Be Your Own Coach: Fitness Coaches Should be Facilitators

From the title, you may think I have lost it (I promise I haven’t), but, following an Instagram post I made a few days ago, I have been continually thinking about the importance of coaching in both reaching and sustaining your fitness goals. I am so grateful to have two extremely knowledgeable coaches on my side and feel I have made great progress as well as learnt an awful lot since being coached by them. There are two main reasons I think that are responsible for me making the progress that I have; 1. My coaches have a lot of both knowledge and experience. 2. I am also my own coach.

I am a firm believer in the fact that the best teachers are facilitators. The best teachers don’t spoon feed and tell you what you should know, instead, they establish an environment where learners feel sufficiently confident to explore possibilities, make mistakes, but ultimately meet the learning objective. From both a teaching and a learning perspective, there is nothing more empowering than utilizing current skills and knowledge to progress further and succeed. This philosophy infiltrated my entire teaching career and cemented my passion for teaching. Some people say that teaching is selfless or altruistic, I disagree. I got a lot of satisfaction from enabling children to grow and seeing how they became infinitely better at reacting to unexpected outcomes. From as young as 5, I taught children to cope with disappointment, failure and to apply learned experiences to similar situations.

Coaching in fitness, I think, should be approached in the same way. I perceive my coaches as facilitators, so the responsibility of coaching also falls on me. Like the classroom, I am given guidelines and parameters, but there is so much scope inbetween. It is how I use this scope that has defined my success.

For example, I am given certain macro-nutrients to hit daily instead of a rigid meal plan. I am given some guidelines on when is best to consume fats/proteins/carbohydrates as well as a fiber goal, but other than that, the rest is all me. Over time, I have learnt a lot. The freedom initially made me want to eat cereal and chocolate with every meal. I soon realized that this left my skin not as clear, as well as making me feel lethargic and forever hungry! Over time, I progressed, but I am still learning what foods and when keep me full, satisfied and full of energy. Up until 2 months ago, I was eating oats and protein for breakfast daily. Only when my carbohydrates declined, did I switch this up to a lower carb/higher fat option. I have found this to keep me full for so much longer. I am so pleased that I was allowed to experience this myself and make ‘mistakes’ to get there. Having experienced the difference between the two breakfast options myself is so much more beneficial to my fitness journey than simply being instructed on what to eat.

Facilitating is infinitely harder than teaching. Only people who really know what they are talking about are able to be good facilitators. With less definitive outcomes, there is more ‘grey area’, so there are more questions. Only people who are exceptionally competent in their field are able to cope with this as it tests exactly how well you know your subject area. This doesn’t mean my coaches know everything (though they do know a lot), but it does mean they have an extremely good level of knowledge as well as not being afraid to ask for others’ expertise where needed (Pete and Anthony have called a doctor to answer questions on bloodwork instead of claiming they were experts). Faciliating also requires confidence. Giving freedom to people you are teaching is risky! You are relinquishing control and enlisting trust in people you are coaching (and anyone can vouch for how difficult that is!)

From a learner’s perspective, faciliating, rather than being told what to do is also more difficult. It is easy to execute instructions – this is what I loved about group fitness classes. You really don’t have to think, you just ‘do’. While this was great for me at the start of my fitness journey, metacognition should infiltrate any aspect of life you value. You really should consider why you think and behave in particular ways if you want to understand yourself better and make progress. Lots of people talk about ‘mind-muscle connection’ whilst working out, and I completely agree on the importance of this. Really thinking about each exercise and the contraction makes you mentally, as well as physically, active in your workout. You know your body better than anyone and only you know the difference between an excercise hurting and an exercise really not feeling good. You also are the only one who can communicate whether the exercise is actually benefiting you.

