Our VERY FIRST Guest blog post for the BitchMittens Ballroom is from Jason Kenny, Men’s Physique & Fitness Model Competitor, personal trainer and Coast Guard. Whatever you think of this type of competition, no one can argue that it requires an insane amount of commitment and dedication, and Jason has won world titles left, right and centre, “Mr Physique”, “Mr Athletic”, “Mr Beach Body” just recently at the National Champs.
Jason’s wife Audrey took the plunge this year and with his help, trained for and WON a few titles of her own. Here he talks about what it means to train with your partner, and how they make it work. Audrey is also an amazing Coast Guard member, and mum of three.
All we can say here at BitchMittens HQ, is… HOLYSHITBALLS, Jason and Audrey two look like superheroes. Let’s take a peek at the crazy world of competitive fitness models!
Couples who Train Together
By Jason Kenny
We all have busy lives, and in a modern household, some couples just end up passing each other by, like ships in the night. Trying to do anything that may bring you together is a huge bonus and one that will strengthen any relationship. That is exactly what we chose to do. We decided to hit the gym and start working out as a couple. We would plan our days and work around our jobs, any appointments that we had coming up or needed to be at. We would head off and get our sessions in. As we started to develop our routine we would go for a coffee and sit down discussing everything from kids to the next workout. At times, we would simply just enjoy the quiet moment together watching the world RUSH by. As I was already competing in Mr Physique Shows and having won the WBFMA Worlds in November 2016, we decided that this time we would enter the Irish Nationals as a couple and prepare together.
Having your partner go through what you go through preparing for one of these has its advantages in that they experience all the highs and lows that you would have gone through in the past. The disadvantage is now two people are experiencing them together and that in itself can present a problem if you aren’t aware of what you are going through. It teaches you discipline, it teaches you to be there for each other, recognise stressors and motivate each other.
This of course is the extreme of any sport taking it to a level of competition, where you put your body on the line, pushing it to its limits. But there are values in working together. The whole household changed. Attitudes towards foods, and making healthier choices together is really rewarding. It’s not about diet really but more about a lifestyle change for everyone and taking responsibility for your choices.
We would cook and bake special treats, like sweet potato brownies and avocado bread and the kids would get involved asking about training and wanting to learn how to cook meals. The health of the house rose up and the level of excitement and buzz in the air was electric.
We continue to train together and are preparing to do another show in 11 weeks time. It is quite awhile away but it is another milestone and challenge.
The secret to success
It is not rocket science, nor is it really any major secret to how anyone can achieve their ideal weight and boost their immune system. First of all, it is down to knowing your required calorie intake and working out your expenditure based on that. If you are taking in 1800kcal and only expending 1000kcal then you are going to end up with an excess of calories that your body will store.
Moreoften than not it is about food timing and placement. Doing what we do is about eating every 2.5hrs-3hrs, and reducing the heavier meals in the evening.
But here is the real key to success…..PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. Do this and you will never get caught out. Everyone needs a minimum of 6 meals a day, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and 3 Snacks.
Also it is important at this time to expel the myth of not eating after a certain time, is complete crap. You can eat up to 1.5-2hrs before bed time of course as long as it is not loaded with sugar and caffeine.
If you don’t like certain foods such as eggs, it is probably down to how you are cooking them. Eggs are pretty much in everything we eat from buns to quiche. Add flavours, herbs, spices. Look up alternative cultural recipes and how other nationalities cook their foods. Experiment and you’d be amazed with simply cooking it differently or adding something small, can alter the whole meal. As an example, I had a client who wouldn’t eat asparagus, so instead of boiling it of steaming it I got him to oven bake it and leave it on for that extra little bit with a sprinkle of Garlic so that it was crispier. So, essentially you had roasted Garlic Asparagus and he loved them.
Also prepare your food in bulk, cook off for example a load of chicken and break it down and freeze what you are not using. Put on your favourite TV program and put them all in the pot/steamer or oven and let them cook away.
How can you stick to it without breaking out?
The Idea of a cheat meal is to help reward your efforts and something to look forward to. Now, that’s a CHEAT MEAL, not a CHEAT DAY. But aside from the psychology there is a science to it too. Ghrelin, a peptide hormone mainly produced by the stomach, is an appetite stimulant that signals the release of growth hormone. Low-calorie diets and chronic exercise have been shown to result in increased ghrelin concentrations, which may lead to increasing food intake and body weight. Caloric deficit diets also cause the body to attempt to conserve energy by decreasing levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which help regulate and maintain metabolism. Therefore, weekly cheat meals that are higher in calories and carbs can help raise leptin levels while lowering ghrelin levels. This helps to return your hormone levels to normal and can reverse or prevent any slowing down of your metabolism. This in return improves your thyroid function, thus further boosting your metabolism. So THAT is the science. In a nutshell get those extra calories into and enjoy a guilt free meal. BOOM and back on to your healthy living!
