ANNA MILLINGTON - a story of success! 2011 NPA British & INBF World Champion
Anna Millington – a story of success
2011 NPA British & INBF World Champion
Bodybuilding isn’t just about the day of the competition, it’s also about the journey to get to that day. This superb portrait of a Ladies Physique Champion is about such a journey, it’s about the effort, discipline, emotion and determination to be the best you can be; it’s about giving 110% as you give your all to be at your best, and to be the best. This self-penned article by Anna will inspire and encourage you to give it your best, and if you do, you may become a British & World Champion. Many thanks to Anna for putting her thoughts, feelings and efforts into words so we can all be encouraged to get down to the gym and work hard; there are no excuses! – MJP.
I started weight training at the age of 14 in a very typical ‘spit and sawdust’ type gym in Hindley, Wigan called ‘Beef It’ surrounded by bodybuilders and walls covered with pictures of amazing physiques and famous Bodybuilders. I used to gaze at them, inspired, but never thinking I’d one day be competing and following the same path they must have been on at some point in their lives!
I have been in and out of gyms training through the years and always kept generally fit and strong while pursuing my other sporting passion of hockey, which I have played to a high standard for many years.
I joined the fire service 9 years ago and began to concentrate more specifically on strength endurance training to compete in Firefighter events at the Bi-annual World Firefighter Games (WFFG). Competing nationally and internationally I always placed in the top 3 but never quite managed that No.1 spot. This encouraged me year on year to train harder and kept me focused. I was making performance gains with an added bonus of physical gains from a sculpting point of view, although that wasn’t important to me at the time. Due to financial reasons I didn’t manage to make the WFFG 2010 in South Korea and more importantly a one day event in Germany in 2009. Feeling confident, at my strongest ever and having one particular girl to challenge for top spot, I was mortified to have to sacrifice my trip when I believe I’d done enough for it to be my year!!
Yes, as you can probably gather, I am a very competitive person and always strive to better myself. I therefore needed something else at this point to keep me focused in training, another goal, another challenge, but also one that didn’t cost the earth. I also didn’t want to waste all the hard work I had already put in over the past 6 years or so with my strength training.
While training in my local gym, just months before I had to pull out of the Germany event, I was approached by another member who had been a spectator at a few Bodybuilding shows. He asked if I had ever thought of competing because of my physique; I just laughed, thinking that was way out of my league and I could never get into such amazing condition as you see on some competitors in the photos. I pondered on this idea as a seed had been planted, could this be the new challenge I was looking for? Out of curiosity and to get an honest opinion, I decided to go to a Natural Bodybuilding meet held at Paul George’s Olympic Gym in Eccles, Manchester in May 2009. I was overwhelmed by the positive response from past and present bodybuilders. It felt like I’d been welcomed into one big happy family, somewhere I actually felt normal, understood and amazingly relaxed considering I was very apprehensive before I got there. I think most bodybuilders will have experienced this as the outside world really doesn’t seem to understand why, who and what we do this for, never mind the preparation, focus, dedication and discipline needed to actually get out there and compete in stage worthy condition. Anyway, I was encouraged to compete 5 weeks later at the BNBF Central qualifier as a trial run for the Northern qualifier the following week, this was to get rid of all the first time nerves and get most of the mistakes out of the way before giving it my best shot the week after; it was a crazy but rewarding experience. I placed third in the Central qualifier, followed by the runner-up spot in the BNBF Northern Championships the week later and I qualified for their British finals in the September. I was amazed to be there, let alone take a fifth place trophy home from the Brits. I was told I would either hate it or become hooked! Hooked I was! I worked harder than ever after anxiously digesting the feedback from the judges so I could better myself for the following year.
It was a very short period of time for growth but I made significant improvements and decided to compete in two early May 2010 qualifiers with BNBF and NPA (Yorkshire), winning both and qualifying for the British Championships in both organizations. It was a very long year of dieting (33 weeks) which eventually took its toll on my body but I still managed to take a respectable 3rd and 4th place at their respective British Finals. I was reasonably happy with my progress in only 18 months of competing but it left me wanting more and to make more improvements to place higher the following year.
I had learned so much about my body since my first crash diet to get on stage in just 5 weeks. I listened to lots of differing opinions and picked bits out of each one, getting very confused as to what was going to be the best advice to follow. As I now know, what works for one person doesn’t always work for another so no-one can give you the perfect answer, making it all trial and error.
Season 1 - 2009
I learned the hard way in my first season by not eating enough to maintain my muscle mass, and put my body into starvation mode, so although looking very slim (if not slightly emaciated) with reasonable definition for my first British Finals, my body had dropped in muscle mass and held onto any desperate fat it could get hold of in the 12 weeks of further incorrect dieting I had put it through. Drained wasn’t the word, operating on fumes sounded more realistic, especially towards the end. With an active full time job and a daughter to look after and entertain, as well as my hours of cv to get in, my body was getting angry with me and vice versa!!
It was on walking away from my first British Finals that I was stopped by a guy I could have swung for, Floyd Brown – he was simply offering a little advice – grabbing a small fold of skin at my waist line he continued to tell me that the fat I was still holding on to was indicating that I haven’t been eating enough! I could feel the steam coming out of my ears, did this guy really know the pain and starvation I had put myself through to get in this condition, and he tells me I could have eaten more to look better – aarrgghh! I bit my tongue and nearly ate it, but heard him out. He has since become a very good friend that I can turn to in my manic panic moments and who took me through a very crucial part of letting go of my scales to allow my gains for the following years and recent success. All of his background knowledge made sense and so I changed my diet, eating more but learning, researching and trialing different approaches towards the off and on season intakes.
