January is often a time where people set themselves a challenge for the year ahead.
Whether you decide to give something up or start something new, most of us will have reflected on some element of change with the arrival of a new year.
At the end of last year, I started working at UP as a Food Consultant, a job that I was absolutely over the moon to start, at a business that I am extremely excited to be a part of. UP specialise in body transformations that focus on improving body composition – and the results are phenomenal.
Part of my role at UP involves helping clients with their meal plans. Diet is obviously a crucial part of any body transformation, and coming up with new ideas to keep meals interesting comes easily to me as a chef and passionate foodie. However, at times it has been difficult to create recipes that are 100% compliant with a client's transformation guidelines. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to embark on my own 12-week transformation challenges, I nearly bit off my boss's hand!
I was seriously keen because I knew that I would learn a lot for my work, in terms of the potential challenges and pitfalls of eating to a specific macronutrient plan. I also knew that this would be a serious challenge that I was more than ready to accomplish after Christmas.
A bit of background
For the last four or five years, I have trained in the sport of Muay Thai – a martial art that is considered one of the world's most brutal, as it involves punches, kicks, knees and elbows.
Training four to five nights a week regularly meant that I was very fit and having several competition fights mean that I am quite familiar with making weight and manipulating my body through diet and training.
Alongside this training, I have been a weightlifting fan for around two years. I can say, however, that I was no pro when it came to moving weights around.
In 2016, I relocated, and this meant that for a long time (six to seven months at least) I didn't see the inside of a Thai Boxing gym or a weights room. Needless to say, my fitness and my physique suffered. I have never been naturally lean or slim and even with a lot of hard work and regular training I have only once had 'just-about-visible-in-good-lighting' abs (see blog photo!).
Ultimately, when January 1st came around, I had several months of being 'ready' to really push myself to the limit!
I'm going to put up a weekly blog so that you can follow my journey as I progress through my 12 weeks of tough training and strict dieting. It's going to be a journey full of ups and downs I'm sure, but I'm so excited to be putting myself to the test and seeing just what my body is capable of. The level of education and experience of the trainers at UP is world class, so I'm in exceptionally good hands, I just have to listen to everything and follow the rules!
Day 1 – Shock to the system
My eagerness to begin my transformation this morning was swiftly followed by a big thump back down to earth after my first session with my trainer. From 30 minutes in I felt horrendously sick, something that I'm only used to feeling after a horrible sparring session – not from lifting weights!
My trainer explained to me that training upper body alongside lower body could cause a nauseous feeling, as the blood is pumped from each end of my body rapidly. Lesson number 1. I was grateful for the new knowledge, although it offered little consolation for the fact that I needed to lie down for 20 minutes following my session just to feel normal again. Could I do this for 84 days? I wasn't feeling so confident anymore.
Going back to the office was a challenge in itself – everything ached and I felt as though my planned session for the following day would be impossible!
Nevertheless, motivation was still relatively high – there were several of us in the office who had decided to embark upon transformation challenges and I am extremely competitive. Game on!
Day 2 – Chef Dilemmas
I have come to the conclusion that the hardest part for me (ironically) will be food! Today I received my food plan.
It, of course, involves sticking to a very clean diet and hitting macros, which I am more than capable of doing. The tricky part was going to be resisting the urge to drizzle with olive oil or garnish with parmesan shavings! My brain sees food and knows exactly what it should do to make it delicious, but that isn't going to cut it with this transformation. Lesson number 2 – simplicity is key.
Today I had another workout with my trainer which (unbelievably) was even harder than my first session. I tried to pump myself up in between sets – walking between pieces of equipment with a purpose (and throwing around some shadow boxing at one point!)
The best part of the training at UP is that my trainer is so supportive the whole way through – always pushing me to get those last few reps out and checking how everything feels. If I was training alone, I would have easily quit after my legs started to shake – or at least reduced the load. However, having a trainer there gives me the confidence to push through.
Today I was pushed to the limit, in ways I've not been challenged before. It's very much a love-hate relationship.
Day 3 – "Drink water like you're being paid to do it."
That was lesson number 3 from my trainer today.
I drink around 3 litres a day usually anyway, but this motto egged me on further.
I didn't have a session planned today, although I did head to my Thai boxing class in the evening. It was harder than normal for sure – I felt as though my energy levels were low by this point in the day, despite the additional water, and my body felt weak. I know that realistically it was just in my head so I battled through.
Part of my brain, the competitive part, knows that no matter what happens, or how I feel, I must push through.
Part of my brain has spent the last 24 hours questioning why I am putting myself through this challenge at all.
Day 4 – Leopard Print Makes Me Strong
The session today was hard as ever, but I did feel it was slightly less nauseating than the first two (thank God!) I think my leopard print leggings had something to do with it, motivation is still high and I spent all of last night looking at various female physiques for inspiration and to reinforce my goals.
Lesson number 4 – Staying inspired is key to succeeding.
Today I upped the weights on almost every exercise from Tuesday, so that's really boosted my spirits.
I think that a big part of getting through a big challenge is to set mini goals to focus on along the way. Whether it's tracking your weight or body fat each week, improving your lifts or fitting into a smaller dress size – those small achievements along the way will keep you feeling positive.
Oh – and I get to smash a banana with my protein shake today – winning!
Day 5 – I Love Steak
My food today was challenging but I'm slowly getting used to how to make each meal taste good and look appetising! Nevertheless, smoked salmon for breakfast makes my stomach churn – but needs must.
I had a good rest today which was definitely needed, and (lesson number 5) I've already learned to appreciate the importance of a day off.
Tonight this steak dinner was my final meal and it tasted incredible. I spent all day looking forward to it – heavy on the garlic and fresh chilli, chipotle flakes and cracked black pepper. Although at times it is a real struggle, I'm starting to enjoy the discipline of eating this way.
Day 6 – Kicking Ass
Today I felt well rested after my day without training. I rocked up to my Thai boxing class, feeling seriously hungry, and was kicked and punched for an hour and a half. My shins are now sufficiently bruised and my foot is really starting to give me grief. Hopefully the pain will pass.
Day 7 – Feeling ill – Wattbike Workout
Today I am sick. I feel like perhaps the sudden change in diet and training has had an impact on my immunity, as I rarely catch a cold, but this morning I feel truly rotten.
When I got to the gym today, my trainer decided it would be best for me to train tomorrow, instead of today, so I just pedalled away on the watt bike so that I was moving and utilising calories. Sweating it out did improve my mood temporarily, but I felt exhausted afterwards.
Nevertheless, 'The freedom of no choice' is something that I read in a book today, regarding a strict diet, and it's something I'm definitely relating too. I actually really like knowing exactly what I'll be eating and when. I feel in control.
Prior to the challenge, I would spend most evenings at the supermarket picking out exactly what healthy food I fancied for dinner (and spending a fortune!) Now, I know exactly what I'm going to have and I know that although some meals are less exciting than others – I can always look forward to something.
No matter how rubbish I feel, or how much I want to quit, there is always something to look forward to that keeps me going.
Week 1 has been an educational start to my transformation, and I can honestly say despite the occasional moan over my food I'm starting to really enjoy the process. Bring on week 2!