“OK such take all your clothes off and leave them at the door please, and take one of these – “ The lady handed us a white shower cap.
Soon all 15 of us were stood in the middle of the NEC arena, hidden from all the hustle and bustle of the crowds outside who were setting everything up for the next few days, by a flimsy brown canvas. Naked, no make-up and tucking our hair into these hilarious white shower caps we waited to file into the second area as spaces became available. Suddenly from the side a lady shouted “duck girls crane coming in”, we all duly ducked, covering our modesty from the huge crane (or more precisely the men on top of the crane) which had arrived to set up the lighting rigs over the stage.
This was the beginning of an experience I had been sweating, dieting, hydrating and (most recently) dehydrating the last 12weeks for… my first bikini competition.
It was back in February that the idea had first occurred to me. The gym was becoming a bit boring, I had moved town and the CrossFit gyms in London I had found cost a small fortune to be part of. I had done the Spartan race, the duathlon, the marathon training, the road biking, the CrossFit competitions, pole fitness, tried (and failed miserably!) at open water swimming; and now, I needed a new reason to get my butt down to the gym. So what better stimulus than setting myself the goal of standing on stage in a bikini in front of hundreds of people.
I started training with a bit more passion – did some GVT, got a bit stricter with my diet and began scouring the internet for competitions, which would give me enough time to prepare for. Then luckily while researching I stumbled on the website of my now online coach – Lela Rees WBFF Fitness Model and Personal Trainer
THE PROCESS BEGINS…
After explaining what I wanted to do along with photos of my current physique – Lela sent me though my training and diet programme the next day. My new fitness regime had started – I say fitness regime – it was more like a lifestyle overhaul. Every gym session had a purpose, my meals went from 2 a day to 5, and as opposed to just randomly cooking what I fancied every evening – I now followed a strict diet – which was cooked, weighed and measured meticulously. I am not going to lie – it took me a while to get used to doing it. The extra time preparing food caused chaos initially – the kitchen was permanently in a state of either dirty pans or a pile of washing up to put away -but eventually I found a rhythm – bought a pile of Tupperware boxes (as opposed to using Clingfilm!) and started to cook batches of meals Sunday night to eat the following week.
To track my progress once a week I would do the excruciatingly embarrassing task of sending front, back and side photos to Lela, as well as my weight and measurements of my waist, thighs and stomach. I soon began to appreciate why, when I started to see the measurements decreasing as the workout and diet regime began to slowly chisel my body and burn the fat. I have always been fit, and always found a reason to train – but this was something else.
As the results began to creep in – I found myself looking less with a critical eye at the weight scales – but more with a kind of deep pride at the new definition in my muscles. I stopped looking at food as something to decrease and began to look at it as a tool, to give me the energy I needed to build the body I wanted. No longer was I looking to lose a few kilos here and there – I began looking for new muscles.
There were a few blips along the way – a few cappuccinos, the odd glass of wine and mini-eat-everything-in-sight moments. But we are all just human in the end J
What I hadn’t taken into account when I signed up was that the competing is far from just getting a defined body. It’s also about getting stage ready, any by that I mean makeup, hair, tan, bikini and posing. I found an amazing bikini, which I absolutely loved from a company called Starlight Bikini, booked my tanning session, my hair and makeup then begin working on learning how to pose…I am not going to lie – this was probably the hardest part. It’s not that I am socially awkward – just that flaunting my body on a stage in front of judges and a rather large audience in one of the biggest event halls in the UK is quite daunting.
Luckily the federation I was competing with, UKUP, offered a free posing class with Jen Bliss at EsTr Fitness (which was also a great opportunity to meet some of the girls I would be with one the day!) and Lela was brilliant during our (sometimes hilarious) skype posing sessions, and gradually I began to feel a little more like I could pull it all off.
THE WEEKEND ARRIVES!
We had decided to stay a few nights in Birmingham – the first in a small inn near the NEC, the second night, after the competition in a Spa Hotel. So after packing my meals, checking and double checking I had everything – jewellery, bikini, loose clothes for after the tanning session, resistant bands and vodka for pre-stage prep, as well as a few post comp treats … meringues (obviously!!) we drove down.