Season 2 - 2010
Onto my second season – after sacrificing summer time and many BBQ’s with friends the year before, I decided to focus on an early qualifier, which then became two early qualifiers as both NPA and BNBF were each running a May qualifier, with the intention of dieting for the shows and hopefully if I placed in the top 2, I’d make the Finals but could eat well in summer (join in with BBQ’s and beers!) and training hard for maybe a few more little gains then diet down again for the Finals. Ok, my plan went horribly wrong! My improvement became apparent and my dieting went really well for the qualifiers, winning both and gaining a place in both British Finals. Really happy with the results and how I was looking, I then didn’t want to let go of my condition and have to start the diet all over again. I was proud of my new shape and thought it would be good for summer anyway and the beach break that was booked, so I didn’t relax with the diet too much. It felt like a life time until the Finals though 4-5 months away. I kept training hard but my food intake wouldn’t have allowed for any noticeable gains and if I was just a little leaner from the qualifiers, I was more than happy to take it to stage. The very long diet took its toll in the end leaving me very drained, lacking motivation and losing a little muscle mass I feel, but still managed to deliver, I just wanted to get to the end and I wasn’t going to come all this way and give up. I placed well considering and bettered last years placings but my condition and shape didn’t seem as good as May for some reason, disheartening me after all that work – lesson number 2, the hard way yet again – dieting too long (33 weeks!) doesn’t work for me.
If it wasn’t for the support from Phil, my partner, and friendly banter with some of the girls I was competing with at the NPA and a few others I’d shared the stage with previously, I may not have finished the season on a high. Focusing on the after show munchies we were going to bring along, encouraging and supporting each other through the hard times we all seemed to be going through brought the fun and enjoyment back into the sport I am passionate about. I can’t think of many sports were you actually support your biggest rivals minutes before going on to a stage to battle it out. Regardless of the results, we all couldn’t wait for our ‘Nuttall creation’, Nutella and peanut butter hob-nob sandwich after show celebration!!
Season 3 - 2011
Ok, on to season 3 – after a tough second year with progress made, I had to attack my next year with a different approach. I made a conscious decision to get back to some serious training but didn’t want to let a year go by and miss a season of competing as a lot of bodybuilders do to put on some size. I felt I had enough size for a female Natural bodybuilder although the judge’s feedback was once again that my lower body didn’t compliment my upper body with size or condition so I had a main area to concentrate on for the off season. My plan was to provide my body with fuel that would allow my legs to grow with sufficient training and focus work for strength and size, and then diet for the shortest period possible between qualifiers and Finals to just improve conditioning without sacrificing muscle mass. I planned to compete in the latest qualifiers to give myself as much time as possible for growth!
Training and development for Season 3
After a chat with Eric Dowey, I decided to have a go at his recommended squat programme once the Christmas celebrations were out the way and I wouldn’t be quite as bothered how I was walking in a party dress and heels (I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about after a squat day). Scales went out of the window again, shortly followed by my size 10 jeans, as my reasonably clean but changed diet plan came into effect running alongside a tough training programme. Only became a little worrying when a few of my size 12 jeans were trying to follow my size 10’s for an easier more comfortable life on my top shelf instead of being forced over a bigger backside once the legs had squeezed in! On a clean diet, although very hard to accept, especially being a woman, I was reassured it was all good growth so I was doing something right with my legs and glutes growing nicely!
I followed a squat programme on top of my usual routine for a few months then switched to a very intensive overtraining programme for a further ten weeks before returning to my squats. The gains I made were proving rewarding and in some areas more obvious than others. Legs were my main focus, but as squats spur on growth around the whole body, my gains were noticeable all over with strength and size.
I was feeling comfortable eating more and allowed my body to do what it wanted to which I hadn’t let go of before in fear of becoming too fat. In a way I couldn’t wait to start my diet so I could see what was underneath the fat layers and what gains, changes in shape or improvements have taken place from all my hard work.
Dieting and Shows
With my plan in place, my first show would be with the BNBF at the end of July so my full focus on dieting started in May allowing 13 weeks. My diet was reasonably clean already but slowly pulled in tighter over the weeks so not making any drastic changes while gradually introducing more cardio each week to get things moving a little more.
My weight came down nice and steady over the weeks gradually revealing more and more definition, particularly in my upper body as that always tends to lean up first. I felt good, the diet wasn’t a struggle and I still had lots of energy and full strength in my workouts.
I had been making my monthly visit to the Olympic Gym to touch base with other Northern Souls competing this year and to practice my posing under the watchful eye of Paul & Tanya George and Dawn & Dave Roberts who offered their invaluable support and guidance on the run up to competitions. The banter and practice kept my motivation and focus high through the season.
By show time, at the end of July, I felt ready, I had dropped enough weight and body fat to make a confident appearance. I was still full of energy which was unusual at this point, I felt bigger and better in my legs but still had concerns over the condition of my lower half, I was just hoping I had done enough to qualify giving me more time to bring my condition in. With the help of Phil, I had mastered a routine using decorative weapons as props (BNBF allow props) so I was also excited to deliver something new to the stage.