All the best to everyone!
Notes from the Ed
I’m getting married! In like 135 days (but who’s counting!) I have dreamt about this day since I knew it was getting pretty darn serious with himself! And I want to look good. Not just for him or my adoring family but for me. I want to look back when I’m seventy odd and go damn! Damn, damn, DAMMMMN! I want to radiate, I want to dazzle, I want shine! It’s the most important day of our lives so far and I want to wow! With that, I thought I’d share my thoughts and some tips about how I’m making the best me for the big day!
1. Don’t change if you don’t want to.
This is probably the most important tip, which is why it’s coming first. I’m all for being healthy and fit but sometimes self love is more important. You are beautiful and your significant other obviously thinks you’re pretty amazing so if you are happy with how you look and how you feel then keep on trucking the way you have been. Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than confidence! Wedding magazines, blogs and frankly yourself can make feel pressured into “shaping up for the wedding.” If you don’t want to then please don’t. It is important to be happy and comfortable about your wedding. It’s your day and you’re gawjus!
2. If you’re gonna do it, do it for the long haul.
If you are going to get fitter and healthier for your wedding then you might as well not stop there. Fitness is a way of life and should go hand in hand with your daily life. If this is something that you haven’t been doing and decided to partake due to impending nuptials then why stop at the wedding. No point sweating and dieting and crying over that slice of double chocolate wonder fudge cake to fit in that Vera Wang/Claire Pettibone/Vivienne Westwood if you are going to fall back into an old lifestyle after you say I do. Use the wedding as a benchmark and then break through it and continue this awesome, healthy life you’ve created for yourself.
3. Find an exercise/sport that works for you and then mix it up.
Honestly, exercise doesn’t have to been that sweating, lumbering ball and chain strapped to you. If running is hard on your knees then try swimming. If you’ve always fancied yourself as the next Serena Williams (man she is kick ass!) then join the local tennis club or just hit it up against a wall in your back garden. There are so many ways to get active and stay fit, you just got to find something that works for you. Something that tires you out, gets you’re heart rate up but doesn’t make you hate yourself, or life… And don’t just find one, find two or three and keep things mixed up during the week. It’s been proven that keeping the body guessing is a good way to increase fitness, weight-loss and help prevent burnouts.
4. A little bit of toning goes a long way.
Now, no one’s asking you to go out and deadlift 80 kilos (if you want to give that a shot, please do!) but toning and small weights work wonders and they don’t have to take that long. Firstly, understand that muscle uses up more energy that fat, even when it’s not being used, so it burns more calories. More muscle, more fat loss. Secondly, doing weights twice a week helps the brain and keeps you mentally young (so that’s a bonus). What I’ve been doing is getting up first thing every morning and spending 5-10 minutes busting out some squats, sit ups, tricep dips etc. I found exercises that would help tone up the areas I want to improve (Pinterest a beautiful thing) and I’ve just been gunning through them, knowing that will not only improve how I look but also how I feel and how I perform in rowing.
5. Don’t eat less, eat better.
There are intense/complicated ways to lose weight through food and if that’s what you are going for then all power to you, I just don’t really get macros! But I think it’s important to note that food is not only depicting your waistline but many other things as well. Your hair, skin, nails, eyes are all affected by what you eat. So don’t just think about how little can I eat, also consider what way can I eat better. As a fellow rower once said, your dinner should be a rainbow. Fill yourself with nutrient rich veggies and fruit, to shine your hair, sparkle your eyes and brighten your skin. There’s a lot of reading behind this so do a bit of research, talk to a specialist and find what foods work for you. It’s not all about eating less. And it’s not about avoiding the double chocolate wonder fudge cake either!
So that’s all I’ve learned from sweating for the wedding. I am working my way to the big day, trying to be beautiful, healthy and confident on the inside so that I look my best on the outside. So that I feel like the best version of me. And so when I walk up the aisle my Aunt Bernie whispers “dammmmmmmmmn!” to my Uncle Noel.
