Sunday, 17 April 2016

The countdown is on!!

Normally I would begrudge my weekend flying by but at the moment I just see it as another two days chalked off as we get closer to competition day. Thankfully the weeks are flying by too as I’m so busy with work so in some ways it doesn’t seem like two minutes since it was 14 weeks to go. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago since I ate normal food.
 
But today marks 35 days to go; which seems like nothing really and in some ways that’s scary as I know I have improvements still to make but it’s also really exciting that soon enough what I’ll have been working on for near enough 20 weeks will all come together.
 
It’s weird now it’s getting closer the different feelings I have towards it. Despite the difficult days and believe me there has been plenty; I’m actually really enjoying the process. More so over the last 7 weeks or so, the first 8 weeks I struggled massively but more recently I’ve got more into it. I’ve adjusted overall to the diet; training has never been an issue as I love it and I’m enjoying being at my leanest.
 
Feeling lean this week...
 
Part of me will bizarrely miss it all when it’s over. The routine, the progress, the build-up of such a big event, the newness as I’ve never done it before so I’m loving learning so much every single day and just having that something in my life to strive towards. A few people have already asked me ‘what are you going to do after your competition?’ and I have to admit at first it took me by surprise a little as to be honest I’d not even thought about that. Well, not other than the copious amounts of food I plan on eating.
 
But it made me ask myself that question then as I know what I’m like. I always have to have something to work towards. A goal. A challenge. And this gave me the perfect challenge to work towards after I came home from travelling and having had such an adventurous year; it gave me something that I was equally as passionate about to get my teeth into.
 
I’m going back to University part-time in September to study for my Masters so I know that will give me a challenge but to be quite honest that challenge doesn’t excite me. I have to admit I’m doing it for my future career prospects and to give me more opportunities in life; I’m not doing it because I have burning desire to spent my evenings and weekends studying leadership and management.
 
Anyway, the more I sat and thought about what I would do fitness wise after all of this the more the answer became so simplistic to me. I’ll enjoy a balanced life. A life where I train several times a week because I love it and I love keeping my body healthy and fit. And a life where I eat healthy and nutritious foods because that’s when my mind and body perform best and I enjoy those foods. But also a life where I don’t have to get up every morning before work at 05:15 to do fasted cardio and a life where I can enjoy going for a pizza on a weekend with my friends.
 
And for me that’s what I’m craving now; some normality. I feel content about the whole situation and I’m now at peace with what I’m doing after weeks of frustration in January and February as I adjusted to the whole process. I know what needs to be done and that’s what I’m doing. But I’m ready to have my life back.
 
I have a new found respect for anyone in the bodybuilding world. It’s a crazy one, a mind-blowing one and not one I’m certain that I fit into entirely but I’m so glad I’ve done this. The amount of dedication and commitment you must give to it is unreal and the amount of sacrifice you make. It’s no exaggeration to say it takes over your life. Your social life is dictated by it; your lifestyle is dictated by it; the company you keep is dictated by it. I’ve found that element very hard as it’s so difficult to dedicate your life to this when you’re trying to balance other things. And perhaps unlike some people in the bodybuilding world I actually really love the other aspects of my life. I love my job and I love my social life. I have dedicated everything to bodybuilding these last few months; it has been my number one priority but it’s not something I would want to prioritise all of the time.
 
And I’m aware a lot of others are in the same situation who do this so it’s not a sob-story for me as we all deserve huge credit for what we do. If I had a job that wasn’t mentally demanding or that time-consuming I think I’d have found it slightly easier but because I don’t it’s certainly something that’s influenced my feelings a lot at times. Say for example last week I had a crazy working week as we all do sometimes but 17 meetings at work, each and every day literally racing from one thing to another, working on an evening to catch up on things and still having to set the alarm for 05:15. I don’t have a standard 9-5 job. Friday just about finished me off as I felt tired anyway and then I had a meeting in Bradford that didn’t finish until 6pm so to get home through the traffic at that time to get to the gym and do a weights session plus cardio I was exhausted by the end of it. I had a very restless sleep on Friday night as my mind was stressed out and so this weekend whilst I’ve pushed on, I’ve got to a point where I am ready to let training take a back seat and listen to my body a bit more.
 
