Sian Toal's journey part 1 -

My journey began back in September 2010…..

I have been a dancer for most of my life, in athletics I was a sprinter and long jumper, so an active lifestyle was never a new thing for me. A Performing arts degree later and a few auditions, I thought I was in good shape. Becoming a Personal Trainer in 2005 opened my eyes, and I knew it was the best career and personal move I have ever made.  I’d also wanted to compete as a fitness model for many years but I let other people’s opinions influence my actions, and year after year went by and still nothing was achieved.  I started to imagine myself 10 years down the line wondering 'what if?’  I couldn't let another year or two drift by wanting to do it, to not get myself disciplined and driven and aim for the top wasn't an option. 

Something happened to me last year and I decided that this drive was something that wasn’t going to go away, this desire to achieve and shine on stage, I wanted it and I wasn’t going to be stopped.  I’d been competing in half marathons and duathlons so as soon as my last race was over, I set my sights on the competitions.  I’d done pretty well as a duathlete, and some people ask why did I stop that?  Well, the way I see it is I can come back to it.  Life isn’t about ‘one offs’ and ‘now or never’.  I don’t believe in getting to a certain age and after that its downhill, age is a number and your mind and body should not be given boundaries, expiry dates and cut off points.  I have seen people start marathon running aged 70, mums of 7 go on to be figure champions, so why limit yourself?  Resign yourself to being ‘past it’ and you make yourself an excuse.  An excuse to not even try is safe netting.  It may be hard work, but surely the rewards are greater when you’ve worked hard for it?

I launched myself into my training and I even amazed myself at how focussed I became. Nothing was going to stand in my way.  Strength training became my training priority.  As a group fitness instructor and cardio queen I (reluctantly at first!) taught spin, whilst I remained off the bike and took my weights  into my Body Pump classes to ensure I didn’t undo my hard work in my own sessions.  I was full on!  Giant sets, split body part routine, 6 days on 1 off, 2 hour sessions.  I had my plan and it would be done no matter what.  I felt great and changed shape very quickly. I also got strong and people stopped to watch my crazy and different training plans and this 5’3’’ girl benching 60kgs and doing pull ups, and weighted dips.  Then a couple of months ago I felt massive.  I started to cover up when training and I didn’t like looking in the mirror.  My traps looked like an alien invasion taking over my body, lats to rival most men and I felt like a tank bouldering around the gym.  I’m still not sure if it was a mental perception or physical, I was going through a very tough time at that time, but I felt heavy and cumbersome.  A very close friend decided I had to be told.  I wanted to wrap my hands around his neck and squeeze very tightly, with my newly acquired grip strength followed very closely by wanting to break down in floods of tears into my tuna salad.  I’d had negative thoughts on the way by body had changed, but to have someone confirm all those fears and actually tell you to your face you’re looking like a bloke tore me apart! I never knew that my body could respond in that way and I worked out that I’d gained 4kgs of muscle but some body fat too.  After getting over the feeling of wanting to attach myself to the sofa with a large tub of Ben and Jerry’s, I analysed my situation and tried to find a solution.  Due to certain events, I found I wasn’t sleeping; I was over training, and taking stimulants to get through the 12-13 hour days.  My cortisol levels must have been sky high (look out for future reports on this one…!) and my body showed the effects.  I firstly cut all stimulants, took a week off training and focussed on getting some sleep.

What happened next was very surprising…

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