Perhaps the hardest part for both coaches and coach-ees is motivation. Facilitating requires a lot of time and effort to successfully establish and continue, as well as a lot more responsibility and accountability for both parties. Unfortunately, there really is no substitute for motivation (see my post on ‘Seek Discipline not Motivation’) and the people who work the hardest, will ultimately get the best results.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x


Cilantro, Ginger and Lime Shrimp Bowl

I love the fragrance of cilantro and together with the kick from the ginger, onion and lime, this makes for a very flavorful low carb, low fat ‘bowl’. It is also a very ‘forgiving’ recipe, so although I have listed exact weights below, you can adapt these easily per your preferences without compromising on taste. For a higher carbohydrate option, add in jasmine rice, pinto beans or serve in a wrap, and for a higher fat option, why not add avocado or chili and lime seasoned nuts.


Macros (per portion, based on 5 servings): 227kcal; 24.7g protein, 26.6g carbs, 2.3g fat.


· 500g broccoli, riced (either bought ready riced, or, in a food processor, blitz the stalks of the broccoli on the chop setting to form a rice-like consistency).

· 1 pack/425g shrimp (cooked weight. If using raw, then approximately 500g).

· 50g red onion, diced.

· 1 red bell pepper, chopped.

· 75g fresh cilantro, finely chopped.

· 5g (approximately 2cm/0.75”) fresh ginger, minced.

· Juice of 1 fresh lime.

· 1 tin (approximately 450g) black beans, thoroughly rinsed.

· 500ml water.

· Pinch of salt.

· Pinch of black pepper.


1. Place a large, non-stick frying over a medium heat and add the red onion. Cook until soft.

2. Add in the riced broccoli, half of the cilantro, ginger, salt, pepper and water and cook until the broccoli has absorbed almost all the water (approximately 10 minutes).

3. Stir in the black beans, lime juice and shrimp. Cook for a further 5 minutes over a low heat.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remainder of the cilantro. Serve immediately, or portion out for lunches. This meal tastes great cold or hot, so is perfect for your lunchbox!

Benchpressingbaubles, x

Am I a feminist? Am I lucky? Or am I just single?

I recently listened to one of the best Tedtalks I have heard to date – ‘We should all be feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I highly recommend a listen. She delivers the Tedtalk in a very engaging, humorous way and the content is very thought provoking. Feminism, and discussion of feminism, is rife at the moment with all the political turmoil in the States. Chimamanda talks about several key conversations during her life where she was called a feminist and conveys how she found these instances highly amusing as she had never considered herself a feminist. (After all, the stereotypes surrounding feminism aren’t exactly something to strive for). I, myself, would never have classed myself as a feminist until I listened to this Tedtalk, but now I’m not so sure! 

I often am told I am ‘lucky’; lucky to live in Florida, lucky to be able to eat carbs and lucky to have the job that I do. While, yes, I do feel grateful for all three of those examples, I would never classify myself as lucky. It is not by random chance that I live in Florida, it is because my Dad got a job over here years ago and I decided to move to spend more time with my family. It is also not due to luck that I can tolerate carbs well. It is down to hard work and consistency. For the past two years, I have stuck to my macros every day, and, as such, have been able to build up my metabolism. And my career is far from luck. Yes, a contact gave me information about the company, but I grafted to get the position in the first place and it is also hard work that has continued my career growth. I can’t help but wonder whether some of these times I get called ‘lucky’ would happen if I was male. Maybe not the Florida living example, but society definitely expects men to eat carbs. Society also permits men to be successful and to experiment with career paths until they are happy. 

Another question I often get asked is why I’m not married. 

I have never been someone who is overtly ‘feminine’ in relationships; I am not particularly affectionate, I am very self-sufficient and tend to adopt a bit of a Laissez Faire attitude in relationships. Men think this is exciting at the start, but, as time goes on, the men I have dated definitely found these behaviors problematic. I have had one really good relationship that I will always reminisce fondly about. As for the rest… I spent far too much time struggling to balance being myself and trying to conform to what I thought was wanted from me. As a result, those relationships were abusive, destructive and suffocating. My last relationship ended just over 18 months ago, and it left me a shell of myself, not because I was devastated about being single, but because of how worthless I felt coming out of that relationship. It was definitely a relationship where I was treated like an incompetent female – unable to make decisions, follow passions or speak for myself. Over time, I adopted these expectations, so when the relationship ended, I didn’t even recognize the person I had become. 

