Jemma (August 2017)

THE PAY OFF: Jemma’s new body after her hard work (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

EVERYONE has a story – a past, a life of experiences. Some are worth telling and some not. 

What you may not know about Jemma – and would not from simply looking at her photos – is that as a teenager, she was, quite literally, all skin and bones, down to 5 1/2st (77lbs) and losing a battle with anorexia.

If you had suggested back then that at close to 30 she’d complete a three-month program that included lifting weights five days a week, eating healthily and dramatically ramping up her fitness levels, it would have seemed unfathomable.

What it shows, though, is that no matter how grim things are, there’s usually a way out and a way to move forwards.

Jemma admits that anorexia nearly took her life. She was hospitalised. It caused a lot of misery and suffering. But she survived.

However, Jemma’s relationship with her bodyweight has been a rollercoaster ride. When she was anorexic (for five years between the ages of 12 and 17), she said her skin was grey and her hair falling out. She doesn’t know how she didn’t die.

When you take that as the starting point, she’s done incredibly well to get to where she is now.

Overcoming anorexia didn’t mean the fight with body image had ended. Before starting the Amazing 12, Jemma was still unhappy with her appearance. She’d gained weight. None of her dresses fitted. Looking at her reflection, she was frequently reduced to tears. It’s a scenario that, sadly, many people can identify with.

This time when she saw herself as too heavy, she was closer to 13st (182lbs) than 5st. Jemma admitted it was down to poor lifestyle choices. She held herself accountable. 

“I was lazy,” she said of her mindset before the program. “I used to cry every night looking at myself. I wasn’t happy with how I’d become. But I just didn’t do anything about it. I was drinking a lot, eating take-aways, not doing much exercise.

“Now [after completing the Amazing 12] I know what it takes. I feel so much better. I don’t miss drinking [alcohol]. Whenever I eat bad food, I feel terrible.”

NO GOING BACK: Jemma’s determined to maintain a healthier lifestyle (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Jemma had reached the point where her desire to change was greater than her desire to stay the same. She chose to take action. She made changes. She signed up for the Amazing 12 Chichester almost without hesitation.

Often it takes a lot of bravery to embrace change. There’s a lot of fear involved.

In many cases we, as humans, would prefer to remain unhappy rather than face uncertainty.

Jemma didn’t know the intricate details of what she was signing up for, but she’d seen the results, had read on this website about what the program could do and how previous graduates had coped. Then she decided to take that leap.

If fact, I can’t recall anyone I’ve guided and coached through the program who has been more enthusiastic from beginning to end. She simply didn’t want it to finish. 

That’s not to say it was smooth sailing by any means. It was tough for Jemma. She complained – a lot!

But, as I have written in previous blogs, the limiting factor for Jemma was her thinking and not her strength or technique or fitness levels. I could always see her potential and knew, with her level of willingness, anything was possible.

We worked on it during every session. It’s a process. I tried to remind her that EVERY training session and EVERY day presented an opportunity for change and improvement. That’s the reality for us all.

In 12 weeks I got the best out of her that I could. Through consistency and commitment and application, she lost 32lbs in weight! But the transformation was even greater than that number might suggest, as she clearly developed muscle while also shedding fat.

TOP GUN: Now Jemma has biceps, but not just for show (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

She can undoubtedly go on from here to becoming stronger and fitter. Jemma’s already said she wants to do the program again next year, before she gets married.

Her transformation is not just about how her body looks. It is also about what her body can now do, how she feels in herself, her approach to nutrition and the increased self-belief she has cultivated. 

“I feel so much happier,” she said. “Even people at work have commented how I’m back to my old self. There’s no way I’m going back [to being overweight].

ACHIEVEMENT: getting the results she was after (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

“I did the Amazing 12 to lose weight, tone up and change my lifestyle. I wanted to better my knowledge and learn how to lift weights correctly.

