Updated: 6 days ago
A LITTLE INTRODUCTION
Hi, I'm Maddy. I'm 42, a single mum to 2 boys, 11 and 13 (both delivered by emergency c-sec) a personal trainer, yoga instructor, strength and conditioning coach, pre and post natal trainer, owner of Energise Wellbeing and a diva cat called Audrey. I also had a double umbilical hernia op a year and a half ago and a car crash a year ago. I tell you all this for full transparency and hopefully to inspire you to believe anything is possible if you truly want it.
BACK STORY TO MY FITNESS JOURNEY
When I was 18 and first discovered the gym, I fell in love with it. Maybe too much. I was at an age where I was easily impressionable. A decade where mobile phones barely existed except to make a call and send a text. Where magazines were your go-to resource for fitness, beauty, health, style etc. From a generation where "heroin-chic" was all the rage ....for those who don't relate to this time, this was a time when being as skinny as possible was the in thing. Having any ounce of normal fat was deemed "too much" and being muscular wasn't a trend at all unless you read muscle and fitness magazines. This was a time I was training at least 2hrs a day and not eating enough...cue, becoming underweight at 19, to the point even my parents were becoming concerned. At 5" 6 I had dropped to 8st 5lb / 53kg and despite all the training i also looked bony. I remember crying when my mum tried to offer me a real (and relatively small) plate of food (having moved out at 19). Thankfully, something made me realise I couldn't continue in this manner and slowly but surely I returned to better health.....
Fast forward 22 years....
Having worked in the industry from 22 - 28 and then 32 onwards (post my two kids and a stint of office work and hospitality) I returned to the industry in the public sector. At the age of 36/37 I decided I wanted to compete in a bodybuilding show. I had no idea what it entailed but I doubled down my training, started focusing on my nutrition working with macros and started to cut for my first show. I remember 10 weeks out I was eating somewhere in the region of 1400 calories. I had done no posing practice as simply didn't know how etc. Instagram and YouTube wasn't as prolific or certainly I didn't really understand it for what it was at the time in the way I do now to learn more for myself. Due to personal circumstances it became more and more difficult to continue and ultimately I gave up....and studied to become a yoga instructor. Then lockdown hit. Frankly maintaining any level of fitness was an achievement.
Roll on 2022 and at 41, being mum to 2 boys, 10/12, at the time and running my own studio with a focus on health and overall wellbeing rather than just an aesthetic, I was consistently inspired by my clients and their personal reasons of why they had decided they needed to prioritise their health, fitness and mental wellbeing and their dedication to achieving these things. In turn, it had me thinking about setting myself my own goal and ultimately this bought me back round to attempting to compete on stage. Older, maybe wiser and willing to accept I would need a coach to support me and stay accountable, After scouring the bodybuilding forums I found a coach recommended, based in America. His name was Matt and straight away i felt at ease. I said what i wanted to achieve, that i would probably need to have a hard word once in a while when i went off track and that above all else I wanted to do this naturally. I wanted to prove what was possible just with my body and no PEDs (performance enhancing drugs). He was totally on board and proved his worth on the numerous occasions i'd go off track even in my bulking season to keep me accountable.
During this time, a month into starting, I had a head on car crash, luckily no one was badly hurt, however, it highlighted (by the independent doctor) a definite weakness all down my left hand side, with my left glute just not firing correctly and unimaginable back pain that came and went over the course of the year. After 6 weeks of physio no major improvement had occurred so I sought out a chiropractor and did my own investigation into how I could engage my left glute correctly and improve my lower back issues through various resistance band, bodyweight and weighted exercises. I postponed my coach's hope of getting me to stage in February and stuck to my decision to show in August.
I then found a posing coach. I had chosen to do NPC as the is the one that is recognised by IFBB. (International Federation of Bodybuilding) and thankfully also meant I only had to show my best side which was determined by my glutes. My posing coach Kerry worked with me monthly for the first 3 months, then weekly for the remaining 4 months. I devoured youtube videos on posing, training and watching top level pros on stage and their advice, I followed bikini bodybuilders on instagram to keep me on track when I would start questioning what I was doing. Posing would often agitate my lower back but I started formulating a warm up routine prior to posing to make this more manageable.
I barely told anyone what i was doing when i first started this journey as I expected a lot of negative reaction (particularly as the industry as a whole goes against all my own business morals about what it is to be truly fit and healthy and confident in your own body) I started an instagram page logging my journey (www.instagram.com/madbikinigirl) privately. It was only as i got closer toward my goal that i invited 3 friends to follow my progress.I was so worried I wouldn't make it to stage, I just didn't want any distractions or more pressure.
Were there times I fell off the wagon nutritionally? Yes
Were there times I doubted what i was doing? Sometimes
But as my coach reminded me
"While you give 95% the other girl is giving 100%"
"Do you want to get on stage knowing you brought your best package?"