I’m just ready for my life back, quite simply. I no longer get the intense cravings for naughty foods like I did at the start (although don’t get me wrong if I was permitted now to eat chocolate I would absolutely devour as much as I physically could before I was sick) I just miss normal things now and I notice things so much more too. Yesterday I went shopping with my mum. Normally we would call somewhere for a cuppa and a bite to eat. In preparation I took a protein snack to have with my green tea but I would have loved nothing more than to just have a normal cuppa and a sandwich. Something as basic as that. A bit of bread with some meat in (not chicken though!).
 
And I absolutely love my ‘Lean in 15’ recipe book by Joe Wicks. The recipes are all amazing that I’ve tried so far and are actually good for you. But they don’t fit my diet plan so I can’t have them; just something like a bowl of meatballs with tagliatelle. I was really getting into my cooking but I’ve not been able to use this book for months now. I’m excited that his second book is released in June and I’ll be straight on then with cooking up some lean meals.
 
One of the Lean in 15 recipes...healthy pizza. Yum!
 
 I’m looking forward to having a balanced diet again where I can enjoy a treat without feeling guilty because essentially treats are ok when it’s with a balanced diet. Up until about a month ago I was allowed a treat with my refeed so just a dessert or something but it got to the point where I actually ended up feeling so guilty afterwards and the next day that I chose to stop having that (that and it was getting nearer to comp so you obviously have to stop at some point). And I hate that. I hate that I feel guilty for having a slice of cake or something. I know when I’m living a balanced lifestyle that I train hard 4-5 times per week and I eat healthy 80% of the time so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with allowing yourself a treat when you fancy it.
 
It’s the little things I’m looking forward to most like when you do your food shop thinking ‘hmm what do I fancy this week for dinner?’ and not just automatically adding chicken, sweet potato and broccoli to your basket. That’s all I’ve had for my evening meal every single day for the last 8 weeks barring my Saturday night re-feed. Although from this week the chicken gets thrown out and replaced by cod and I’m actually so excited. I’m so fed up of chicken now the only chicken I ever want in my life again is Nandos or KFC. What has life become when you’re excited over a plain piece of cod for dinner haha? I’ll never want that again in my life after 35 days of it I can tell you that now.
 
And I’m excited to go out for breakfast. I love going to my local farm shop every now and again for a full English breakfast. It’s not that bad for you as it’s all excellent quality food and it tastes sooooo good. I miss going out for breakfast so much.
 
And also just getting my life back as diet dictates so much of it. You can’t really plan days out when you’re on a military regimented diet as generally you’re not going to have facilities to cook things and you don’t really want to carry everything around with you. Meals out are out of the question so I just avoid going very far at the minute.
 
So when the competition is over I won’t be setting myself another fitness goal anytime soon. I’ll just be enjoying having a life again and having that much needed balance.
 
People also ask me whether I’ll do it again. Quite simply the answer is never. Absolutely not. And I don’t want that to sound like I’ve hated it and that I’m so against it because I’m not but it’s just not for me. Had someone sat me down 6 months ago and talked me through the ins and outs of it, exactly what it would involve, what daily life would become I’d have turned around and said ‘no thanks’. So I’m grateful I didn’t know much about it at all before I started dieting as whilst I was never 100% set on it until probably 6 weeks ago by that point I’d already done so much towards it that I didn’t want to give up at that stage and I thought I might as well push myself that final bit to get on stage. Had I understood it more, I wouldn’t have done it.
 
It’s a once in a lifetime for me but I know what I’m like; people keep telling me I’ll get addicted to it after the buzz of being on stage and you know what, I probably will. And in 8 months time when it comes to January I know there will be a part of me that’s tempted again but I won’t let myself and I’ll remind myself of this post. I love my life too much, I love food too much, I love my freedom too much. I’ll be so proud when I step out onto that stage and I’ll be so glad I’ve had this experience; I’ve learnt so much. But I’ve already decided that my figure suit is getting framed straight after comp so if I ever get a bit tempted again there’s no way I’ll be breaking that glass to dig it back out.
 