“It’s made me much more confident about my body. I’ve even had my legs out without tights on! This was a no-no before. And it’s given me the confidence to know what I’m doing in the gym is correct.”

Jemma is so much more empowered. I’ve seen her blossom in the past 12 weeks, not just in physique and fitness, but also in stature and confidence.

This girl showed tremendous discipline. She missed only one of the 60 training sessions and still hasn’t completely forgiven herself even though she couldn’t do much about it.

“I was very dedicated and had great support in my home life which made it easier for me,” said Jemma. “I was worried having a full-time job and the travel and also getting another puppy would get to me. But it was doable and the time has flown by. It was well worth the hard work.

“I was so down and depressed before. But this [the Amazing 12] turned me around. I’ve learned so much. Claude has been the best coach and so supportive.”

There were times I had Jemma do some training by herself in addition to the gym sessions with me – which is all part of the program – and I don’t suspect that she skipped any of it.

FEEL-GOOD FACTOR: discovering how training can be a fantastic mood-enhancer (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Sometimes she was tired and aching, but she still got it done. Often I’d get a text message in the morning telling me how great she felt for doing so.

There were numerous occasions, too, when Jemma came to the gym feeling stressed or worn out or sore or not on her game and practically every time, though, she’d leave feeling much more upbeat and revitalised.

“It’s amazing how that happens,” she’d say repeatedly.

In terms of following and sticking to the eating plan, Jemma found it tricky in the beginning, but had it figured out most of the time.  

“It did seem a bit daunting at first,” she admitted. “But once I got into it I wasn’t having to prep hardly as much and it was simple. I mostly enjoyed it. I didn’t feel hungry at all and having a cheat day made it even easier. I’ll be sticking to a similar way of eating going forwards.”

Jemma’s mindset throughout was ‘I have invested too much into this to let myself down’.

Because she applied herself completely and had total trust in me and the program, the Amazing 12 really worked well for her. The weight kept dropping off and her strength and fitness increased. 

Especially during the last few weeks, I could see her shape changing. By the end, she not only looked like an athlete, she was stronger  – physically and mentally – as well.

TECHNIQUE: creating the arch for a strong bench press

“No-one is going to accuse me of being Photoshopped,” she said. “I’ve worked bloody hard.”

Week after week and session after session, almost without fail, Jemma would repeat, “I just can’t believe…” and would follow those words with “how much stronger I am” or “how much fitter I’ve become” or “how much weight I have lost”.

To say she felt proud and those around her were proud of her also, is a massive understatement. And she deserves every morsel of praise for her efforts.

It’s not as if she lives around the corner from the Core Results gym either. Jemma travelled each day from Waterlooville, near Portsmouth. Most days we’d finish training around 9pm.

PULLING HER WEIGHT: in terms of devotion if not kilos

Jemma may have been impatient at times – actually, most of the time – but she embodied the other factors I consider crucial for progress with any training program: commitment and consistency.

At first she was desperately self-conscious of her movement and worried about how she was doing. After all, she was fairly new to the type of training on the Amazing 12. She’d compare herself to others and be concerned that she was slowing everyone down. She’d fret over never being good enough or that 12 weeks wouldn’t be long enough for her to make the necessary changes to her technique.

Gradually, as she changed and learned and improved, those worries began to disintegrate as easily as some of the excess weight she was carrying in the beginning.

HOT OFF THE PRESS: Jemma’s shaping up on the final day

Her fitness levels altered quite dramatically. Where she struggled during short workouts at the beginning of the program, by week 12 she was going for much longer and with heavier weights and at a higher intensity without compromising her form.

“I feel ABSOLUTELY AMAZING,” she said after she’d finished. “I can’t describe my happiness in how I look and feel.

“Even my fitness has literally rocketed and I can run without stopping and aching. I feel so much stronger and energetic.

“Confidence-wise, I’m even pushing through reps when it gets tougher instead of thinking I can’t do it.”

I recall how, when she started with me and we had a training session before the program to assess her strength levels and how she moved, Jemma told me how she felt she had no upper body strength.