Over the past 18 months, I have built myself back up and have achieved a lot in that time. I have changed career, received two awards in retail, secured a promotion, stepped on stage in a bikini competition, developed social media platforms, and, most importantly, my relationship with my family is the best it has ever been.  I look to my sister, as well as to many of my friends, who are in lovely relationships where both people compliment each other and add to each other’s lives. I always say to my sister that her boyfriend makes her sparkle – he brings out the best in her. So why am I not married? Because I haven’t met anyone who remotely makes me want to make any compromises. I haven’t met anyone who will compliment me (and vice versa) and make me sparkle. When I was first single, I used to worry I would be single forever. Now, I couldn’t care less.

I am drawn to people who work hard and demonstrate passion. I admire those people, whether male or female, probably more now than when I was younger. I know how it feels to coast through life and ‘be feminine’, but I also know how it feels to work hard at everything you value. I have felt no personal satisfaction as great as the last year and have started to learn to disregard societal expectations on the level of success females should achieve. I still wouldn’t class myself as a feminist, but I would say I am completely anti the perceptions that females are incapable. I love the fact that I am strong enough to be able to remove my own luggage from the luggage belt. I love the fact I am fit enough to run for public transport if necessary. I love the fact I have developed the confidence to be proactive and experiment to solve problems. And guess what? I wouldn’t say me being able to do these things is down to luck either.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

What’s Next? My post competition plans…

I’m writing this a week after my first bikini competition. My competition was a 4 hour drive away from my house and I drove back home straight after the competition. I also flew to a really remote area in New Jersey for work on Monday and Tuesday, which gave me a tranquil escape from my very hectic life back home. I am so pleased I was able to do both of these things as it gave me a lot of time to really reflect on my own and also a chance to ‘catch up’ with everyday life. Many thoughts have raced through my head over the past week – I am going to attempt to coherently convey them and organize them here!

Overall, it was a very positive experience. Fellow competitors were friendly and I learnt a lot about bodybuilding as a sport as well as learning a lot about myself. Anyone who knows me can vouch for how shy I am, so walking around on a stage in a bikini is something that took a lot of guts. Prior to lifting weights, I had little confidence. Eighteen months ago, I had even less confidence. I was absolutely miserable, hating everything about myself and my life…except the gym. In fact, working out and my gym gave me a reason to get through the day. When people commend me on how hard I work, I always shrug it off. To me, it doesn’t feel like hard work, it feels like the inspiration for my day. Every day at work, I look forward to the gym. I find it rewarding and gives me a chance to have a couple of hours completely to myself. People sometimes make fun of the fact my headphones are on, but the gym was, and still is, my escape. Walking on stage last week was a really proud moment for me – it was nice to be able to boldly show off what I am passionate about.

With that being said, I expected fellow competitors to be as equally passionate about bodybuilding as me. It was a real eye-opener to find that lots of people were there completely lacking any passion. They were there for the glamour. For the selfies and for the audience. I expected to find backstage inspiring; to be in awe of other competitors’ bodies and stories. Some people, this is definitely true of, however, the fact not everyone was there with the same work ethic and drive both surprised and disappointed me. It was a complete anti-climax. Together with the fact that, compared to my fellow competitors, I was not as lean as them nor as confident as them, I felt very disappointed. I completely panicked during my morning posing and was extremely upset with myself that I had forgotten everything I had been told and practiced the minute my sparkly heel stepped on stage. This whole portion of the day weighed heavily on my mind.

My initial reactions coming off the evening stage were mixed. I felt both exhilerated and upset. Everyone’s first questions to me were “would you do another competition?!” My mind was too busy to be able to answer, and, depending on when I spoke to that person, my answers varied greatly. So, after a few days soaking everything in, I checked in with my coaches and convyed how I felt. I told them I wanted to do another competition. I am not happy ending 2017 competing season with that being my only experience competing. I am going to give this prep my all, as I did my last one. I can’t promise I will work any harder, because I couldn’t have worked harder, but there are several things I am going to do differently.

