Meet KATY…she’s a cat-loving, busy mum of two who works as a full time Head of Marketing… oh…and she’s also (Drum Roll Please) The Masters Figure Scottish Natural BODY BUILDING CHAMPION!
Wow! What made you get in to body building?
In 2017 I was looking for a new challenge and was interested in training for a physique competition. I love pushing my body to its limit with exercise but had never considered challenging myself in an aesthetic context, where diet is also key. I previously was a slave to endless cardio and had never had my eyes opened to the benefits of strength training. I’d also been worried that strength training would make me bulky.
Have you always been fit?
Having been an overweight teenager with severe acne and low self esteem exercise was never something I embraced (or was encouraged to embrace) at school. However, as a lover of food I quickly realised that it was a way of losing weight and enjoying what I like. I discovered a love of Step Aerobics when I was 15 and the weight fell off and my confidence started to grow. Before long I’d swapped my over-sized t-shirt and leggings for neon leotards and cycling shorts…well it was the 1990s!!
I loved the companionship of working out with like-minded people and have now been a fitness enthusiast for over 25 years, exercising consistently 4 or 5 times a week throughout the years and doing a mix of running and variety of classes.
How much training do you…and what about diet?
Typically I weight train 5 days a week and fit in a few walks but when a competition is within a few weeks I weight train 6 days each week along with 90 minutes of cardio every day.
Diet is absolutely key. I will start a ‘cut’ roughly 10 weeks out from a competition so that I can gradually reduce my intake and slowly cut, therefore protecting muscle. This process is tough. My coach will give me my Macro split and it’s then up to me to stick to it. MyFitnessPal is key for ensuring I’m on track. The last month is the hardest as I will be doing extra cardio and on restricted calories. It’s particularly challenging on a Saturday night when I’m watching friends and family eat pizza and enjoy wine. It’s fair to say that I am not the most sociable during this period! During my off-season I will gradually increase my calories to allow me to lift heavier and make changes to my body. This sounds fun, but it has its own challenges as I need to adjust to a changing body shape.
I have 3 different wardrobes to suit my various stage of prep!
How do you manage to fit that in to your life?
It’s not easy! I’m a firm believer that if you want something enough you’ll find time to fit it in – there is always someone busier than you exercising in the world right now!
My alarm goes off at 4am and a coffee and pre-workout later I am on my exercise bike in the house with some 90s euro-rave to power me along!
With one hour under my belt I head over to the gym for it opening at 6am – fortunately it’s near my home. I’m back in the house for 7am and begin the routine with the kids (which is arguably more tiring than the previous 3 hours!). Once they are both dropped off at school I head to work. I then try to factor in a 30-minute fast walk at lunchtime. This forces me to get away from my desk, which is no bad thing! I’ve discovered Audible and love getting lost in a book for 30 minutes. My evenings are then free to deal with family life, although after a 4am start I am usually chasing the kids to bed so I can follow!
Any mentors along the way?
My Coach, Alex Whelan is my closest mentor. He is twice NABBA Mr Scotland Champion and BNBF masters – who better to seek advice from!
Alex established Prolife Fitness Centre in Paisley, where many successful athletes train. Alex’s experience is invaluable – he can make minor tweaks to my diet and is ALWAYS right about what weight loss/changes I will see that week. I have a huge amount of respect for him and he’s become a good friend and still manages to makes me laugh, even when I’m starving, low energy in the final stages of prep. Above all he has the patience of a saint!!
Choosing a coach is an absolute minefield! There are so many it can be very confusing for people so I feel lucky to have found someone as experienced as Alex and his approach works perfectly for me. I don’t lack motivation, but I do need kept on track and someone who won’t entertain my self-doubt or over-comparison! He keeps things really simple for me!
My Posing Coach and Bikini Designer, Marguerita Vonral (Instagram: @m.vdesigns) has also been such a positive influence. During my ‘bulking’ off-season I really struggled with letting my weight go up (which is an important phase to allow you to lift heavier and change your shape) and she really helped me challenge how I looked at myself during this phase. She reminded me that I don’t rate her any less when she is carrying additional weight or think she’s less capable, so why do it to myself. True. This process made me realize how much my self-esteem is tangled up in my weight and it made me challenge this thought
What do you need for competitions?
Competing is definitely not low cost.
A gym membership and coach are essentials.
I don’t take a huge amount of supplements, but a good quality protein powder, amino acids and pre-workout drink all add up. I’ve also developed an addiction to Grenade protein bars and they are about 5 times the price of a normal chocolate bar!
THE BIKINI is show time essential and is the best part for me- it’s often what keeps me going when I’m starving, exhausted and contemplating a fish supper!
There is a huge amount of choice for bikinis, but it’s worth investing in and doing your research – after all the hard work you want one that makes you feel amazing. I’ve seen girls backstage with jewels popping off their suits and straps breaking just before they go on stage.