LOOKOUT: keeping a watchful eye on Jemma’s form

Here are some examples of how much progress she made. I started her with 7.5k for the Military/overhead Press and she finished with 26k for reps. For the bench press, she began with 15k and wound up lifting, for reps, 40k. Her back squat needed so much work that I had her begin with a 20k bar with the aim of getting her to squat more deeply and she ended up doing 77.5k quite comfortably (meaning she could do more) for two reps and impressive technique. Her deadlift, for multiple reps, went from 30k to 75k. There are many more examples I could give. On all of those lifts, she has the capacity to continue improving.

Jemma’s determined to keep going. She knows she has to stay on top of the way she eats. She knows how easy it is to start consuming take-aways regularly again and see all the hard work disappear.

There has to be a balance. There is no escaping the fact that to stay in shape and healthy requires paying greater attention to what you eat and how much of it your consume. Like it or hate it, that’s just the way it is.

GIRL OF STEEL: Jemma discovered her inner and outer strength (photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Jemma’s come to recognise through this experience how much cleaner food, a dedication to training, following a progressive program and keeping a more positive mindset can be transformative.

“There’s nothing I’d change about the Amazing 12,” she told me. “Everything was spot-on and I felt really looked after and well informed throughout.”

To those contemplating doing the program, she said this: “Do it. You won’t regret it. It was the best experience ever. Loved it. I was so chuffed with my transformation.

“If you want to be physically and mentally stronger as well as improve your lifestyle and fitness, this will help you. But you have to be fully committed and willing to learn.”

*If you’re in need of or desire a transformation, want to learn how to train smartly and effectively, would like to challenge yourself to get stronger and fitter, require guidance with food and nutrition and are inspired by Jemma’s results, get in touch at The next Amazing 12 Chichester begins on September 18. Don’t delay. Places are limited and results are achieved only by taking action.

Week 11: The Power of Now

MIND ON THE JOB: Believing in yourself can make all the difference

DO you ever find your mind continually straying? It dwells on the past or drifts into the future. But how often are you present and in the moment? I mean, REALLY in the moment.

Jemma, now 11 weeks into the Amazing 12 Chichester at Core Results, has a classic case of a wandering mind. And it’s at the root of her anxiety and worry. She knows it.

She’s much better at dealing with it now than when she started the Amazing 12. Jemma admits her stress levels have dropped significantly.

Jemma laughs that I “always bring her back to reality”. Sure enough, without fail, in EVERY session there comes a point when I remind her that all that matters is where we are now and what she is doing in that very second. Not the set she just completed or the next exercise or what she is going to eat next week or what she’s going to wear for her photo shoot or a conversation she had at work that day.

Anything that takes you out of the present moment is a distraction and diminishes the quality of what you are trying to achieve.

There has probably never been a harder time to be present. In this highly technological age, we are continually distracted and our electronic devices are doing precisely that – training and honing us for distraction.

We pride ourselves on being multi-taskers in order to get more done, but it’s been scientifically proven that multi-taskers are actually less effective.  It stands to reason that trying to do more than one thing simultaneously means quality will suffer. The focus becomes the doing rather than the experiencing.

SWEATY NIGHT: But Jemma’s still going strong

The gym or exercise/training arena is a great opportunity to turn off the ‘noise’. For me, training is like moving meditation. It’s why I’m against my clients having their phones on or accessible when they are training. The moment they check in with the phone their mind is diverted elsewhere. If you are on the phone, you can’t be training. You might be doing something, but it’s not training. 

When it comes to lifting weights or attempting anything that has an element of risk or complexity, concentration should be paramount.

Sometimes Jemma will try to carry on a conversation with me while training and, with my eyes, I’ll point to the equipment as if to say, ‘concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing’.

If you are talking while training there is no way the exercise can be executed with complete focus. You’re missing the opportunity and limiting your results.