So after my very long rant about hating being a prisoner to my weight I decided to put a ban on myself. No counting calories, no weighing myself, no measuring my body, for 21 days. 21 DAYS?!?!? Seemed like a good number, don’t all detoxes take 21 days? 3 weeks, how bad… Honestly, at first this sounded great! Like a holiday! But when you control what you eat so much (as I was beginning to) it is insanely daunting. How do I know if I’m over eating? Or under eating? Getting enough of the good stuff? Will I balloon up, will I shrink down? There was too much freedom. One half of me was thrilled, the other half was very very scared.
So, the first few days were really hard in terms of not counting calories (but fine with not weighing myself). I literally had to delete my ‘MyFitnessPal’ app from my phone because I was subconsciously opening it up to check on meals, to calculate what I could have as a snack etc. I’d open the app, go ‘shit no!’ and close it back down. The app had to go, out of sight out of mind. Not so easy, since I had lost my app I was starting to just calculate it in my head, again I would cry ‘no!’ and eat a piece of cheese for good measure. Thankfully, after the first week it settled down. My diet hadn’t actually changed so I convinced myself that I was still eating the same amount (whether I was or I wasn’t) and I also tried to convince myself that it didn’t matter. Because it doesn’t matter.
The second week went by more smoothly. I had gotten into the swing of judging my food without looking for it’s calorific value, for it’s protein content, sugar content. Food was fun again. My portions were decent, I was never hungry. Every so often I would get a little niggle in my stomach, in my head. A worry that I was indulging a little too much. But then I kept reminding myself that counting calories is not normal and, to a certain extent, not healthy. At least not for me. And that I was eating good, hearty, healthy food. By the end of the week I was flying it! I even started to look at my body in positive light. When I had no numbers to go by I had to judge myself on what I saw and boy did I like what I saw! I suddenly saw this strong, curvy woman, with tiny ankles, serious hips and beautiful shoulders. I was becoming very confident, feeling very comfortable. I was happy in myself!
The third week rolled in and suddenly I was anxious to weight myself. It was coming up to when I could step on the scales. At the beginning I didn’t mind not knowing but now I was getting curious. I wanted to see if my ban had a physical effect on me. If I had lost weight or worse gained weight. My biggest fear. That I would have to return to the cold cells of calorie counting because I could not stay the same weight without it. It was just after Easter and I had covered myself in chocolate so the dread started to kick in. But I restrained myself from checking what I was eating and what I weighed until the final day. VERDICT: I WEIGHED THE EXACT FUCKING SAME! I mean the exact same! I could’t believe it, I was convinced I must have put some weight on because I had given up control. Just goes to show that I must be doing something right! But this isn’t over…
This trial was both burdening and liberating. Not being in full control of what I ate was scary for me. I’ve being losing weight for a long time now and to just give in and eat when and how I wanted felt too free. I also had a constant fear that I could slip, slip back into old habits that lead me down the path that made me 3 stone heavier in the first place. That fear, that my old, unreliable self would prevail and the new healthy, active me was only a phase! And with my wedding looming I do feel an added pressure to be “the best version of me” that I can be. To fit into these numbers that I, myself, decided were perfect. On the hand the freedom felt good, it allowed me to appreciate my body more and felt positive about the food I was eating. When I wasn’t counting I felt no guilt, when I had nothing but my appearance to judge I realised how beautiful I was (and boy am I hot!)
I’m still struggling. There are days where I count and weigh and there are days when I don’t. I’d like to get to a point where I don’t feel I need to measure everything I eat to stay healthy. It will come in time and I won’t beat myself up about it. Now that my body is healthy I need to get my mind in check too. And that can be hard.
No Holding Back…
On being self-conscious
Finding a Sport That Works
Making Better Food Choices – Naturally
My 3.5 year old proudly says “my Mummy is going to do exercise!”
Don’t let anything, or anyone hold you back – especially if that someone is yourself.
Here are my top tips for making it work:
- Sharing babysitters with other people on your team to reduce costs.
- Find reputable clubs with qualified coaches, go to open days to get a feel of what is required and see if you can make it work for you and your commitments.
- To relieve boredom try circuit classes every once in a while and to keep your body guessing.
- Keep your fridge and freezer well stocked with healthy prepped snacks and meals.
- On days i cant get away from the house i set up little circuit courses in our sitting room and myself and my little one do reps like jumping jacks, the plank, mountain climbers and running on the spot.. She loves this.
Notes from the Ed
Helen is a busy mum, baker and blogger. You can follow her foodie posts over on http://hungrybabaworkingmama.blogspot.ie/ or drool over her fab foodie pics on @keoghhelen!