Form or function – learning life lessons through body building!

I’m conflicted; form or function, killer abs or super strength…? Is it possible to achieve both or must I choose?

I’m just reaching the end of 15 weeks’ worth of hard core training and dieting and about to commence ‘peak week’, the infamous last week before my physique competition when things start getting a little crazy. The last two weeks have been about depletion, running my tank empty, that last push before I hit cruise control and hopefully reach competition day exactly where I need to be.

In many ways I’ve never looked better, I love how defined my shoulders are now and my legs are the slimmest they’ve ever been, not skinny but sleek. My abs are showing (just) and I think I can even see some improvements in my hammies and glutes (still lots of work to do there though!). Then there’s my clothes; my jeans fit perfectly and I can’t wait to wear my age inappropriate dress at the competition after party 😉 On top of all that my skin is clear and my hair healthy (training has meant I’ve not really drunk alcohol all year, I’ve been eating clean and have been fastidiously taking all kinds of good supplements and super foods which I believe makes a big difference).

But it’s been really hard, my calories are super low now, 1,330 per day with a reefed mid-week. I’m hungry, I’m tired (I can barely walk up the hill home from the train station) and I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing this for. I had a PT session last night with my trainer Rich and felt so pathetic that exercises I’d normally smash were verging on vomit inducing. It was depressing. Where has all my strength gone?

All of this has made me really question how important it is to strike the right balance between looking great and feeling great. Accepting that there’s a limit and a threshold which is unique and individual to me has been a really valuable lesson I’ve learnt this year. Historically I’ve found it hard to like and accept my body so there’s a danger with this kind of training and dieting that it can leave you wanting to look the way you do on competition day forever. But that’s not healthy and it’s not sustainable and taking my body to this place has taught me that. I want to look good and feel good and I want my body to look better and better every day, month, year. To do this I MUST eat well and look after myself. Eating well means I can train hard and training hard means I can make those improvements year on year.

Training for physique competitions has taught me more about my body and mind than almost any other kind of training or diet I’ve tried before. It’s certainly had the most positive effect on my body shape. In addition I’ve found something I love which has enabled me to connect with likeminded people, it makes me really happy and I’m going keep doing it! In reality it’s just these last few weeks when things get that little bit crazy and you take your body to a place that’s slightly beyond the norm.

So whatever happens on the 8th Nov I’ve learnt lots this year, not least what’s really possible if you set yourself a goal and work hard to achieve it. I can’t wait to make strength gains and improvements to my physique during off season with my trainers Lee and Rich. I’m really keen to find a healthy balance between input and output, eating enough to help me train hard to make the changes I need to keep looking AND feeling better, better, better!

Form or function…I’m aiming for both!

And here are just a few of the other life lessons I’ve learnt through body building so far,

    1. It’s NEVER too late to make positive changes, don’t settle, set your sights high.
    2. Stay true to yourself, don’t let what’s happening around you distract you or put you off.
    3. Focus on you and what you can achieve, not anyone else.
    4. Know who your friends are; surround yourself with people who accept you and support you. They don’t always have to understand you but it helps when they do (BTW – the bodybuilding community are some of the most positive and supportive people I’ve met and whom I have the utmost respect for!)
    5. Goals are important in life, they give you a purpose and a focus.
    6. Don’t get too obsessed, too much of anything can be bad for you. Keep perspective, stay balanced and you’ll stay healthy.
    7. Hard work always pays off.
    8. Carbs are not the enemy!


Me on show day this June!

Me on show day this June!

Here's me and my fellow Fitness Competitor Amy at the WBFF in June.

Here’s me and my fellow Fitness Competitor Amy at the WBFF in June.

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About Eleanor Barlow

Hi I’m Eleanor Barlow and I’m a part time Personal Trainer (Level 3), qualified Snowboard instructor (BASI Level 1) and occasional fitness model. Staying fit and active not only benefits your body it benefits your mind and soul, it’s good for the heart and good for the spirit. Training is only half the story though, eating clean is just as important if not more so. I don’t eat diary and am very particular about the nutritional merits of the protein supplements I use which is why I’m so excited to be a Brand Ambassador for Sativa Shakes which taste great and fit perfectly into my diet. Every year I set myself a new fitness goal or challenge, this year I decided to enter my first physique competition so in June I competed with the WBFF and came second in my category. I loved it so much I’ve entered again this November! Follow my progress here at the Sativa Shakes blog were I’ll be providing regular updates on everything fitness and food related :-) For more info or to get in touch drop me a line at my Facebook page, Eleanor Barlow Fit Pro.
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