FFFC: Please introduce yourself to our readers (i.e. your name, occupation, hobbies, etc.).
My name is Rhiannon, I’m 31 from the Hunter Valley on the east coast of Australia. I grew up born and raised in the wine industry and have worked in local government in economic development for around 7 years.
I spent a great number of years studying to achieve under and post graduate education but this means every spare moment away from work was sitting at a screen. Being that my background is in wine, much of my spare time was spent dining and drinking. I also grew up hating any sport, I was incredibly overweight and depressed, and food and wine seemed to fill that void. I used to write for wine magazines as a hobby, and between working in an office, stuffing my face with food and drink and being very sedentary whilst studying – my whole lifestyle caught up to me.
Now, I lost nearly 35kg to hit the stage, and I’m a regular on the Australian body building circuit. The process is not only transformational for me in my body, but the change has been really positive on my psyche. I’m more confident and I feel passionate about helping others to achieve their goals.
I have achieved something I’m proud of, yet the inner fire for self-improvement is still burning. The great thing about the fitness lifestyle is you can always change your routine, learn new things and incorporate different styles of training to keep it interesting.
I have always been a happy person, but now, I feel content. I can invest my energies into something with purpose and it’s great to know I can keep kicking goals. I feel like I have more opportunities to celebrate myself, my achievements. Most importantly, I know I have set myself up with healthier habits for life.
FFFC: What sparked your weight-loss transformation journey?
I was obese. I was the bigger girl, with the personality to make up for it.
It felt like I had been on a “diet” for much of my adult life. I had zero fitness and was overweight, plagued by mystery illnesses, gut issues, daily life was becoming a struggle. I had bought into every diet fad and promise out there. I had exercise videos, tried spin classes, took up half-assed attempt at running, tried to love cardio, bought waist trimmers, raspberry ketones, paleo, low carb, prescriptions, cleanses, detoxes, fat teas, atkins, high protein, only protein to 4pm… you name it I tried it.
The reality was, while I am fairly educated, and thought I was well-read, I really didn’t have the basics right. The fat-loss industry doesn’t want people to know that fat loss is 100% nutritionally controlled. This thing called “calorie deficit”, people hear the term but don’t care to really understand what this means. Everyone, like me, wants the “fat cure” and are willing to try anything… but the basics.
My husband David and I had tried to join a gym before, but I had every excuse in the book to avoid going. We had no direction or focus with what we were doing, and no guidance to optimise our results. Over Christmas 2014, my husband David and I had sold our house, and moved back with my beautiful mum whilst we built our dream home. Hubby and I decided we wanted to get out the house, and do something together. We ended up at a gym, in front of a personal trainer.
FFFC: What was your beginning and current weight or measurements?
Only weighed myself after I started my weight loss journey. I was in denial for a long time at how large I had become. I weighed in around 91 kg but rarely weighed myself to avoid facing reality. I would blame old scales for being “faulty”. I wore a lot of stretchy jersey- type fabrics and dressed cleverly, mostly in black clothes to hide the extra weight.
I got down to 56.8kg stage weight for my first competitions in 2016 and 58.9kg stage weight in 2017 (more muscle). After comps, the only way to improve is to ignore the scale. I track only loosely and commit myself to growing more muscle and giving better shape to my body.
Right now, I’m a happy healthy 62kg, and currently heading into a new season of competition for 2018.
FFFC: Which physical activities did you participate in during your weight-loss journey?
Our coach has been around since the beginning and took us on as personal training clients. We were overweight and so he took us in to reach our first goal, to get fit.
Weight loss became a consequence of functional training. A lot of kettlebell and bodyweight HIIT type circuits and movements that are natural to the body. They were enough to get us energized, and feeling stronger, better in ourselves. Our lives became easier, we had more energy, we were motivated and seeing results.
We entered body transformation challenges to keep the motivation high. We both had small successes.
Six months in we became interested in the weights room, so we progressed. We learned upper and lower days. Then progressed to more body part splits. Then as muscle grew, we could identify our weaknesses and our physiological strengths and begin planning our own sessions around improvement.
At first, we just took it day by day, then week by week. Starting out 3 nights in the gym felt like too many and before long we are having to convince ourselves to have a rest day!
David and I are now also qualified as personal trainers, although we do not practice as a career.
FFFC: What inspired you to start competing on the stage in the Bikini category?
From starting out, and gradually seeing changes in our bodies and progressing to the weights room, we are lucky that our PT was into bodybuilding, and was coaching clients for stage whilst helping up improve.
One day the suggestion was made, we’d attended shows to support friends but I had no thought we could do this. Until we made the commitment.
We worked harder than we had ever worked before and in May of 2016, David stepped on stage as a fitness model and I strutted my stuff as a bikini model. And I took a second placing. At my second show a week later, I took first place bikini opens.
Since then I had an improvement season and brought more muscle to stage with some great placings in 2017. In 2017 I took out Bikini Trained Champion at the PCA Australian Titles.
Feedback has dictated I now have too much muscularity for the federations I usually compete with to fit into a “bikini” division.
Taking this on board, I have now set new goals to step into IFBB as they value a harder, muscular look in bikini. Although I really know I have to work to bring everything in better than it has been before.
FFFC: What does your typical workout routine look like as you prepare for your competitions?
Ordinarily I aim for at least 30 minutes low intensity cardio everyday such as walking, and spend around one hour doing resistance training 4-6 days per week.
I split my days as far down as I can, simply because I’m targeting improvement in weaker muscle groups. For instance, I can do a full session focused on just rear delts, another day might be anterior/medial delt, glutes and hammies, quads and calves, upper and lower back days as well as a compound lift day.
There are pros and cons to training this way, although for me it is about seeing targeted strategic improvements, and ensuring I am repaired and rested before I train the same body part again.
