Sunday, 24 September 2017

Leaving the stage...what's next?

Over the last few months I’ve often been asked ‘when will you be competing again?’, ‘how come you’re doing CrossFit?’, ‘are you still going to be bodybuilding?’ and they’re all questions I’ve answered openly but not something I’ve spoken about pro-actively on social media or on my blog. Simply because I haven’t really wanted to up until now, but now feels about the right time to clear a few things up.

In short, I have no plans to compete again. Whether that will change in the future I don’t know but not anytime soon. And yes I have moved my focus to CrossFit full-time now.

I actually made the decision not to compete again, about 3 weeks after the NPA Yorkshire in May. Originally the plan was to hit a few competitions this year and try my hardest to earn that British invite in October; at least for the NPA federation and perhaps to have a bash at one or two others. I was disappointed to not qualify for British at the NPA Yorkshire, missing out by one place, but I knew that would always be a tough ask with it attracting the biggest number of competitors and only 18 months into my bodybuilding journey, having spent 10 of those months dieting.
NPA Yorkshire 2017 Trained Figure Class 2 - 4th
I physically became quite ill after that competition and knew my body needed a rest. Mentally, I needed to step away from bodybuilding for a while, more importantly. The biggest sign for me was reflecting on the competition and if I’m completely honest I really didn’t enjoy the day. I felt enormous pressure (from myself only) as naturally I always want to do well and so in contrast to the previous year as the new girl with no expectations who was just delighted to place 6th having achieved what I set out to and having had a fantastic day, this year was very different. I wanted that top 3 and so anything else felt like a huge disappointment, despite having made significant progress in the 12 months.

Becoming ill in June and having to take some time off work to recover and spending a lot of time sat at home thinking; I realised I wasn’t in a great place mentally, to consider going back on prep in July and my emotions were all over the place. Physically my body was struggling and whilst it was one of the hardest decisions to make, I made the decision to not compete again in 2017. Now for many that probably wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but for me, making that decision was hard. I’ve achieved a hell of a lot for my age both professionally and personally, purely because I don’t give up on anything. This felt like I was giving up and that was hard for me to accept. But I had to put my health first and that was that.

It probably made it a more difficult decision as I’d known from the start of the year that I certainly wouldn’t be competing in 2018. I knew after 2 consecutive years of dieting and competing my body needed a break and also because I needed to get a balance back in my life. Any bodybuilder will know that you say goodbye to any sort of balance when you make that decision to compete; sacrificing not only a lot of food, but with that a lot of social plans too. It does become your life and whilst I coped much better on prep this year, after the Yorkshire’s I didn’t feel like it had all been worth it, like I did the previous year. So making the decision to not compete again in 2017, also meant it was likely I wouldn’t compete again for a number of years, if at all again, as for me competing was only ever going to be for short period of time in the scheme of things as I personally wouldn’t choose to live that lifestyle when the time comes to start a family.

So it’s fair to say during June and July I felt a bit lost. My plans for the year had changed and whilst it was a huge relief in some sense, I struggled to find any sense of normality. What even was normal anymore? It was great to have a social life again but I was paranoid about gaining weight post-comp and I struggled not having a real goal. I was bored of my gym and a time when I’m not going to lie some of my love for bodybuilding had dwindled, my gym just reminded me of that.

So why CrossFit? From February I’d trained once per week at Wakefield CrossFit as my coach had moved down there. We adapted training so I could still ‘be a bodybuilder’ at the facility but it gave me a chance to see what it was all about. Believe me, it’s brutal at the best of times but wind up down there in the depths of prep when it takes all of your energy to even pick up a dumbbell and it looked like pure torture watching the others do muscle ups, burpees and almost passing out on the floor.

However, I also saw a lot of incredible physiques down there (yes as a bodybuilder the image is what you see first), but all leading very balanced lifestyles at the same time. I was also amazed at the physical capabilities of many of the athletes. And I also started to understand the buzz that my coach had talked about since he started training down there. That community feel, that fun atmosphere and so the seed had been planted for a number of months.

I’d like to in this post give a special shout out to my coach Michael Barrett. It was always important for me to have a coach that understood me and that was a friend as much as he was my coach. That derived from bodybuilding when you need the emotional support as much as the physical. I remember being so nervous to tell Mikey that I didn’t want to compete again, but I had no reason to feel that way; the support he gave me and continues to give me is incredible. My only focus at the point of giving up competing was that I wanted to get my enjoyment back for training as I’d lost that this year in bodybuilding. All of a sudden the pressure was off and I could just have fun in my sessions.

