Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011 is coming to an end and I am reflecting on the year and my fitness journey which only began in 2009. After waiting eight weeks for my drug test results (I was randomly selected for doping control in Serbia) and some administration time, my IFBB Pro card finally arrived in the post this morning.

I thought I would feel excited and of course I am excited but with that excitement was a little bit of fear. No turning back now. I have booked my flights, I have the application for my first pro show in my hand. Looking in the mirror, I don't look the best I've ever looked, being just after Christmas. You find yourself asking the question 'Can I really do this?'

I remember being backstage in Athens waiting to perform at a Latin Festival, dancing for a Salsa group called Diablo at the same event as Marc Anthony and thinking  'What am I doing here??'.  The dance group were twice European Team Salsa Champions, all proper dancers. I thought to myself  'I am not a trained dancer, why can't I stay at home and watch TV like everyone else, why do I put myself through this?'  Anyway we did the show, I was scared to death, but we did it. Credit to the great dancers and great choreographer (Laith Sami).  Now when getting on stage for a contest, I look back and I take some of that feeling and think 'Yes you know what? I can do this.'

Fear is the biggest thing that holds us back in life but what is the worst that can happen? There is no reality without perceived reality. By doing one thing you open the door to the next and you can always take something from it. Even if it is to understand what is for you and what is not for you. So many talented people do not realise their potential, I don't know whether it is due to lack of resources or lack of dedication but someone once told me 'you don't have to be the best dancer in the world, success is 10% talent and 90% dedication.' I said I don't want to do this dance (ballroom Latin) if I can't be the best and that is what she said to me. Looking back now I did give up that dance out fear, I started dancing at 18 and I saw these young kids dancing better than me and I was scared I could never be good. One of my biggest regrets in life to date. But on the plus side I found Lambada and I learnt to dance a beautiful dance and met so many people in different countries. All you need is the will and the belief.... but also the flexibility of mind to be able to roll with the waves.

2012 ~ Do the things you are most scared of.

Friday, 2 December 2011

How important is weight training and diet?

I am asked this question a lot so I thought it would be something I should write about…

In the beginning, training for me was primarily a way to keep in shape as a dancer (my main problem was fat around the middle and the dreaded love handles).  I didn't really know how to eat well, I just thought to myself ‘Okay, I'm 25 years old (this was a few years ago) and things aren't as good as they used to be so I better get down the gym, get on the cross trainer and do a few leg machines’ Sound familiar?  I then thought ‘Okay, cut down on the chocolate bars and wine’ and yes I lost a bit of body fat.  I have always been a UK size 8 so I never can proclaim to be slimmer of the year or anything so if I weigh the same, wear the same clothes as before what's the big deal?   Why do I now train 5-6 days a week? I now train mainly for aesthetics as I compete but in the process I am much fitter and healthier too.

The way I see it is, if I'm going to train for weight loss or for fitness, I might as well do exercises that make me look better in the process not just become a slimmer version of myself.  By this I mean, for example, I use cardio equipment that engage the glutes and shape the legs, not just long distance running or the cross trainer for general fat loss.  I weight train to specifically target weak areas and don't do exercises that will give me a shape I am not happy with such as big traps or a thick waist.  Weight training is a great way to lose body fat also.

I did not understand diet before I started studying to be a PT and researching training methods for contest, which was a problem because I just imagined you could eat what you liked providing the calories were worked off.  Someone actually posted something interesting on my wall about diet basically indicating that they also believed a person could eat what they chose to as long as they burn it off i.e. the calories in calories out theory… a bit like the weight watcher points system…   For me this is not right.  Eating a good diet is not just about being slim and getting away with it, it is not about cheating myself so I can eat a ‘Big Mac’ a day and still be within my calories for the day.  Would that make me healthy?  Will I have the energy to train consistently week in week out and not get ill? Will I look very nice? I think you know the answer.
Before training with weights, my only form of exercise was dance (cardio) and I used to eat a diet which was basically a ‘free for all’, I would eat whatever I wanted and never even thought about it.  I would incorporate curries, chocolate, cakes, sweets, fried foods, wine etc and whilst I didn’t really eat a great deal, I did have three meals a day and probably I burnt off pretty much what I was eating through dancing but the point is this, I still had body fat around the middle but was a size eight.

