Interview with First Time Fitness Bikini Competitor

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Mel, age 43, will have her first bikini competition coming up October 2017. Yes, that’s right – a first-time bikini competitor at 43! Mel’s story is an inspiration to anyone who has braved a new sport, or embraced a new fitness regime.

 – Mel, what influenced your decision to become a fitness bikini competitor? Do you have any prior experience in the sport?

–  I’m a qualified physiotherapist, working for the NHS in respiratory medicine, so I’ve always been fascinated by the capabilities of the human body. I have dabbled in gym workouts in the past, but never consistently, and never with any grand plan, focus or ambition. In the past, I’ve trained in GKR karate (up to brown belt level) but struggled with hip flexibility, and I’ve been a keen runner for the last three years. I used to train 4 or 5 times a week, putting in the speed and hill training, and the long runs. In fact, I ran in six half marathons in 2016 to raise money for charity. However, by autumn of last year, I was struggling with various knee and hip niggles. I’d broken virtually all my distance personal bests, and I wasn’t getting any faster. I needed a new challenge and a definite focus. From this point, I launched my fitness journey.

– What were the first impressions of a new sport? Is it easy for amateurs to find a coach you can trust?

– It wasn’t exactly easy, but absolutely possible with determination. I’d got a few contacts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in the fitness industry, and was generally interested in fitness and health through my running and through work. I’m also a bit of a demon for ordering new leggings and training gear, and loved to try and find brands no one regularly wore. It was through such clothing profiles that I began to see pics of bikini competitors. To be honest, the ladies I was used to seeing on stage in bikinis were the typical muscle-bound, very fit-looking types. I soon discovered this was more ‘figure’ or ‘physique’ category. While I have incredible admiration and respect for the discipline and dedication of these ladies, I decided this wasn’t the sort of look I wanted. So, I investigated further. I wanted to be there on that stage.  I joined my local Xercise4Less gym in October last year, and found an online trainer to kick-start me with a fitness regime. She was fabulous, a bikini competitor herself, but, by her own admittance, was not a competition prep coach. So I searched again online.

-Have you already found like-minded fellow competitors?

I found out about Strong Girl Army, a group of like-minded ladies; run by the incredible Emma Howie. She inspires these ladies to become better, healthier versions of themselves, through healthy eating, and strength/resistance training. She also has the incredible accolade of placing in the Top 3 of every bikini competition she has entered so far. Of course, I was inspired enough to join Emma’s SGA on December 1st last year.

-What results have you already achieved?

I have been on a weekly program of 4 gym sessions a week. I’m deadlifting, bench pressing, and all sorts of things I never thought I could do. I can deadlift more than my body weight at present. I’m on an eating plan, with the correct balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats (macronutrients, or macros as I’ve come to know and love!) I’m currently in the best shape I’ve ever been and it’s only going to get better.

-Having sufficient personal experience, what would you recommend for beginners? What should they pay attention to?

-Well, obviously you have to get into shape, as I’ve already stated. It’s much easier to do so with an experienced personal trainer, but you really need someone to train you and ‘prep’ you in competition specifics. Some people have a trainer and a prep coach – I guess it’s up to you. I know competitors who do their own preparation, but as a beginner, I would not have had a clue where to start. Secondly, you need to find these competitions. This requires you to join a particular bodybuilding federation. There are loads out there. I chose UK Ultimate Physiques, on recommendation from my original trainer. They are fairly new, very athlete-friendly, and great for beginners. As a member, I then signed up for my first competition – UKUP Northern Qualifiers in October. I will be in the Over 35’s category. There is even a category for beginners, but I considered myself a bit old to join them! You’ll also need to consider other things like fake tan (has to be a professional tan, very dark so you get the muscle definition under the lights!), dazzling crystal bikinis, hair, and makeup. But that’s all further down the line and your coach will advise you on those. You’ll also have to consider the scary thought of learning to pose and walk on stage. In heels!!! Scared!!!

-What do you think is the most important, and the most difficult aspect of preparation?

I think the most important thing is to go all-in with your commitment, and assess your abilities properly. This brings me to the main considerations I had to deal with – time, and money. Bikini competing costs – a lot in most cases. Yes, there are ways you can cut back: second hand bikinis, training, and prepping yourself, doing own hair, etc. But it’s still not cheap however you do it. There are also issues with time. Can you fit in full-time work, family, shopping, gym sessions, cardio sessions, posing practice, etc.? The food itself takes a lot of planning and preparing. Family and friends don’t always understand and worry you’re getting too thin. I don’t have a family of my own, but my parents definitely do not approve. Some nights you may have to miss events. If you are prepping for a competition, your diet will certainly be more restrictive – do you have the willpower to resist temptation?

-Who supports you?

If you have support, it makes things a bit easier. This could be close friends, fellow competitors, a partner, or family. Along with Emma, and my beautiful, fellow SGA ladies, I have a wide circle of friends on social media, most of whom are fellow competitors or gym goers. They motivate me; they keep me going, the support my dreams. This is crucial to my survival in this bikini world – having someone there who completely understands why you are crying when you can’t shoulder-press as much as last week. My biggest fear in all this is that I won’t make the grade in time. But, so what if I don’t? I’m a novice.

-What’s your mindset going forward? Is there anything else you’d like to share with those considering competing? 

I don’t expect to get on that stage and win my first time out, or even place – although it’s certainly been done before! I’m just working towards the best package I can provide this year. I will get on that stage, in my gorgeous EleiraFit custom-made crystal bikini and my four-inch heels, and look great. Then I’ll take the judges feedback from how I place, and move forward to planning for the next competition.

It’s all a journey – you never reach the destination, you simply continue to improve, make positive changes, and strive to be the best you can be!

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