The ladies doing the tanning with Show Tan UK were amazing, and I left looking like I had spent the last year in the Bahamas. The next day we were invite for any ‘top-ups’ or ‘corrections’ on the tan and with the strict instructions not to wash. The lighting on the stage is bright – to to avoid looking like Casper, the tan needed to be dark, super dark, which meant keeping it on.
After my ‘last meal’ of steak with a glass of red wine, I settled down on a carefully laid out on the crisp white sheets, upon which we had carefully layered an ensemble of clothes – my boyfriend’s jeans, a long coat I had found in the boot, and two jumpers I had brought with me. I had obviously forgotten to bring a sheet to sleep on … and due to the nature of fake tan… I didn’t really want to have the cleaners come in the next day to brown marks all over the bed!
After the slightly amorous couple in the room next door had finished, we finally fell asleep (mentally noting to ask about the thickness of the walls between the rooms next time we booked somewhere like this!)
The day of the competition went so fast! It was one amazing experience, from the incredible, inspiring women I had the pleasure of meeting, through to actually getting on the stage and presenting the results of the last 3months fitness and diet regime. The atmosphere was incredible – every man and women there had worked hard to get their physiques in the shape they were that day. Yes it was a competition, but there was no one-upmanship, it was more like comradery and respect for each other.
That evening, my amazingly supportive boyfriend and I went to a supermarket and bought literally everything I hadn’t eaten during the last 3months. Ironically all I actually wanted was a cheese and pickle sandwich (?!) something I hadn’t eaten in years! Back at the Spa we cracked open a bottle of Moet on the bed and enjoyed our little picnic.
The weeks after the competition (I stayed tanned for ages 🙂 !) Lela guided me as I reversed dieted – it is super important for your body to slowly re-adjust to the increased calories. Then, after a few weeks relaxing, I got back on the bandwagon again so to speak, and with the notes from the judges, began training again. This time with my boyfriend.
IT WASN’t ALL EASY….MOTIVATION WAS NEEDED!
As amazing as the journey was, and however great I felt at the end. It doesn’t mean there weren’t times when it was really tough. Getting through the first few weeks made me feel more confident that I would be able to do it. But, we are human, its not in our nature to always be happy, (if we were we would never change things!) so apart from the great days where I felt super proud, confident and happy – some days I just felt down, other days super tired, others I would convince myself I wasn’t making any progress. It would sometimes feel like a bit of a battle. So for the first time, ever…I learnt to be kind to myself. I had decided to make my body work hard for goals my mind had decided on. Its cooperation was essential – so I needed to treat it well , in a way that didnt involve food off my plan!
So the following ways are just a few which helped me stay off the bad moods and remain motivated:
- I went out and picked up a pair of dusky pink silk pyjamas, every time I put them on in the evening I could feel the cool, soft sensation on my skin – it made me feel like I was treating myself.
- When I was tired, as opposed to fight it, I began to listen to my body and either go for a nap, or if I was at work just take 5mins out and chill.
- When I finished work, I would come home and light vanilla or cookie scented candles then just settle in the sofa and put on some TV.
- I became literally obsessed with fitness gear!
- I looked for other women who inspired me on instagram and follwed them for motivation.
- I made myself accountable with Instagram – and found such a great support network!
- Sporty arts and crafts 😀 I bought a pair of trainers and decorated them with pink Swarovski crystals (which by the way was actually really good fun!).
- When there were social events – I would make sure my cheat meal landed on those days, if not – I would bring my own food and if someone asked I would just explain I was on programme and that was that. Every time I had a craving – I would write what I craved down on the whiteboard in our kitchen – this was my shopping list post-competition! It was also really interesting to look through how my cravings changed over the months!
WHAT I LEARNT
As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves for what we are not. We speak to ourselves in ways we would never dream of speaking to another person. From one women to another let me tell you, don’t do that. Love yourself. Love every part, because that’s what makes you, you. Be proud of who you are, from you little toe to your ears. Make changes, definitely – that’s what life is about – but do it from a place of love not punishment. When you start working with your body – nothing can stop you.