This for me clearly indicates the type of training you do and the macro nutrient breakdown of a diet does matter.  Eating regular small meals made up of the right balance of carbs, protein and fats for your body type and energy output can enable you to have the right amount of energy to workout, be healthy, kick the metabolism into gear and be healthy all at the same time. I am still a size 8 in clothes but my body fat is around 8-10% lower than it was before I started my new way of training and eating and I weigh roughly the same, maybe a few pounds less and I do not have love handles.
I believe that eating a low GI diet is important for managing belly fat.  Carbohydrates with a lower glycocemic index break down at a slower rate during digestion and release glucose at a slower rate into the bloodstream therefore having less impact on insulin levels in the body. Abdominal obesity has been linked to high blood insulin levels.  In short, if someone were eat high GI meals, the pancreas would rapidly release insulin in an attempt to regulate and lower blood sugar levels.  Insulin acts to convert blood sugar to a type of fat called triglycerides, studies have linked triglycerides to increased fat stores around the abdomen.  Also, a  crash in blood sugar levels, which usually happens after the body has released too much insulin after the consumption of a high GI meal, can also cause sugar cravings.  This is why it is import to eat regularly to avoid craving sweet things…   This being said I do enjoy a cheat meal once or twice a week, I believe if you eat well most of the time then the odd cheat will not have an adverse effect on the body, in fact it has been said that the occasional insulin spike can be good for the metabolism.
Training and diet go hand in hand, you cannot really do one without the other, the foods you eat will fuel your workouts and help shape your body.  If you train but do not eat the right foods, your body will not drop body fat, build lean tissue and you may cause injuries through being overweight and placing uneven strain on the body.
A good weight training programme that is designed with short rest intervals and multi joint exercises is far better than cardio alone for fat loss and using a combination of weight training and cardio will help you become stronger, increase stamina and endurance and if you choose the right type of exercises you can actually shape your body in the process.   

So next time you are in the gym consider what is it you are actually doing and whether the exercises are going to help you achieve the look you want and next time you reach for your food, consider what it is you are eating and what you are doing to your body.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Hey,  well its been 6 weeks since my last contest and I am pleased with my competitive achievements this year, my next contest now will be in March 2012 when I am planning to spend some time with Team Bombshell in Daytona Beach and then onto the St Louis Pro show. I am also going to compete in the New York Pro in May and want to spend September in US to do another show and go to the Olympia in Vegas!!  How exciting… It is my dream to compete at the Olympia but its going to be tough to qualify as from 2012 the rules change, only 1st place in a regional pro show gets an invite whereas previously top2 or 3 get through.  I can see why they are doing this as the Olympia should be the best of the best but this just means I will be working harder than ever!!!

So is it off season for me right now?  Not exactly. I am still training 5 days a week and doing my cardio but have increased my calories so I am a few pounds over contest weight through the 'off season' and also to come in a bit fuller next season. I am happy with my body right now, although I would be happier if I can add a little more lean weight.  I have been a bit more relaxed with my cheat meals and trying to remember to enjoy myself. I mentioned before that it is an important goal I set myself to not let contests take any enjoyment out of my life as I was so focussed on competing I kind of forgot about my life…  It is so very easy to be consumed by training and diet that you forget to relax and enjoy the present moment and spend time with people that matter in life therefore I have been trying to spend a bit more time doing the things I like doing, which is eating out and dancing (Lambada of course…).  Anyone who knows me will know I like a glass of wine so I am trying to enjoy these things (in moderation) while I can because when contest season hits, it will be all out for me :)    I am 30 next year (arghhhh) and when I think about how fast time goes it is important for me to live my life to the full.  I have reduced my PT hours and started working for the person I worked for two years ago on a freelance basis basically in a Personal / Business Assistant capacity, I have found this has given me some variety and enabled me to use some skills that haven't needed when Personal Training which is good. For me it’s all about variety.