So I dug in deep. I kept turning up for my training, my cardio, my steps, food prep and my posing with very little time outside of this, once work, domestic chores and kids were dealt with. I literally lived and breathed this life for a year. The odd occasion I met up with friends/family, I either had a tupperware box of food or insisted on a walk and a black coffee.
What kept me going?
Proving the naysayers wrong
Proving to myself what I could accomplish with my body at 42
Proving to my clients that if they set their minds to a goal with a purpose (or a purposeful outcome) that yes there will be "sacrifice" but often to the betterment of themselves
Proving that the extremes of this sport, are often the visuals we receive in mainstream media, which are not necessarily an example of true health or wellbeing.
During the cutting phase, I battled with my mindset (which I felt over the years I had developed a good relationship with my body and food) in terms of trusting my coach, when I would feel like I needed to do more to get leaner he remained firm with me on my cals and training. There were tears when - nearing my period - I would compare my physique (by the way its really hard to compare in reality as you have no measure as to the height of the athlete you are looking at so their build and prep will look so different to yours) I would get frustrated with my posing, I would look on as my kids would eat a Kaspas Sundae and I drank water.
THE DOMINO EFFECT
I have always said that how we behave, affects those around us for good or bad. Most of my clients when they come to me, implement changes in their diet, exercise, daily activity and mental fitness. They see these changes influence their family members for the most part in a positive way as they start to consider change in themselves and in other cases realise that some people are just no longer the people they wish to maintain in their circle of growth. However, the same is true of negative / restrictive behaviour.....
I wanted my kids to understand what I was doing as I was becoming aware that my food choices, using scales, not sharing the same food that they ate was starting to have an impact on them. We watched the Arnold documentary - where my youngest exclaimed "mummy you need to train harder" which i laughed at and said "but I am! I'm not turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger". When my bikini arrived and I got all dressed up in the bikini, heels and jewellery they oooh'd and said "you look amazing!" (I was 4 weeks out)
But! They are only 11 and 13 and my youngest was, towards the end of my prep, started asking if he was fat (he isn't) and I reminded him what mummy was doing was just for an aesthetic on stage and in order for him to grow big and strong he needed to eat more than mummy. What a contradiction in terms! Those moments would impact me, because I would have times I just wanted to give my kids their mum back. They loved my business and what I did in normal life because they saw it as healthy and fit, not restrictive. I know plenty of other mum's do this sport, but oftentimes they have a partner or family member available to support them and in doing so the kids.
When I hit 3 weeks out something switched inside me, I relaxed and started to enjoy the process. Perhaps, just knowing in just three short weeks, I would be getting on stage and then life would be returning to normal....
This week was about water loading and depletion, dandelion root supplement daily for water retention, carb loading and depletion, full body de-loaded workouts.
A couple of days before travelling up to Maidenhead for the NPC Pro Naturals, I got my nails done, removed every trace of hair from my body with hair removal cream, tried out my "halo" style hair extensions, scrubbed my body and got a sports massage from Ali at AV Sports Massage where she could visibly see the muscles under my skin as she worked on me, Luckily the kids were with their dad the week leading up to show day which meant I could relax a little more than usual.
DAY BEFORE SHOW DAY
Arriving the day before, I checked into my hotel, changed the bedding (due to the tan I was going to have) set out my bikini and went off to check in and have my tan. (Turns out I was shorter than I thought so went into a category E class). As we all stood their stripped naked, waiting to get tanned, comparison set in. It was hard to tell how old everyone was, but I could see myself comparing my body, especially my legs and glutes to the leaner girls, being somewhat envious of the girls who still had boobs (some natural, some not). When I got back to the hotel room I wanted to cry (but couldn't otherwise i'd ruin my tan). I knew I had given my all and done what was asked of me but regardless, tiredness and low fuel in the tank doesn't make for rational thought. I did some positive affirmations instead and practised my posing and did my check in with my coach who was super positive.
A shot of Morgan's Spice to finally dry out my already dried out body and off to bed.
Final chance to practice my posing that morning after a pretty decent nights sleep. A protein bar and rice cake for breakfast, no water then off to Brayside Leisure Centre for my 2nd coat of tan, hair and makeup (they turned a very tired looking Maddy into something quite amazing) and chatting to a couple of the other girls. This was my first show, for many of them it was their 4th or 5th show. Some were doing various federations incl, WBFF and PCA which seemed mad on the basis they were having to learn totally different posing...so kudos to them! A quick check in with my posing coach and then a small lunch of tuna and sweet potato.
Finally, we were all directed back stage. A mixture of figure, wellness and bikini categories.
As directed by my coach, I started "pumping up" with a resistance band and consuming some rice cakes with jam prior to going on stage.
