Saturday, 29 October 2016

German Volume Training...1 week down!

This week I completed my first full week of German Volume Training (GVT) so I thought I’d write about how I’ve found it…HARD. And how I’m feeling...TIRED. And SORE. And that pretty much sums up today’s post.
I will elaborate slightly more of course but those three words do surmise the programme and its effects pretty well.
I’d never even heard of GVT prior to my PT suggesting it a couple of weeks ago so for those of you who don’t know what it is I’ll give a brief explanation. Essentially you’re working to the approach of 10x10. 10 sets of 10 reps of an exercise (or two exercises done in a superset) and this fills the majority of your training session. The weight you work at is approximately 60% of your 1RM. If you want to read more about the concept of GVT head over to as they have a really good post all about it. In my programme we have also added in a couple of accessory exercises to finish meaning each workout is approximately 45-60 minutes in duration.
GVT is intense and it’s got a good success rate for building lean muscle mass in a short period of time whilst also building good strength. I’d become a little bit bored with my workouts as I’d stuck to the same style of programme for a while so I was keen to give GVT a go when my PT put it on the table as an option. Due to the intensity I have four sessions per week of GVT and then another session where I can mix things up a little (Bootcamp is normally my fifth session) and then two recovery days (although one is active recovery so maybe a walk or something low intensity). I’ll be following this for six weeks and then we will review my progress.
Generally I’ve found the workouts themselves okay this week; I struggled a little bit on Tuesday as that was my first session in 6 days after being sick but I soon got back into the swing of things and Wednesday’s session I found tough but manageable. Yesterday on the other hand, was bloody hard. I can’t remember the last time I had to sit on the gym floor between sets but I did yesterday. My GVT was focused around trap bar deadlifts supersetted with goblet squats and it was my second legs session of the week so I was in a lot of pain. I swear on a couple of occasions there were tiny tear drops filling my eyes. And then this morning I was on shoulders and arms to finish my training for the week. Another tough session done.
1 week down!
It’s been good to mix things up and try a new programme and I think I’ll see some good results from this. It’s a strange approach as apart from Friday’s leg session the individual sessions themselves haven’t been that gruelling. However collectively my body has taken a hit.
I always know when my body is really feeling the effects of a tough week of training as my sleep pattern alters. I’m a good sleeper generally and pretty consistent; getting a steady 7 hours on average per night and normally just the occasional wake up for the toilet but I sleep quite calmly. This week however as the week has progressed my sleep has become a bit fragmented. When I start a new training approach and body is still adjusting I suffer from restless sleeps, which you’d think it would work in the opposite way but not for me. I also have more vivid dreams and fall into heavier periods of sleep so I’ve felt quite confused when I’ve woke up and been waking up several times during the night; a little disorientated. I know this will settle down in a week or so though.
My body also feels battered. Not huge DOMS in certain places but generally just aching and quite sore. I’ve had a lot of baths this week with Epsom salts and I’m booked in for a sports massage on Tuesday to ease some of these tense muscles. And I am tired. VERY tired. After last night’s session I could have slept the whole weekend and today I might as well have been on another planet I’ve been that wiped out. In a weird way though I enjoy feeling this way as I know its shocked my body into a new way of working and that will hopefully mean a positive effect in terms of muscle mass, strength and conditioning. I worry more when my body doesn’t ache and I’m not tired as I feel that I haven’t worked hard enough.
So I’ve got another five weeks to go. Keen to really have a good go at GVT and see what results I can get. I’ll keep you posted on my progress and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me either on here, on social media (links are listed on my blog page) or via email (again listed on my blog)

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Single Bodybuilder

I don’t tend to share much about my love life on social media (and rightly so, in my opinion it’s not the place for it) so I was a little wary about posting this but thought it might ring true with a few readers…and may provide a giggle or two for others (at my expense and I’m perfectly ok with that haha)
So I’ve been single for about 3 years now and only been bodybuilding for one year so I can’t blame it all on that; although it would be nice and possibly deter me from questioning any other reason why I may still be single hmmm…….
On a few occasions I’ve been asked ‘do you think it will be difficult to meet someone now you’re into all of this ‘bodybuilding business’?’ The question is often accompanied by sympathetic looks of concern that make the question pretty much rhetorical to me and might as well have been phrased alternatively that in their opinion I’ll be single forever whilst ever I’m obsessed with lifting weights, spotting new veins and drinking protein shakes.
And I’m not going to challenge that notion too much as believe me it often enters my head too after yet another year of unsuccessful dating since I returned home after my travels.
I won’t focus on any other possible explanations for being single as this is a health & fitness blog (and I also don’t want to get into that depressing realm) so I’ll focus in on some of the struggles I’ve experienced whilst dating over the last 12 months from when I began my bodybuilding journey.

