Just over a month ago I did a photo shoot. I’m no aspiring model or anything fancy like that but it was a little goal I’d set myself as something to train towards. I’ve had quite a few people ask me about how I prepared for it and what drove me to do it so I thought I’d share on my blog for all those that are interested.
The goal – to become the best version of myself
I love to have a goal to focus on and drive me. I do enjoy training regardless of the goal, just for the feeling of health, happiness and vitality it gives me, but it’s great to have benchmark to reinforce the effort and progress made. In the past my training was fueled by the hope of a new running PB or podium finish. Although I’m back running regularly and have some running related goals that I’d like to achieve next year, I’m not yet at a place to properly get back racing, so I wanted something else to fuel the fire of my goal driven mindset.
I trained for a photo shoot about the same time last year for the ‘Oxygen Magazine’ Cover Girl competition. At the time my youngest ankle biter, Indi, was only 9 months and I’d only recently started incorporating regular weight training into my fitness routine. Training and entering that competition was more to signify me getting my body back post partum rather than an aspiration of actually coming anywhere in the competition (which I didn’t). However, I was pleasantly surprised with the results of last years shoot and the confidence and boost to my self-image it gave me. In the past I have certainly not been someone that looks at photos of myself in a positive light, but those photos from last years shoot were probably the first pictures (apart from my wedding day) I’ve ever looked at of myself and celebrated my good bits rather than scrutinized my flaws and was proud of the body I had worked for.
So this year when I was thinking of what non-running related training goals I could set myself, (particularly as I turn 40 in November -eek), I thought why not do another photo shoot and see if I could improve on last year and become a better version of me. Having those photos is also a cool little memento to showcase the fruits of my labour. Plus how cool would it be to have some pics to whip out and show the grandkids in years to come, when I’m old and crinkly, with boobs near my kneecaps and hairs on my chinny chin chin and go ‘Hey little dears look at your gran’s kickass six pack and guns of steel’.
My Health, Happiness and Family Time would not be compromised
One thing was key though; on my journey towards my goal I would NOT compromise my health, happiness or time with my family. That was non-negotiable in my mind. As much as I am driven, my family, health and happiness are a key component in that drive and motivation. So, what ever my plan was for becoming a better version of me it was going to be done in a way that was healthy, enjoyable and sustainable.
I have seen and read about people that get great results but in a regime spurred by deprivation, at great cost to their ongoing relationship with food, their bodies and their self esteem. Quite frankly that sort of regime scares the crap out of me. There is no doubt that going hardcore and strict can get results but at what cost. People that take this route reach their goal but are often miserable in the process, then can’t maintain it in the long term and fall off the wagon to go back to where they started or further….. and so begins the rollercoaster of yo-yoing body weight and self image.
I would not be embarking on any film star type harsh restrictive diets, marine corps training regimes or anything else that was unhealthy and could not be maintained or enjoyed. This was also sort of an experiment to prove you can look good, get lean, trim and in great shape, whilst having fun, without depriving your body, mind and soul.
How I trained and kicked my own butt
I wanted my body to change for the better and so to create a change I had to make a change. I already trained consistently (6 to 7 days a week) and have done for years so amping up my training was not going to be about increasing the quantity, it was more about focusing on the quality and variety. It was about making my workouts efficient, challenging and something that the body didn’t recognize, a bit of shock to the system. I’ve come to realize that the body gets used to things very quickly so to keep moving forward or indeed stop going backwards I needed to change and rev up my training on a regular basis.
I structured my training so that there was good variety in terms of the type of things I did in my weekly routine along with a mix of intensity.
The key building blocks of my weekly training routine were running, weights sessions, 1 Metabolic condition circuits, core / rehab work, walking and stretching. I also teach a HIIT class called GRIT so by default that was in, but in any case it was actually a great compliment to what I have trying to achieve.
