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Strength training challenge Week 6

thelmah headshotAfter six weeks of strength training, our blogger Thelma Mensah is looking amazing. She tells us how she managed to keep on track even during her birthday

I am at the half way stage now and my programme should have changed but with Clara having to make her emergency trip abroad.  I am carrying on with the same program, making sure I take myself out of my comfort zone by adding small increments to my weights when it gets to easy and making sure the intensity remains high.

On a normal week, fitting in the sessions is a struggle at best but this week was made extra hard because it’s half term, my birthday, and bank holiday weekend.  This means that I have to organise childcare for my little one as well as resist the huge amounts of temptation that are likely to come my way when I am out of my set routine.  I just need to remain strong and remember why I am doing this.


Sometimes, I am so critical of myself, I  never  take the time out to congratulate myself on how far I’ve come in six weeks and the fact, as most of my friends tell me, that most people would not even attempt to do what I do in a week.  On reflection I think that they might be right.

This is what a typical training day looks like for me:

6.30 Get up and get myself ready, then get my daughter dressed and make her breakfast.

8.20 Leave to do the school run

9.00 Catch the train to London from Kent and have my protein shake on the way into London

10.30 Arrive at my gym Vauxhall (I travel so far to this gym because it has everything that I need to complete my training)

12.30 Have second protein shake.

1.00 Leave gym and eat third meal/brekkie (four boiled eggs)

2.30 Arrive in Kent, change and leave to do the school run.

4.00 Feed my daughter, have another meal. Probably meat and green veg/salad.

5.00 -6.00 Read and do homework with my daughter.

6.00 – 7.00 Bath my daughter and story.

7.30 Have dinner (meat and veg)

8.30-11.00 do my blogging and freelance writing

Doesn’t seem too bad on paper but let me tell you that commute kills me and after two hours in the gym, all I want to do when I get in is sleep and relax but of course I can’t do that.  I could go to a gym nearer to me but what I’ve realised is that a lot of gyms simply do not have all of the equipment I need to train.  A lot of gyms don’t even have a squat rack which I find astonishing.

thelmaselfieSix weeks into my training and I am now starting to discover which elements of training I love and the parts that I hate.  For example, I loathe TRX (suspension training) plank and mountain climbers but love over head sit ups on a bosu (balance) ball.  I love squats on the squat rack but hate jumping squats or plyometric (jumping) lunges.  I love barbell bench press but hate regular press ups too.  Can you see a pattern forming here?

Anything cardio related I hate but strength related I am all over it, I think it’s because deep down I’ve always known that I am way better and stronger at lifting than doing anything that sends my heart rate through the roof.  I do know now though, that right type of cardio is a necessary evil that is integral to my fat loss and to getting as lean as possible.

The type of cardio and the order it is done in is all meticulously worked out by Clara and it’s always done bearing in mind that the ultimate goal is to burn fat and build muscle NOT weight loss. The main bulk of my exercise is strength-based using weights and because of the intensity I work at during that, the cardio is done at the end rather than, traditionally, at the beginning and mainly so I don’t tire too quickly. I also do two types of cardio: High Intensity Interval Training (Hiit) and steady paced slow cardio usually capped at around 30 minutes, done in a specific order. For example, if I have done a legs (squats etc) session, I would usually do the slow cardio session which could be something like an uphill walk on the treadmill at a min 10 incline. This is so I don’t fatigue and can complete the session, but also to keep me in the fat burning zone so my metabolism is always fired up and I am constantly burning calories even at rest. Another example is where I’ve done a back session (rows etc),and it’s not been so taxing on the legs, then I might do an interval of one minute sprint/90second jog on the treadmill or cross trainer because my legs/body can handle it.

The traditional way of doing cardio is to do it at the beginning of the session but this doesn’t work for strength or fat loss training because of the intensity that you work at when you lift weights would make you too tired. In short, if you did cardio first you would have no energy to lift and this is the main component of the programme. Also the traditional way of doing cardio for say an hour, which is what most women do at the gym eats into muscle mass and you eventually become a smaller version of yourself without the toning or sculpting of the body. A good way to think of it, is the difference between a sprinter body and an endurance runner. The sprinter will normally have the strength part as the primary exercise and finish with the cardio and the result is a leaner more toned body rather than just being skinny.

I didn’t go crazy on my birthday and any treats I have I worked them into my cheat meal, so a bit of birthday cake was my dessert.  I was not about to have another food failure.

I am missing Clara big time, even though I only see her once a week it’s nice to have a chat and get some reassurance when you feel that things aren’t going great with training.  This journey can throw some many curve balls and obstacles your way that if you don’t have that burning desire to want change your body you will simply quit and not complete the program and this is where pep talks with your coach make a massive difference.

The end of the week ended with good and bad news.  The good news is that my jeggings now fit, I haven’t been able to get them past my knees for a long time so that gives you an indication of how big my hips were.  I am over the moon at this news.  Bad news: my daughter Ruby picked up an eye infection from school which she has now passed onto me.  My eye has swollen up and I have had to miss a couple of sessions to say I am not happy is an understatement and it’s put me in a right old mood.  What is happening to me? I am becoming a gym addict!

Contact Thelma’s trainer Clara Mosha:

Clara on Facebook 

Twitter: @UPTByClaraMosha

Thelma Mensah is a personal trainer and founder of the uber-cool blog She is Healthista’s Kit Diva blogger.

Read more from Thelma’s strength training challenge 

What REALLY happens in a weight training programme- Week 1

Strength training challenge- Week 2

Strength training challenge- Week 3

Strength training challenge- Week 4

Strength training challenge- Week 5

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