Making the change

I used to be a cardio girl, I’ll hold my hands up and admit it. After giving up diving I lost a whole lot of my muscle mass as the majority of my training was cardiovascular based, relying mainly on my aerobic energy system which predominantly breaks down fat to use as an energy source. This was great for a while but the trouble with cardio is that your body adapts pretty quickly, you stop seeing physiological changes and it gets pretty boring let’s be honest. Hours and hours spent running are brilliant if you’re training for a marathon and I do still need a good, long, stress relieving run every now and again but it’s not the ultimate solution to training for weight loss or improved physique as it won’t give the toned physique that many of us desire.

When I decided that I wanted to bikini compete I knew I’d have to drastically change my training in order to achieve my goals so I began to make the transition from cardio to weightlifting. I was great at running, swimming and plyometric training but weight lifting was a terrifying new avenue and a massive transition that would affect not only how I trained but also how I ate. Here’s a few tips to help you with the daunting change from cardio bunny to weight lifting goddess.

1)      Find a buddy

Preferably somebody who knows what they’re doing or somebody who has similar goals to you so that you can figure it out together. My gym buddy is pretty awesome and we push each other to train harder than we ever have before. His understanding of weight lifting has been invaluable in the process and training together has benefited us both greatly.

If you can’t find a buddy who can help you then a few sessions with a personal trainer will benefit you greatly. If that isn’t an option either then read, look at photos, watch videos…. Just do whatever you can in order to gain as much knowledge as possible.

2)      Set some goals

It’s easier to achieve things if you know what it is that you’re aiming for. Begin with some simple and realistic goals such as squatting 40kg for 10 reps then build on that from there. It’s vital to make your goals measurable so that you can see whether you’ve achieved them or not. Simply setting the goal of ‘getting stronger’ is very vague and doesn’t have a definitive end point. Setting time limits on goals can also be a great motivator! Give yourself until Christmas to achieve a certain amount of things; this gives you the opportunity to see whether your training has been successful or not.

3)      Record your training

This bit is easy, just get a little notebook and write down everything you do so that you can remember what weight you’re lifting and can gradually build it up. It also helps to give structure to your training.

4)      Focus on form

I can’t stress this point enough. Bad form leads to injuries especially on the major compound lifts such as squat, deadlift and bench press. It will also lead to less muscle growth than if you are performing the movements correctly. At the same time, make sure you’re pushing yourself and don’t be afraid to train to fail. You’ll never know what your limits are unless you’re thoroughly testing them!

5)      Don’t be afraid to eat

This is the bit that I found most difficult to grasp! I felt like I was training less yet being encouraged to eat more. Muscles can’t grow unless they have enough building blocks to build new muscle from so ensuring that you’re eating enough is essential. Focus on high quality proteins and low GI carbohydrates such as quinoa, sweet potato and brown rice as well as plenty of vegetables to boost your vitamin, mineral and fibre intake.

Weightlifting is great fun and even if you’re not aiming to bikini compete and just want to lose some body fat or take on a new challenge then it’s definitely worth a try. Building muscle is a great aid to fat loss as it raises your metabolism slightly, meaning you burn more calories at rest. Girls, you also don’t need to worry about looking bulky, we simply don’t have enough testosterone for that!

- Charlotte Fisher
Nutritional Science Student