While training a client at my gym last summer my colleague Christian asked me if I'd ever considered entering a figure competition. I've got to be honest, I had no idea what he was talking about at the time. He explained and showed me some pictures of female competitors and I was blown away by their incredible bodies, but never thought I could get those kind of results from my own body. And that was where my journey began. Christian challenged me to enter a competition and I hired him as my trainer!
I've always loved the look of strong, curvy, ripped women but have never committed myself enough to make it reality for myself, and have always struggled to gain muscle and get my body fat low enough. But I was desperate to shake up my training routine, take on a new challenge and push my body to transform. This was something totally different to the events I have competed in before, which have been mostly endurance based - running, cycling and triathlon - this time I would be on stage posing in front of hundreds of people, wearing a bikini and 5inch heels! The thought of it really excited me and I loved the fact I had a big goal to aim for me to keep me motivated.
I started training last summer with the initial goal of putting on as much muscle mass as possible. This is called the 'off season' in bodybuilding. I quickly learned I was a 'hard gainer' and although I was getting stronger I wasn't putting on the needed muscle size for a figure competition. I also quickly learned how I can rapidly put on body fat when my carbohydrate consumption increased! I decided to enter a different category and do a bikini competition instead, where the judges don't look for as much muscularity or striation, but a softer, more feminine look.
To give you an idea of what i'm aiming for, here's a photo of a bikini competitor I admire, Callie Bundy. She is a little more muscular than some of the competitors but I think she looks awesome.
The training sessions have been HARD, I've never experienced so much post workout soreness (DOMS) in my life and I have learned so much about bodybuilding. I've been training in split body part sessions - chest and triceps one day, back and biceps next day, legs and glutes the day after etc. 5 sessions a week with 2 rest days. Some days it's high reps and low weights, and other days it's low reps and heavy weights. Either way there hasn't been a session gone by when I haven't grunted like a meathead as I push out the final rep! Most sessions are then topped off with some high intensity interval training.
My diet had to change dramatically. Before I started I was doing intermittent fasting to keep my body fat low, but that soon changed and I was eating 6-7 meals a day and around 2,500 calories. At first I found it hard to eat so often, but soon my body was ready to eat every 3 hours as my metabolism was working over time to recover from the intense workouts.
So several months have gone by since I started training and although I haven't made the dramatic transformation I was hoping for, it hasn't stunted my motivation or my desire to get on that stage!! Right now I am around 15 weeks out from my competition and in the middle of a 'cutting' phase, where the aim is to lose body fat whilst maintaining muscle mass. I'll tell you more about my current training schedule in my next post.
I've been taking photos of myself the whole time, so I've included below my first photo from last summer and one from this week where I started practising my posing. My body fat is currently higher than when I started but I've managed to put on some decent muscle on my legs, glutes and arms. I still need to increase my muscle a little more over the next few weeks but the main aim will be getting my body fat as low as possible to reveal the muscle I've built.