If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably be aware that on Saturday, I’m going to be competing in a little event called The Arnolds.
Okay, not so little – The Arnolds is the biggest multi-sport festival in the world, founded in 1999 by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer. They are usually held in America, but this weekend (1st-3rd October), they are coming to the UK for the first time. It’s a pretty big deal to be invited to compete – I’m very excited!
So, I thought it would be the perfect topic for my first blog post – a bit about what the competition involves, my journey to compete, and how I’m feeling about the big day!
Invitation to The Arnolds
You can’t just enter yourself into The Arnolds. You apply, but then you have to be individually invited to take part, usually if you’ve recently placed highly in a couple of pro shows.
The world of competing is still quite new to me; I’ve only been in the professional league for about a year. I’m actually quite surprised to have been asked, if I’m honest!
After competing for about seven years, I won my pro card in 2019. I was going to go to America, but that didn’t happen because of Covid. So instead, I prepped the whole of 2020 and did my first international pro show in Alicante, and the British one after that. I placed fourth in the UK show – which is probably why I got invited to The Arnolds.
I had no idea I was going to be invited, though. Back in the spring, my coach rang me and said can you get to the gym in about an hour? I do promotions for him sometimes, so I wasn’t too suspicious. I got to the gym and was waiting around. He’s always late, but on that day it was getting ridiculous!
Then suddenly he walked in with Ian, the Arnolds promoter. I recognised Ian, so straight away I knew what was happening. I couldn’t believe he had come up from London specially to come to my gym and give me an invitation personally!
It’s a physical invitation too – golden-ticket style, in a golden envelope with a ribbon. I’ve got it framed on my wall now.
I’ll be competing in Bikini – the smallest category within bodybuilding. In terms of shape, it’s all about femininity, symmetry, muscularity – very toned but not overly muscular.
Then there’s also the show element to it – walking in heels, how well you pose and your show presence in general. Apart from the mandatory IFBB poses – front stance and back stance – you can create your own way of transitioning between poses, as well as adding in other poses that are unique to your body.
Training – a bumpy ride but we’re here now
For pro shows I do about a 21-week prep. Because of my epilepsy, I’ve got to make sure I’m not overly tired from overtraining. So I need to factor in extra rest days and listen to my body a little bit more.
Honestly, this prep has been the hardest prep I’ve ever done. Back in May, the Covid vaccination caused me to have 11 seizures back-to-back. I ended up being admitted to hospital for a couple of days, and my heart stopped and I had to be resuscitated. A couple of months after that, when I contracted Covid, I was having seizures back-to-back then too.
At that point, because my body was so stressed out, I wasn’t losing any weight. My body was telling me to give up. But one thing about me is I never give up.
My coach and I had a really good discussion. He said that personally, he didn’t want me to carry on because my body needed to rest – but it was up to me. And I said I might as well try.
When I got back in training, everything felt 100 times harder. I couldn’t breathe properly and my fitness had dropped because I’d had a week off.
With a lot of hard work I’ve managed to get into the position I’m in now. I’m where I need to be with a few days to go – just a pound or so to come off.
I have been on reduced calories, and then from last weekend I’ve been doing a slow increase in carbs – potatoes, rice, probably cookies by the end of the week!
Because your body’s tired and overworked, and how lean you are, your muscles hold onto carbohydrates better. It fills out your muscles, so you look full and fresh, rather than skinny and knackered!
Because I’ve been doing this for a long time, I can tell that when I’m lean I feel very ‘flat’, and then when I carb up my muscles feel more pumped up. If you do it in the right way, you put it on in the right areas – glutes and shoulders – so you have the ideal look for the category.
I’ll be travelling down on Friday and registering that night at the athlete’s meeting. All the pros get together and they run through the schedule.
Because of Covid restrictions we can only go in for our own timeslot, to reduce the amount of people backstage. To be honest, I’m quite glad about that – I can sit in my hotel room and chill out!
I’d love to go round all the exhibits, but on show day and the day before you’ve got to rest. Because of how lean you are, the slightest bit of movement and your body could hold on to water. You’ve got to lay down with your feet up and try not to move, which will be hard for me because usually I do not stop!
How I’m feeling…
I’m really excited! And nervous – I’d be silly if I wasn’t.
I just can’t believe I’ve managed to get to where I am. Over the past few months, everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. Covid, the seizures, being hospitalised… and I crashed my car!
Show day is the easy part. You’re glammed up, with your hair and makeup looking amazing and your bikini on, showing off what you’ve worked hard for.
When you’re up onstage, people forget about the day-in, day-out stuff: the low calories, low mood, tiredness, hunger, cardio, getting up at six. You’ve got to be so dedicated and consistent, even at the lowest points.
I’m excited to compete in front of an audience too – I haven’t had a proper crowd since I won my pro card. It’s a bit scary with everyone watching, but you’ve just got to switch off and enjoy it.
There are around 18 girls in the category with me, a few of whom I’ve met before. I’m excited to see how I place against the top girls – I’ve never been against them before, so I’m interested to see how I’ll look next to them. Do I need to grow more, or am I already where I need to be?
I don’t like to compare myself to other people, particularly because people often look different in photos to real life. I only compare myself to how I looked last year – and I know I look a million times better than I did then, so I’m happy!
Well, directly after the competition finishes, probably a whole lot of food!
After that, I have the FitParade in Budapest on 17th October. It might seem like a lot to do two shows in a row, but actually, it’s not that much extra work. You’re already where you need to be – so you might as well not waste all that hard work. You just need to drop a bit of water weight from all the food you ate after the first show, and then bulk back up to peak condition.
After that, I’ll have about five months of off-season to make sure my health is right. I’ll increase food, increase body fat, train hard, and put some decent muscle on to be unstoppable next year! I want to go to America for about a month and do a few shows while I’m there.
If I did manage to win The Arnolds, I would qualify for the Olympia 2022 – basically the pinnacle of IFBB competing. It’s traditionally held in Las Vegas, but has been in Florida for the last two years. Only the top twenty girls in the world get invited – so that would be incredible.
Wish me luck for this weekend!