I REMEMBER clearly earlier this year returning from the gym having watched 43-year-old mum-of-two Sue Saunders work on her corrective exercises in her bid to return from shoulder surgery (May 2015). I said to my wife, “I can’t see Sue being ready [in time for the Amazing 12]”.
That was my judgement based on what I had seen to that point. The start of the Amazing 12 was only weeks away. But then something happened: Sue made miraculous progress. The shoulder loosened up and felt much better. Kudos to the team at Core Results for that. And, all of a sudden, Sue went from being a ‘No way’ to a ‘she’s ready’.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her. Sue’s worked with me on the Amazing 12 as my photographer since I started. She had seen all my previous graduates. I’d also worked with Sue as a coach, so there was already a strong element of trust both ways.
Sue had talked about the Amazing 12 with her father shortly before he passed away. This gave the challenge added significance. Naturally, she was concerned about the shoulder flaring up or not being up to the task. She had other concerns also: finding the time; devoting fewer hours to her photographic business; the impact on family life; coping with the sense of guilt from focusing on herself; not wanting to let anyone down.
Her husband told her to go for it. Her two children were supportive from the get-go. We scheduled some time in the gym for me to take her through some movements to test out her body and there didn’t seem any problems. I gave her the green light. Sue then made the decision to proceed.
She didn’t know precisely what she was letting herself in for, but knew she wanted to do it. I reassured her that the intention was – and always is – to enable her to become stronger, fitter and in better shape without causing injury. This program is adaptable.
As you can see from the photos, Sue did staggeringly well. Look at the photos and realise the difference in weight lost between the start and finish was only 3lbs, yet the transformation and increase in strength was impressive.
It wasn’t smooth sailing – and something like this seldom is. However, Sue missed only one day of training and she was gutted about that. She really wanted to be ever-present.
This was an adventure and all adventures, almost by definition, are lined with uncertainty, moments of joy and times when you have to dig incredibly deep and feel close to the edge of your comfort zone. Sue had several of those moments. The key is to keep going – and she did. There was never any question of that. Hopefully, I can coax her to explain in her own words in due course how the experience felt and what she gained from it.
There were some specific goals she had which were overcome. For example, her previous best deadlift (for one rep) was 82.5kg, yet by week 7 Sue was knocking out reps with 80kgs. By the finish, she had nailed 92.5kgs for multiple reps without putting down the bar.
Five days after her photo shoot I got her back in the gym and we did some strength-testing (above). She managed a single-rep deadlift of 102.5kgs (225.5lbs)!
To say Sue became stronger is an understatement. I remember the first day I ever trained her shoulders (going back a few years) and her grimacing as she pressed overhead a 7.5kgs bar with 1.25kg plates dangling on either side. To show how far she has come, by the end of the A12 she was shoulder-pressing for reps and sets with 16kgs dumbbells in each hand – and with more comfort than she is even aware of.
I watched her display tremendous grit to better her squatting with a weight that had left her stumped the first time we tried it. Her fitness levels soared as well. I recall Sue saying one day how amazed she was by the speed with which she was able to recover from day to day without ever feeling sore.
In the strength-test session, Sue hit 60kgs (bodyweight) for one rep on her bench press and did a chin-up from a dead-hang (arms straight) with 14kgs attached. As a fitness test, I had her do a 10-length challenge with an empty prowler after five weeks of training. She recorded a time of 2mins 45 secs. When we retested at the end of the program, her time was down to 2mins 27 secs for the same distance. Clear improvement!
I can’t deny Sue was challenging to coach, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. Sue undoubtedly helped me to grow as a person and coach. She asked questions every day. That’s just how she is – wanting and needing to comprehend the hows and whys for everything. She kept me on my toes. In return, I enjoyed encouraging her to challenge her perceived limits and prevail.
Initially, strength was her focus in order to regain the confidence to use her body as she could pre-injury, but then her attention switched to body shape and wanting to get an elusive six-pack, drop body fat, feel confident and lean enough in her body to wear shorts again and achieve a physique that reflected how hard an effort she had made.
I had to keep reassuring her that the program will deliver if you stick with it. It’s only normal when you haven’t been somewhere to ask or wonder what is around the next corner. Then we hit the final week – the peaking stage – where preparation is everything. Sue continued to display great strength. She knocked out 45 quality chin-ups in fairly short time in one particular session and told me on a scale of 1-10 for difficulty (with 10 being tremendously hard) that it felt like only a 5 or 6!
Sue’s an extraordinary and multi-skilled lady. She juggles a lot of balls. She’s a perfectionist. She also confesses to not liking change. But she’s also very funny, determined, committed and delivered results which exemplify what the Amazing 12 is all about.
I’m proud of her and grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her to write this chapter in her life. I hope enough of my philosophy has rubbed off on Sue to help her recognise this as the beginning and not the end and that with the right mindset and patience she has the potential to continue taking on and conquering any challenges she dares to set for herself.
*Want to be the next candidate for the Amazing 12 Chichester? I am taking applications for the wave beginning September 4 at Core Results, Chichester. Contact me at Claude@Intelligentstrength.co.uk