Sunday, 22 January 2017

3 weeks down. The story so far.

It’s 3 weeks today since my preparations began for my first competition of 2017. 3 weeks down and 18 weeks to go. It seems like a very long prep when you say 21 weeks and in reality it is a very long prep; one thing I swore never to do again after my first season competing in 2016. Saying that, I also swore I’d never hit the stage again in the build up to NPA Yorkshire 2016 and here I am preparing for season two so lesson number one is never say never.
In actual fact prep was supposed to be 18 weeks long and starting tomorrow with the first 3 weeks of the year being used to clean up the diet really; mainly of sugary foods that I over-indulged with over Christmas. However when 1 January came around I found it hard to draw the line with what I was and was not allowed to eat (in my mind) so as it happened prep pretty much got underway from the New Year with kcal and macro tracking daily and only good, nutritious, wholesome foods in my diet.
So how’s it been so far? Non-descript would probably be the word to use (of all the word choices out there haha). The reason being is that at this stage it is what is really. I find it a bit of a frustrating stage in all honesty as the first couple of weeks are a welcome change. You happily wave goodbye to the mountains of chocolate, biscuits and party food that were constantly on offer over the festive period and welcome good, nutritious foods that your body wants and needs. Week 3 hits and you wonder what on earth you were thinking and think about all the Quality Street you didn’t eat and that extra piece of Christmas cake that you turned down. Damn it. It’s also too early to see any real, solid changes in your figure so that’s why I find it a bit of a frustrating period and I remember I felt the same last year too.  
Clearly I’m talking purely from my own personal experience and I imagine for many bodybuilders out there you’re probably still in the ‘ooh yum veggies’ phase. Unfortunately that phase passes far too quickly for my liking and the fat girl inside me just starts screaming out for the sugar rush. It’s safe to say I will never really enjoy the diet phase of bodybuilding. I absolutely adore my nice food and it’s a HARD 5 months for me in the build up to competition. It’s only because my willpower is unquestionable that I get through it and because I’m very disciplined. I know what needs to be done and I do it, it’s as simple as that.
Training legs last week
 One of my best friends is a bodybuilder too and generally she finds the diet easier than I do in that she doesn’t get as intense cravings for things, well especially not at this early stage anyway. I have a major sweet tooth and as with most things in life, when I know I can’t have something I want it more so it makes for very testing times but I always keep my eyes on the prize. Even last weekend I had a bad few days mentally with a few things and it really made me question whether I wanted another year of competing, living such a restricted lifestyle and making so much sacrifice. I have these times now and again and I know when I do I just need to shut off for a couple of days, have some time to myself and get my head back re-focused. This year it’s easier in that sense because I remind myself of the elation of last year’s competition and I know it’s all worthwhile.
Anyway enough of the whinging as overall my body feels on top form. The body certainly feels better for getting lots of goodness inside it and I’ve felt more energised, stronger and fitter in my training and I am starting to see very small progress in the shape of my body the last few days. The fat on my stomach is slowly starting to shift and on the back of my legs (the two places it seems to hit first when I put on a few pounds). It’s those small bits of progress that keep me motivated and as you pass week 3 I tend to find I see those developments more so it eases the frustration.
January 2016 to January 2017. The start of both preps.
In terms of my diet I’m currently on 1,800kcals per day. This is the same as what I was on for the latter stages of my off-season and given I’m only small in height, this is plenty for my muscles to keep growing but without putting on weight. My macro breakdown at the moment is 40% protein, 40% carbs and 30% fats. We want to try and keep my carbs pretty high for as long as possible to make sure I’m still able to train well and keep my muscles pumped. I’m training 6 times a week at the moment, 5 of those hypertrophy training and 1 cardio based Bootcamp which is something I did throughout off-season.
At this stage I’m not adding in any additional cardio other than if I go out walking on a weekend. We will save that for later on in prep when I need to get leaner. I’m allowing myself a weekly re-feed at the moment, generally on a weekend. Up until this weekend that’s been a clean meal still but just more of it really. This weekend however I went away for the weekend so I did allow myself a steak baguette and fries last night. I also had a tiny piece of birthday cake. All of which I fitted into my 1,800 kcals for the day and just compensated with my other meals for breakfast and lunch.  