I have three bikinis, all designed by Marguerita Vonral. Different federations have different rules about what is required, as does the category you are in and Mags knows her stuff. She is also super talented at what she does – so much so, for the British final I gave her free reign to do whatever she wanted and I’m so delighted with it. My bikinis are covered in hand-sewed Swarovski, which looks beautiful under the stage lights. Bikinis vary in price, mine range from £300 to £450 – they are a prize possession – combined they are definitely worth more than my wedding dress. I justify it as the money I would have spent on wine and gin?
SHOES have also been a learning curve for me!! Typically it is a high, perspex shoe as they elongate your leg (a la pole dancer), but rules apply on height depending on your category.
Like Goldilocks, I have tried 3 types –
Very high: I walked like a giraffe in heels and they required too much concentration!
Very Low: When I competed in athletic category the height of heel was lower and while comfortable I felt really frumpy.
Just right: finally this year I landed on my perfect pair – medium height
HAIR AND MAKEUP is something that female competitors invest a lot in. Unfortunately I don’t have hair I can ‘flick’ so I just stick to a decent blow dry. I also have done my own make up so far. However, when I see my fellow competitors I usually regret that decision as professional make-up does add a bit of magic!
LEARNING TO POSE: When I first started I remember thinking one posing lesson would do the trick… how wrong!! Posing is an art and there is so much to think about and clench, while trying to look relaxed, smile and keep within a set time. Again, different federations have slightly different requirements as do the categories. Practice, practice, practice! Marguerita, is also my posing coach is extremely patient and is great at breaking down the moves for me and showing how subtle moves can make a big difference to an overall look. At the end of a posing session or competition you will hurt! All that squeezing is a tough workout!
Finally, the all important STAGE TAN – not to be taken lightly (literally!) – you can get marked down for it not being dark enough – mahogany is the shade of the day! Some federations have their own preferred formula – but either way it is always DARK! If you aren’t teeth and eyes after your tanning then there is a need for an extra coat! I pity the poor cleaners in a venue used by body builders as the toilets are always bright orange by the end of the day! Generally you need a double spray and a top coat gloss!
What’s competition day like?
I love competition day – it’s like Christmas day. After working so hard for all these months and it’s finally time to enjoy it with your fellow contestants.
The atmosphere is always amazing back-stage – people are so friendly. When I started competition I found this surprising – I expected it to be very bitchy but it’s quite the opposite. On the day we are all in the same boat and have gone through the same gruelling training and deprivation to get there. Whatever the outcome, we are all doing something that only a small percent of people do and that feels special.
Back stage is generally a sea of opened, disheveled suitcases, bags of jelly babies, bottles of wine, rice cakes and jars of jam – all essentials for giving you a last ‘pump’ before you hit the stage. When it’s time for your category to go on stage, we hit the ‘pump room’ – light weights to pump up muscles and then a final gloss over the tan.
…and then the nerves kick in – I am definitely not a natural on the stage! Some girls just ooze sass and confidence – that’s not me! But I love the buzz when I come off stage and have survived and not fallen over!
What do you kids/ husband think?
My husband is very tolerant of my training and competing. I’m not sure he loves it, but he respects the amount of work that goes into it.
My kids find it mainly funny and on show day they spend most of the time laughing at men in pants!
There is no doubt that people are very opinioned about body building and that can be upsetting. It’s definitely not treated with the same respect as other sports, but arguably it’s more grueling due to the restricted diet. People associate it with the 5 minutes that you are on stage in heels and a bikini. In reality that is the tiniest percent of the whole process, but somehow dominates some people’s opinion. Winning my regional category was a triumph for my 13-year old self.
Anything is possible if you are focused, resilient and determined and surround yourself with positive, like-minded people. I hope I teach my children that valuable lesson.
What treats do you miss most?
I miss a Saturday night wine and pizza – there is something nice about the ritual of a gin or wine with a take away and somehow broccoli and chicken with a black coffee and rice cake doesn’t have the same impact!
What’s the best bit?
The first meal after it’s over – it is heavenly!!
How amazing do you feel when you are sitting by the pool on holiday?
Haha! Not as great as you might think! I am probably more critical of my body because I monitor it so closely on the run up to a competition. But I need to remind myself that being shredded is only temporary, it cannot by maintained. Or if you do maintain it you are sacrificing way too much in your life!
What’s you biggest achievement?
To win my category at Scottish UKDFBA in 2019 – I never dreamt I would take first place!
I also came 2nd in BNBF Scottish Figure Master and 2nd in UKUP Scottish Figure toned – so 2019 was an amazing year.
I competed in the UKDFBA British and International finals recently, which was an honour to share the stage with such phenomenal athletes. I didn’t place, but it’s an experience I will never forget and I am proud to have been invited to compete.
Competition season is over now for me. But I am still training 5 times per week and currently deciding what my 2020 challenge will be.
I am scheduled to have an operation on my foot which will make me immobile for at least 6 weeks – that will be a mental test for me!
I absolutely love weight training but know I can’t compete every year as the severe diet is not good for my health – or my family life! Who knows – maybe the Highland Games!
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