My journey to the stage | Part 1: From bulking to cutting
I’d often thought about competing in bodybuilding, I saw it as my alternative to a marathon (as I hate running). However, for me, competing was never about getting ridiculously lean, I know being ‘stage-lean’ isn’t sustainable and I’d much rather have a booty over abs (no one goes around grabbing your abs do they?) For me, it was about confidence and discipline. I have so much respect for anyone that gets on that stage for those two reasons. What first triggered me to lose weight was my lack of confidence; I was sick of seeing photos of myself I cringed at, of trying on clothes and hating how they looked, of shying away from situations because I simply wasn’t that confident. If you had told the ‘me’ from 3 years ago I’d be competing in a bodybuilding show, in a bikini, in heels, in front of hundreds of people I didn’t know, I would have been absolutely horrified.
And so, 3 years later here we are. Once I’d made the decision to make 2016 the year I competed, I promised myself that before I got to that stage I would make a conscious effort to ‘bulk’ prior to cutting down. Not just because I wanted to put on some more muscle mass before leaning down but also because I wanted to be comfortable with seeing the number of the scales go up, I wanted to make sure I still loved my body and my shape with less definition and a bit more ‘fluff’. Coming from a background of first losing weight, I knew that mentally this was something I had to do; I’d heard far too many stories of just how much competing can mess with your head.
So to any girls out there anxious about the prospect of trying to put on weight, let me just take a moment to say it was the best decision I made! It was so liberating to fuel my body with the food it needed to actually grow, to witness how rapidly my strength went up and how incredibly energised I felt during my workouts. And funnily enough, the more weight I put on, the stronger I got, the more confident I became (and actually the more likely I was to wear just a sports bra even though my abs had most definitely disappeared).
So my ‘bulk’ began around mid-October and ended towards the end of January. In that time I went from 55kg to just over 60kg (I’m 5’3). With the help of my amazing coach Josh McHale, who I started working with in November, I ended my bulk the strongest I’ve ever been by a mile, with limited fat gain and feeling confident I could now work towards a physique I’d be proud of on the stage. Which stage will I be competing on I hear you ask? My first show is the UKBFF South Coast on Sunday 24th April, followed by the Bodypower Classic 3 weeks later on 15th May. Have I ordered my bikini I hear you ask? I have indeed, but I’ll keep that my little secret for the time being.
So what changed from bulking to cutting? During my bulk I was eating consistently over 2000 calories a day, with only 15 minutes of HIIT cardio every 5 days, the rest of my training was purely weights, with the goal of putting the extra food to good use and getting as strong as possible. Since I began cutting, about 3 weeks ago, calories have been slowly decreasing, with a little more low-intensity cardio thrown in every other day (nothing like a fun, fast incline walk on the treadmill to keep you entertained *note sarcastic tone*). However, my training and split remains the same – 4 days weight training, followed by 15 minutes of HIIT cardio every 5th day – and given that I’m still making PB’s and pushing more weight, I’d say I’m headed in the right direction. I’m also proud to say that I don’t think I’ve missed a single workout in the past 3 months and since my ‘last hurrah’ meal 4 weeks ago I haven’t eaten a single meal off plan (*snaps for meeee*). My competitive nature is definitely coming through and when I step on that stage I want to be confident I did everything in my power to win.
Calories wise, I now alternate between low days and high days (sometimes 2 low days, followed by 1 high, sometimes 3 low days, followed by 1 high). Josh makes small adjustments each week, so that’s where I’m at right now, but things are constantly changing as we push for more progress. As for my weight, I now weigh 57kg but am close to being the leanest I’ve ever been, but a good 2kg heavier, so I’m confident my bulk did its job. This Sunday I’ll be 9 weeks out, with 63 days left until I need to strut my stuff on that stage. I’ll also be attending my first posing workshop this Sunday, which I’m sure will be a very entertaining experience, but I’ll save the details (and videos if you’re lucky) of that, for Part 2.
Follow Abby and her Gains4Girls team mate Lucy here