I became a body builder at 35 after never having set foot in a gym before

The first time I walked into a gym to say I felt terrified was an understatement. 

It was intimidating, I could see people lifting weights and using complicated-looking machines.

At 33, I’d done the odd Zumba class or fitness class. But that was about it. 

That first day in the gym, I felt so self-conscious watching everyone else around me lifting weights and expertly using all the machines. I felt completely out of my depth and if I hadn’t already paid for a personal training session, I’d probably have turned and run.

‘I want to tone up and get fitter, I’ve not been feeling great,’ I admitted to my new trainer. 

It was 2019 and my marriage had recently broken down. I’d found myself a single mum to my four-year-old daughter Angelina, and I’d been feeling quite low. My confidence had also taken a knock. 

I’d always been fairly slim, but these days, I noticed I felt constantly exhausted and miserable. I needed to feel motivated again and I knew raising my self-esteem was a big part of that. 

So now, joining the gym was a last ditch attempt to get myself back on track. 

In my first session my trainer got me doing squats and using a deadlift bar without any weights. I’d never done anything like it before. It felt new and awkward, and I was self-conscious, but weirdly I really started to enjoy it, too.

Afterwards, I felt amazing. I hadn’t expected to, yet I was on such a high and like I’d achieved something. I went back the following week and had soon upped my workouts to twice a week. 

Within months, after starting from zero, I was deadlifting 60kg.

It’s like lifting a nine-stone person and it’s really hard because you have to ensure you perform the move correctly, otherwise you can easily injure yourself.

It helped me channel my energy and focus after what I’d been through. 

I noticed I wasn’t only toning up and getting fitter, my mental health improved. I had bags more energy. Life was busy with my job as a primary school teacher and being a single mum. 

But I knew how important my workouts were to my mental and physical health so I ensured I made the time – soon, I was going to the gym five times a week. 

It wasn’t long before I’d doubled what I could deadlift to 120kg. It was something I never thought possible, I felt so proud.

In June 2021, when I was 35 years old, my trainer asked me if I’d ever considered competing as a body builder.

‘You’ve got to be kidding?’ I replied, laughing it off. 

Yet he was serious.

‘You’ve got the dedication,’ he insisted.

I couldn’t believe that I was in my mid-thirties, had never stepped in a gym until 12 months ago, and now a professional trainer was suggesting that I could be a body builder – and not only that, compete. 

I knew that body building in your thirties required a high level of discipline because building the lean muscle mass for such a sculpted physique gets harder as you get older.

But I’ve never been one to let my age put me off doing anything.

Besides, I already weight trained for at least an hour five days a week, I figured it wasn’t like I’d be drastically changing my routine. So I decided to give it a go, just to see whether I could. 

I had to up my weight training to two hours a day, five days a week.

My diet needed an overhaul too. I’d have to eat up to 3,000 calories of high protein and complex carbs daily – usually chicken and rice or protein shakes – to help me bulk up. I was allowed one takeaway or cheat meal a week, but that was it.

In just under a year, I achieved the physique I’d been working towards. I felt amazing – strong, powerful, and sexy.

My friends and family couldn’t have been more supportive either. Sadly, a few acquaintances have made the odd negative comment about my transformation. One day I wore a sleeveless top and a person joked: ‘Any excuse to get your arms out, eh?’ 

I was shocked – it’s outrageous that some people think they can openly pass comment on my body. It’s not OK – just like it wouldn’t be OK to mention if someone had gained weight. 

But I just shrug any negativity off and put it down to envy. After all, it’s taken hard work to look how I do, and some people might feel threatened by that.

After transforming my body within just 12 months, this May I entered my first ever body building competition. 

I was required to wear a bikini and do a variety of pre-planned poses in front of the audience and judging panel. It was serious business – I had to do posing lessons over Zoom with a specialist coach.

My daughter Angelina loved joining in, copying the poses with me.

I also had to order a bikini that would show-off my muscles and have specialist fake-tan applied.

On the day, I was so nervous. In my category, Athletic Figure, there were lots of women with more experience – so I couldn’t believe it when I came second. I was ecstatic and it gave me such a confidence boost. 

A few weeks later, I entered the Fit X competition in Birmingham. I had to perform a 60 second posing routine in front of the judge. I came first in my category. I was thrilled and so proud. 

I don’t regret starting body building at 35 – I don’t think I’d have had the confidence back in my twenties to train and perform on stage the way I do now.

I’m proof that starting something completely new later in life can lead you on to achieve things you never thought possible. 

Yes, I might have to work a bit harder to get the results I want, but it’s possible with the right mindset.

I’m hoping to enter more competitions next year, so I’ll be back to working on my body again soon.

Body building has transformed my shape and my mental health so there’s no way I’m giving up now. I’ve only just begun.

As told to Bethan King

Age is Just a Number

Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a Metro.co.uk series aiming to show that, when it comes to living your life, achieving your dreams, and being who you want to be, the date on your birth certificate means nothing.

Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing stereotype-defying things, at all stages of life.

If you have a story to share, email [email protected]

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