What else have I been doing?  Last week, I had a great shoot with Simon Howard, he is an amazing photographer and such a nice guy.  I am really pleased with the shots, so pleased I uploaded some of the raw images to my page….  I am sure he will tell me off ;) 

I have booked a one day private make up course I December with Jemma Kidd School of Make up to see if they can teach me a few things about my make up on stage, I can never seem to get it right as I wear quite simple make up in real and find the dark tan doesn’t suit my face very well.  People outside the fitness world never quite understand me when I say ‘I have to wear dark tan’. I think they imagine St Tropez spray tan so this time I will go armed with my Jan Tana!!!

Next month I have a few video shoots so I will keep you posted on those

For now, take care, train hard, stay focussed

Michelle xx

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I am sitting at Belgrade airport waiting for my flight which has been delayed. I am flying home via Munich after competing in the IFBB Amateur World Championships in Serbia at the weekend.

Well what can I say, I earned IFBB Pro athlete status in Bikini within one year of competing with UKBFF. I am so happy, it was my dream to become IFBB Bikini Pro!

I placed 3rd at World championships and 3rd at the Arnold Classic Europe last week.

Both amazing experiences. There were over 25 girls in my class (over 163cm) from countries far and wide and an equal amount in the u163cm class in both contests. I have never seen so many girls looking great altogether. We were narrowed down to top 15 then to top 6, and then into the final placings.

I have competed in 3 international competitions now so have gotten to know some of the girls, national teams and photographers which is nice. I hope to see them all again someday soon. A special mention for the Slovakian Team who looked after me in Serbia :)

In Madrid, I competed at the very first Arnold Classic Europe where there were both amateur and pro shows. Mr Swarzenegger himself was of course present, giving a speech and presenting the winning trophy to Victor Martinez in the Mens Open Pro. A great addition to the European contest scene, I hope it continues to grow.

It has been almost 18 months since my first competition, 7 shows later I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the lessons I have learnt along the way...

Ok, we need to remember there is only one 1st place. Everyone wants to win of course but there is only one first place. To be in the finals is an achievement in itself because if you imagine there are girls who do not make it into the finals, they train hard and diet just like you or I but don't get placed. I always try to bear this in mind and be thankful for the experience.
It is important to learn to be happy for others in their success.  Sometimes it is someone else’s time to shine and one day it may be your day, you can't take that away from people.  If you were the winner you would want people to be happy for you right? We all want the same things, no one walks off the street and takes the trophy without making the effort. In the beginning I wanted to win so bad I felt like tripping some of the girls up hahaha (only a brief thought) but now I have learnt to be happy for others success. I'm not going to lie, this is a skill I am consciously making an effort to learn. On stage when I do not get the placing I would like, I try my best not to look upset although sometimes I fail ;) . Its important to be gracious in both victory and defeat.

You may hear people say ‘enjoy the journey’ and you think 'yeah whatever' as I used to, but it really is true. Anyone that knows me knows how intense I am and knows how much I want this but I need to listen when people say ‘enjoy the journey’. The present is all we have, you cannot live in the past or future, these are just your perceptions of how things happened, the only thing that is real is right here, right now and it is important to respect that.

Now I have reached my goal of IFBB Bikini Pro I am going to take some time to learn to live in the moment and try to create a balance in my life. I am going to consider what shows I intend to compete in 2012. I have heard rumours of Pro Bikini at FIBO in Germany and at the Arnold Classic Europe in Spain next year so these would be on the list but I would also like to take to the US stage.

I have done all the thank you's before so I won't do them all again but I would like to mention UKBFF once again. UKBFF are simply the best federation if you want to compete in UK. The only federation that will pay your expenses to the European and World Championships if you are selected to represent them.  The UKBFF leads into IFBB, the largest, most prestigious Bodybuilding and Fitness federation in the world.

I have decided not to compete at the UKBFF British Championships as I am already eligible for Pro status and I am exhausting after my back to back contests. I will however be at the finals on Sunday to support the federation and competitors. Good luck to all my friends competing

Work hard, Train hard, stay focussed. Never take your eyes off the prize.

Michelle :)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Okay, I decided to make a blog update before I go to the Arnold Europe next Thursday...

