Archive for August, 2012

Overcoming Adversity, Battling Illness and Keeping Going

Overcoming adversity is something we will all need to do at times, whether it’s in the form of an injury, illness, financial problems or anything else that gets in your way.

When I first started training, I trained on a three day split, breaking down my workouts between;
Day 1: Back and Biceps,
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Shoulders, Chest and Triceps.

I found competition preparation surprisingly refreshing, my body felt “clean” and healthy, I had less energy some days but nothing I wasn’t previously used to and I could eat simple food based around a structure.

In my off season, I have aimed to remain about a stone above my stage weight. I stick with my contest diet during the week and I am a little more relaxed on weekends, basing my diet around getting higher protein as this is what works for me and my illness. Around 4 weeks ago, I started to suffer the symptoms of a flare up, and I knew that this would be a little more challenging than I had previously anticipated.

I spent a day in hospital, and the decision was to put me onto a reducing dose of prednisone, commonly known as a medicinal steroid, along with mesalazine to keep my Crohns condition in remission (once we get it there). The side effects have been challenging and I have really struggled emotionally.

I have been to see my doctor today and I need to go back to the hospital. I am suffering with mild psychosis, causing depression, paranoia and anger, and severe muscular weakness and fluid retention. This is causing me to suffer excruciating joint pain, particularly in my legs, and my calf muscles ache doing the most basic of things. It’s like doing a particularly hard calf workout every single day. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do medicinally other than take anti depressants which I am not willing to do.

As life takes over at times, I think that it is important to adapt your training and eating plan to suit you PERSONALLY. We are all individual, and I do not agree with the “one size fits all” approach.

After the show, I changed to a 4 day split,
Day 1: Back/Hams/Glutes,
Day 2: Shoulders/Triceps,
Day 3: Chest/Biceps and
Day 4: Quads/Calves.

As my glutes and legs hold most of my fat and need the most work, I also add in extra sets of walking lunges and train abs. I found that my recovery time was much slower, especially after training quads on their own (I tend to train them very very hard!) I was finding that my energy was lapsing to do my planned off season cardio.

However, the benefits of splitting my biceps and back training was prevalent quite quickly and I definitely saw gains in my biceps. My shoulders also pop through despite carrying extra weight which is always a confidence booster.

I have reconsidered my training split in light of needing extra recovery time, and also my current difficulties. I have decided to continue to work from a 4 day split, just because I enjoy spending so much time in the gym.

As I always say, some people like motorbikes, some people like make up, I like the gym, so why not spend more time there? I’ve decided to continue to keep my back and biceps separate as I hit my biceps training my back as well, so my new split looks like this:

Day 1: Back and Abs
Day 2: Chest and Biceps
Day 3: Legs
Day 4: Shoulders and Triceps

I am adding in 2-3 morning cardio sessions of between 45 minutes and 1 hour to keep lean and conditioned, and on “Day 5” I am adding in 1 hour of steady rate cardio, with 4-5 sets of squats so that I hit my glutes and quads again. I will also continue to do extra walking lunges.

In terms of dietary changes, I am retaining a lot of fluid with my medication which is causing me a serious amount of discomfort. Last week, I spent a couple of days playing around with my diet, I found that when I replaced more direct sources of carbohydrates such as rice and oats with bananas and fruit, I dropped a lot of fluid weight and my legs in particular looked totally different. Not many people realise overcoming adversity can be as simple as eating for some of us.

I kept my macros the same, and originally tried having bananas due to their potassium rich properties. This week, my diet changes will reflect my competition preparation but also my illness and water retention problems. I find that I feel much better when I do not have dairy (but if you cut dairy, it is VERY important to have calcium and vitamin D to assist with absorption). Again, my diet changes are personal to me and my current situation. I am also adding in extra Vitamin C to help with my fluid retention and cortisol levels along with dandelion root extract too.

The most important thing that I can stress from making changes to any diet and/or routine, is that you need to assess what works for your body as we are all wonderfully unique. What works for one person may not work for the next. Your macro breakdown might seem obscure to someone else, but if it works for you, then persist with it. It took me months to work out the correct calorie and macro levels, but once they fit me comfortably, I can easily adjust them and monitor the changes going on in my body.

If you ever have to overcome adversity, your personal goals are so important. My goal when I was very unwell in 2010 was to walk about 200 yards a day, to the shop and back. Now, that seems like an eternity ago… but it worked for me. So whatever your goals are, break them down into manageable steps. A year ago, I would never have dreamed of working 4-5 times a week, and now that’s me relaxing a little!

Determination, persistence and hard work always pay off – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too. Overcoming adversity is a challenge in its own right, but doing so feels as good as a personal best in the dead lift!

Have a great week!

~~Elle Mac~~

How do you overcome adversity and keep going?

Overcoming adversity, how do you do it?

