My #BodyBeforeSkill Transformation
Hello everyone - this week I wanted to share my very own #BodyBeforeSkill transformation story. After spending 2 years writing the book Body Before Skill: Sports Performance for Cheerleading, which is aimed at cheerleading athletes and team performance - I wanted to explore the #BodyBeforeSkill concept beyond cheerleading, and on a personal level of fitness.
When I arrived in South Africa in 2016, I had spent the last 2 years taking a break from being in front of the camera and working as an active fitness professional; to focus on developing my business, traveling, and writing the book. The irony? At this point, I was in the worst shape of my life. Perhaps not for the average Joe or Jane, but considering that my life revolved around the subject of fitness, my body was far from being at its peak.
At still only 57kg (125lbs) and 1’68 (5'6) I was still clocking up 25% percent body fat and barely able to get through a hike without huffing and puffing. Let's not even talk about my muscle density. Truth be told, my brain had been getting one hell of a workout in the previous 2 years and my body just needed a break.
After shooting the INTENSITY Cheer Conditioning series, I felt like I needed a change from fitness. I was also approaching the dreaded 30th Birthday milestone. This event left me somewhat a bit lost. The expiry date for “adulting” had approached and I was left to figure out what that meant for me. As much of a cliche as it can be, the episode of friends "The One When They all Turn 30” couldn’t be closer to my reality.
EYES OF THE BEHOLDER
2 years of traveling, contemplating adulthood and focusing on flexing the brain muscle left me looking and feeling like a mozzarella stick that had been left out in the sun for too long. For some reason, I thought adulthood meant that my days of being a fitness bunny were over. Even though I was proud of my other accomplishments, looking in the mirror when I was in a bikini kept becoming more and more difficult (thankfully my un-fitness wasn't too obvious in clothes!). Truthfully, I couldn’t recognise myself anymore and even though people were saying don’t worry, it’s just part of “growing up” - I didn’t like how it was coming about.
“Accepting yourself as you are” seems to be a mantra trend that’s emerged in the last few years, and even though I’m fully on board with the concept of being kinder to yourself, accepting your genetics and working with what you’ve been given - I feel that sometimes the message comes across in a way that encourages people to be ok with being unfit. Whenever I opened up to friends or family, the response was unanimous: “but you look great! People would kill for your body” - but this was no comfort for me, because deep in my heart I knew that I wasn’t living up to my potential.
This, was the key: my potential. Not someone else’s. This was MY body and I knew more than anyone, what it was capable of. I didn’t want to get skinny, I didn’t want to get bulky, and I didn’t want to become a professional fitness model. What I wanted was to greet the next phase of my life feeling like I was making an effort and find a balanced lifestyle.
The first year was the hardest: going back to fitness training and not being able to perform or get through basic things that I used to breeze through. My body being out of training and age starting to come into play, meant that progress was a lot slower than I had anticipated. What helped? Every time I looked in the mirror and felt unhappy, I just reminded myself that I was progressing and was one step closer to my goal.
Approaching things in a “scientific” way certainly helped, as well as setting achievable goals. My “transformation shoot” was scheduled for December 2017.
Fast-forward October 2017, I was getting closer to my goal (even though I was far from the idea I had in my head) and I suffered two freak accidents within the space of 3 weeks. Read about these in more details in the HOW CHEERLEADING SAVED MY LIFE article. These two episodes had one thing in common: I had managed to get out of these fairly unscathed, despite the fact that both could have resulted with a brutal ending. The reason: my body had saved my life. Not the way it looked, but the way it had reacted.
This was an epiphany for me: not only was my training helping me reach my hugely “first world problem” goal of feeling great with the way I looked, but it had saved me from tragic injury, or worse. Given that I was not an athlete myself, it was a powerful moment to experience the results of the #BodyBeforeSkill training philosophy for myself. My body had evolved to do what it was designed to do: protect itself.
December 2017 came, and I felt like I wasn’t ready for my shoot. Despite having a tantrum (one week of low-carb diet cut was to blame!) I felt happy about the decision: I hadn’t reached the goal I had set out myself to achieve, but my year of training had done something so much more powerful. I was hooked on how far I could take the #BodyBeforeSkill personal journey, so I decided to visit the Stellenbosch University’s Biokinetics Center (medicine through movement).