Nine weeks from now I will compete again and that will be my last competition of the year. By this point, I will have been dieting for the entirety of 2017 and it will be definitely time for my mental and physical self to have a dieting break. I also love food and cooking (as you all know), so it will be nice to play around with more calories. Plus, I love lifting heavy (well, heavy for me) and I am interested in the whole powerlifting scene… I want to be able to squat 200lbs, deadlift 300lbs and bench 135lbs by the end of the year. I conveyed these strength goals to my coaches too as I wanted the written commitment that, after June, I will not be focused on being shredded. Knowing how I felt after this competition, I didn’t want June to roll around and me to say “I want to do another competition”. As I said, it isn’t healthy to be dieting all the time.

So I am going to make the most of the last couple of days of my diet break and zero cardio and get back on the prep train for another 8 weeks. I am aware this time it will probably be tougher and I will have to dig deeper, but I am focused on bringing a better package to that stage.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

What no one tells you about bikini competitions…

There is a lot of information online about the nutrition and exercise preparation for a bikini competition, and although everyone adopts a slightly (or starkly) different approach, I think people are pretty well informed that, overall, it involves a reduction in calories, lifting weights and cardio. It all comes to a head when you step on stage, looking exceptionally brown in a sparkly bikini with over the top make-up and sass. It looks exceptionally glamorous, but, in truth, 90% of the day is far from glamorous! When I was getting ready for show day, I had to scout the Internet for tips and tricks about what to expect and found very little. In the end, I reached out to several people who had competed before in order to get some insight into what to expect. Hopefully, this helps to enlighten you as to what most of show day is like.

Don’t wear moisturizer for a week prior to the competition.
I learnt this the hard way – I had so many problems with my competition tan and ended up having to shower between the morning and night show and get re-sprayed as the tan wouldn’t take to my skin properly. I had been using moisturizer up until 2 days before the competition, thinking that would be sufficient, but the oil residue had lingered on my skin and made the tan go really patchy as well as me not being dark enough! It is really important to exfoliate properly too, I used pure brown sugar, which I think is the best preparation for your skin. I also got told to use baking soda, mixed into a paste and start this the week before the competition, alternating daily between baking soda and sugar.

Avoid deodorant.
Thankfully, I already knew this before competing. But the day prior to the competition until after the competition is over, you have to avoid deodorant, otherwise your tan will turn green or grey! (Not a good look!) Instead, use tumble dryer sheets, or baby powder. I sprayed perfume on my bikini to help me smell a bit better, which is definitely fine, just make sure you don’t get any on your skin!

Pack plastic cups with holes cut out in the bottom.
After you get tanned, be prepared to pee only into a cup! You don’t want to get any pee on your tan anywhere, and, although you can get it touched up, you don’t want to add any unnecessary drama to the day (and a streak down your leg is not the best look!)

Be prepared to be publicly naked, frequently.
When you get sprayed, you have to get fully naked and go into some very unflattering positions in order to get the tan in all the necessary places. At my competition, there were two different rows for men and women, but I have heard that this is not the case at other competitions! In reality, everyone is so focused on themselves that no one is really looking at you. In my opinion, best to just embrace it!

Get your bikini glued to you. There is special glue that glues your suit to you so it doesn’t ride up or move, and, needless to say, you cannot pee after it has been glued to you! The competition tan group glued my bikini for me, and, like when getting sprayed, get ready to hand your butt and your boobs to these people! I was concerned it was going to hurt peeling the suit off, but it doesn’t, although be prepared to be sticky!

Unless you really know what you’re doing, get tanned by the tanning company who are affiliated with the show.
I cannot speak highly enough about the tanning company at the show I competed in. They were very knowledgeable, experienced and kind! They gave all sorts of hints and tips as well as doing whatever was needed to make sure you showed off your physique in the best possible light. They oiled, glued, tanned and rollered me a number of times and did that for every competitor. Also, don’t get sprayed on your face. It doesn’t sit well and will clog your pores. If someone else is doing your make up, they will match your skin tone, and if you are doing it yourself, seek out the darkest foundation you can find and mix it with your usual foundation!