I remember a date I went on around a year ago. It was a second date after date number one had gone as okay as first dates ever go amongst the generally awkward chit-chat that leaves me wishing I was back at home in my pyjamas with no social life. But anyway date number two came along and the cinema was the place of choice (not ideal I know given you can’t talk but then again it rules out the awkward chit-chat possibility and I really wanted to see the movie). All was going ok until a realisation part-way through the film. As I sat there I noticed my quads were bigger than his and with ‘another one bites the dust’ ringing profusely in my ears that was the end of that. At just 5’1” tall so relatively small across the board, if your legs don’t outsize mine then I’m sorry but it just aint happening! Next!  
Dating on prep was close to impossible. I did used to swipe through Tinder to pass the time, on one of many nights sat in munching broccoli while my friends were out painting the town red. I think I enjoyed the ‘game’ more than anything of swiping…ooh yes he’s nice, NOOOO, not a chance, yes nice eyes, oh he trains yep that’s good and so it went on. When it did turn from a swiping game into any form of conversation I instantly couldn’t be bothered (I know, never happy, right?) because it often followed the same pattern time and time again. The very original chat up line of ‘hey, how are you?’ pretty much sent me to sleep instantly and on the rare occasion it didn’t the conversation often soon came to an abrupt end at one of two points.
Either at the mere mention of being ‘a bodybuilder’ as I’m sure guys were sitting there imagining the stereotypical image of a female bodybuilder often on a stash of gear and looking completely unnatural and in my opinion not very attractive. Or when I posed the challenge that I couldn’t go out for a meal, wasn’t allowed to have an alcoholic drink and that I wasn’t particularly keen on the thought of a cinema date when I wasn’t allowed any popcorn. Not your easiest first date hey? And I’m not going to lie, I was horrible on prep most of the time. Moody, hangry (hungry-angry), frustrated to name but a few emotions so I don’t think I was the most pleasant girl to talk to let’s be honest.
And then you come across the guys that try and pretend to be into their keep fit just to impress you. That’s one thing that really annoys me. It’s not essential for me to date someone who’s a bodybuilder and I would much rather someone be true to themselves and say actually I hate working out than pretend to enjoy it just because they think it’s what I want to hear. It was always an immediate off-put as being independent myself, the thought of a guy not being able to have his own mind just doesn’t do it for me.
There have been many occasions in the last year when I’ve thought about whether being a bodybuilder will make finding someone more difficult (and believe me it is difficult anyway trying to date in the 21st century – you singletons out there will agree with me wholeheartedly I think). And I don’t know the answer to that in all honesty. I look at many fellow competitors who are in relationships so I know it’s not impossible; although I note that many of them also date bodybuilders so potentially that may be telling me it will be difficult for me to find someone who isn’t in this ‘world’ and that rules out a large amount of the population.
A guy I spent some time with earlier in the year said to me on one occasion ‘you’ll find it hard to meet someone whilst ever you’re doing this Bec’ – and that really stuck in my head as he took his training seriously, whilst never having competed before, so to hear someone who knows what it’s all about make that comment, made me question that myself a little bit more.
I have THE best friends so 'date night' is often spent with these babes!
My dating life has become a bit of a joke (in the nicest way possible) in the office amongst some of my closest colleagues with many a Friday having the usual conversation of plans for the weekend, to which I’ll occasionally hopelessly say I’ve got a date. Soon followed by the Monday morning conversation which generally goes along the lines of ‘yeah, never mind, not the one’. I’m sure it provides much entertainment for my work colleagues at least.
I don’t know whether bodybuilding makes my dating life harder. I do know it doesn’t make me the easiest person in the world to be with. I spend a lot of hours in the gym (on top of working a lot of hours and studying), my diet is somewhat restricted and I spend a minimum of 4 months per year on prep being a stroppy little carb-deprived cow that can’t go out for a meal or enjoy any breaks during that time. And that timeframe will only potentially get longer the more I get into the bodybuilding world.
But I love bodybuilding. I love what it’s brought to my life and how it’s changed me as a person. And that’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice for someone. One thing I know for sure is that it’s going to take someone special, whether they’re in the bodybuilding world or not, to take me on. I realise I’m not the easiest girl in the world to date. But I sure as hell know that I deserve that someone special so until someone comes along that can deal with my good, my bad and my ugly I’ll continue to take the world on, on my own.
Watch this space!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Keeping it real...the angel and the devil on my shoulder!

