The last time I put pen to paper on ‘Bite, Bench, Breathe’ I was halfway through peak week in the run up to the Miami Pro World Championships, where I was due to compete in the ‘Fitness Model’ and ‘Ms Bikini’ categories. If you follow me on social media you may have noticed (because I’ve been all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram like a rash!) that I placed Top Three in both categories and proudly brought home some silverware and two Pro cards! There is so much that I could write about the whole experience, but am going to pick some key themes that I deem to be interesting, thought provoking and not merely an opportunity for narcissism or self-promotion – which isn’t to say I am not damn proud of my achievements!
No One Tells You How Awful Carb Loading Is
Peak week was, on the whole, an absolute breeze. Until Friday. In the final week of prep it is common for competitors to deplete their bodies of carbohydrates for several days, before reintroducing them in the last day or two to give the muscles a fuller look. In my naivety I thought carb loading would be easy because, quite simply, I love carbs! My body responds to them well and, more so than protein and fats, they give me a real feeling of energy and satiety. However, as I started digging into my first of eight high carb meals on Friday I had a sinking feeling that I was going to struggle. And I really did. I got the food down me, but I felt like DEATH all day. My coach had told me to take it easy and to relax, which was a good job because all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep! I have to say a huge thank you to Katie Barnes and the girls at Simply Nails in Warwick for helping me get through the day. Not only did they do an incredible job of my nails, but they also tolerated having me in the salon for four hours when I was tired, lifeless and periodically munching on rice cakes! Later that evening I then received some lovely cards, flowers and gifts from friends, which reduced this usually emotionally stunted girl into a crying wreck! I don’t know how much of this was down to the carbs, the dehydration, or the fact that I was finally so close to the end game, but I was exhausted and emotional. Fortunately I felt better on Saturday morning, although I still needed a nap or two later that day, and by Sunday I had enough excitement and adrenalin to be buzzing for the stage. I wanted to highlight this because social media can be deceiving – the last few days of prep is not all Rice Krispies and bronzed, cheese grater abs. It’s lethargy, forcing the food down, getting everything organised for show day and keeping your mind occupied so that it doesn’t start obsessing about your disappearing bicep vein or the appearance of cellulite that you’re sure wasn’t there an hour ago.
Coping Without Washing
You may know from my previous blog posts that I suffer from OCD, which I was diagnosed with about six years ago. I believe that I manage the condition really well on a day to day basis, and make sure that the effort I put into having a healthy body I also put into having a healthy mind. However, there are some things that I remain very particular about, such as my daily shower routine. Any girls who regularly see me in the gym changing room will vouch for the fact that I spend a disproportionate amount of time covering every inch of my body in lotion after my morning shower! So the thought of being tanned at lunchtime on Saturday and then not being able to shower, or even wash my face or hands, until after the competition was something I was dreading. I was fortunate that the girls responsible for my tan (which was expertly applied by Charlotte from Get Bronzed) made me feel at ease when I was stood stark bollock naked in a room full of fellow Oompa Loompa’s – I mean, competitors. But when I got back to my hotel room the urge to shower was really strong. Likewise, when I woke up on Sunday morning I was desperate to shower and wash my hair. Not because I felt dirty, but because I just don’t feel “right” unless I’ve completed this usual ritual. It crossed my mind that there would be no way I would place in my categories if I hadn’t washed. However, I was able to recognise this as irrational thinking, let it pass and just move on. Before I knew it I was up on that stage – grubby hair, face, armpits – with two trophies in my hands. To anyone else who suffers with OCD, all I can say is that your mind is a LIAR.