But for now it’s all hands on deck and the 35 day countdown is on. I’ve done 105 days so far so 35 is nothing at this stage. I am literally on a daily countdown. I’m not quite sure sometimes whether I’m counting down more to it being over and being able to eat whatever I want that night or counting down to being on stage haha. And that’s just me being honest. I’m excited for the competition and seeing everything come together that I’ve dedicated all of 2016 to so far but for me it was as much about the process as it was that final show when I decided to do it.
 
I wanted to test my willpower, see what my body was capable of, push myself physically and mentally and become a better person for the experience. And that’s what I’ve become; I’m more appreciative for the small things in life, I’m more patient to work hard for what you want and I’m more understanding of people from wanting people to show me that understanding while I’ve been doing this.
 
Final preparations are coming together now. I had my fitting yesterday to get my exact measurements for my figure suit. My body will change in terms of condition over the next 5 weeks but not so much in size so Joanne can start making my suit now which is exciting and I get to try it on for the first time next weekend. My nails, eyebrows and spray tan are all booked in. And the stylist is sorted to do my hair on the morning.
 
More importantly the collection of post-competition food is coming along nicely. I bought 3 crème eggs yesterday that are now safely out of my sight and at my mum’s to go with the Easter egg that I got bought and couldn’t have. And my list is evolving daily of the food I’m indulging in on that Sunday evening. The real MVP is the Domino’s pizza. My mouth is filling with saliva as I type this at the thought of a BBQ chicken base stuffed crust pizza haha (Oh.My.Days). And that will be finished off with a dozen Krispy Kreme to work my way through (with friends obviously!) and an array of other treats just in case one takes my fancy. I have Nutella on there, brownies, cookies, fizzy sweets and cheesecake. I’ll be looking to re-create Man vs Food that night, that’s for sure.
 
 
 
Anyway time for a green tea and an early night ready for my 05:15 wake up call. Hope you’ve all had good weekends and thanks for reading J

Sunday, 10 April 2016

You've got what it takes, but it will take everything you've got.

For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to decide what I wanted to write about for my blog post this week. I toyed with a few ideas and started writing pieces but none of them felt quite right. I like each and every one of my posts to be meaningful, honest, raw, interesting and none of the ones I started writing felt that way. So I’d kind of given up for this weekend (which resonates true of how I’ve felt which I’ll come onto shortly) and then something happened tonight and I just had to put some words down. So this may come across a bit like word vomit but I’m just talking honestly from my heart.
 
It’s amazing how things can change for you mentally and emotionally in such a short period of time when you’re body building and preparing for your first ever competition (and maybe your second and third and maybe it happens every single time). This time last Sunday I was full of adrenaline having completed my first ever 10k in an awesome time and my body was feeling so good.
 
Action shot...like a pro!!
 
This energy flowed over into the start of my week and Monday to Wednesday I was on top of the world. I felt full of life, happy, content with my preparations, I was seeing good results on the scales, my body was happy with the diet and I couldn’t honestly have felt any better. I do find from Wednesday’s my body gets a bit hungrier as my weekend refeed wears off and the training starts to make an impact but I’ve learnt to live with that and so I went to bed on Wednesday night fully in the zone and embracing the crazy world that is competition prep.
 
 
Fresh from Wednesday's cardio
 
On Thursday morning when I woke up for fasted cardio I was tired. Normally Thursday would be my day off fasted cardio and this week was the first week that that would change and I would add in an additional 40 minutes. I got out of bed, nipped to the toilet and jumped on the scales; which has now become my morning ritual and I was really pleased with my weight drop again. On Thursday morning I took myself back to bed for an extra hour. I have no other reason than I purely didn’t want to go do cardio that morning and I was tired. It’s as simple as that. I didn’t feel bad about it as I knew I was on track and I’ve become a bit better at listening to my body as the weeks have progressed so I did just that.
 
But then for some reason throughout Thursday I never really got into the swing of things. I felt tired and moody and I was hungry again, more than normal. I pushed through and went to my PT session in the evening which picked me up and then I headed home for dinner. I cooked my usual meal which consisted of chicken, sweet potato and asparagus and for some reason within two mouthfuls I was throwing it all back up. I literally could not stand the taste of it anymore. My body was rejecting it and as much as I tried to tell myself to just force it down as my body needed feeding, it just wouldn’t.
 
