My Journey-Leanne Jones 2017 February Grand Champion

A little background about me..............

I'm 42 years old, a wife to Dave and mother to two girls aged 6 and 8. I have my own business, a beauty salon in Yarraville, which I have owned and operated for the past 16 years. My background is Maltese, so food is a very big part of my culture, the more food the better!

I was always a skinny girl in high school, yes one of those girls who could eat anything and never put on weight. In my early twenties, I lived abroad for a year and this was the first time I ever had an issue with my weight. So, when I came home I went to Jenny Craig and lost the weight instantly. The only physical activity I did was one hour of walking on my treadmill every day and that seemed to work for me at the time. In my thirties, I had my children and after both pregnancies I lost the weight through dieting and got down to about 51kgs.

In February of 2017 I decided to commit myself and join Maxine's Challenge. To be honest I had no idea what I was committing myself to. Most people do the challenge to lose weight and yes, I would be lying if I said I didn't want to shed a few kilos. Embarking on this journey was far more than a path to weight loss; I was at a point in my life where nothing seemed to excite me. Each day was the same; cook, clean, get kids ready, go to work, come home and do the same crap all over again! My relationship with my husband had become more like a friendship. Yes, we lived in the same house and slept in the same bed. However, we barely spoke to each other let alone had any form of romance. I guess I was just too exhausted and frustrated with life to even bother making an effort. My business and family took up so much of my time I honestly had no time left for anything else.

The one thing I did have going for me was the friendships I had formed with my clients, I guess that was as far as any social activities went. In my job, I have the opportunity to chat to many different people, we share our life stories with each other whether they are good or bad. I guess that's where my Maxine's journey began, in my wax room chatting to one of my clients named Jo. Jo was so enthusiastic about the Maxine's challenge, as I listened I thought there is no way I could do that. How the hell was I going to have time to go to the gym?!! To be honest I didn't think about it again until I saw her for her next appointment about 2 weeks later. There was something different about her this time, she had found a new passion for life, a spring in her step. She told me about what she had been up to, meal prepping and going to the gym and again I thought "are you serious?!", I have two kids, I work full time and I have a business to run. There is no way I could commit to that challenge.

As the weeks went by I saw her every fortnight and by the end of the challenge I was amazed by how much she had transformed her body, but more importantly for me, her mindset. She was so confident and strong it was empowering. She had transformed into this positive warrior woman! Even the girls at work were amazed by her transformation. Jo kept encouraging me to join the February challenge but to be honest I still wasn't convinced I would have the time or energy to commit to something like this and the thought of going to the gym to lift weights terrified me!

Earlier this year in January I went on a cruise, anyone that's been on a cruise knows it's a foodie's heaven. I had the time of my life but when I got back everything seemed to be very firm around my waistline. I jumped back on the treadmill and kept pounding the pavement in the hope that the weight would shift. But it wasn't going anywhere. About a week before the February challenge was about to start I saw Jo again. Not only did she look smoking hot, she was the happiest I had seen her in a long time. We got chatting and she encouraged me to jump on board the next Maxine's Challenge. She kept saying "you can do this" I still wasn't convinced I could find the time to go to the gym and still do everything else in my life.

The journey begins........

The day before the challenged started, my husband and I decided to meal prep for both Maxine's and Max's Challenge. OMG that was exhausting in itself, I thought my arm was going to fall off chopping all those Vegies! My kitchen looked like a bomb had just gone off and after all that I had to go and find a Gym to join.

Off we went with both our Max and Maxine's training programs. We drove straight to Windy Hill Gym in Essendon and signed up on the spot. The guy that signed us up could see how anxious and nervous I was and offered to take me around the gym and show me which machines to use for each exercise I had to do. That night I went to bed feeling overwhelmed by it all. What the hell was I thinking?! I'd never lifted a weight in my life, why did I think I could start now? I was so nervous about going to the gym the following day I barely slept and decided to do my first weight session at 5am when the gym opened. I was under the impression that there would be nobody there to witness me make a fool of myself, but to my surprise the place was packed. Oh no, the anxiety set in straight away and off I went to the bathroom. "How am I going to do this, who was I kidding?" I was sick with anxiety within the first 5 minutes of walking into the place.

I have no idea how I got back out there but I did and I completed every exercise. I had no clue what the hell "tempo" meant but I thought that was a question for another day. OMG, day one completed, not great but I did the best I could with the minimal knowledge I had.