Body Dysmorphia is Heightened on Show Day
To some extent, I admit that I still suffer from body dysmorphia. I certainly do not think I am fat or out of shape, but I am still surprised when people compliment my physique, often thinking of myself as having a ‘girl bod’ (the female equivalent of ‘Dad bod’). However, when I look at photo’s of myself I accept that I do have more muscle on my frame than the average female. Wandering around the venue on Sunday in just a tiny bikini was not something that caused me any anxiety – even in Anorexic days of old I was never overly self conscious. Surprisingly, I didn’t even find myself comparing my body to the other competitors all that much, I think because I was just so focused making sure I was ready, both practically and mentally, to step on stage. Having said all that, I still looked in the mirror and saw ‘girl bod’ staring back at me, albeit trussed up like a Barbie doll. I came off stage after the call outs for the Bikini class and was in a complete state of shock – I recall seeing my fellow Team Savage athlete Paul Mugridge backstage, but can’t for the life of me tell you what he or I said! I had a quick look on Facebook before I was due to get back on stage, and saw that Lisa Kelly had posted a photo of a blonde bikini competitor called Kate… I swear that I did not realise I looked like that! A lot of people have mentioned how different I looked on stage compared to real life, which I totally accept because I am not much of a glamour puss day to day. But to see my body like that – muscular, strong but feminine, my abs looking SICK (if I say so myself) – was a very welcome shock. In that moment I started to believe in myself.
No Bikini Girl is an Island
At the start of this process, when I was a skinny girl with pipedreams of stepping on stage, I was under the illusion that bodybuilding wasn’t a team sport. Yes I would get a coach to oversee my diet and training, but I thought that the rest was up to me. Over the past few days I have spent time reflecting on my achievements at Miami Pro, but I can’t help but feel that it isn’t just my win! Eddie Abbew has been there to coach and support me during my off season, throughout my prep and all day on Sunday. One of my absolute highlights of the day was when Audrey Kaipio announced that I had placed third in my Bikini category (I already had the Fitness Model trophy in my hand at this point) and I caught Eddie’s beaming face in the audience. I always told him I was going to make him proud, and I think I did just that. However, the support from the Team Savage as a whole was just incredible – Lisa Kelly went above and beyond for me over the weekend, even cooking up a whole bag of sweet potato for me and bringing it to the show when I had a panic that I might run out ; Samantha Davidge was responsible for my stunning make up and truly transformed me ; Hannah Marie Barry kindly leant me some of her stage jewellery, which complimented my amazing bikini made by Chrissie Nicholson-Wild ; Michelle Leach was on hand to offer her support and ensure that my diet boobs weren’t going to pop out of my bikini ; Paul Mugridge, Emma Baldwin, Dwain Stephens, Meisha Pijot, Wole Adesemoye – it was fantastic to see you there ; Laura Dowling, Lisa Quait, Aimee Boo, Tracey Merry, Janine Blasi – to share this experience with you all was an honour. The list of thanks could go on, but what I hope to demonstrate is that to be part of a community, a collective of likeminded people, is a truly wonderful thing. On the surface this sport is very fickle, obsessive and vain. I get that perception. But what I am lucky to be part of is a group of girls and guys who lift each other up and are genuinely thrilled for one another’s successes. I am looking forward to going to the UKBFF South Coast Championships in Portsmouth this weekend to sit on the other side and cheer on some more members of the team.
It will be no surprise to most of you who know me that I plan to do one more show, the UKBFF Bodypower Classic, before I go off season again. I therefore intend to spend the next three weeks keeping my nutrition on point, working on my weak areas in the gym and keeping an eye on my stress levels, as I know that this is still something that I struggle with. Meanwhile I have some other exciting opportunities in the pipeline, such as a couple of photo shoots and reaching the Final 30 in the MAS Body Development ambassador search. For those of you that may not know, MAS is a fitness clothing brand that prides itself on both the quality and style of their clothing, as well as being a fun and family orientated team. Check out their website – http://www.masbody.co.uk – and use the discount code FINAL30 for 15% off the entire site. If you are going to Bodypower make sure you go and see the MAS Body Development team on Stand M140, as I have it on good authority that they have some exciting stuff in store! Meanwhile, thank you again to anyone who has taken the time to read and support the blog, and for all of your incredible comments on social media.
The future is bright. Xx