It’s ok to want to succeed right? To be the best in your game. To achieve new highs and smash new goals. But what happens when that desire to win, that craving for success and that ambition for perfection slowly creeps into every aspect of your life? Quite possibly it’s a good thing as surely it means it pushes you to be the best possible version of yourself. But it also quickly zaps any balance from your life too. And that’s one thing I’ve always struggled with, living a balanced life and it’s something that rears its head every now and again, maybe to remind me that despite my beliefs I’m not superhuman or invincible.
It's important to remember how far you've come
As always with this blog it’s been important to me to share the struggles as well as the triumphs. My blog is my opportunity to do that as my Facebook and Instagram pages will be 99% positive; I’m not one to share every aspect of my life on social media and there’s a fine line between what should go on there and what you should tell a therapist; a line many clearly don’t see but one that I’m adamant not to cross. But I want to keep it real on Love, Life, Lift so today I’m talking about some of the struggles I face.
This week prompted me to consider this issue of balance once again as on Tuesday I began a new chapter in my life, starting my Master of Science programme at the University of Bradford; studying Leadership, Management & Change in Health & Social Care. It’s been something I’ve been keen to do since returning from my travels last year and it’s almost 3 years since I completed my degree so in typical Rebecca Mallinder style I was beginning to get itchy feet for learning something new and taking on a new challenge.
As I sat there during my lecture while we were discussing the assignment brief, a voice in my head rationalised; “You’ve got a lot on so as long as you pass the assignment that’s the main thing”. And it is of course, but then the devil challenges; “Just passing? Really? Is that all you’re aiming for?” and immediately that competitive nature of mine kicks on and I know that ‘just passing’ won’t be enough for me. And that’s not a competition with anyone else, purely me against me. And so I found myself on day 2 while everyone was chatting away in the canteen, scouring the aisles of the library for lots of good books that would put me ahead of the game and when I returned to class I was greeted by the usual “Wow, someone’s organised” comments and the like.
Enough books?
This was something I’ve got very used to over the years and I had a similar internal battle when completing my BA (Hons) Business Management which again I studied for part-time whilst working full-time. It was never enough for me to just pass, I had to push myself for the distinctions and coming away with anything less than a First Class Honours degree wasn’t going to be good enough. I came away with a First Class Honours degree.
On Thursday I was back in the office met by a challenging situation which immediately required me to translate some of my learning from the previous 2 days into action. Again, in that situation I went over and above because being anything less than a great leader and manager just won’t cut it. And this spans across to all of my work, whatever the project is I’m working on or the piece of work I’m completing it HAS to be the best. I crave success at work, I want to better myself constantly and I always want to be in the position to take new opportunities when they come along.
I’ve battled these demons for years and it’s just part of who I am and I’m very much an all or nothing person. If something doesn’t interest me I won’t touch it with a barge pole. If something does interest me, I’m all over it. So naturally when I took on the challenge of bodybuilding, I gave it my all. As I’ve talked about on previous posts, the challenge with the bodybuilding this year was for me to get through the process. Did I have what it takes mentally to stick to the diet? To push my body to its limits. To dare to walk on that stage. And that for me was where the challenge started and ended which is why on the morning of the competition I felt like a winner before I even stepped foot on stage.
But as with everything in my life, that’s only good enough for so long and my goal posts move…and move quickly. When on that stage I knew deep down I didn’t want to walk away empty handed so was over the moon to walk away with a trophy, placing sixth in my class. And after being adamant I wouldn’t do it again, here I am preparing for my next season in 2017. And this time, I want more success. I know I can get through the challenge of the process, I proved that this year so now it’s about doing better. And for me it’s always about doing better.
Photo cred: Fivos Averkiou
I can never be accused of having a lack of ambition. But I also struggle to enjoy a balanced life because of all these conflicting priorities. And that worries me as to whether it could impact on the success I have in any of those areas because I’m stretching myself too thin. There are 3 big goals that focus my life right now; achieving good results in my studies, to continue developing my career as a NHS professional and to have a really big season on stage next year in the bodybuilding world. All massive goals in their own rights and it’s not easy when you also want some form of a social life.
On my recent trip to Australia I got a new tattoo that pretty much sums up my approach to life as it translates from Latin to “Winners always work harder” and that’s how I continue to push myself. I’m my own worst critic and toughest judge and if I’m feeling a little tired after the end of an hour’s workout the angel on my shoulder will tell me to go home, the devil will plant the thought of “I bet the other girls aren’t going home” and before you know it I’ll find myself in the studio perfecting my posing. It’s a constant battle in my head and while I’ve achieved a lot of success in my life across different areas in my 26 years, I’m not sure it’s a healthy battle to have.
Only the people closest to me know of the struggles I had just a few weeks ago. Before I went on holiday I was the closest to breaking point I’ve been in a long time. I felt trapped, overwhelmed and like I was being pulled in every direction. Work was manic with many staff on leave over summer and an upcoming inspection; it was heavy going to say the least as a senior manager within my Directorate. I was forcing myself to train and diet harder in the weeks leading up to my holiday because of my irrational fear of being out of shape in Australia and having a day off the gym was just not an option even though I was working extra hours every day in the office. And then completing pre-course requisites for University and Maid of Honour duties for my sister’s wedding, I didn’t have a minute to myself. And getting my house in order (literally!) after buying my own place over summer. I compare myself to a duck in those situations; calm on the outside and paddling like hell underneath. No one would have known my struggles unless I told them as I’ve learned very much how to deal with it myself and carry on (again, something I’m harsh on myself to make sure I do).
Family time in Australia
My close friends and family stepped up during those couple of weeks and got me through one of the hardest points of my year and it was very much a reality check for me to give myself a bit of a break, mentally as much as physically. The holiday did me the world of good and helped put perspective on things and so far since coming home I’ve had a better balance in my life and feel much calmer. But I know this will be a constant struggle of mine over the coming years as I strive for success in all areas of my life. It’s important to hit a balance in life, which is never easy and I certainly don’t have the answer to it yet but with very good people around me, they sure do make the rollercoaster much easier to ride.