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!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

To the girl who will settle for nothing less than the best

I’m 10 days out from my first competition of the season and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about myself during this prep is just how hard I am on myself. I’ve had to make a real concerted effort over the last 2-3 weeks to give myself a break, mentally as things reached a bit of an unhealthy point for me. And before anyone starts, it’s nothing to do with ‘self-love’ and all that stuff that we read about all the time as I have a good relationship with myself overall. It purely comes down to a personal drive to be the best, to do the best I can, to constantly be pushing myself. And that’s not always a bad thing; I would much rather be this way than never aim for anything, but it’s not always a good thing either.
 
Photo: John Gardner Photography
 
I’ve spent the last few weeks repeatedly challenging my own thoughts and beliefs, on purpose, so that I can be a bit kinder to myself. I wanted to share a few of those messages I’ve been trying to tell myself on a daily basis so this is written from the ‘kinder’ Rebecca to the ‘unless-you’re-on-verge-of-collapse-you’re-not-trying-hard-enough’ Rebecca.
 
I hope that you learn to take time to look after your mental wellbeing as much as your physical wellbeing.
 
It’s okay to spend half an hour…what the hell, an hour or two even, on the sofa, just relaxing and taking that time to allow yourself to switch off from the world. You don’t always have to be doing something and that’s just as important for both your mental and physical health as exercising and eating healthy is.
 
I hope that you learn to be a little more selfish sometimes.
 
I think we’re all guilty of this from time to time. How many times do we do things to keep others happy or because we feel we should do something when actually we don’t want to do it? I’ve learnt to say no a little more over the last month or two and to stop and think what do I WANT to do? You can’t be something to everybody all of the time otherwise you cut yourself so thin that you’re actually not that much use to anyone and you’re definitely not much use to yourself.
 
I hope that you’re proud of how far you’ve come rather than always looking at how far you have to go.
 
What screwed my mind up a few weeks ago was thinking I wasn’t good enough. Looking at photos on social media of other figure girls and marking myself down. In that respect, last year was much easier as I didn’t know any other competitors and last year I competed purely for the challenge and accomplishment of doing so. But in typical Rebecca fashion, that was never going to be good enough and so this year it wasn’t about getting through the prep, I knew I could do that, it was about being better. And it started off with me just wanting to be better than last year’s me but then I found myself putting so much pressure on myself to be better than those around me too and that’s not healthy. I’m all for competition and ambition but I had to really pull myself back, with the help of my coach to just focus on me. I looked at where I was 18 months ago when I began training with my coach and after doing no bodybuilding-style training ever before and after a year of travelling, we got me ready for stage within 6 months. That was no easy job and to place in a strong line up of girls too, I really didn’t expect that. We’ve refocused my mind and shifted my attention back onto me, and only me, and that’s where it needs to be.
 
September 2015 to April 2017
 
 
I hope you come to realise sooner rather than later that you’re not superwoman and you don’t have to be the best at everything nor do you have to take on so much all of the time.
 
I’ve always known I take on a bit too much but it’s not until this prep that it really hit me just how much I do take on and whereas before I’ve laughed it off when people have challenged me on it, this time I actually found myself frustrated and a bit disappointed in myself for allowing it to happen. My job demands a lot of me and very rarely do I actually just work my paid hours each week. And it’s not just the number of hours worked, it’s the mental energy my job demands too. I can’t just have ‘off’ days where I can take it easy in the office; I have teams to manage, areas of work that I’m responsible for, meetings to attend, reports to write, the list goes on and I’m very mindful that my job is about people’s lives at the end of the day, it’s not something to ever be taken lightly and I take much pride in my work. Throw in a Master’s degree into the equation which I’m trying to fit in too and then bodybuilding competition prep and I’m not sure how I’ve actually got through the last 20 weeks. And this isn’t a sob story or looking for sympathy, these are all my choices I get that, but sometimes I just need to take a step back and learn how to prioritise. I think I forget that I’m only 26 and have a lifetime (hopefully!) to do things; not everything needs to be done as of yesterday.
 
These are things I’m reminding myself of daily and for anyone that struggles with similar issues; some of the practical things I’ve done to try and help myself are the following.
 
·         I switched my training to a morning. This has surprisingly helped massively as yes I have to do the same amount of things in a day but by getting up that bit earlier and going to train before work, I find I have more energy to train and it gives me my evenings free so that I can relax or I can see friends. The gym is also much quieter at that time too so I find I’m in a better state for training and can use it to relax my mind ahead of the day.
 
 
 
·         Sleep, sleep, sleep. I’ve always made sure I get enough sleep but especially lately, I’ve made sure I’m in bed for 9pm most nights. Even if I don’t go to sleep straight away, it relaxes me to make sure I have a good night’s sleep. I get at least 7 hours of sleep per night and it makes such a difference. Yes I appreciate 9pm bedtimes impacts on social life but we are talking about competition prep now and so no it’s not something I will do forever but to help me during prep, it’s been a good part of my routine.
 
·         Learn to say no. Lately if I haven’t wanted to do something I haven’t done it. This I found more difficult to start with as I don’t like letting people down or saying no to things but sometimes you have to for your own good. Real friends will understand.
 
So, I’m 10 days out now and I’m in a much better place mentally than I was a few weeks ago. I still have my struggles and I still have my anxieties for post-comp but I’m thinking them through and trying to prepare for them now as I feel that’s a part of bodybuilding that people don’t give enough focus to – the post-comp mental battle. I haven’t decided about other competitions yet; one step at a time for now.
 
I always will be ambitious and I’m glad that’s part of who I am, I just need a better balance in my life sometimes and I’m working on that. But no doubt whatsoever that fire in my belly will always be there; that drive, that passion, that need to succeed. So whilst I’ve come so far on this journey and taken time to reflect; 7 months of hard work in off-season, 20 weeks of dieting almost complete and just 10 days to go. In my eyes, the real journey starts now, the 10 day journey to give it my all on that stage. This isn’t the end, this is just the beginning.