Why people need to stop obsessing about abs

In the fitness world it all seems to be about abs. Everywhere you look it’s people with their tops off, rippling six pack on show. It seems to be the ultimate sign that you’re super fit. Except it isn’t. 

I find it annoying and it creates an unhealthy obsession. To get that six pack requires a lot of work and not in the gym. As people always say “abs are made in the kitchen”. It requires lots of chicken and broccoli and not a lot of fun. One of my best mates said she worked for months to have her abs ready for a holiday. She looked amazing but after two days of normal eating, the abs were gone. Seems a lot of effort and she said she wouldn’t bother again.

When I look around a gym I can see the gender difference associated with the aesthetics of looking ripped. Men focus on their arms and chests and women spend hours doing a million sit ups. I hate it and it drives me up the wall that women shy away from weights and head straight to the mats to do their abs. I’m not one of those girls. I rarely do ab specific exercises but I’ve got a very strong core. It comes from doing a range of exercises from squats to deadlifts. You won’t find me on the mats, I’ll be over on the platforms lifting heavy things.

When I started my journey I wanted those dream abs but it requires giving up something I love; food! Besides, I’ll never walk around with my top off so who will see them? Instead I’ve concentrated on toning areas I know will be on show; arms, back and legs. I’m now starting to see results and getting compliments. But it’s not just for aesthetic reasons, I love lifting for the adrenaline rush when you smash a PB and show what ladies can really do! Come on girls, step away from the mat area and let’s lift weights πŸ‹πŸ» 

Here I am with my not so obvious six pack (maybe two pack?). I know it’s there but I’m not obsessing. Who walks around with their top off anyways?


Can you outtrain a bad diet?

Short answer? No. 

This makes me sad because I love pizza, crisps and wine! 

I, like so many others, thought I could still eat naughty and as long as I exercised then it balanced it out. This kind of works in the beginning, especially if you’re not looking to lose weight or tone up. But sadly, if you want to see results in how you look and your performance then it’s all about the food.

I was sceptical about this in the beginning. Was I going to have to eat chicken and broccoli (if you want abs, then yes!)? My trainer gave me a strict meal plan including omelettes for breakfast and steak for dinner. Not bad eh? I soon came to realise that actually this new eating regime wasn’t so bad. I say “eating regime” rather than “diet” because I hate that word. Being healthy is a lifestyle choice and something you have to stick to. 

This mantra stuck with me from the beginning and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen. Yes it’s hard and yes I’m naughty but with a lot of will power and seeing immediate results then you soon realise making the right choices is the most rewarding thing.

If you’ve ever trained when absolutely hanging after a night out then you’ll know what mean; although bizarrely I train better?!? Apparently it’s because for women, alcohol increases testosterone levels! Fascinating! Although this doesn’t work every time and I tend to feel pretty shit afterwards! 

Your food fuels your performance. Good stuff in = good stuff out. I wouldn’t have believed that a year ago but after lots of lessons learnt then I can 100% say it’s true.

Skinny vs tonedΒ 

“You look so skinny, how much weight have you lost?”

“Be careful, you don’t want to go too far!”

Yep, heard those ones before? Over the last year I’ve heard both these comments alongside many many others. I wasn’ fat before; I was a healthy size 12 but wanted to get rid of the last wobbly bits. So you can imagine there was a lot of the usual comments around not losing weight as I looked fine. But I knew what I wanted and just ignored them. 

When it comes to fitness everyone has an opinion, especially if you’re seen hobbling around the office the day after leg day. Inevitably you get the usual comments of “That can’t be good for you if you can’t walk”. Ugh, I’m sure we’ve all heard that one before! 

But if you want to progress with your fitness and especially weights training then you are going to get those days where you can’t even lift a cup of tea or get out of the car. It’s kind of enjoyable in a sadistic way! Opinions around diet inevitably get thrown into the mix and that’s another one to ignore. I probably eat much healthier and far more calories than they do but they’re still going to get their concerns across. As long as I feel good and healthy then that’s all that matters. 

The skinny comment is also one that drives me insane. I’m not skinny, I’m toned, there’s a difference. Yes I’ve dropped a dress size but to me the most important numbers are the ones in my gym book, not the one on the scales; I love that Joe Wicks calls it the sad step because he is so right! Whenever I get that first comment about my weight, I point out to people that I weigh the same as I did a year ago. Yes I get on that sad step every so often but just so I can get a reference point for my lifting e.g. Squatting my own body weight. Otherwise that step is hidden away in a cupboard.

Everyone has opinions but I’ve come to ignore them because I love what I’m doing and I know what I’m doing (well my trainer does although I’m slowly learning!). 

In turn you get the other more positive comments. “You look amazing!” “Your arms are so toned”. And that makes it worth it, even if sometimes you can’t lift your arms to wash your hair…

Toned! Not skinny

Smashing your goals πŸ‘πŸ»

I use to just do my fitness without setting any goals. I’d go to my bootcamp every week with no goals in mind except not dying when we ran round a field or doing a million press ups. I was happy just plodding along and at least going out and doing something.

But my body wasn’t changing. It had at first but after a while I saw little change. I wanted more toned arms and defined abs (still searching for them!) but nothing I did was making any difference. After seeing my best mate becoming a lean, mean fighting machine, I knew I had to get a trainer and start lifting those heavy weights. 

Immediately I saw a difference and even a year later I’m still seeing changes all the time; as my friend Bea says, the little hovis loaves in the ab area are eventually appearing!