And from then my head just wasn’t really in a good place. I pushed through Friday, stuck to the diet, did my cardio and my evening weights session but I was in a horrible mood all day. I woke up on Saturday feeling better, feeling positive, full of energy and I smashed out an awesome legs session to kick start my day. I had my refeed last night which was a jacket potato and a steak and my body felt much better for having that and getting some extra nutrients back into my body. Today I’ve struggled again generally and felt pretty flat.
 
Just smashed out a strong legs session
 
I think it’s got to the point now where I’m just generally fed up of the life that comes with comp prep and it’s started upsetting me. And it’s just the little things like being able to nip to the farm on a weekend for a cuppa and a slice of cake, or being able to grab a bag of sweets when you nip in the shops and not think anything of it or being able to go out for a few drinks. And I know I’m feeling frustrated massively as even though I never drink much even when I’m not dieting all I’ve wanted to do lately is go out and get drunk and be reckless lol. Which isn’t like me at all. And the last few days everything like that has bothered me massively.
 
All I’ve been able to think about for the last few days is everything I can’t do, everything I don’t like about dieting, everything I’ve sacrificed and that resentment was starting to creep in.
 
And then tonight I had a few comments come my way. I’m not going to say where the comments came from as they were said with the best of intentions and purely out of concern but they were along the lines of ‘no one’s forcing you to do it, it’s your choice’, ‘people are very worried about you’, ‘you’ve lost your fun spark lately while you’ve been doing this’ and ‘it’s no good for you’.
 
I’m not going to lie; the comments hurt and upset me. At a time when I was feeling pretty rubbish anyway it was the last thing I needed to hear. And so I found myself responding in a way that probably let out all of the frustrations from the last few days and it turned into a bit of a rant.
 
And part way through that rant I stopped and thought about everything I was saying and in that moment it reminded me of exactly why I’m doing this. I listened to myself talk about how much this whole thing meant to me and the amount of time I’ve invested in it. I’ve been dieting since 4 January so for 14 weeks now. And I’ve been on this super-strict diet since 22 February so for 7 weeks. I’ve dedicated the entire year so far to this because it means that much to me; it is my life at the minute. I listened to myself explain how they only see the bad part when I’m having the same meal time and time again and not allowed to go and do certain things.
 
They don’t see how much happiness it brings to my life when I train and watch myself become stronger and fitter. They don’t realise how much more I love my body now than I did 6 months ago when I came home from travelling and was unfit and unhealthy and the daily hard work that’s gone into that to get me back on track. They don’t see the satisfaction I get when I jump out of bed on a morning and see my abs starting to pop through or when I’m around such positive and supportive people at the gym who motivate and encourage me every single day.
 
They don’t see the hours I’ve spent prepping my meals just to make sure I’m 100% on track and the time I’ve spent on the internet reading up on bodybuilding just to try and learn as much about the sport as I can so that I can be the best that I can be. They don’t feel that pride that I feel at the end of the week when I know that I’ve stuck to my diet and trained so hard all week to get me one step closer to my goals. They don’t see the hours that I’ve spent with my PT perfecting each and every meal that goes into my body making sure it will get me to where I need to be.
 
They don’t know how excited I was when I went to pick out my figure suit or when my shoes arrived this week and I can finally start to visualise what I might look like on stage. Or the small preparations that have been planned for weeks like getting my fresh nails and eyebrows the day before so that everything is perfect.
 
Because that’s how much it means to me. It’s what I think about before I go to bed and what I think about when I open my eyes on a morning. It is everything to me right now. When I decide I’m doing something, I’d doing it with 100% of what I’ve got and nothing less and there are no excuses.
 
And I don’t need reminding that my meal is boring or that I’m missing out on a night out. I know that. I really do. I’m the one who sits on a Saturday night when my friends are out drinking. I’m the one who turns down social plans. And I’m the one who cooks my meals day in day out so I’m more than aware of what my life has become. It’s not sustainable but it’s not forever.
 
So no, I know that no one forces me to do this and it’s absolutely my choice. And yes I could think sod this I’ve had enough and go out getting hammered this weekend and stuff my face with whatever food I want and just enjoy myself. But I have not spent 14 weeks preparing for that one moment on stage to throw in the towel now.
 