I really enjoyed the day and being back into the thick of it again, catching up with others from the past few years and meeting new-comers. My routine seemed to go down well with the audience and was fun for me to do too. A successful first show of the season by placing 1st and also receiving ‘Best Presentation’ with an invite to their British Finals 7 weeks later.
Next stop – BNBF British Finals – I followed the same plan for 7 more weeks and continued to drop weight and condition tightening up week after week so I felt bigger and better than ever for the Finals day. The Finals were always going to present a tough line up but I couldn’t wait to get up there and battle it out. The feedback from the judges at the qualifier had already confirmed to my delight that I had already achieved my goal for the year by displaying good symmetry and balance with my legs now complimenting my upper body that I had lacked in the previous years. The only challenge now was to bring in my condition. Much to my disappointment and after what I thought was a good showing, I was placed 5th.The feedback was down to one thing alone – the conditioning of my glutes, so not sure how that alone warranted such a low placing when I felt only two others had better overall conditioning. You win some, you lose some I suppose! I had much positive feedback after the show from others about my gains this year and how they were surprised with the results too, so this spurred me on to do even better in the coming months.
Being very self critical I then decided the only way to get through the next competitions was to just attack my regime hard and make some drastic changes to try and get this condition through one way or another. I started pre-breakfast cardio, heading out at 5.30am every morning with ankle weights on for an hour power-walking up and down the country lanes in the dark. This was in addition to my regular weights sessions and further hour of cardio by the end of the day. I changed my diet by dropping my carbohydrates very low but keeping my protein and fats high.
I had decided to enter and compete at the UKDFBA Open British Championship (a new organization supporting drug free competition) just one week after my big disappointment. There were titles up for grabs and I believed I was worth more than last week. I went for it, getting in another hard week of training and serious diet. It was sure worth the extra effort as I felt my condition improved again giving me a little more confidence to get up and perform. The results were a great turn around, earning my first British title and recognition for my presentation. Just what I needed to pick me up again!
With my head held high, I ploughed through another hard week of training and diet for my next competition. I knew this was going to be tough on my body mentally and physically, competing in three shows over three weekends, but I had good support and stayed focused with determination to prove a point.
After two weeks of beasting myself, I felt different again. For the NPA Mike Williams Classic, my glutes and legs had come on a little better. I went on to enjoy a great day with the NPA gang. All the media hype because Jodie Marsh was there competing in her first show, lots of back-stage banter with old friends, and a fantastic line up of female bodybuilders in amazing condition. I unfortunately didn’t get in the line-up with Jodie Marsh as she fell into the lightweight category but I did take the heavyweight title to be then put on stage to battle it out for the Overall Physique Champion’s title with the lightweight winner and 5 times NPA British Champion Carol Streeter. We had a ball and I just enjoyed myself trying my best to pose hard and rock the stage, just chuffed to be up there with such a top athlete. I was then elated to win and take the title for the show (my best and most emotional win in my bodybuilding history to that day). This also led to an invite to the NPA British Finals. My confidence was back but this time ten fold.
Got to keep digging in, nearly there! What had worked for me over the past few weeks, I stuck to until the Finals, not missing one morning walk, come rain or cold! Conditioning kept coming slowly but noticeably. I went through plenty of up and down moments, putting my fella through hell and back with my body dismorphia – feeling fat, then skinny, flat then soft, seeing lines appear then disappear. It was a horrible waiting game. At this point, as I was still on a low carbohydrate diet (with a once a week refeed) and pushing in extra cardio; physically and mentally I was struggling more with hunger and lack of energy, craving more. These last few weeks were the toughest. When the contest is just a couple of days away, I can see light at the end of the tunnel (and food!); I look forward to my night-before-show glass of wine to help dry me out a bit more and am fully focused although praying my condition will be at its best in the morning for competition day!
NPA British Finals three weeks after my qualifier became another exciting experience, with tighter conditioning, displaying lines and shapes I had never seen on myself before; my confidence was boosted to fight for the British heavyweight title. With fantastic line ups, and girls up there that had beaten me before, it was my turn! I took the heavyweight title and was in a rematch with Carol Streeter for the Overall again. She, like I, had really tightened up and this time she pipped me with her immense condition. A fantastic battle and more-than-happy result for the year.
Two British Titles but it wasn’t to end there. I had finished at this point on a high and feeling at my best yet but what followed was unexpected – an invitation to compete at the INBF/WNBF World Championships in New York with UKDFBA Team UK, shortly followed by an invitation to join the Great Britain NPA team to compete at the UIBBN World Championships! Gob smacked!
I accepted both invitations knowing that I had another 4-5 weeks hard work, diet and focus to get through. That really didn’t phase me though as this could be a once in a life time opportunity, the World Stage! Me! Couldn’t believe this was happening after my disappointing set back only 6 weeks earlier! I might never reach this condition again so have to strike while the fire’s hot and have no regrets!
The real world and normal family life was put on hold for another four weeks as I gave my full focus on hard training, dieting and preparing for my trips abroad. New bikini’s ordered from my good friend Tracey Abbott at FitforU Bikinis who blinged me up good and proper for that World Stage. Tan sorted, hotel, flights booked and careful packing praying I don’t forget anything essential.
