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?