The first round was True Novice, from what I could deduce, was any age or height but just totally new....well I was, and scarily was also the first one called onto stage to lead all the bikini girls out (due to my numbering) and then first to do my posing in front of the judges. I was so shakey but also remembered my posing coach's words:
"Walk out there like you're the shit"
And knowing some really good friends of mine were there to support me in the crowd gave me the resolve to give my all on stage. My main objective was not to trip or fall and hopefully do everything my posing coach had taught me, as ultimately this was a stage about aesthetics. (swipe for more photos)
Contorting our bodies to show the judges what they wanted to see. I would find out i came 9th out of 12 which i was more than happy with as a first timer having been sure i was at the bottom of the pile in comparison. (swipe for more photos)
My second step up onto stage was for the Open category for my height class. As I was the only one, I won this category...but i'll take it. This automatically gave me a chance to step on stage a third time, by which point, I was more relaxed and just gave all I had. I didn't expect to place but started to realise the benefit of multiple classes.
And then that was it! I was on a high. I had done it. All that hard work, sacrifice, ups and downs, I had made it to stage. I had achieved my goal,
Several photos later with the other girls and then a celebratory half glass of champagne and orange juice with my friends, some salted caramel cookies and it was over...
I headed back to a friend's who cooked me my first cheat meal in ages, it was sublime.
TO SHOW AGAIN OR TO REVERSE DIET
So the whole plan had been to do this once and then reverse. But post show high's meant I seriously considered entering another show...but a few weeks down the line it was becoming increasingly apparent to me that I wanted my old life back. Not of restriction but to spend time with friends and family. To be a normal mum again. I was getting down over not enjoying food and so I advised my coach I needed to reverse instead. He totally supported my decision and this is what we have done. However, even this I found increasingly hard to maintain, as he gradually increased the calories to level out my hormones and metabolism, I found myself in control during the day and then overeating in the evening despite not being hungry. Whilst I have maintained my training, steps and cardio (because i love it) having spent a year of controlling my diet and seeing those bodily changes has meant I started falling into a fear of my body changing again (which it had to to return to normal and build more strength). I absolutely see the lure to continue to train, to become better, to revisit the stage, but in order to continue, for me, it would be to work towards turning pro and then to strive to be on the Olympia stage which could take years and years and that's one too many sacrifices for my family, (financially, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually).
I hope this is a reminder to anyone contemplating this lifestyle, that it is for the most part not healthy in terms of both your mental wellbeing and physical health.
If how you aesthetically look is more important to you rather than creating a strong, fit, healthy and confident sense of self both physically and mentally. Then go for it.
If you are looking for a challenge, then go for it.
But if you see the end result as a sign of good physical health, then think again. Restrictive eating, weighing out every morsel of food is not normal. If you have suffered from an ED I would highly recommend avoiding this industry all together.
On a side note, if you are looking to move into a caloric deficit for weight loss for health reasons, then weighing your food is a useful tool to help you understand portion control. Allowing you to become more mindful of what you are putting into your body.
Similarly, if you know you are probably not eating enough macro nutrients, tracking your food via an app such as My Fitness Pal can be incredibly useful....
...BUT, if a sport dictates that you need to become obsessive over every gram of food you consume (and this pertains to any high level sport not just bodybuilding) be wary that this really is no different to an eating disordered person. Understand that bodybuilders- olympians are training at extremely high levels, their daily activity is tracked, their food is tracked, their cardio is tracked all for one moment on the stage or field as the case may be. The fallout from this, in terms of metabolism, gut issues, mental health and overall physical wellbeing shouldn't be dismissed.
Eating a varied diet and enjoying exercise, whilst still spending time with friends, getting outdoors and doing things you love is far more important.
I knew most of the above and yet I chose to do this. And I should state I was incredibly lucky to have found such solid coaches who supported my decisions and didn't run my body into the ground, who's passion for the industry they are in inspired me, especially when I was pushing through. But also, this journey gave me a sense of purpose. I had been on an emotional rollercoaster in my personal life for too long and this community of people, some of whom will never know their influence, supported, encouraged and pushed me on to be the best version of myself. Not the aesthetic one, but the person who recognised she was capable, she did have willpower when called upon, could overcome multiple obstacles, did deserve to set high standards for herself and others and in doing so hopefully inspired others, not necessarily into bodybuilding but to pursue their dreams and find their life purpose.
You can view my full journey at www.instagram.com/madbikinigirl
To my coaches Matt Lee - Nutrition and Kerry Sexton IFBB Pro - Posing, my friends and family who supported me on my journey, especially on the low points, to Ali at AV Sports Massage and Victoria at Angel-Oh Spa for the much needed massages, to Wells Chiropractic and Osteopathy for regularly attending to my back and glutes, Special thanks to Rosie, Elaine and Rachel for being my audience, to my coffee and walks companion Katie and to my kids who put up with me and were my biggest supporters and my clients who inspired me.
I aim to continue building this body for all that it is capable of and returning to a more balanced version of training between lifting, yoga and meditation and simply enjoying life a little more, independently as well as with my friends and family.
If you are looking to create a happier, healthier, stronger body but still enjoy all that life has to offer book a connect call today: https://calendly.com/energisewellbeing/letsconnect
If you have any questions regarding the above please just ask.