New York came first. It was exciting, and my condition just kept coming, reassuring me I’m actually going to be at my best when I get there. My partner Phil was coming for support, he had been a star for putting up with me and he’s also very good at tanning me, also trying to keep me calm during my crazy moments, and always encouraging me when I’m actually on the stage.
2011 INBF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - NEW YORK
Feeling privileged for the invite and not wanting to forego the opportunity of a lifetime, I called the UK team organiser, Lee Kemp, to confirm my acceptance. Following my recent success, I had been selected to set foot on the World stage to compete, perform and show off my best condition yet in a line up with some of the best natural female amateur bodybuilders in the world.
Although I had been fighting with myself over finances for a couple of days previously when I had been approached, (the trip was self-funded and way beyond my budget), I decided to accept, because this chance may never come around again, I would figure out a way to raise money to get there somehow or simply have to max my Visa card up and pay it off over time.
The INBF/WNBF World Championships in New York are the biggest and most prestigious Natural Bodybuilding competition in the world and I felt honoured to be invited not only to compete in New York, but also to compete in Italy a week later at the UIBBN World Championships as a member of the NPA Great Britain team; this trip was funded by the NPA, and I accepted another fantastic opportunity knowing I had to work towards one at a time, as this could all take its toll on my well being and more importantly my condition for stage. Seven competitions in one season is a huge amount of stress for anyone to put their body through let alone the hours of flying and time differences to adjust to for International competitions.
For the American trip, I wrote many letters to companies in hope of sponsorship, approached my local gym and even got a write up in my local paper in the hope of funds but to no avail. I managed to run a small raffle at my local gym to make a start as anything would be a bonus. Time was flying and the stress of no money was another burden on my mind. I luckily struck gold with the help of the DSRA and CSSC who were kind enough to help me on my quest and ease my financial pressure for New York. This in turn allowed my mental frame of mind to return to the actual competition and preparations needed.
With flights and accommodation booked, travel visa sorted, tanning booked and new blinged up bikini ordered, I had just 2 more weeks of painfully tiring training and dieting left. I thought the season would have finished weeks ago and I could start eating nice things again, winding down to the Christmas period but no, I had taken on 4-5 more weeks of an extremely low carbohydrate diet, with 5 meals of chicken per day, occasional additions of broccoli and regular handfuls of almonds to give me good fats for my energy levels, oh, and the only thing I looked forward to – my bowl of oats and water in the morning with a scoop of protein mixed into it for a little sweetness! My diet didn’t stretch much past this.
I could see light at the end of the tunnel and all the efforts of dragging myself out of bed at 5.30am every morning to do an extra hour pre-breakfast cardio with ankle weights on, up and down the country lanes, mostly in the dark and fighting hunger was going to be worth just standing on that World stage, hopefully not looking out of place!
With my suitcase packed, weighed, repacked and packed again, I carried it downstairs to the front door knowing that after only a couple of hours sleep and a very early start time to the airport, I probably wouldn’t have time to check things again. Chicken cooked, weighed, wrapped up in portions and in the fridge, almonds weighed out and emergency protein bars / oat bars at the ready for a quick pack up in the morning, off to bed I went.
Thursday 4.30am arrived. I had been following such a strict diet and eating every 3 hours – this early start had already messed my plan up but although starving, it felt far too early to be eating so just had a coffee, got sorted and on our way we went. I was lucky enough to have a very supportive partner who accompanied me and more importantly put up with my ups and downs all season! At the airport we had enough time for a coffee and a protein flapjack (a luxury for me instead of my oats that morning which felt like the start of holiday treat!) to get my only carbohydrates in for the day. I was on a high water day needing to get in 6 litres minimum by the end of the day and it was also important to stay hydrated through the flight so I bought 3 litres to take onboard, after requesting an aisle seat at check-in for the consequences that follow this!
The 8 hour flight went fast, I managed to grab an hours sleep, watched a film or two, glugged down my water, leading to numerous walks up and down the aisles which was good for the legs on a long haul flight anyway, and munched on my timed meals of almonds and cold chicken. I looked around at meal time and even the plane meals looked fantastic, with chocolate brownie treats sent to test me, and the bread rolls! Oh, the things I was longing for weren’t that far away now!
Touching down in New York at 5pm British time, all of a sudden became 11pm local time. Oh no, what was I to do about food now? My meal time plan and daily allowance was totally messed up! On top of this, I had to declare all of the food bits and pieces I was taking into the country like my special M&S crisps and sweets I relied upon for competition day, rice cakes, protein bars and beef jerky (luckily the customs only took the jerky and let me take the rest in, phew!).
We arrived at the hotel around 2pm, dumped our bags and went out to explore knowing that the following day would be important for me to rest being the day before the competition. Food wise, I decided to just go with the flow a little more till morning and allowed an extra meal although had to search for a good deli to try and get the plainest cooked chicken we could find. We were very close to Times Square so spent the day exploring this area, people watching, and even got to a Broadway show. Browsing around my favourite chocolate and peanut butter cup ‘Hershey’ shop and huge ‘M&M’ store was a killer but had to be done. We thought a show would be a good idea to try and adjust to the time difference by staying up late, but half way through the show we were both struggling to focus on the stage. At 11.30pm in New York, we were walking back to the hotel like zombies after a very long day.
