Basically this came to me this morning as I shovelled boiling hot eggs into my face, burning the skin off the roof of my mouth but not stopping. Apparently that's the kind of person I am these days - a human hoover! Chances are this blog is going to end up more a ramble than a point to point post so make sure you've had your coffee before you start lol!
So over this winter I have attempted my first ever 'bulk'. I've gained around 7kg which is probably tiny compared to what some people achieve but bearing in mind I spend a decent portion of my week jumping around like a leprechaun on speed and I've had to eat 3500-4000 kcals a day to achieve this, I'm pretty pleased. I am a few weeks off cutting for a photo shoot which I'm using to benchmark my progress before I hit the food hard again for another 10 month bulk. The main aim of the game? To fight my gene pool and get legs like The Rock and an ass that people will hire to crush grapes with for their homemade wine.... the end game.... realistically? To be stronger and hopefully get my buttocks working enough to be able to squat a human male. Or 2.
It took Mike (Built By Fitness) an entire year to hammer home that in order to get some gains on my miniature ass cheeks that I would need to change my outlook on food and increase my calories. Now this might sound like a simple request, but I think as a female, 90% of you will know that putting on weight is something we are programmed to think is the devil. As a PT myself and someone who has been resistance training a decent amount for around 7 years, I am not oblivious to the maths of the situation. I know that I need to eat a calorie surplus to gain muscle. I know I have to train hard. I know I have to eat lots of protein blah blah blah. All this is well and good but the psychology required to get your head around this can be quite extensive.
Now as you know I am not backwards in coming forwards so I'm just gonna go in.... I've been slimmish since I was about 18. I am probably the only person I know who lost weight in their first year at uni. That is more of an indicator of the amount of McDonald's I was eating when I was at Sixth Form rather than my uni nutrition (which involved doughnuts for breakfast) however I can still be proud right? I think it's safe to say that from an early age, girls in the UK are influenced to believe that slimmer is better..... but not too slim cos then you get called skinny, and not too big cos then you get called fat. You to be just the right amount of slim, but still with boobs....... and with a tiny waist.....and a pert bum. I remember being 14 years old and eating celery all day because I thought I was fat. I was size 8. I was however broad as fuck with no waist..... just a smaller version of how I am now really.
My parents brought me up to take no shit so I'd say that whilst I definitely wish I was more confident, I'm not exactly lacking in that department. Even so I always felt a significant pressure to look like how I perceived a proper girl should look. Turns out I'm shit out of luck, I'm broadbacked (like that girl in Friends ha ha!), don't have any hips and I'm never going to have a massive rack or a teenie waist. I have, in essence, a typical swimmers physique, and that is what I was good at as a child. In this hunt to look like a real girl I have definitely done stupid low cal diets, spent a year of my early twenties shoving my fingers down my throat every time I felt full and a lot of my dance career wearing 2 padded bras to auditions, and always wearing a certain cut of top to make my shoulders look slimmer and my waist smaller.
Now I'm not trying to give you a woe is me story, I just want to give background as an indicator of the starting point of where a person can be mentally, and how much change has to be made within in order to get into the bulking mindset. I also know that I have contact with a decent amount of human females who train a lot, lift hard and with dedication but are not reaching their muscle based goals because they do not eat enough food/ not enough of the right stuff. I'm not sitting here saying it was easy at all, to go from constantly dreaming of a six pack to instead seeing a much softer side to your body. However having done it for 7 months I can categorically tell you it is the best thing I have ever done. I am yet to see how much of this additional weight is muscle so when July is out I'll be able to let you all know, but mentally for me this has given me the rocket up my ass that I needed,. I have actually fallen in love with my new shape just as much as I like my body when I'm lean.... and I can't lie, it's great to fill my bra!
There is a disconcerting amount of pressure on all humans to look a certain way, and let's be honest that pressure is only going to get bigger with the amount of time we all spend on social media. I'm not entirely convinced there is much we can do about that unless we all decide to run our businesses social media free/go back to the old skool and ring people for a chat(wtaf!! lol!). What I will say is at least the current trend within the fitness industry tends to be the provision of information & workout ideas to go alongside the jaw dropping photos and the insanely beautiful faces that are in them.
Part of the battle is accepting yourself for exactly how you are rather than constantly comparing yourself to other people. The truth is it is the physical and mental challenges that exercise and training help us overcome that is the most important. Whilst I admit I have set myself a goal that would appear to be predominantly about aesthetics and yes, I am human and I do want to see how I can change the visible shape of my body, we all know training is about so much more than that. I want to be fit, healthy and stronger. I want my huge new buttcheeks to fire properly so that they support my shit stick of a spine. I want to be able to leg press a car off a litter of puppies if I am ever required to assist at the scene of a roadside dog based emergency. Training gives us a confidence in ourselves and our bodies in all areas of our lives, not just in the gym.
I guess my purpose in this article is more of a shout out to people who are in the same position as I was.... chasing a training goal that is not only impossible to achieve without investing in the necessary dietary changes but also comparing themselves to people who have a completely different body shape than them. Let's consider first why we have that goal.... is it really for us? For ourselves? For the challenge? Or is it because really we think looking like Paige Hathaway will make us love ourselves/be more confident/be better at maths?
The truth is as long as you are doing something you enjoy, for reasons that matter to you and make you happier and feel better about yourself as a person, no-one can tell you that is the wrong reason to do what you are doing. All I'm saying is if you know you need to smash the food in for training goals whatever they may be, don't be scared.... it might just make you feel like an extra sassier version of yourself with a few extra curves and the strength of The Incredible Hulk. Oooo let's get matching unitards and lunge around together!!!! Best idea I've ever had!
Anna is a qualified Personal Trainer, experienced Group Exercise instructor and a Master-Trainer for an international fitness brand. Owner of Vital Signz Dance. Creator of Always Moving Forward Instructor Network.