Understand that competing is incredibly expensive. Everything about competing is expensive, so make sure you are fully aware of all the costs involved. Take advantage of any special deals in the months leading up to the competition to try and reduce the costs and make sure you enter the competition knowing you are financially able to commit. I got my bikini custom made and bought it in a Black Friday 50% off sale (6 months prior to my show), but I have heard of suits costing up to $1000. Add in shoes, jewelry, tanning, coaching, posing, nails, NPC card, registration fees, hair and make up (I did mine myself), hotel, transportation and bits and pieces for show day (e.g. Robe, fake eyelashes etc.), expect for one competition to cost a couple of thousand dollars easily.

Be prepared to be rushed and be prepared to wait.
The morning judging was incredibly fast, almost too fast, and it was a big rush getting things done in time. The evening show, however, we had to wait about four hours to get on stage. The bikini category is typically last as most spectators (other than friends or family) come to watch the bikini athletes. Fellow competitors are much friendlier than you would think, so make the most of the nerve-wracking wait by either befriending others or bring some entertainment! Backstage was incredibly nice as I competed in a college theater, but lots of competitions are at schools, so expect backstage to be high school locker rooms!

Watch your step
. Again, I learnt this the hard way. After the morning show, when you go backstage again, be prepared for oil to be on the floor. I fell over in my heels and landed really nastily on my bum. I am now sporting a hideous bruise which is really painful!

You will be cold. Getting spray tanned is freezing and combined with low body fat, you will probably be cold a lot of the time. You cannot put clothes on over your suit, so some of us did some body weight squats and exercises with resistance bands in an attempt to warm up! As a bikini athlete, you don’t really need to ‘pump up’ with resistance bands, but mentally it can help as that’s what everyone else will be doing!

Come prepared with a bag of stuff. My top tips about what to pack with you: spare make up, eyelash glue, flip flops, pyjama trousers and a long sleeved top, a robe, plastic cups, plastic cutlery, all your food, a resistance band, water, hair straighteners/curlers, hairspray, dry shampoo and a phone charger.

Be prepared for friends and family to be the only ones that cheer for you. Standing on stage with the crowd shouting out both tips and encouragement for specific competitor numbers that aren’t yours was a bit of a shock. I have watched bodybuilding competitions before, but the reality of it didn’t really sink in until I was on stage! It sort of feels like being the last one chosen for a school team when the crowd is pretty quiet, as well as making you think you look awful. In reality, unless you are competing in a massive show, most of the spectators are friends and family!

The judging is done in the morning. The morning is called pre-judging, but, really, this is where almost all of the judging is done. The night time is the show, where you can put on a bit of a performance, but bring your best package to the morning show!

Be prepared to be dissatisfied. Having prep dieted before, and suffered big time with post prep blues, I was expecting this. You put all that work in for a few seconds on stage and, when you see pictures or compare yourself to others, you may be left feeling a bit despondent. I definitely felt like this both on the day and the day after. Yes, I am proud, but an overwhelming sense of failure also hit me. I panicked in the morning show and my posing was way off, and, seeing other competitors as well as photos of myself, I knew that my legs were too big and I wasn’t lean enough. When everyone else is sharing how proud they are of their physiques and you feel like you aren’t, it can be very intimidating. The very nature of bodybuilding is continuous improvement, and dissatisfaction is one of the factors that drives progress, but while everyone is congratulating you, it is okay to feel a bit down. For me, this is when I leaned heavily on my support network, both on and offline. To the everyday individual, they think you look amazing, so it is a good idea to share your feelings with your ‘fitfam’ too, they will get it and understand. Having utilized flexible dieting throughout my prep, I had zero cravings post show and actually, on show day, ate less than my peak week macros! It is perfectly okay to go and eat a nice meal afterwards (or a gross greasy meal!), but, for me, I didn’t want to. It is also perfectly okay to have a couple of days of being a bit less rigid with your diet afterwards, but make sure you have a reverse diet in place. You cannot go from peak week calories to continuous binging, or even high ‘clean’ calories overnight as your body is primed to store fat. Reverse dieting is hard, especially at the start when your calories are low and cardio is at its peak, but, exercise the discipline that got you to the stage in the first place and work through it. You will reap the benefits long term. For me, I am sticking to my macros as religiously as pre-contest, especially initially. I want to improve and I want to be happy, two things that will not happen if I am ‘yolo dieting’.