I have not dragged my butt out of bed at 05:15 on a morning to go do cardio then raced to work and then gone back to the gym for 1.5 hours on an evening, day after day, week after week, month after month, to stop now. I have not sacrificed so many social events over the last few months to quit 6 weeks before. I’ve not spent my hard-earned money on PT sessions, supplements and everything else that comes with it to throw away all the hard work at this stage.
 
And suddenly from listening to myself respond to these comments it hit home to me. Those are the reasons I’m doing this. Yes it’s hard and there are some bad days. But there are so many more good days than there are bad ones. And there is so much more satisfaction than there is sacrifice. 6 weeks today it will all be over. I’ll have done it. I’ll have competed on stage in my first ever body building competition and I know 100% that that moment will far, far outweigh any sacrifice I have had to make during this whole process.
 
Source
 
And suddenly in that second my mood and my mind flipped. I felt that fire back in my belly that I’d lost the last few days and I felt ashamed in some ways. Ashamed of the lack of love I’d shown to the process and the lifestyle when it actually brings me so much happiness. And it also made me more determined. Don’t get me wrong I get supported but I know that some people do not agree with what I’m doing and with that in mind it makes me even more determined to go out and smash this. So that when I’m on that stage and feeling like a million dollars I can turn around and say ‘this is exactly why I’ve done it all’.
 
Within half an hour of hearing those comments I had my competition shoes on, I was stood in front of my mirror and perfecting my poses being the stubborn little madam I can be sometimes, thinking you can all go screw because I wouldn’t have my Sunday night any other way right now. My eyes are back on the prize and my mind is back in the game. 41 days. I got this.
 
Source
 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

6 months on...readjusting to life back home!

You make some good decisions in life and you make some not so good ones. But I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason so each of those decisions will bring you to where you need to be in life. I don’t always get it right, but when I do, I get it 110% right. That’s how I look back on my decision to go away travelling last year.
 
This post isn’t strictly a health and fitness related one so a little bit different to the usual but it’s something I wanted to write about and I hope you enjoy reading.
 
I can’t imagine what my life and my mind would be like without my memories and experiences of 2015 when on the 22nd January I hopped on a one way flight out of here heading to a land Down Under with zero plans other than the first few weeks when I would enjoy some family time with my parents, my sister, her fiancé and his family.
 
I don’t often realise unless I stop to think about it but a lot of those experiences influence the decisions I make now and it certainly altered my outlook on life. 6 months ago today I stepped on the plane back home and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind 6 months so I wanted to write about what it’s been like readjusting to life back on British soil.
 
Before I went to Australia I just craved some adventure. After working hard building my career in my early twenties my heart ached for some excitement, fun and new experiences. I had terrible wanderlust always day dreaming about what life might be like in another culture, another country and just wondering what else was out there. As I got a career break to go away and I had a job I loved in the NHS at home I purely just saw it as a chance for me to go away and follow my dreams for a while and ‘get it out of my system’ so to speak so that I could put down some roots and feel a little bit more settled when I returned home.
 
 
New countries, new experiences, new memories
 
I was a little naïve in thinking that to be honest. I had such a range of emotions during my time in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji which I didn’t quite prepare myself for. Naturally when I had a job in the heart of Sydney, spent my weekends at the coast, the sun was shining and I got to spend time again with my sister who moved out there a few years ago, there was part of me that wanted to stay and build my life over there.
 
Equally I had days where I missed home massively and more so my friends and family and just the normality that comes with being ‘at home’. I had about 4.5 months where I had a settled lifestyle over there with a job and a regular residence and I was able to build friendships and sample proper Aussie living. The remaining 6 months were spent travelling so a completely different experience.
 
Since coming home I often get asked ‘do you regret coming home?’, ‘do you think you’ll ever go back?’, ‘do you miss it?’
 
Do I regret coming home?
 