My feelings have been very mixed throughout this whole journey this year; disappointment, upset, frustration, the list goes on. One thing that Mikey has done is allowed me to feel that way when I’ve needed to and more importantly given me that reassurance that it’s okay to feel that way and to not beat myself up about it, which in turn has allowed me to dust myself down and get that smile back on my face again.

Mikey suggested CrossFit and August saw me become a member at Wakefield CrossFit. Fast forward 7 weeks and yesterday I took part in my first competition. When anyone asked me yesterday afterwards how it went, my immediate reaction was how much I’d enjoyed it and how much fun I’d had. It wasn’t about how well I did (obviously I still have a very long way to go) but I came away having had a brilliant day. And that was all I was bothered about. It’s also nice to take part in a sport that isn’t subjective in the same way bodybuilding is. If I can do a certain exercise, I can do it. If I can’t and someone else can, that’s fair enough. It’s not down to a number of individual opinions on a given day. I can work with that.
Synchro down ups and box jump overs yesterday

 It’s been a tough few months I won’t lie. I’ve gone back to basics; had to ask myself some difficult questions and had to reassess my priorities. It’s been both brilliant and scary joining a new facility and a new discipline. Many of the people at Wakefield CrossFit probably don’t know the challenges I faced to bring me there but the support of the coaches and the other members has meant a lot to me, at a time when I’ve had to rebuild my confidence in many aspects.

So whilst I’ll never say never, I don’t have any intentions of pulling my figure suit and heels back on anytime soon. Bodybuilding will always have a place close to my heart for all it brought to my life but sometimes it’s time to start a new chapter and that time is now.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Swapping the bikini and stripper shoes for waterproofs and walking boots!

I can’t believe it’s almost a week since my competition; the NPA Yorkshire’s held in Wakefield last weekend. It seems to have been a bit of a whirlwind five days since then; coming down from the elation of being on stage once again, to trying to bring myself out of the biggest food coma. To taking some time to reflect on my year so far and think about what I want to do next. To getting back into the swing of work once again and then casting my eyes on my next challenge; my very imminent challenge of the National 3 Peaks this weekend.
It felt very surreal being back on stage last weekend; 1 year after my debut. I had only ever intended on doing it the once but got the bug for it and soon found myself after my first competition in May 2016, planning my off-season and my return to stage in 2017. Last year’s competition saw me place sixth in a line-up of nine girls. I was absolutely euphoric with that result as I had never set out with the intention of being good at bodybuilding (as weird as that sounds bear with me!). As I’ve explained previously in these posts last year was all about getting through prep so to place in the line-up and get a trophy was the icing on top of the cake. I’d only had two months of an ‘off-season’ after returning home from a year of travelling, having done no proper weight training as such before that. And then I went straight into a five month prep. Looking back, it was a great achievement to actually place.
This year felt different. In true Rebecca style it was always about doing better. I’d spent 7 months building my muscle in my off-season and then went into a 21 week prep from January. I came in this year looking fuller with more muscle but leaner than last year; exactly what we set out to do. And the improvements were clear for all to see and I placed fourth out of a tough line-up of nine girls. Disappointed to not finish in the top three? Of course. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. But I knew it was always going to be a huge ask; especially at the Yorkshire’s which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, NPA show of the year. I’m proud of the improvements I made from last year and gave it my all throughout prep and on stage which is all I could do.
Straight off stage!
Trained Figure Class 2
So what next? In terms of bodybuilding I do have some plans. My coach and I met on Monday morning and had a good chat. We set some goals; some are mini-goals and some bigger goals which helps me to focus right now but also keeps my mind on the bigger picture. I don’t want to share these goals just yet as I feel that adds pressure; and it’s one thing I can do without right now after placing a huge amount of pressure on myself in the run up to last weekend.
Right now however my focus switches to this coming weekend. People often call me crazy for taking on so much, of which I laugh that off a lot of the time but right now I couldn’t agree more. This weekend me and 8 colleagues from Yorkshire Ambulance Service take on the National 3 Peaks Challenge. For those of you that don’t know, the challenge involves climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales in under 24 hours. It’s about 24 miles in total and there’s no two ways about it; it’s going to be BLOODY HARD.
We leave Wakefield at 7am on Saturday morning, arriving in Scotland mid-afternoon; with a quick chance to grab some food before we start our first climb at 5pm. It may seem a dumb time to be starting a walk but believe me lots of research has gone into this and this is the best time; it means throughout the weekend you do all the climbs in daylight pretty much. So Ben Nevis should take us about 5 hours and then we set off on our travels to Cumbria where we will take on Scafell Pike, starting at 4am. A 4 hour climb in England will then see us ready to set off on our way to Wales at 8am, arriving around midday. The final climb should take us around 5 hours, finishing up at 5pm all being well on the Sunday.
As a bodybuilder, I hate cardio. With a passion. End of. Why did I agree to walk over 20 miles in one weekend on pretty much zero sleep? Because I’m clearly a little bit crazy…and I just LOVE a challenge. We are doing this for charity so it’s all for a good cause which makes it worthwhile. The monies raised will be split between the YAS Charitable Fund and the Danny Jones Defib Fund. The YAS Charitable Fund uses the money kindly donated to support its work in a number of ways. The money is used to fund additional training and equipment for services over and above those core services provided by the NHS. Most recently the Charitable Fund has been focusing its efforts on raising money for community medical units, which provide on-scene medical treatment for patients with minor injuries and illnesses, and public access defibrillators to help save more lives in local communities. The Danny Jones Defib Fund was set up by Danny’s wife Lizzie after Danny tragically died a couple of years ago during a rugby game. The Defib Fund is designed to raise money to ensure that community defibrillators can be made available at local rugby clubs. Both are great charities that we are delighted to be supporting.
So this week I have been getting prepared for the challenge; most of the preparation involves food supplies for me haha. I may struggle with the fitness side of it but there’s not a change I’m going hungry on it. I’m all stocked up with pasta, sandwiches, protein bars, BCAAs, gels, bananas and plenty of sugary treats to just get me through it. It’s fair to say calorie and macro tracking will go out of the window this weekend but I hear you burn around 10,000 calories in total over the weekend so I think that’s okay. I will be posting on social media (Instagram: @becmallinder, Twitter: @becmallinder and on Facebook) our progress so please follow me and see how we get on. Any donation would also be greatly appreciated; you can donate online following the link below:

In terms of the team that are doing this with me, I’m pleased to say I have an awesome team of support that I know will make the challenge fun and we will get each other through.
Dave Green (Head of Quality Improvement) is going to be a pivotal member of the team as he’s in charge of navigating us throughout the weekend (no pressure hey!). Ex-Army I feel we’re in safe hands…and he’s a Paramedic, what more could we want? Dave’s mate Daz (Darren Parkinson from the Hazardous Area Response Team) is also on the team and will no doubt be Dave’s right-hand man in keeping us all on track. Another Paramedic too so I’m definitely starting to feel more reassured. Both are keen on their fitness so should be no real dramas with these guys (she says!). Our third Paramedic on the team is Martin Shaw (Head of EOC Clinical Hub). Martin’s a keen gym-goer too and having seen him myself on the hills (haha – just for you Martin) he should be leading the way on Saturday. A former rugby player too Martin’s on stand-by to carry me when I collapse in a heap!
The more I write about the team the more confident I am in our abilities…next up Karen Warner (Deputy Director of Quality & Nursing) another keen trainer who has made awesome progress in the gym over the last 12 months and casually goes out walking or cycling miles on a weekend just for fun. A midwife by trade, we have plenty of clinicians on the team which is always welcome should anyone need patching up. Last year she took part in the coast to coast bike ride absolutely smashing it alongside Mark Turner from the Business Development team, who’s also on the team. Mark also gets out doing plenty of exercise so the experience across the team is vast.
Sarah Lacey and Rachel Foster from our Patient Relations department are also on the team and regularly hit up the gym classes. And last but not least we are joined by Sarah Gallagher from the Safeguarding Team. Another Paramedic too, Sarah is a very welcome addition and it’s great to bring so many of us from different departments together into one team for such a worthwhile event.
So, two sleeps to go! I’m in a de-load week this week thankfully so my body is feeling well rested for the challenge and fuelled on carbs after increasing the calories this week. I never thought I felt wholly comfortable in a figure suit and stripper shoes turning out the front double bicep pose on stage, however with the prospect of waterproofs, walking poles and blister plasters on the horizon, I think I might be wishing the Dream Tan back on sooner than I expected!
Wish us luck!