Eight weeks ago, our Nutrition Expert Eva Burg embarked on a fitness journey. She found it enjoyable but tough, and her personal trainer kept pushing her to her limits.
I had to win a Health and Fitness Blogger Award to get back into fitness. I wrote about it in the first part of my 8-week transformation; read all about it here.
For this 8-week body transformation challenge, I teamed up with the One Escape Health Club in Dublin, and was guided through my personal trainer Martin Stoynov.
One of the first things Martin told me was, "You are going to learn a lot about yourself in the gym." While I wasn’t entirely sure about what he meant by that, he turned out to be dead right.
I hadn’t given much thought to the mental side of training but he subtly kept chipping away at my "I can’t do this" mindset.
Whenever he introduced a new exercise I looked at him wide-eyed and told him the many reasons why I couldn’t do it. No, this weight will be too heavy, no, this looks too complicated, no, this is…whatever.
He kept cheering me on even though I sometimes thought that either he or I must be nuts for doing these kinds of exercises. Yet, I felt a sense of pride when I was able to execute them properly.
What is it about all this negative terminology in bodybuilding? I am not sure if it’s getting lost in translation but why are there dead rows, death machines and face melts?
Doesn’t particularly sound like my idea of fun or motivation.
After the first couple of sessions, I started to trust my personal trainer’s judgment and gained more confidence in my body’s capability. This was a huge step and I also began to notice slight changes in my physic which reassured me that we were on the right track.
First, we discussed my goals and ran a health check (more about this later).
My goals are to become fitter and more toned. I weight in at 63.3 kg but as this isn’t about weight loss; I am not concerned about that figure. Even if you are trying to lose weight, I don’t think that the scale is the right way to measure success. What do I mean by that?
Weight can fluctuate, particularly if you are a woman. At certain times of your cycle, your body will retain water, some more than others but it can totally skew the numbers. Also, if you start building muscle you might initially gain a little weight yet be losing fat at the same time.
Instead of focussing on your scale, look at yourself in the mirror and notice the fit of your favourite jeans. Does it sit more comfortably? Does it start to become slightly loose where it used to sit tight?
If you like numbers, measure the circumference of the body part where you want to lose or gain instead of stepping on the scale.
Martin and I met once a week for a one-hour session. I wanted to focus on bum, belly and shoulders. I know, shoulders might be surprising to some of you but they are my weak point so I decided to focus on them.
We agreed to do a full body workout three times a week rather than having separate leg and arm days. Going to the gym three times a week sounded manageable but I also tried to attend two additional classes. Usually, I did a Yoga class and a Pilates class, but I also tried some of One Escapes new Aqua classes.
They were a lot of fun and great for people with joint problems but I felt that I was getting more from classes like Body Pump. To achieve more visible results I should have probably taken more Body Pump classes but Yoga and Pilates just felt that bit nicer after all the strength training.
Each resistance training started with a five-minute warm-up on the elliptical machine and finished with a 20-minute cardio session and stretching.
Martin taught me as many exercises as possible each week to give me a wide repertoire to choose from and to enable me to create my own training plans later on.
First, we always trained the biggest muscle group which were the legs in my case and finished with the shoulders. He taught me different techniques of how to vary the weights and repetitions to achieve my goals. You can find a short video of each weeks program on my IGTV.
Listen to your body and know your limits
While I was the one who had to be pushed a little to reach my limits, there are also people who go beyond and risk injury. Make sure to always listen to your body. Of course, exercise isn’t about being in your comfort zone but it shouldn’t be painful either.
If you aren’t able to execute the last repetitions holding the form you are probably lifting too heavy.
During our last session, I asked Martin to show me some exercises that I could do while I am on holiday and we went for a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) session. This is where I reached my limit. I have quite low blood pressure and the circuits simply pushed me beyond my limit.
I was determined to finish the session but we had to stop because otherwise, my breakfast would have resurfaced. This was where I remembered Martin’s words from the start: "You will learn a lot about yourself in the gym" and I have certainly learned that HIIT isn’t for me.
The Before & After Results
I know, this is probably the part you are interested in the most, the before and after pictures.
Let’s have a look at the numbers first:
I have gained 300g on the scale, lost almost 2% body fat, built 1.2 kg of muscle, 100g bone mass and improved my metabolic age by four years.
These kind of body fat scales aren’t 100% reliable but they can give you an idea.
When you begin bodybuilding for the first time, you are likely to experience relatively substantial gains during your first few months of training. Gains usually slow down as your body adapts to lifting.
- Average Natural Man: between 0.25 and 0.5 pounds of muscle per week (or about 1-2 pounds of muscle gained per month).
- Average Natural Woman: between 0.12 – 0.25 pounds of muscle per week (or about 0.5-1 pound of muscle gained per month).
While the change might not be that visible on the before and after pictures I noticed that the love handles have shrunk, my glutes have become stronger and rounder, I lost a bit of fat at my thighs and my arms and shoulders look more defined. Also, I feel much fitter than I have felt in a long time.
Since my personal training sessions have ended I am determined to keep it up and to continue with the program.
I am happy with the results, as I haven’t cut calories or changed my diet except for adding a little more protein.
Even though I don’t believe that tracking calories or macros are necessary for someone with my goals, I did it for one week to get an idea of my status quo.
My calorie intake varied from 1600 - 2000 calories day by day but because I don’t eat a lot of meat or dairy I was struggling to hit the required amount of protein. Therefore, I started adding a vegan protein powder whenever I felt that I was falling short.
If you would like to learn more about workout nutrition you can check out my post about The Importance Of Workout Nutrition & What To Eat And When.