MY HAPPY PLACE
Here, my inner thirst for knowledge was quenched. I had found my MECCA. I couldn’t believe how much I was learning, going further and deeper in my learning and training implementation than ever before. Every muscle, every movement, was going through the microscope and I was taking a peek. I discovered a number of niggles and defects I wasn’t even aware of, and I soon discovered that these were the things that were preventing my progress.
After just 6 weeks of combined Biokinetics and Iyengar Yoga (a highly technical and physical exploration of mobility, stability and flexibility) - I could already see a transformation. The next phase was working with a personal trainer to get me to the finish line: getting me ready for "the beach shoot". This time, the results were much quicker but it did involve some intensive training over two bouts of 1 month each, with the final 3 weeks of training, supplementing and eating like professional fitness models do. The shoot was a peak: just like a competition or a marathon, it does not represent everyday life. Something to strive for. The week after, you gain a few pounds as your diet goes back to normal, because that’s how normal life is.
I might have arrived in South Africa in 2016 in the worse shape of my life, and now that I’m moving on for another life adventure with the Husband and the Pooch, and I’m leaving in the best functional shape of my life. By taking a full year to dedicate myself to this project of personal #BodyBeforeSkill transformation my body is more capable, balanced, flexible, resistant and skillful than it has ever been.
After 1 year, my personal #BodyBeforeSkill journey helped me to:
Lose 10.5% body fat (going from 25% to 14.5% - PLEASE NOTE that all bodies are different and react differently to body fat loss. Before deciding to go under an 18% body fat percentage, consult a professional trainer or nutritionist to check that this is suitable for your body type)
I gained 1.5cm in height.. NOT KIDDING! Improved posture and reducing the "laptop neck" syndrome created extra space and a straighter curve in my spine, giving me more height).
Significantly improve my flexibility and joint stability
Gained 3-4kg of muscle
Fixed my rounded shoulders and winged scapula
Fixed my flat foot arches which were already giving me knee problems
Improved my strength, stamina and resistance to injury
Made me feel like myself again!!
...every #BodyBeforeSkill journey will be different wether you're a cheerleader, coach, parent, friend or just someone who's looking to improve their general fitness - follow me on Youtube and Instagram for more daily tips and free content!
First video of the new #BodyBeforeSkill Youtube series
Every good story should have a moral, and maybe you have come up with your own. For me, these were the most significant:
Don’t let anyone tell you what you should and shouldn’t look like. Get to know your own body, learn to accept the way you’re made and then listen to your instincts about your goals. If you’re finding this hard, seek a professional’s advice. Your friends, family and Instagram followers are not professionals.
Getting in shape is not about aesthetics, even though looking at your best will help you boost your overall confidence and improving your quality of life. The importance is how your body performs and helps you stay alive and healthy.
Find out your nags before you start training: whether it’s aesthetically or skill wise. You could spend years trying to achieve your goals when you could spend a tenth of the time, if you can fix what’s wrong first. If a car is leaking fuel, you can pump it at the gas station all you want but you’re not going to get very far!
When you look at shots of fitness models on Instagram, remember two things: 1) Looking like they do is a JOB. Body aesthetics is their craft and it takes as much dedication and training as any sport. Strict nutrition plans, supplements and training come into play: and even the coaches, have a coach to get them to their goal. 2) Models don’t look the way they do all the time in shoots. Their body has peaked at a point to show off muscle as much as possible and it’s not sustainable for everyday life: just like a runner couldn’t run a marathon every day of their life. So sit back, and rather than feeling guilty you can feel inspired and give yourself a pat on the back for every step you take towards your own goal.
My journey was made possible thanks to:
Vayden Beyleveld - Biokinetecist & Performance Trainer
Holly Cammell - Biokinetecist & Member Support at CCA
Bernette Beyers - Sports Performance Specialist PT
Lawerence Bachelor - Iyengar Yoga Instructor
Thank you for the great gift you have given me, I have enjoyed every moment of learning and training!