My husband and I still train together most nights, although more and more as we fine tune what we need to work, we might train different body parts.
FFFC: What do you typically eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner as you prep for the stage?
Fail to prepare, prepare for failure. I follow a ‘food prep’ lifestyle, where most of my meals are prepared in advance. I eat a macro split between protein, fats and carbohydrates prescribed and monitored between myself and my coach and I load my plate with plenty of fresh vegetables and salads make sure to keep it interesting. The cleaner you eat, the more you get to fit into your macros. Although I have no qualms having a cheat meal or if I go out there are easy and smarter choices like Vietnamese or fresh salads with cooked chicken.
The day starts with breakfast – usually based around oats and protein (egg white pancakes are amazing!). I take two protein, carb and veg meals to work to eat during the day. Usually it is easy to prepare chicken, greens and basmati or lean mince bolognaise with sweet potato or protein pasta. I might snack on some mixed nuts, a protein shake, or yoghurt during the day. And dinner is usually some fresh cooked chicken breast with a decent carb source and more greens.
Currently I’m really lucky and have a wonderful sponsor behind me, Black Box Fitness Meals, based on the Central Coast of NSW and deliver macro-prepared meals to Newcastle and the Hunter Region in NSW, Australia. They taste amazing, and having variety is really life saving at certain points of prep! They have options that are really low calorie but taste like home cooking, like rissoles, curried sausages or Sheppard’s pie.
Food is fuel, and so I do prefer to eat in line with nutrient timing, for example I prefer to have my carbohydrates around training.
FFFC: What is your favorite fitness activity?
Resistance training reigns supreme!
For fat burning, weights is really optimal. Doing weights gives a lot of variety, different ways of gauging progress, lets you go your own pace, and so many different variations.
Lifting heavy in the weights room helped me target muscle groups to improve how I look, achieving a more hourglass shape whilst increasing my functional strength as well.
Especially for women, lifting weights will help burn fat, but also help shape a body providing added curves and femininity. Most women are afraid of getting “bulky” and this is really hard to do – every guy in the gym is trying his absolute hardest to get bulky, believe me!
I have never enjoyed high intensity classes, so spin, jogging, pump classes or Zumba have never been for me. However, I found great results through weights and resistance training, and I quite enjoy steady state low intensity cardio such as an incline walk, using a stair-mill, or going outside and enjoying a bush walk.
FFFC: What is the best thing about competing?
The people you meet, the things you learn about your body, the drive you never knew you had!
Its been a wonderful process for my husband and I who have increased our social circles through undertaking this journey together. We have made more friends through becoming fit and through competing.
When my husband and I competed, we had some of the most amazing compliments of our lives. The achievement for us wasn’t just based on what our bodies looked like. It was a process that we had both ventured into, uncertain that we could even achieve the results we did in such a small amount of time. David had also lost nearly 35kg to hit the stage, and we both bursted with pride. The fact we did this together meant the achievement was even greater.
There have been so many people reach out to me since I started my journey, male and female, from around the world (and even around the corner). Lots of people inbox me regularly and keep me in the loop with their own body goals and this for me is the hugest compliment.
It astounds me how some simple, honest images that I’ve posted have the power to motivate and inspire others. I love Instagram because it has a massive fitness community, and it is mostly a positive and encouraging environment. It has been a prominent force throughout my journey, and so many motivating and inspiring people at different stages of their journey are on Instagram.
FFFC: What would you say is the most challenging about competing?
Self doubt. The hardest part is overcoming our own thoughts, we cast doubt everyday. Is this working, am I doing enough, am I going to make it in time, will I be lean enough, are my glutes good enough, look at my competition they are so more advanced than me!! There are a million ways doubt creeps in and at the end of the day I’ve experienced them all.
I believe it’s important to be honest with yourself, and don’t self-doubt. I don’t know how many times I’ve hindered my own progress by saying “I can’t”. Once you control your mind, you can conquer your body.
FFFC: What advice do you have for other women interested in competing in bikini?
If you aim to transform you have to absolutely want it. Change in lifestyle and habits will be necessary to make progress. Start today, set high goals and commit to a plan for a long period. Competing is not just about a 16 week prep. It will take a careful growth period to be competitive.
One hour is just 4% of your day for the gym, but this is a 24 hour a day sport. It starts with everything you put in your mouth, every little stress can cause havoc with your body. Soccer players train for a few hours a day and can leave soccer on the field. We have to live, breathe and be the body-building lifestyle.
If you want it. Go for it. Don’t do it for plastic trophies. Go up there to be your own best. Employ a knowledgeable coach because this is essential, our bodies are extremely sensitive to hormonal changes brought on by food and lifestyle and you need to protect your body long term from endocrine damage.
And focus on you. Self and continuous improvement. Whilst I love it, competing can be very demanding on your lifestyle, friendships, family and your body. Having your body judged can be confronting, particularly for someone like myself who would have been terrified to even wear a bikini a few short years ago.
However, I’ve found that pursuing this sport has given my life balance. I’m a goal-oriented person, so it’s important for me to continue towards self-improvement, and my only competition is me! I’m a regular person, I work full time, and I juggle my commitments including the gym. I’m not perfect, my body still has scars of fat loss, yet I embrace this because it is part of my journey.
FFFC: What future shows do you have coming up and how can folks find you on social media?
I have set myself a massive goal to take my competitions up a knotch in 2018. I have surpassed the softer “bikini” shape that many federations prefer in Australia so I am now planning to bring a harder, tighter package to IFBB and PCA in 2018 season A.
Find me on instagram @shape_up_girl – I post check-ins and gym tips, as well as nutritional knowledge and honest or funny parts of my day. I’m open and genuine, so feel free to follow and send me a message with any questions!