Be prepared to be sore. Waltzing around in heels as well as flexing and holding poses is not easy! Combined with the lack of sleep in the weeks leading up to the competition as well as the mental and physical stresses of high output, low calories and the stress of the day, your body will be exhausted in the days after. My muscles hurt so much and I am still exhausted.

Competing is fun, it is a great experience that pushes you to your limits in every sense of the word. You will be in the best shape of your life, accomplishing something most people cannot comprehend. I enjoyed the experience and met some great people too! But, it is not all tan, tensing and sparkle. Hopefully this blogpost will give you a bit more of an insight into what show day entails…

Benchpressingbaubles, x

Garlic Chicken, Broccoli and Artichoke ‘Spaghetti’

Spaghetti squash is a great lower carb alternative to spaghetti – 1 cooked squash yields heaps of volume! The most difficult part of this recipe is cutting the raw squash – don’t do so when hangry!

spaghetti squash

Macros per portion (based on 5 servings): 210kcal; 30g protein, 20g carbs, 2g fat


  • 1/2 raw spaghetti squash (you can use the whole squash, my macros were just limited!)
  • 1 lb raw boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 can artichoke hearts
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 garlic and herb light cheese wedges
  • 850g broccoli (feel free to use less broccoli than this!)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 375f. Using a large knife (and plenty of muscle!) slice the spaghetti squash in half. Remove the seeds and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the squash face down on the sheet. Place in the center of your preheated oven for 45 minutes.
  3. Season the chicken with black pepper, cumin, parsley and garlic powder and wrap in foil. Place in the center of the oven, alongside the squash, for 30 minutes.
  4. When the squash is soft, and the flesh comes away from the skin slightly, remove the flesh. It should ‘peel’ away in strands of spaghetti. Transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Steam the broccoli (or cook on the stove top) until just cooked.
  6. Heat a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Finely slice the red onion and add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook until soft. Drain the artichoke hearts and finely chop.
  7. Add the artichoke, broccoli and spaghetti squash to the pan. Mix well and turn off the heat.
  8. Add the cheese triangles to the mixture and allow the heat of the veggies to melt the cheese.
  9. Portion out into containers and top with the cooked chicken.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x



1 Week Out: Peak Week is Here!

6 days until I expose my glutes (and most of the rest of me!) on stage. It seems very surreal but also real at the same time. I have been working towards this goal for about 2 years and it is almost here! I have mentioned so many times about how different I feel compared to last time I embarked on a ‘prep’ style diet, but it really has been an enjoyable experience. I am so pleased with both my mindset and how I have worked at this, compared to 2 years ago, I am healthier in every sense of the word.

Weight loss: 0.2lb gain. Definitely not good at this stage, but in all honesty, I am definitely leaner. I carry so much of my weight in my legs, and I definitely don’t think my lower half looks anything like as good as my upper half. I am 100% going to be focusing on building more muscle on my lower half to ‘tone up’ my legs and increase the muscle definition.

Cardio: 2 x 11 HIIT intervals and 2 x 20 min LISS. Kept HIIT to the bike to help my legs lean out more.

Calories: 2 x refeed days a week (carbohydrates increase to 180g, fats and protein remain the same). Regular days my carbohydrates are at 120g.

Dieting approach: flexible dieting. Check out my Instagram to see what I have been eating.

Training: 6 workouts a week.

How I am feeling: Feeling good, no complaints. I am most pleased that my sleep quality hasn’t suffered as I have suffered with this before. I will be focusing on being as efficient as possible with my time this week to optimize training, cardio and definitely sleep!

My nutrition and workouts are programmed by New York Muscle Radio  Go check these guys out and search for their Podcast on iTunes or YouTube.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x