From Fat to Fit in Six Months

    Fat – Fit in Six Months

For my first blog, I wanted to tell you a little more about the young lady behind the picture, and how I came about to be involved in bodybuilding and how it has changed my life and I went from fat – fit in six months.

I was 25 years old when I started my journey towards stepping on stage as a competitive bodybuilder. I was always relatively inactive as a teenager, I wasn’t involved in any sports at school or outside of it, as I was always suffering with fatigue and I didn’t have the inclination to think that I might be suffering from an illness.

I spent my teens as most “average” teenagers do, drinking, smoking and eating unhealthy food. I was never particularly overweight, and I really didn’t put too much value on my health at that point in time.

In 2005, after spending several months suffering from stomach and joint pains, I was diagnosed after a colonoscopy examination with Crohns Disease. Crohns Disease is an Irritable Bowel Disease, which can affect any part of your bowel from your mouth to your anus. The symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss (and gain), skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eyes, erythema nodosum (swelling of the fat tissue under the skin), tiredness, depression and lack of concentration. I spent the next 3 years in and out of hospital, still not really fully understanding what was happening to my body.

In 2008, I was struck down with a serious relapse. I lost 2 and a half stone of weight in the first 6 weeks and I was left in agony, sleeping for days on end and barely able to walk, becoming a recluse and suffering from depression. The disease ravaged my body for 10 long months, until finally, in April 2009, doctors agreed that they would need to operate to see what was going on inside my bowel.

I had 4 feet of my bowel removed including my ileum, which was to be expected as I had deep ulcerations and bleeding inside my bowel. The most shocking part was that I had a fistula track, which basically means that my bowel made its own pathway from my small bowel to my colon, which I had removed. I also had a hole in my colon and food outside of my bowel.

After a 5 and a half hour operation, doctors told me that most people are dead within 3 days of having such severe problems, so as you can imagine, going from fat to fit in six months feels like quite an achievement for me.

After 6 weeks in hospital and extensive physio to learn to walk upright again, I was allowed to go home. Lying in bed for weeks had left me weak and incapacitated, part of my physio was simply to lift the weight of my own leg from a bent to straight position whilst sitting in a chair.

I left the hospital at a weak 119 pounds (standing at 5’9”). I wasn’t allowed to eat any fibre for a minimum of three months and I was told to gain weight and gain weight I most certainly did!

I spent the next 4-5 months taking prednisolone (a commonly known a medicinal steroid), eating chocolate, cheese, pasta and ice cream. As my weight climbed, my confidence was battered by an unhealthy relationship and I became shy, self conscious and my self esteem was on the floor.

I developed an extremely unhealthy attitude towards food, rewarding myself with food whenever the opportunity arose, binge eating in secret, sabotaging my efforts all the time and feeling trapped in my own body. I would not eat in front of anyone else in case they thought I was gorging myself, and shrunk into a shroud of denial and desperation.

I also developed an unhealthy obsession with the way I looked and joined (and failed) at different slimming clubs, gyms, and fad diets on several occasions. If anyone wants to go from fat to fit, don’t try it with slimming clubs.

The breaking point came for me in August 2011. After living in Ireland for 8 years, I had moved back to England to start a new career opportunity, and one morning while getting dressed, I just saw an empty shell of the bubbly, confident and sexy young woman I used to be staring back at me. I was overweight at 193lbs, spotty and miserable. I had over 18 months experience working as a weight management coach and consultant, but I had never spent any time or energy working on myself. I knew from that point, that something had to change.

Whilst being sick, I had promised myself that I would achieve something that I would have always told myself would be physically impossible. My first idea was a marathon, but that really didn’t interest me. I had always had a fascination with the human body and watching bodybuilders sculpt and shape their bodies into something beautiful. What they do is almost like art, I made a decision that I would finally fullfil


goal and make the dream reality.

I started with small changes, which I will discuss in my next blog. The biggest support I had was in the form of Dougie and Jo Black Extreme Nutrition – I met Dougie a few weeks later at a social event, and he very kindly offered to assist me in pursuing my dream. I couldn’t have gone from fat – fit without them – but again, I shall tell you more about what happened next later on!

One year on, and while I am battling a small relapse. I am a healthy weight, I am strong, confident, and I have a new found passion for life. I am in a happy relationship with an incredible partner who has taught me to eat in front of people and that I am beautiful no matter what happens with my health or my body.

Having my fitness and bodybuilding goals gets me through the bad days. I competed in April 2012 in the NABBA West Britain Toned Figure category. I can honestly say that my health, my appearance and my whole outlook on life and relationship with food and my body has changed. I truly believe that anyone can do it- the ability to change is inside all of us.

For me, it was bodybuilding that saved me from myself and I have also completed a 26 mile trek- there was my marathon!

I hope that I can bring you information to support your current lifestyle, or inspire you into changing if that is what you wish to do. Enjoy reading!

~Elle Mac~ xx

Gym Ettiquette - article author

Author of “Gym Ettiquette – don’t be “that” person”

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