Probably the biggest change really was the weights sessions – although I enjoy weights most of my weights were in the form of metcon circuits but I cut down the circuits and tried a different approach to my weight training inspired by Kat Loterzo’s ‘Look Great Naked’ training plan. It took a leap of faith as I’ve not trained that way before but boy did it get results.
The weight training in the ‘Look Great Naked’ training plan is based on super sets of upper and lower body at a slow tempo for the lowering phase of the rep (normally 3 counts) and a quicker tempo in the lifting phase of the rep (1 count or quicker). The weights are heavier and the recoveries are longer. Very different to my normal ‘go like a bat out of hell with sweat flying everywhere’ workouts but let me tell you – I could feel the burn and I saw the results of long lean muscles appear.
I dropped my beloved RPM classes and hot yoga classes as I just didn’t have time to do everything and wasn’t prepared for my hubby and children to be gym bunny widows. I also no longer believe that hours and hours of slogging the body (particularly with cardio) are required to get a lean and mean bod – if you want to know more about that see my ‘Less can be more and more can be less’ article. It’s all about being smart and making sure each workout counts.
Here is a sample week of my training….
|Monday||AM: Weights session (Look Better Naked Weight Training Plan)PM: Walk home (50mins)|
|Tuesday||AM: Quality running session of approx. 60 to 70 mins incorporating some sort of intervals like 6x3mins with 2mins jogs in between.PM: 30mins of stretching and rehab in front of the tv.|
|Wednesday||AM: Short Metcon circuit in my lounge no longer than 20mins (something like 5 rounds of 30 squats, 25 mountain climbers, 20 Dips, 15 KB swings, 10 Press ups, 5 burpees)PM: Teach GRIT class|
|Thursday||AM: 60 to 70min steady run in which I’d incorporate hills, strides and tempos.PM: 30mins of Stretching and core work in front or the TV.|
|Friday*||AM: Weights session (Look Better Naked Weight Training Plan) & Body Balance Class*If I felt particularly tired I would cut this weights session and either have a complete rest day or just do Body Balance or a stretch at home.|
|Saturday||AM: Quality running session incorporating shorter intervals. It varied but example session is 20mins easy followed by 20 x 30sec sprint (@20kph) 30 sec slow jog (9kph) no stopping or eeking out the recovery then 20min easy run.PM: 50 min walk with Indi in the buggy or stretching|
|Sunday||AM: Trail / off road run of about 80mins.PM: Weights session (Look Better Naked Weight Training Plan)|
How I chowed down to melt down
As much as the training shapes your body it really is the eating that trims the body. I know I probably sound like a scratched record but ‘You can’t exercise off a bad diet’. The food is key to shifting fat and getting in photo ready shape. You can train like a hardcore elite athlete but if you don’t respect your eating plan the body will hold on to the love handles.
The nutrition side of my regime was not a big change to what I was already doing. I never diet, EVER, and that wasn’t going to change. However, when I’m asked about what I eat (which I often am) and run through it the usual response is ‘Oooh, but that sounds like a diet to me’. What I want to make clear is that my eating was already something that I have worked on gradually, bit by bit, tweak by tweak, over the past few years. I have researched nutrition, I understand my food motivation, I have experimented and learnt what works for my body, my energy and my training along with what doesn’t. I also have come to really understand what my emotional type is when it comes to food and this really cannot be under estimated as often our decisions related to food are emotionally rather than logically driven.
So back to my eating – I already followed a clean eating approach to eating based around unprocessed foods, lots fresh veg and fruit, animal proteins, good fats, herbs and spices.