Ever notice why some repetitions feel easier than others? It may feel accidental or random, but I reckon it’s because sometimes you are more centred and focused than at other times.

The harder or more challenging the exercise/movement, the more dialled in you need to be.

When I get Jemma to crawl with a foam roller on her lower back as part of her warm-up, initially she may start complaining. But when I tell her she will start again if it falls off, suddenly her complaining ends and she goes into a different mode. In those moments I see what she is really capable of.

This week we had another example. I had Jemma slamming a ball and hitting a tyre with a sledgehammer. Halfway through, she started complaining her back was feeling tight and sore.

CONCENTRATED: Jemma’s in the zone

It’s not uncommon for Jemma to complain and I know she likes a bit of drama, but, nonetheless, I told her we would stop if the discomfort was too great.

With Jemma I’ve come to identify the difference between hurt and pain. Her use of the word ‘hurt’ is when her muscles are being worked with some degree of intensity. Pain is when she has damaged something. Nearly always, she is dealing with hurt. I wouldn’t ever encourage her to train through pain.

Not wanting to short-change herself, though, Jemma elected to carry on. She is driven to get the best results possible. And what was brilliant was that she not only went silent, but connected fully to her body, corrected her positioning and channelled her concentration into every repetition for the remainder of the session.

The outcome: improved form; no discomfort; greater workrate; better workout; higher feel-good factor; more energy.  

Training clearly is a way to bring about more focus and enable us to practice being in that ‘now’ moment. It’s a skill that can be taken into our outside-the-gym-training-area life, too.

It is a massively important skill to have, though far from an easy one to sustain, never mind master.

FOCUS: the main difference between a good and bad lift

To execute a movement to a high standard in the gym, for instance, you need to be switched on and in the zone. For starters, the mind has to stop chattering and firing at you messages that are defeating and unproductive.

When you are completely in ‘the now’, no fear or worry or pain exists. How do you get there? Like anything else, it comes with practice.

When I watch tennis or world class sports people in action, I see that it is not necessarily the advantage in technique or skill that makes the difference at the highest level, but the ability to return to the ‘now’ for each point or second.

With lifting weights, successes are made or broken by our state of mind. Anyone who has been on the Amazing 12 Chichester and is self-aware enough will discover this. Jemma this week had a tough time deadlifting, for instance. Admittedly, she was lifting a heavier weight than ever before, but it wasn’t a weight that was beyond her (or else I wouldn’t have prescribed it). I know that because she was able to lift it.

But in difficult moments her thoughts got the better of her. She couldn’t turn off the internal commentary.

“It’s too heavy,” she moaned. “I can’t do it.”

“It’s not the weight that’s too heavy. It’s the weight of your thoughts that is too heavy,” I replied.

As Eckhart Tolle says in his brilliant book, The Power of Now, “When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution.”

Jemma had lost focus. She became consumed by her grip, the previous set, the difficult repetition, the stressful week she’d had, the heat and a host of other thoughts that got in the way of her completing the lift.

DRAG FACTOR: pulling the sled

Remember, it’s our Central Nervous System that calls the shots. The CNS will protect us if it senses a threat too great. The more we keep feeding it messages of concern or worry or fear or doubt, the less chance we have of being granted the strength to fulfil the task.

Here’s the take-away: challenge yourself to stay in the ‘now’ moment. Give your training complete focus. It doesn’t mean you can’t socialise with those around you. It means that when the time comes to actually train or spring to action or pick up the weights, put ALL of your attention into what you are doing.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t maintain it for even short periods. But notice what happens when you do. The mere action of noticing will restore you to the present.

In that space, though, you are not only free of worry, but your actions are more deliberate, movements far more precise and, most importantly, the risk of injury much less.

This wave of the Amazing 12 is now nearly complete. The next one begins on September 18. If you want an experience that is challenging, educating, rewarding and, above all else, will deliver results provided the program is followed precisely, contact me at Places are limited, but the potential for growth is great.