We managed to sleep for hours so hoping our body clocks were more synchronised to local time, we got up for breakfast. The security guy at the front door was really into bodybuilding, understood my dietary needs and was very useful for information, recommending a diner that we went to every morning where they catered fantastically for us, a great find! We explored more on the Friday by bus to keep my legs rested. It was probably the worst day to choose for this though as it was Veterans Day and a massive all day parade through the streets of Manhattan brought most transport to a halt for long periods. It was freezing, I was still throwing water down me like it was going out of fashion and my mind at this point was heavily on the pre-competition prep I needed to do, so after we had managed a few touristy sights like Ground Zero, Rockerfeller Center and the Empire States Building, we headed back to relax before the Team meet in the evening. It was great to see everyone at the team meet and be introduced to others I had heard about but never met before – some tanned already, some not, I was in between with a base tan that I had done before leaving the UK. It started to feel real now and the competition rules and days agenda were delivered, with meet times arranged for the morning so we could all arrive at the venue together as a team. We were told it was the biggest UK team to ever attend the Worlds before, with 10 of us competing, all in different categories and including the big support crew, made us about 30 strong! More excited than ever, we left to return to the hotel to start the necessary layers of tan I would be sleeping in and to have my one glass allowance of wine to help with the dehydration process for show time. I had stopped all fluid from around 2pm that day so the wine was deeply satisfying. I stood drying for a while, practiced my poses and routine, then climbed into a single duvet cover with just my head sticking out like a caterpillar so I could try and sleep without staining all of the crisp white hotel sheets with my tan!
I had been disturbed all night, desperately trying to sleep knowing it was going to be a very long day but also not wanting to move too much to keep as much of the tan on as possible. Hungry for breakfast, excitement for the show and nerves at the same time in praying that my condition would be at its best on competition day, I just had to get up. I was pleased on waking with my condition, I was looking hard, defined and I felt ready. It is so easy for your body to change day to day and one thing altered in your diet can change your condition and totally change your look so it all becomes a waiting game to see what is going to show next, or worse, to see what has disappeared! We were up and in the diner by 6am ordering steak and eggs, a bowl of oatmeal made with water and an espresso. My protein source (steak and eggs) wouldn’t change a thing on competition day as all the hard work had been done so it was like a reward for making it there and preparation for a very long and challenging day to come. After a great breakfast, we nipped back to the hotel to pack my trolley suitcase for the day, get my first bikini on ready for the weigh-in and registration then set off to meet the team in another hotel foyer. A mixture of excitement, focus and nerves were floating about as we waited for the last few team members to arrive. All setting off in a walking convoy down the high street donned in our new Team hoodies, the only sound to be heard was the rumbling of wheels from our personal luggage getting dragged behind us filled with everything needed for show day. The address of the venue was the name of a High School so I really didn’t know what to expect, I thought it maybe it would be a small affair with a makeshift stage but how wrong I was! Forgetting everything was super-sized in America, we could see the High School from a block away, it was huge, more like a typical British University campus and had a fantastic stage and auditorium. We arrived at the venue to be greeted by a mass of overly tanned competitors all waiting in line for their turn to be weighed-in, and for their competitor numbers to be issued, and another queue of very white or un-tanned people buying tickets to get in for the show. It seemed to take forever and a day to get around to our turn. Stripped down to our show wear, we were all officially weighed to ensure we all made our correct weight categories although there was only 1 class for the female amateur bodybuilders! I was handed my No.6 tag to attach to my bikini when on stage. I was happy with my number as I have a more positive feel with even numbers for some reason and 6th in my category also meant I would walk out somewhere in the middle of the line up onto stage when we all faced the judges for comparison rounds. Taking over a good section of the seating area, the team and support crew camped down, reserving an area with GB flags for us to come and go so we could cheer our other competitors on between the categories and stages of the event.
The ‘Pro’ categories were on first, allowing me time to mentally prepare, adjust to my surroundings and support a few of our UK team on before me. We had a very strong and conditioned team with the first few shining on stage making us proud. Pre-judging came first, all being put through our paces, stamina was tested as we went through numerous quarter turns and compulsory poses getting moved about on stage for different comparisons while the judges scored us along the way. Trying my best to estimate time and preparation needed before stepping foot on the stage was my biggest grind. There was no one to tell you when or where to be so it was down to me to be ready at the right time and the right place which is easier said than done with all the fiddly bits to sort beforehand. I decided to start my prep. Taking a deep breath I stood up in the auditorium knowing the next time I sat back down I will have done my bit on stage and the main judging will have been finished. Heading back-stage, I slowly sorted each crucial part of my prep – show bikini on and glued (as the bikini was so small and could move about while posing on stage, it is far safer to have it glued in place so part of my bust doesn’t peek out or turn my bottoms into a thong!), top tan up after sitting around for a few hours and gaining a few lines, make-up and hair. Once this is done, the fun part starts, ‘the pump up’. Trying not to get too excited or anxious, about 10 -20 mins before stepping foot on stage, I had a couple of sips of red wine and a piece of 80% dark chocolate, all meant to help with vascularity, then got down to some light repetitive exercises to pump some blood through my muscles to help me look bigger and literally ‘pumped up’. The pumping up area is always the height of activity back-stage at any competition where everyone is mentally focused, all displaying very different emotions. Glancing over my shoulder when I was in there gave me mixed feelings as my main rivals were in full view looking hard, in fabulous condition and all carrying different shapes, while also trying to stay positive and understanding I can only deliver my best so just get out there and enjoy it. Sometimes rushed and sometimes delayed but this one was good and I felt ready when my category was called up.