I learnt that if you want to see change then you have to set goals. At first mine was just to be more lean and defined. It wasn’t long before I realised it’s not just about the exercise but a lot about the food (boo!!). But I surprised myself when what actually spurred me on in the gym wasn’t aesthetics but setting goals around my lifting. Heavy deadlifts, pull ups (bloody hard and still nowhere near, who knew they were so difficult!) and squats became my goals. When you smash them it’s so much more satisfying then if your waist is a bit smaller. As a woman it makes you feel powerful and strong, especially for a someone like me who is on their own…cue Destiny’s Child ‘Independant women’ lol!

So what made me think about goals today? Because in the last two weeks I’ve smashed two. I squatted 60kg (my body weight 😳) for 8 reps last week and considering I’ve had a series of injuries in my left hip, this was a massive achievement. My other goal was to push press 30kg which I finally did this morning. This was for two sets of 8 so not even a one rep max. It’s bloody scary pushing half your body weight above your head. I may have done a little dance around the gym to celebrate…

Here’s some proof that I did it’s well as other vomit inducing exercises (excuse Wills handwriting)

Next goal? 100kg deadlift. I might cry when this happens as I’ve been trying for six months! I’ll keep you posted! 

Finding motivation (when you have none!)

There are some days when I really don’t want to go to the gym. It’s not because I’m tired. It’s not because my muscles have had enough. It’s fear. In the past I would go to the gym and sit on a bike or run on the treadmill which is easy and anyone can do. When you start lifting weights it becomes more complicated. What exercises should I do? Is my technique right? What if the squat rack isn’t free?

I get this every time before I go by myself. I’d rather sit at home, watch tv and not go near the scary weights section. But no one is going to make me go. If I want to feel better about myself, get more toned and progress with my lifting than the only person who can do that is me. 

Today was one of those days. I walked into a packed gym and thought “Fuck what am I going to do?” The squat rack was being used (by someone not using it for what it’s meant to be used for, seriously!!) and both platforms so I couldn’t do deadlifts. My fear took over as my planned workout was not going to plan. 

So I improvised. I looked at the workouts Will designed for me. I adapted them and waited for something to come free. Four sets of high step ups and box jumps later and a platform was free.

Now, onto platforms. They are scary. You are on show there with some big old weights. But I know the technique and I just have to be confident and smash it out. I did my sumo deadlifts (reminder to go heavier next time, 60kg is too light!) and felt strong and confident. That’s the thing with weight lifting. It’s scary but once you know how and just get stuck in, you feel like you can do anything afterwards!

I finished with smashing a few circuits and beating some times and then I was done. I left the gym feeling better than when I arrived. That’s the power of exercise!

Oh and a motivational slogan on your gym book always helps!

Learning to lift – the back story

Myth #1 “Weightlifting is for guys.”

No it’s not.

Myth #2 “Weightlifting will make you look bulky”

Not it won’t.

I use to say both of these things. Until my best friend started weightlifting and looked toned and pretty damn incredible. So I had a pep talk with myself, got a personal trainer and ventured into the scary weights section of the gym. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. This blog is my journey into learning to lift heavy shit and at the same time learning a lot about myself.

Where did it all begin?

I’ve always been into my fitness. Well I say always, I was a fat child and teenager and badly bullied for it too. I wanted to play Netball and be part of the team but I wasn’t ‘cool’ enough and so I always sat on the sidelines when I knew I was good enough! It was only once I went to University, lost some weight and met new people that I felt confident enough to give sport a go. I joined the cricket, lacrosse and hockey teams and loved it.

Once I left Uni, settled down and met my then boyfriend (future husband and now ex-husband…we’ll get onto that one later!) I started to gain weight again. I did some fitness classes, like Zumba, but just never quite fitted in and they weren’t quite for me. It was then that I discovered British Military Fitness. BMF, as it’s called, is an outside bootcamp where current serving or ex army personal literally shout at you as you run round fields and lift tyres and slam bags. I was hooked and the weight dropped off. There’s something about rolling around a field in the dark and cold, covered in mud which is so satisfying.

It was here I met my now best friend Jen and fitness has been the main foundation of our friendship. But Jen likes to try new things so she got a personal trainer and started lifting weights. Like the myths at the start of this post, I was sceptical. “I don’t want to look bulky and like a man!” I said. It was only after seeing how amazing Jen looked and the fact her fitness increased and she was soon beating me at BMF, that I thought that maybe there was something in lifting weights.

But I carried on with BMF. Money and marriage problems meant I couldn’t afford a PT. Then in December 2015, after I had just turned 30, my marriage broke down and my husband left.

I felt like a failure. I was alone and having to start my life again. I needed something that was for me and to make me feel more confident in myself. Without another person who frankly was a massive financial burden, I could afford a PT and contacted Jen’s trainer Will. I then started twice weekly sessions with him every Thursday and Friday at the lovely time of 7am (luckily I’m an early riser!).

I was hooked straight away. It was scary; the squat racks, the free weights, the grunting men, the platforms, all of it! But with Will by my side, I could find the confidence. It’s so important to find a trainer who not only is super knowledgeable but also someone you get along with and can talk to; Will is all those things…although don’t tell him that, he’ll get a big head! I then started regular sessions with Jen and 6 months later I could finally face the scary gym by myself.

Does weightlifting make you bulky? Do you think I look like a man?

Before and now πŸ’ͺ🏻

So that’s my back story. I’m now over a year into my journey and still learning so much. My plan is to blog as much as I can about how it’s going; the days I smash my PBs, the days I don’t, and the days I stack it doing box jumps. Hopefully others can give me some tips as well and use this as a place to share ideas. With this kind of fitness becoming mainstream it’s so exciting to be part of this new phase where women can be strong and sexy at the same time. Let’s do this!

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