One good thing about being in my second prep season is that my coach and I know more about what works for my body and what doesn’t based on last year. My body reacts well to a weekly re-feed and until the latter stages of prep that doesn’t always have to be 100% clean. So I’ll see how I go week by week for now, I’ll be having a weekly re-feed but whether that will be a clean re-feed or a cheat meal re-feed I’ll assess each week based on how I feel. Our aim is to drop 1lb per week on average which will bring me in nicely into my first competition at the end of May. So far, 3.1lb loss so pretty much perfect progress.
One thing I’m aware of this year is comparing to fellow bodybuilders. Last year being my first year I knew pretty much nobody that competed and it was good in the sense that you didn’t see what everyone else was doing which I do think helps because naturally when you do know a lot of people on prep, as I do this year, it’s easy to think oh maybe I should be doing that or maybe I should stop doing this etc. I’m also very aware that I want this blog to continue to be an honest and raw account of my bodybuilding life and last year was very much that. This year I am aware that I have fellow bodybuilders who read my blog so some may read and disagree with some things that I do.
I think it’s important for everyone to remember, whether you’re a bodybuilder or not, that everyone is different and what works for one, won’t necessarily work for another and whilst the end goal is the same, there are plenty of routes along the way so you should never feel pressure from other people. It’s something I keep in mind when following bodybuilders on social media, to remain non-judgemental as just because they might be doing something different to me, it doesn’t mean I’m right and they’re wrong and vice versa.
So, 3 weeks down and 18 weeks to go. Overall feeling pretty good. No major issues too far (apart from craving a bar of Dairy Milk as I type this) and more determined than ever to make 2017 an awesome year on that stage.
Thanks for reading. Hope you’ve all had awesome weekends.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

New Year, New Me? A message to the January gym newbies.

I wonder how many New Year resolutions have been set during the last week that relate to health or fitness? I wonder how many are still going strong? I wonder how many will still be going strong in 12 months?
It’s the time of year when after over-indulging over the festive period most people are keen to get back to their healthy ways if it’s something you’re used to doing the rest of the year. Or for some it’s a chance to kick-start a new healthy way of living. It doesn’t take a new year to do that and whilst I’ve seen a lot of posts questioning why you need January 1 to come around before you do something about your current lifestyle. The simple answer is that you don’t however I can understand the logic for some people, and regardless of when you start and whether it’s right or wrong to wait for the new year, many people do and that’s their choice.
Previously I have to admit I have been one of the regular gym goers that will moan constantly about the newbies. And I would be lying if I said it didn’t frustrate me just a tiny bit when I walk into the gym after work and it’s like walking into World War 3 with a sea of people in front of you, noisy as hell and I would say it’s organised chaos but in actual fact it’s just chaos. The general rule appears to be the guys fighting over the benches wanting ‘to look buff for summer’ (rolls eyes) and the girls fighting over the treadmills (which works just fine for me as I don’t go near the damn things). It’s generally the guys I’m battling with for the benches so I’ve been taught to use one of two tactics by my PT, to either intimidate them or flutter my eyelashes to get one haha (guaranteed one way will work every time).
When you fight for a bench and then just take selfies haha!
Anyway this year I’ve felt a bit different towards the situation. I don’t know why to be honest but I’ve had a little more understanding, patience and encouragement for the situation. Or for a certain group of those newbies, I have anyway. For the guys that are fighting over the benches, thinking they’re going to ‘get massive’ in a few weeks and when they don’t will resort to using illegal substances, you’re not included in my group, I still have zero time for you and can’t wait until you go back to doing whatever it is you do the rest of the time, in February.
However, for those January gym newbies who are there because you want to make a difference to your life and improve the quality of it, this is for you.
I genuinely hope that in 12 months you’re still there, leading a healthy, active lifestyle, having hopefully achieved some of the goals you’ve set yourself for this next year. Indeed I hope that in one month you’re still there as too often I have seen the novelty wear off in just a matter of weeks which is really sad.