My pre-judging went really well. With adrenaline pumping I stood facing the judges slightly off central in the line up. Working harder than ever through my quarter turns and compulsory poses, I was quickly moved to the middle to be compared against other girls. Centre stage is usually a good sign as the judges often use you to compare the other girls against and work outwards from the top. I was moved around a little more in the centre then pushed right out to the sides with another girl from the centre, hoping they were still ranking the lower half of the girls. Never quite knowing how the line-up looks to the judges, you can never presume as they sometimes work in funny ways so it’s still always a waiting game until results time. Dry mouthed and sweating after what felt like the hardest workout all year, I walked off the stage really happy knowing I had tried my best and delivered my best condition to date and on a WORLD STAGE so what’s done is done and I’m happy to take what is awarded to me – if anything! But also hoping I got the chance to present my personal routine later on in the day even though it wouldn’t be judged (only the top 5 placed would be invited back on stage to perform their routines in the evening show). I had a very long wait ahead. My pre-judging finished around midday with many categories to follow after mine. The evening show started around 5pm following the same class order as the morning. The auditorium was packed out for the evening show and all competitors filled the stage in their team apparel, to be introduced as a grand opening.
After a lot of mixed emotions from being tired, hungry, thirsty and being full of sheer wonderment, my time was coming around once again. I had managed to get my feet up for an hour and have some chill out time trying to fight off the headache that had been following me around for hours, I think due to being dehydrated. Although I wasn’t going to be judged in the evening show, I still wanted to look my best on that world stage and still had a slight fear that if the results were close, the judges could still be in consideration. I had eaten small amounts of tuna and almonds throughout the day at my usual timely intervals but didn’t want to start all my treats prematurely and end up with a bloated stomach to perform on.
Heading back-stage for the last time about 9pm – point of no return yet again, I followed the exact prep as earlier but unknowingly to all of us, a couple of categories had been changed around leaving my pump-up cut short. I had allowed myself enough time to at least have everything else sorted. There were a few complications with our category sheets so instead if only choosing the top 5 to perform individual routines, they asked us all to. We were firstly marched out onto the stage to present ourselves once again to the judges and asked to go through our quarter turns and a few compulsory poses to show the audience what we had been judged on earlier on in the day. On leaving the stage we were all introduced individually and delivered our own presentation to music in turn. I was buzzing and threw myself into my routine, never performing better and didn’t miss a single move or beat that was planned so skipped off in joy and amazement with myself. “That’s it”, I thought to myself, all my hard work is done. A big relief after all the anxious build up.
Crunch time followed. Only the top 5 were invited back onto stage for placing. I was so happy to be the fourth name called out, it was in no particular order but I still felt sorry for those left waiting to see if they would be the last one to join us. Standing there very nervous but happy too, I presented my smile and a semi relaxed pose to accept my place. Reverse order, 5th, it wasn’t me, 4th, it wasn’t me (‘Amazing, Top 3’ I was thinking). 3rd place, wasn’t me again – at this point I was shaking but still trying to maintain composure. When 2nd place was read out, I was in a fuzzy place somewhere and was scared I hadn’t even recognised my own name and may be making a fool out of myself by not stepping forward but when I saw the girl next to me step forward, the shock kind of hit me! I could not believe what had just happened – I had just won a WORLD TITLE! My name was announced as the World Champion and I stepped forward to receive the biggest trophy in the World to go with the title. In a daze, I hit a few poses with my trophy for the official photographer, thanked the judges and audience then walked off. Back stage, I put the trophy down and took a minute to myself. I was up and down with emotion, tears of joy, shock, elation and laughter at the disbelief of it all. I was jumping up and down like a kid in a sweet shop as Phil joined me back-stage, he was as emotional as me when he got there! I had a few pictures taken then I was asked to go for my drug test before leaving back-stage. Once formalities were sorted, I threw some clothes over my bikini and went to join the rest of my team to support our next competitor and watch the rest of the show while attacking all my saved up goodies. A bottle of water to quench my thirst followed by a can of the cherry-coke that I’d been pining for. Food wise, a chocolate brownie was first out of the bag followed by other sweets and a cereal bar. Our plan was to get a takeaway box of noodles from a Chinese restaurant we had spotted earlier and bring them in to watch the rest of the show but due to how late it was (already past 10pm) we decided to go for food after the show. I kept watching the stage and finding it very difficult to accept what I had done, I kept asking myself if I had actually been up there or was I in a dream, the feeling was very surreal. The show went on until around 2am, so as you can imagine we were all shattered and starving wasn’t the word.
The team UKDFBA as a whole did fantastic, bringing an array of trophies home and 4 World Titles. With plans made to meet the following morning for a team breakfast, we all trundled home. Phil and I stopped for a slice of pizza on route to get us through until the morning. I had forgotten what junk food tasted like! Fabulous but killed me after eating so clean for so long.