My contest dates are
Arnold Amateur Europe, Madrid
Friday 7th October 1pm Bikini over 163cm
Sunday 9th October: 10-12pm Overall Bikini (if I win my class)

IFBB Amateur World Championships, Serbia
Saturday 16th October pre judging
Sunday 17th October Finals

UKBFF British Championships, Nottingham
Saturday 22nd Pre judging
Sunday 23rd Finals

My training is going well, I am starting to get a little tired and it’s a real effort to put enough energy into my workouts but they have to be done. I am doing 5 days a week resistance training and 6 days a week cardio. I stopped training quads for the past month or so and am pleased with the balance. I am sure my body will not change in a week but mentally I need to ensure I've done everything I could possibly do. My social life has totally gone out of the window as I needed to minimise the temptation of eating and drinking out. However, my diet is still not too restricted, I have been eating clean all year so it’s not a mad rush. I still have a once-a-week cheat right up until a week out.

I have been working out what I need to take with me and stocking up on false nails, eyelashes, make up etc. I'm starting to get excited. I fly on Thursday so will prepare all my food Wednesday. Unfortunately I won't be going for a Paella after the show as my contests continue but I will allow myself a small cheat after each show.

From now until the first show I will keep working on my poses and doing some visualisation. I believe visualisation is a great tool that can be utilised by everyone including athletes and performers. If you have been there in your mind, it won’t be so scary when you do it real life.  The key is to try to visualise what it is you need to do  and keep visualising until the images are clear and then you try you see the event as a film, you run this through in your head over and over, imagining the sounds and feelings, feel the stage lights on your face.  If you get nervous, feel those feelings, feel the nerves and get used to those feelings, embrace them don’t dismiss them.  Try to run the film as first and third person from every angle, know exactly what you are going to do. Obviously if you have never been to the venue or even if you have the real thing is not going to be exactly as it was in your head but you will have some experience before you go.  You can rehearse with your eyes closed, it’s a very powerful tool after all I believe a lot of what goes on in our lives are in our minds only by way of perception.

I figured by the time I get to the British finals in October it will be my eighth show in eighteen months so I'm quite proud of myself to have done so much. It is like I have been in race horse mode the past four months!  I know I have given my best and that's really all you can do. I plan to take a few weeks out to relax after the shows and then I plan what is next for me.  

My main aim is to earn an IFBB Pro card, this is a goal I set myself and one I hope to achieve.  As you may or may not know, there are not that many opportunities for a British Female to earn Pro status and Pro cards are not given at the UKBFF British finals, you need to place well at an International show. 

At this point you hand over the control of what happens, you cannot dwell on what is not in your hands, when you have done everything you can, it is now time to go on stage and enjoy what has been done.  You cannot make yourself win 1st place so regardless of the outcome  I would
like to take this opportunity to  thank in particular UKBFF for giving me the opportunity to represent UK at these events and sponsoring me at European and World Championships, My mum and Dad (my mum for being my little chef) Team Bombshell for helping me grow, Panthers Gym for their continued support from day one. Shaun Stafford for the time he has taken to listen to me and give me some 'smashing' upper body workouts. Jimmy, Taira, Tia and Amjad for listening and analysing my pictures with me, my lovely clients and also a few fb friends I've met along the way who have encouraged and supported me, you know who you are :)

Thanks guys, I hope I have been able to 'keep it real', provide some inspiration and show anyone who is thinking of competing what the journey is like. Your support and stories have certainly inspired me.

I will try to add links and updates to my Facebook page to keep you all updated. I would like to thank you for your continued support, all my fb messages keep me going.

Make sure you look out for me and my ego in the November issue of Flex magazine (on the shelves Oct) ;o)


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Today is Saturday and I have not long come back from the gym, I did a lower body workout targeting the glutes and  60 minutes cardio, split between the treadmill and a machine called the Summit Trainer by Life Fitness.  I love this machine, it is a cross between an elliptical and a stepper and feels a bit like a Cybex Arc, it has a high step and I can really feel the glutes working.  Personally I do not like the standard cross trainers, I feel the movement is unnatural and it does nothing for the glutes.
I have now less than 4 weeks until I compete at the first ever Arnold Europe and it is going to be Team UK all the way!  There are a few of us going from different classes so let's hope we will bring home some trophies!!

