the following days so it can be pretty hectic,” she contended.
Despite their hectic schedules, which sometimes include going to the gym three times a day, four to five days a week, they still make time to enjoy “the finer things in life”.
While Ramona loves listening to music and sleeping, Domini enjoys reading a good book, watching a good series on television and going to the beach.
She even considers herself a bit of a comedian, treating her Instagram followers to daily blogs.
“I think I’m a bit corny,” she readily admits as Ramona breaks into a laugh.
“I think that although most of the time I’m cracking my jokes people laugh, I think they’re laughing at me more so than at my jokes.”
Neither of them has any children, but they haven’t ruled out the possibility.
I couldn’t wrap up the interview without asking one more question – what type of guy piques their interest?
Surprisingly enough, they both said they had tried dating bodybuilders, but it hadn’t worked out.
“He doesn’t have to be a competitive [in bodybuilding] guy – been there, done that . . . but he has to take care of himself. I can deal with the average Joe,” Ramona points out.
“I’d rather him not compete because I don’t like the idea of both of us being on stage,” Domini argues.
“But if we can train together and eat together that would be really nice.”