8.30am Sunday morning the alarm clock was sounding to get us up for our last team meet. We had only grabbed 5 hours sleep and still had lots of catching up to do but we forced ourselves up and took a cab as I was still half asleep and physically drained. All team members and supporters turned up ready for a feast after the pain of depletion. We took over a quarter of the diner and managed to fill the tables with an abundance of food. All making the most of reaching the end of our diet we ordered everything we fancied. I had a banana pancake breakfast which consisted of 4 large typical thick American pancakes with syrup, and ordered bacon and eggs which arrived with potatoes and toast! I managed all the pancakes, bacon, ham and eggs but had to leave my toast and potatoes, there was nearly 2 weeks worth of carbs in front of me that I was trying to push into my body. I eventually surrendered and sat back feeling like a barrel, watching the satisfied faces of everyone else around me finishing the long awaited food they had been craving. Lee Kemp sat back and watched everyone with a big smile on his face until most had reached bursting point and began his finale speech. As most people where heading off in their own direction, some extending their trip to a holiday, others off exploring for a couple of days and some heading straight back to work, he’d decided breakfast was a better time to catch everyone. He praised us all for the support we had given each other and the success we had been with such fabulous results, in particular his first Men’s World Pro Champion among the men and myself as his first World Ladies Amateur Champion. It was like an end to one very long journey, so sad in one respect that we had only just met, become like a little family, then have to depart again not knowing when or where we would meet up again, if at all, but humbling in another way by feeling lucky enough to be invited in the first place and be part of such a special team. We all said our goodbyes and went our own way.
Phil and I had another couple of days left to explore before flying home so the only thing we had to start with was a very long walk around Central Park to try and burn some of the monstrous breakfast off. It was a beautiful day and was great to walk around watching all the hustle and bustle of regular runners, cyclists, roller-bladers and walkers following the allocated lanes in such a famous place that I had only seen in films. We walked for hours stopping like normal people now for the odd snack like hot freshly cooked sweet almonds and nuts sold all around Manhattan by men with little trolleys and a freshly cooked pretzel that I had been dying to try since we arrived. I hadn’t snacked on goodies for over 6 months so it was bliss for me. After about 12pm I decided I had treated myself enough and tried to get back into my dieting. Although it was the end of the season for most and a fantastic city to have been able to totally relax with food and treats, I still had my final competition of the year to go in Italy the following weekend. Although nothing could beat what I had just achieved, another World competition was waiting for me.
We explored some more before it was time to fly back home but I was then faced with another challenge – my trophy. It was over 3ft tall and weighed 8kg! Our suitcases were full already and both of us had hand luggage that would certainly not fit the trophy in. I decided to just take it to the airport for their advice on transporting it. I received quite a lot of positive attention for my achievement which I think helped me at check-in. After being quizzed and congratulated, a few phone calls were made to the aircraft we were traveling on and they luckily welcomed it through as hand luggage at no extra charge! It was given a safe cupboard of its own on board to be collected on landing, problem solved!
2011 UIBBN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - ITALY
On arriving back in England, I was straight back to work for a 24hr shift, then I had a day to wash, dry and repack my things ready for an early Friday flight out to Italy for the UIBBN Worlds. Loosing 5 hours with the time difference in reverse really wiped me out. I was oversleeping every morning desperately trying to catch up on sleep. With everything sorted on the Thursday night, bags at the front door ready for an early start, food sorted once again with turkey cooked and portioned out for 2 full days, I headed for bed as early as possible. Struggling to surface with my alarm, I fell out of bed like a zombie, forcing my morning oats down to try and set myself up for the day traveling again. Was like a repeat of the week before but this time ten times harder to function. Running late, Phil and I hit the road to be met by bad traffic on more than one occasion followed by peak hour traffic nearing Manchester. Reaching the airport late, we only just managed to convince the closed check-in desk to let us through and made a run for the gate, after more issues with fluids at security checks! It was the last thing I needed to start my run up to the competition, stress! Finally sitting down on the plane and greeting half of the team, I could now start to mentally prepare once again!
We flew to Gatwick for a connecting flight to Italy. The rest of the team caught up with us during our 3 hour wait in the airport. Only one more day of dieting before I could enjoy looking around the food sections in shops instead of just going straight for water supplies! Our team organiser, Michael Phillips, handed out our fantastic and brightly coloured team hoodies which we donned proudly to walk around in before boarding for Italy. Flashy silver NPA logo on the front with bold and bright Great Britain printed on our backs. Loud and proud! Usual meal times for me with my turkey and almonds while Phil was enjoying more normal food that I was so looking forward to after a little taster last weekend. 4 hours later we landed in Italy and jumped onto a mini-bus to the Hotel in Schio. The driver didn’t speak a word of English so a slight language barrier with us thinking it would only be a short journey. An hour later and bellies full with water after loading, we stopped once so we could all make the journey a little more comfortable.
We arrived at the hotel early evening, lobby busy with competitors waiting in their teams for weigh in / check in. The hotel was impressive, very modern and inviting to walk into, but in the middle of no-where with the massive sports venue right across the road. The rooms were great too, spacious and tiled floors so great for tanning. We checked in, dumped our things and went straight down to wait for our weigh-in. The whole team went into an allocated meeting room to strip down to our show wear to be weighed and registered. The room was full of officials that again, didn’t speak much English so we had to use a translator in turn with our show day questions or concerns. Much to my disappointment, I was told no diamantes or jewelry of any kind were permitted to be worn in my category, even for the evening individual routines which straight away ruled out my newly made sparkly bikini that I had come alive in the week before. Plain black bikini for me, boring but as long as this rule applies to all then it would be fair game. Once formalities dealt with, Phil and I went on a discovery walk to find a store for a few necessities, like wine for my night before show treat and bits of food for him as my turkey and almond meals were still on the go. It had been a long day of traveling so we retired early to tan and relax for what was left of the evening.