My flights are booked to Madrid and I'm getting excited, I booked a hotel with a gym so I can workout as I am competing the week after.  Registration is on the Thursday and the amateur shows are on the Friday and Saturday and then the overall presentations on the Sunday, I will then fly back home and then spend a few days in UK preparing for the next contest and fly to Serbia a few days later!!  How exciting!

Right now, a lot of my hard work is done in terms of body fat, I don't really need to cut my food drastically because I stay in shape all year round, but I'm trying to be cleaner and stick to the diet 100%. I am still working on lifting my butt and overall refining of shape. My shoulders are starting to balance out coming into proportion with my hips and I'm working my calves a lot more to balance out my legs. I still need to stay on top of this and give everything. After weeks and weeks of training it easy to let things slip if you are not on the ball mentally. I find it important to my progress, despite the training and diet, to keep focussed on the goal. So got to keep motivated and stay on track.
It is the Olympia weekend next weekend and whilst I am not going, I will be watching online.  It will be really interesting to see how the bikini class turns out, I have seen the competitor line up but I have got no idea which way the contest will go.  Fingers crossed for all the Team Bombshell girls :)

On the non contest front, I'm very excited to have seen the artwork for a feature I have going into FLEX magazine in the November issue which will be out in October. I also wrote a short piece on the bikini class which is going in the December issue of Muscle and Fitness.

I also have a few more exciting projects plan so till next time... Watch this space!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Okay, I decided to write my own blog to share my experiences with you

A brief background:  I started training for contests in late 2009 and won my first show in May 2010, since then I've done five shows including winning the Amateur Ms Bikini Olympia at the British Grand Prix and placing 5th at the European Championships.

I am now 6 weeks out from the Arnold Europe, 7 weeks out from World Championships in Serbia and 8 weeks from UKBFF British Championships. I am competing in IFBB Amateur Bikini. I am very excited to be taking part in these contests as I will representing UK on behalf of UKBFF and will be the only Bikini athlete from UK at the Arnold which is the first event of its kind to be held in Europe (Madrid).

I've been working hard since my last contest which was the IFBB European Championships which took place in Tyumen, Russia in May where I placed 5th.  I enlisted the help of Shannon Dey`s Team Bombshell to help me try and up my game. I am very pleased with the improvements I have made and am looking forward to bringing my best package to the stage in October.

Over the next 6 weeks, as well as training hard, I will be working on my presentation, which is so important in Bikini. The judges take into account face and hair as well as physique so you are judged to toe front to back. I'm going to be practising my walk and poses to see if I can get the best out of my physique. I have been on stage often enough to know you can never have enough practise and nothing prepares you for the stage lights and looking out into the crowd, last thing you want to do is worry if your in the right position and keep looking down at yourself!  My new suit arrived last week so I will use this to practise in, it is really helpful to have your outfit early so you can make any adjustments and get used to what you look like in it. I will also practise my hair and make up as this is not my strong area. I find it difficult to get the balance of looking pretty and getting the make up strong enough under the stage lights. At my last contest I used a shiny bronzer on my face and looked like a weirdo.  I was in Russia by myself so I am sure if I had had a friend with me, they would have told me it didn’t look good!!  I wish I could have a make up artist and spray tanner but in Europe we don't have these facilities. I'm going to try some different hairstyles also, what looks nice in real life doesn't look striking enough on stage.

So... I have got lots to perfect over the next 6 weeks.  I will be sticking to my training and diet program and trying to give everything I have (even when I am tired).  The diet for me is the hardest as I have a sweet tooth and I have pretty much been on a contest diet since late 2009!!  I try to have only one cheat a week closer to a contest so these last 6 weeks are the hardest for me. After October I think I will take a few weeks off!!!    I don’t feel I have too much body fat to lose before the contest, it is just about refining my shape and tightening up.  You don’t want to be too lean on stage, it is important to get a healthy looking balance and still with a feminine softness,  I have been keeping up to date with the US Pro shows and  it seems girls are getting marked down for too tight abs or being too muscular. So lean and tight but still curvy I think is the way Bikini is going. Who said Bikini was the easy option???   I will keep you up to date with my progress and any obstacles I encounter along the way... anything you would like me to write about please let me know, I welcome your feedback :)