It’s important that at this stage you set yourself realistic goals. A weight loss or fitness journey isn’t a quick-fix. Whether you’re fighting the bulge to fit into that bikini on your summer holiday or you’re hoping to get better at running and take part in a 10k during the year, if it’s something new to you, it will take time. So set realistic goals about what’s achievable otherwise you will get despondent if you don’t hit those goals.
12 months difference...anything is possible if you put your mind to it!
In 12 months time will you be sat here feeling proud at the progress you’ve made or will you be sat here embarking on yet another ‘New Year, New Me’ for 2018 when that time, surely it will be different? Just like every other year.
I can honestly say that when I changed my lifestyle by joining the gym and living healthier, it transformed my life on so many levels. April 2017 will mark four years that I’ve been at Total Fitness and joining that gym was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Previously I had been a member at a local hotel gym but I rarely went, the equipment was poor and it’s no wonder I had zero motivation when I went there. I was bored.
I joined TF as my friend at the time was a member there and after breaking up with my boyfriend, I wanted a new focus in life and to do something for me for a change. At first I joined purely because I thought it would be fun, especially with my friend being a member there too. I didn’t really have any weight to lose although naturally I wanted to be a bit more toned and to get fitter.
Over these four years my passion for training, fitness and healthy living has only grown. I just loved being at the gym; I still do now. I loved seeing changes to my body and my fitness levels and I loved the way it made me feel, right from the start. Not only did it transform my approach to health and fitness but other aspects of my life too. I was 22 when I joined TF and having previously considered joining that gym I had never dared as it was a big gym and I didn’t have the confidence. Fast forward four years and I compete on stage wearing pretty much next to nothing; I’d hardly say confidence is a problem now.
One of the proudest moments of my life. Photo: Fivos Averkiou
Naturally, I think as you get a bit older you care less about what people think and you become more comfortable in your own skin which is probably some of what’s happened in the last four years anyway but I don’t doubt for one second that without my active and healthy lifestyle, I wouldn’t be the same, confident person that I am today.
And it’s not just confidence in the gym or in my body. Over the last four years I have done so many things that I wouldn’t have dreamed or dared to do just a few years ago. Leaving my whole life behind and moving to the other side of the world to travel on my own in 2015 was such a big step for me. And the confidence that I’ve had in myself in my studies and my career has kept me pushing myself for the next challenge. Last year, just a few weeks before I was on stage for the NPA Yorkshire, I was on stage for a very different reason, to present at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Management Conference to 200 of my senior colleagues. A few years ago I would have laughed in your face if you had told me I would do that (and probably had the biggest anxiety attack in the process). These days I’m not sure anyone would describe me as lacking confidence and it’s helped me massively in every aspect of my life.
Training has brought me so much enjoyment over the years and I hope it does for you too, whether that be training on your own, with a friend or in a class. I can honestly say I enjoy all three of those, for different reasons. I’ve met so many people through training, two of whom are my best friends these days. Despite it being quite a big gym I consider it my Total Fitness family as well. Whether it be the people on reception, the PTs or other members, there is always a friendly face there and encouragement. The events that have come along with it too have added so much to my life, from bodybuilding to running my first 10k last year to this year taking on new challenges with Tough Mudder and the National 3 Peaks.
First ever 10k smashed in under 1 hour in April 2016
Now I’m not saying that without the gym or training you can’t have a happy life because of course you can. I know many people who couldn’t think of anything worse than spending time in the gym but they also show no interest in ever joining and have other things in their lives that bring them similar enjoyment. But there’s clearly a motivation for you having joined the gym or made this commitment to yourself to get fit and healthy in 2017 and I can guarantee you that if you stick at it, your life will change for the better.
So for any newbies who maybe feeling a little nervous at what’s to come, I hope you this has given you some added motivation. For any newbies who join TF please feel free to come and see me in the gym if you’re struggling with anything or want any help, don’t ever feel silly asking or feel that you can’t approach me. I genuinely hope you all stick to the commitment you’re making now and that you make a positive change in your life. One of my favourite sayings is ‘do something your future self will thank you for’ and I hope you keep that in mind on the tough days during this journey. There will be no-one more proud of you than you for reaching your goals. Similarly, there will be no-one more disappointed than you if you throw in the towel.