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The Confidential Challenge: for her

Follow Helen Ramsbottom's 16 week summer fitness challenge, to take her from fad to fit

Written by . Published on June 22nd 2010.

The Confidential Challenge: for her

The Lucky Lady
My colleague and friend Chris Grimes decided he wanted to get super fit and get on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine, blah, blah. Given that I’ve known him a long time and diet and exercise have never really been top of his list, I thought I'd be his pace maker. However, I soon learned that a healthier lifestyle can benefit us all, fat or slim...

The other side to exercise is the focus on food. We were informed that diet was 70 per cent of the challenge. So day one, I get a raft of emails that enlighten me about the importance of breakfast, dispelling exercise myths and a must-do kitchen makeover.

With us both working for Confidential, we're lucky to be able to enjoy a social scene with great perks. These include a great deal of food and drink related events. And at the outset, a great amount of weight gain.

Up to this point in life, I’d generally been lucky with my figure. I had dropped a few pounds when needed by skipping meals here and there and never really ballooned in size. But at the ripe old age of 33 I was finding it harder to snap back as fast. And post-ping things were definitely less toned.

Prior to proceeding with this mission, I’d dropped half a stone by kick starting it on a ‘juice diet’ for a week. Killer. Then I cut back on food. When I say food, I really mean regular eating patterns.

There was always a place for my daily (two) bag(s) of crisps and Bournville. Shamefully, I’d even been known to polish off other people’s leftovers, especially anything cheese related. After one of these gluttonous episodes I’d then have soup the day after to ‘compensate’.

So Chris it seemed was not full of hot air in this instance. He’d arranged the challenge with Darren Casey at Elite Fitness Training, so by now my ears had seriously pricked up. I found myself agreeing to do the girls version, not to get on any cover of a magazine mind. I wanted to go through the same process and see just how proper diet and exercise can make a difference. Plus it will be timely for my visit to Burning Man Festival where the thought of ‘naked day’ has put the fear of God in me. It was time to get involved.

The Challenge
Starting out, my weigh in was at 10 stone 7 pounds, body fat at 27.7 per cent and a resting heart rate of 79 bpm, blood pressure 111/72. Darren was particularly unimpressed with the resting heart rate and added that the fact I smoked was a big factor here. My personal goal was not essentially to lose weight but to seriously tone up and get bikini fit.

Darren said: Your body fat per cent goals was to reduce by 3 per cent initially - but your main focus is on not weight loss, but gaining more muscle and definition. This speeds up metabolism and looks better.”

The Diary
I've already completed the first four weeks in advance, to be sure of my staying power, but from here on my diary of food and exercise will appear on Body Confidential for you to track my progress on a weekly basis. My personal trainer, Darren Casey, will also record his thoughts on my progress plus hot health topics and tips, will also be included week by week.

Naturally slim, Helen aims to tone up

The Diet
The other side to exercise is the focus on food. We were informed that diet was 70 per cent of the challenge. So day one, I get a raft of emails that enlighten me about the importance of breakfast, dispelling exercise myths and a must-do kitchen makeover. Accompanied with the quote ‘fridge pickers wear big knickers’ this was now to be my mantra for the next few months. Sandwiched between these was a ‘FREE FOOD’ event email invite. Delete. My life is changing already.

My diet had changed from having a late breakfast and one or two other big meals a day to 5 or 6 smaller portions throughout the course of the day. White carbs banished, swapping normal potatoes for sweet and generally increasing greens and proteins.

Plus plenty of green tea and water, all day, everyday. More on the diet detail in the coming weeks.

A busy social calender has meant Helen's arm has been getting plenty of exercise

The Personal Training
Darren runs and is master personal trainer at Elite Fitness Training, a renowned personal training company in the North. Recognised for only taking on clients that are serious about changing their body, he has 10 years of experience.

He said: “Helen had elevated blood pressure, and low muscle density which usually means lower levels of bone density also. The main thing we had to work on were the frequency of her diet, eating more nutritionally rich foods and reducing alcohol intake - to start with. Then we had to 'fix' her metabolism which was obviously slowed down after a length of time under eating foods which were not the best in terms of nutrition.

“She also needed to train differently and get used to completing correctly designed weight training sessions for the first time - which is very common – Helen’s program will be available to follow soon so you too can start to see your body changing. With Helen’s body shape and weight, its very hard to start losing body fat due to her body being now very good at retaining her fats for energy - due to under eating and lower lean muscle levels.”

The First Four Weeks
First session with Darren was an introduction to kettle bells. Working multiple muscle groups, I was told these are excellent for all over body toning. I braced myself for kettle bell hell. The session seemed to fly by pretty quickly, seemingly without excessive input. And I didn’t feel half dead afterwards. Winner. My kind of exercise.

Sweet Jesus. The day after I was sore. It ached as I moved in bed. On that basis I wasn’t looking forward to getting vertical. I was ok(ish) walking up stairs but heading down my thighs were like jelly. Felt like I’d snowboarded for a hundred years non-stop. I even had to use the disabled rail on the wall at work to lower myself onto the toilet. I didn’t want to send anything to the printer as each time I got up it hurt. And high heels were a definite no.

Exercise plan for that same evening was a run. Interesting given that I could hardly walk. Managed nearly 4km in just over 30 minutes. Normally I could run at least 5km in the same time. It was hard. Imagine my deep joy at the prospect of my first gym session the following day.

The gym sessions so far, go like this:

- Bike sprints. Torture. Six minutes felt like a lifetime. Easy for a minute. Harder and faster for a minute. Repeat x3. I actually felt sick towards the end. Darren told me to ‘remember this feeling’. No instruction necessary. I wasn’t going to forget in a hurry. I thought my legs were going to buckle. Where was the disabled rail when I needed it.

- Press ups. Previously crap at these and I claimed no upper body strength. However simple instruction on the positioning of my hands remedied this and I surprised myself. I’d had numerous gym personal trainers in the past and even just that simplest of tips had been absent.

- Weights. Various for upper body.

- Treadmill sprints. Legs had recovered and enjoyed these. Had previously always ran in the gym at a steady pace.

- Weights. A few more for upper body.

Felt fabulous afterwards. Now that was the feeling I needed to remember. It can take some effort to haul ass to the gym, particularly after a hard day but it is worth it.

So the first four weeks have passed. It’s been a mixture of gym workouts, runs and kettlebells in the sunshine. In that time I’ve also tried my hand at boxing, completely changed my diet, lost body fat and inches. And also had to lay off the cocktails.

Darren added: “After four weeks we are now getting into the hardest section of their training programs. The training up to this point has been getting their bodies and minds ready for this.”

Read on next week to see if Helen can keep up with the pace...

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