Show morning came for the last time this year, struggling to get up with the alarm yet again, I crawled out of my single duvet cover like a snake shedding its skin to have a look at what I was going to deliver to the stage that day. After another week of dieting, I thought I’d deserve more than what I saw. I didn’t feel I was looking as good as the week before, upper body lean and defined, abs and legs showing well but glutes looked a little softer. It is a well known fact that flying can play with water retention in the body, particularly with women, so I imagine all the traveling I had done in the last week or so will have taken its toll on my body to some degree. Still felt confident that I had done enough to deserve to be on-stage so was excited to get started. We went down to breakfast and made the best of what was on offer, not quite the steak and eggs like last week and they had run out of oats but managed to have a little cereal and eggs followed by turkey and almonds of my own.
We had a fantastic Great Britain team and great team camaraderie. With 9 of us competing, another 8 supporters made us a 17 strong crew. We set up camp back-stage with our luggage and helped each other out when needed before our turn came around while nipping in and out of the audience to watch and cheer on our team members when they were on-stage. The stage was big with great lighting, quite an impressive set up. The judges table was nearly as long though with a mass of heads occupying all the seats dressed very formally in suits and ties.
When my turn came for pre-judging I was ready, feeling good and confident. I started on my pump up treats of dark choc and a few sips of red wine and got my muscles into action with my dyna band exercises! The pump-up area was just behind the stage and looking around to see my competitors was slightly confusing. The girls in my category were more like figure girls in the British competitions and in the Worlds the week before for that matter. There were a couple of girls in fabulous condition but not particularly heavily muscled and there were others with great bodies but very soft looking. I got even more confused once the pre-judging had finished as all the compulsory poses were not announced so only a selected few and all the girls were posing open handed, like they are expected to in the ‘Figure’ classes not in ‘Physique’. Well, a totally different experience but felt I may either place first if they were judging a ‘Physique’ class or place last if they were judging a ‘Figure’ class! I decided to just enjoy myself, present my routine that wasn’t to be judged and take whatever I was awarded with at the end. The evening show came around fast and the audience was heaving with no empty seats. The results were all presented at the end once every class had finished their routines, so it was great to be all back-stage together as a team and be waiting impatiently for each class winners to be announced and to congratulate each other on leaving the stage.
It was another enjoyable experience with fantastic results for the team. Four World titles and every other team member placing high in their category. I brought a second place trophy home which I was very pleased about but the Ladies’ categories in particular left a lot of confusion as the line-ups were very mixed and nobody was sure exactly what the judges were looking for.
The show was wrapped up by around 9.30pm so not as late as last week but still a very long day. Desperate to eat, exhausted with a total mixture of emotions between us all, we headed back across the road to our hotel for a quick shower to make our ‘Gala Dinner’. I could finally relax and I had reached the end of my season so was time to party!! We all had a fantastic meal, which included bread, pasta, TURKEY main course (oh my God, who chose that when it’s what we have been living on for what felt like a lifetime) and a lovely tiramisu pudding and plenty of wine. This was shortly followed by a raid on the breakfast table for more bread, jams and chocolate spreads when the crazy waiter wasn’t looking. With everyone finally relaxed with full bellies we sat back drinking, chatting and laughing so hard until the early hours, it was fantastic. After refusing to serve us anymore and being the last ones standing from a very big restaurant full to the brim, we finally retired for the night.
Up to make breakfast again but this time to choose anything I wanted to tide me over till lunch, I enjoyed another feast, packed up then off to the airport for our flight home. Phil and I had a couple more things to do before taking off and yes, they were food related. As we were in Italy, we had to get a monster slice of pizza followed by an ice-cream. There couldn’t have been a better place to finish the competitions than Italy for the pizza, pasta, ice-cream, coffee and wine - we achieved the lot and felt complete!
On my return from Italy, I had reached the end of my season of competitions and could now relax into a reasonably normal lifestyle where food is concerned. It has been a season that I will never forget, exceeding my personal expectations ten times over, meeting some fantastic people and enjoyed some amazing experiences that I couldn’t have done alone or without help and support.
I have many people to thank for making this life journey to the World’s possible including my partner Phil and daughter Ryanna, who have put up with me through the good times and bad, the Olympic Gym in Eccles, and the Northern club for help and guidance with posing and bodybuilding advice from day one, friends, gym members and work colleagues for their support and understanding, family and friends I have neglected along the way when focus and diet had taken over not allowing me visiting or socialising time, and all of those who have helped financially with donations or by buying tickets for the raffle I organised, the Civil Service Sports Club and the Defence Sport & Recreation Club for their generous help towards the trip costs. Finally, thank you to those who noticed my potential in the first place giving me the opportunity to represent my country in such prestigious events while supporting me on my own personal journey.
Your World Amateur Champion
With photographic contributions from; Fivos and Eric Averkiou, Eric Guy, Michael Phillips, Phil Downing, and Anna Millington.
Watch out for a training article on Anna - coming soon!