The key principles to my eating continued which were
- Protein with every meal (fish, meat, eggs)
- Lots of green veggies
- Lots of good fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish, coconut products)
- I would limit carbs after 5pm unless I had a particularly hard session the next morning
- No more than 2 pieces of fruit a day
- Regular meals (no more than 4 hours without eating)
- No processed foods or sugar
- Lots of water
Here is an example of typical days eating….
|Pre morning workout||Black coffee and a corn cracker with almond butter and slice banana|
|Breakfast post workout||Protein Pancakes (Oats, eggwhites, vanilla protein powder, flaxmeal) with greek yogurt, berries and almond butter)|
|Mid morning||Apple and Walnuts (or almond butter) plus Long Machiatto|
|Lunch||Salad made with Chicken, avocado, spinach, grated carrot, cucumber, raw broccoli.ORLeftovers from previous nights dinner|
|Mid afternoon||Protein Shake and some nuts or a Chocolate Bliss ball (This is often the time when I fancy something sweet so I’d have a clean treat)|
|Dinner||Meatballs served with tomato sauce, service with broccoli and zuchinni ribbons|
|Evening snack||Greek yoghurt with almond butter and a little vanilla whey protein.|
I was very conscious to be prepared each day and make sure I had clean snacks in my bag if I was out and about so I didn’t get over hungry and make bad choices or skip meals. I also made sure I ate mindfully by taking time over my meals and tasting every morsel so it hit that sweet spot between my mind and my belly.
I’m not big into supplements but I did take fish oil, magnesium and glutamine along with the Protein Powder that I incorporated into my eating.
Once a week I would (usually at the weekends) have one of my clean eating, sugar and gluten free dessert creations.
So all this to some may sound like an strict regime, but to me it felt like a yummy days eating that made me feel good inside and out, which I’ve built up to layer upon layer over the past year or two. Working towards the photo shoot I was just a little more careful not to be tempted by the boys leftovers (a big weakness for me – particularly when it’s fish and chips) or morning tea treats laid on at work or my once beloved massive cappuccinos that I used to be so addicted to that they could have been crack cocaine.
About 5 days before the shoot I cut my carbs down so I only had carbs at breakfast and made sure I avoided anything with any salt in. This was to ensure I didn’t retain any fluid for the shoot which was an important finishing touch to all the hard work.. Just 5 days with limited carbs turned me into a rabied dog – another case in point that this little lady is NOT meant to diet or be restricted of vital food groups – no sirreeee.
The glitz and glamour
I’m not one for all the fluff and trimmings when it comes to glamming up, a bit of mascara, some lippy and I’m good to go, but when in Rome do as a Victoria’s Secret model would. So I polished up a bit for the shoot with some pampering and beautification as follows:
- French Manicured Gel Nails
- Several layers of St Tropez fake tan topped up with a spray tan to bronze up my pasty ass (the lights really suck out the colour of a tan on camera so I was adviced to go Beyonce Bronze :0)
- Make-up done at the Mac Counter
- Hair blow dried and straightened
- Torturous bikini waxing – had to be done but yeeeeee-iiiikkkkeees
I can now see how being a celebrity is a full time job because they do this stuff all the time and my goodness it is tiring, expensive and time consuming. No wonder celebs mostly look great, apart from of course when some paparazzi catches them nipping down the supermarket for a litre of milk in their jim jams, or dropping their kids at school without make up (like the rest of us), or getting out of the car without any knickers on as you do (Brittany what were you thinking)
Despite all the razzle dazzle preening, I was careful to make sure I still looked like me, I wanted my pics to be real reflection of me and the person I am, which is also why I would not be allowing any airbrushing near my pics when they were done. Hardly any magazines and adverts feature non air-brushed images and it gets my goat. It’s fine to look at images that inspire and motivate but when those photos aren’t real it’s causing people to aspire to something that isn’t realistic.
So all coiffed and preened and ready to go I looked in the mirror before the shoot and thought – ‘Yep – nice work missy, job done. This is the equivalent of your mara PB or a race win. You are staring back at the best version of yourself and have done it in a healthy, balanced way whilst enjoying the process’. It proves it can be done. I’m not genetically gifted. If I eat rubbish and sit on my butt, I get fat and that is a fact. I’m just an ordinary run of the mill girl, who likes a challenge, enjoys being healthy, respects my body and likes to look good. All that was left was to pick up my trophy and get the pics taken. LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!