Absolutely not. With most things in my life I follow my gut instinct and towards the end of my time in Australia I weighed up whether I wanted to try and stay there or whether I wanted to come home. And my gut instinct was to come home. Once I’ve made a decision my heart is fully in that and I can honestly say I’ve never looked back. My job prospects in England were much better than if I had stayed in Australia and I love my new job that I’ve come home to. Still in the NHS and with Yorkshire Ambulance Service it’s been a crazy few months settling into a new role that comes with additional responsibility and pressures but I can’t lie, that’s the way I love it and that’s when I work best.
 
It was nice in Australia to have steady jobs when I worked. I got temporary administration jobs to give me a bit of money and it was nice to not have much responsibility for a change. But towards the end I missed having that mental challenge, having work where I felt like I was making a difference and working to my full potential. And it made me realise during my time away, how important having a good career is to me.
 
I built up some great friendships in Australia; mainly in Sydney and Canberra which were my two bases and I’m so grateful for those friendships. My time there just wouldn’t have been the same without those people and I still keep up to date fondly with what everyone over there is doing. But I’m very much enjoying being able to hang out with my friends here again; friendships built over years and since I came back it’s like I’ve never been away when we’re together.
 
My college besties
 
It's so nice being able to hang out with my girls again
 
I’m very much appreciating having my family close by too. My parents are a 5 minute drive away so I regularly just drop in for a cuppa or call for my dinner after work and I really love being able to do that.
 

 
Easter lunch with the family last weekend
 
And England. There are some things you don’t appreciate when you live here that when you go away you realise how much you do enjoy it. Take winter for example. Now don’t get me wrong I’m never going to love the cold weather that inflicts itself on us for what seems like forever but the fact we have Christmas during winter is actually really nice. I lived in Canberra during the Australian winter which despite popular belief, no it’s not like our summer, maybe if you live in Queensland but not in Canberra. So we had a good few months of cold weather but without any festivities that we get to enjoy here such as bonfire night, Christmas and New Year. That’s something I enjoyed when I came home, having a proper English Christmas.
 
Enjoying a hot chocolate with Baileys at the Christmas markets
 
Also having Europe on our doorstep. The Aussie’s go on about how lucky we are to have so many amazing countries on our doorstep as for them a 4 hour flight will barely get them out of the country. And it’s always a case of you want what you haven’t got because I remember my friends in Canberra saying to me ‘oh you went to Ibiza for a long weekend, we only get to go to Sydney for a long weekend’. But for us going to Sydney for a long weekend sounds amazing but for them they just take it for granted now. It’s just Sydney. And we do the same with Europe. But it’s certainly made me more keen to see more of Europe over the coming years and take advantage of being able to be in a number of countries in under 2 hours.
 
A lot of other little things that I enjoy about being back home too and you appreciate things you didn’t before, even things like the Yorkshire countryside which I never thought I’d hear myself saying I appreciate that. But maybe it’s just from seeing and appreciating things whilst being away, it makes you do the same when you’re back home. And it’s been nice for things to just be ‘normal’ again as weird as that sounds. Everything is a bit different naturally in a different country.
 
Weekend getaways to the country
 
Saying that it did take a bit of adjusting to coming back home. I’d fallen into Aussie ways of life and doing things a bit differently and the people are quite different in their ways so I found that a bit bizarre when I came home getting used to everything here again. It took me a little bit of time to get back into working in the NHS as I’d worked in private sector in Australia which is a whole other world. And same as when I moved to Australia and everything seemed a bit different, moving back everything seemed a bit different yet again.
 
Overall though I soon got back into the swing of everything. Maybe because I came back to live in the same area as I did before I went away and I came back to the same organisation so that certainly helped. And it’s true what they say in that everything else and everyone else generally stays the same while you’re away so you come back and it’s like nothing’s different, except you, you’re a bit different and that’s probably what’s been the biggest adjustment for me.
 
I see things differently now as I have a wider perspective on things and I have more life experience behind me. It certainly taught me a lot and made me a bit more open minded about things. I've also made a conscious effort to bring home some of the Aussie traits I picked up whilst away. It's well known that the Aussies are pretty laid back when it comes to life and I certainly got into this lifestyle when I was away. Since coming home I've tried very hard to maintain that and so far I'm doing pretty good. I make an effort to have a good work-life balance and for some reason things just don't stress me out as much as what they used to. Even when life is hectic I don't tend to get that stressed; I deal with things quite calmly and don't let much mess with my inner peace. That's one thing I'm super thankful for Australia having taught me.
 
Do I think I’ll ever go back?
 
I’m going back in September for a holiday and my sister’s wedding. Will I ever go back to live there? I would never say never. It is a fantastic country and the weather does make it such an attractive option. Plus I have family there which makes a big difference. It won’t happen in the next couple of years I doubt as I’m going back to University in September to complete my Masters degree and I want to get more experience in my industry field in different healthcare backgrounds but who knows after that. I know my sister is desperate for me to go back and I would love one day to think of my sister and her family, my parents and I to all be over there together. But who knows? A lot of that depends what happens for me personally in England over the next few years; who I meet, how my career progresses etc.
 
Do I miss it?
 
Absolutely. I miss heading down to Coogee Beach on a weekend. I miss having weekends in different states; visiting Melbourne for Easter or flying up to Brisbane for a game of rugby; as you do. I miss the variety that Australia has to offer; one weekend I would be horseback riding at sunset in the Hunter Valley and the next weekend I would be on the slopes up in the Snowy Mountains. I miss my friends; Friday night cinema and pancake dates or getting drunk in the city at the work’s end-of-period night out. I miss my Sydney crew; my housemate who also became my bestie out there and my fellow gym buddy. I miss going for coffee and cake on a Tuesday night with my friends from the church. And I miss my family so much. My heart aches to spend time with my sister. My sister, her fiancé and his family gave me a home from home for which I’ll be forever grateful. I miss babysitting for my sister’s niece and nephew and going for family dinners which were always full of life, love and laughter.
 
Our final evening together...celebrating an amazing year
 
Constant laughs with these babes
 
And of course I miss the experiences that come with travelling. Seeing new places every day, meeting new people and without even realising at the time but those experiences influencing your life, you as a person, your perspective on things, everything.
 
I’m so grateful for those 10 months away that I had. I have a collage on my living room wall which I’m just looking at now that capture some of the highlights of my year and I can’t help but smile when I look at it. My heart is filled with love for Australia, New Zealand and Fiji and I have such fond memories. Nothing and nobody can ever take that away from me and I’ve grown so much as a person for the experience and that helps me each and every day in every walk of life.
 
My collage that brings a smile to face every, single day
 
 It takes a lot of courage to go. To pack up your belongings, leave everything and everyone you know behind and head off to the other side of the world on your own with a blank canvas in front of you. Sometimes I’m not quite sure how I did it when I look back now but I’m so proud that I did. I still remember the day I left my sister’s in Canberra after only 3 weeks in Australia to start my own life in Sydney. I arrived in Sydney at 6pm not knowing the city or a soul. I had a week booked in a hostel to sort my life out and I remember laying on my top bunk that first night just smiling to myself thinking ‘you’ve got this’. And I did. I’ve built a massive amount of resilience and inner strength over the last 3 years and I have the confidence in myself now that any situation I find myself in, I’ve got it covered. And those are invaluable skills to have and ones I’ve brought back to my life back home.
 
It wasn’t all fun and games throughout the year, there were some definite lows along the way but the highs far outweigh them. I had the most incredible 10 months and I came home raring to go for the next chapter of my life and I feel content with everything right now. It did cure my travel bug; don’t get me wrong there’s still so many places in the world I want to visit but I feel much more settled at home now than I did before I went. I have a job that I love (most of the time!) and I’m surrounded by such great friends and family that bring happiness to my life every single day. Not forgetting my gym life; that has brought so much happiness to my life since I got home, being able to fully get back into my healthy lifestyle and who’d have thought 6 months after coming home I’d be preparing for my first bodybuilding competition in just a few week’s time.
 
Just a few years ago my life was so different. I was in an unhappy relationship, my confidence was at an all-time low, training properly at the gym wasn’t even something that crossed my mind, I never imagined I’d spend the year in Australia, my career was still very much in the early stages and some of the most important people in my life now, I didn’t even know. It’s funny how life works itself out sometimes but I know the big guy up there has his plan for me and I work hard every day to better myself and improve my life. I have faith and I trust in the process that everything will fall into place as it has started to over recent years and that whatever’s meant to be, will be.