That night I jumped on a messenger group that Jo connected me with, they were a group of women who were also doing the challenge. I asked them every question that came to my head. The following morning, I woke up and could barely move, I was experiencing a level of pain and stiffness in my backside and legs that I'd never felt before. How was I going to walk down the stairs? I then realized I had to jump on my treadmill and do my cardio session for the day.

Things didn't get any easier the second week. I still sucked at weight training and the feeling of being completely exhausted just got worse. I was going to bed at the same time my kids were in those first few weeks, 7pm! Then I discovered magnesium baths and boy was that a turning point for my very sore body. In that second week, I had a free session with a trainer at the gym, he went through my Maxine's program and familiarized me with the equipment I needed to use to perform each exercise. I felt a little more prepared to tackle the training side of things after this, but that anxious feeling I had each time I was in the gym only seemed to get worse. For some ridiculous reason, I decided I needed to push myself a little further. On one of my cardio days I did my first "Ultimate Workout" class. For fear of looking like a total tool, I stayed in that class until it finished. By the end of it I felt light headed, lethargic and had a face that resembled a lobster. For some stupid reason, I attempted another two classes that week; Grit Strength and CX Worx.

By the time Sunday came around, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of total exhaustion. I decided to take it a little easy and not put pressure on myself to do any classes. I was so new to lifting weights it was ridiculous of me to add in three classes that week. I decided that walking was going to be my cardio. It was something I always did, I was just going to do it better.

As the first month came to an end I wasn't impressed with my progress. I'd lost 3kg and couldn't see a huge difference in the way I looked. I was an emotional wreck that first month, I have no idea why but I seemed to cry every other day. Perhaps, it was because it was the first time l made time for "me" and completely immersed myself in the whole process. I guess l was feeling a little uncomfortable being so selfish. That weekend, Dave's parents came over to look after our girls while we went out to celebrate our birthdays. When they saw Dave they went on and on about how amazing he looked and didn't mention a thing about me. I was gutted! I put so much effort into that first month, stayed 100% on nutrition and completed every training session and more. What more could I do? We went out for an amazing lunch at the Stokehouse and ordered challenge appropriate food, after eating bland food for a month it felt like there was a party going on in my mouth. The food was delicious! All Dave and I seemed to talk about over lunch was the challenge. For the first time in a long time our conversation just flowed. We had found something we were both passionate about and enjoyed doing. We were getting "us" back!

Month Two..........

Oh no, it was the beginning of the second phase, weeks 5-8. That meant a whole new training plan, the same feelings from day one came flooding back. It was such a mental challenge for me, I had to convince myself I could do this. By now I had discovered the quietest times to train at the gym. The less people around me the more I could concentrate and focus on the exercise rather than look at the people around me. I asked someone at the gym to show me what equipment I needed to perform each exercise and just did it. Still not making direct eye contact with anyone at the gym for fear they would discover I had no idea what I was doing.

During this phase, it was the school holidays. Dave and I had booked two short stays at Crown over the two-week holidays. I found myself starting to stress about my training and what I was going to eat. I managed to stay away from the buffet breakfast and eat my oats and made a salad for lunch. I got up early and went to the hotel gym but only managed to do an hour of cardio. I realized it was easier for me to get up early, jump in the car and train at the gym I was familiar with. Dinners were a breeze, there were so many great restaurants to eat at, and I just made sure it I stuck to protein and veg.

It was during this phase that I had one of my injuries. I hurt my back doing a barbell squat. I was in so much pain I could barely walk. I still went to the gym but while I was there I realized I just couldn't lift anything and that training was making the situation worse. From memory, I think I took four days off from training. I had magnesium baths every day and multiple massage's. I was ridden with guilt because I missed a few days training. When I got better, I got myself back in the gym and completed every session that I had missed. Surprisingly I wasn't tired doing double sessions, I felt stronger to be honest. I think my body just needed a rest.

By the end of phase 2 I had finally started to get my head around the training program.

Month three........

By now the challenge had just become our way of life. My nutrition was still 100%, I was surprised I had no cravings. Up until I started the Maxine's Challenge I had polished off a chocolate bar and a few choc coated biscuits every day.

The only real challenge for me was still the training and changing my mindset. When I first saw the training plan for weeks 9-12 I just panicked. What the hell "no rest day", I couldn't possibly do this. How could I find more time out of my day to go to the gym? I sat up late that night, googled every exercise and made myself a little black book which I named my bible. I was determined to finish this challenge the best that I could. By this stage I was so focused on completing the challenge I was consumed by it, all I talked about was Maxine's. Every client I waxed tanned or performed any treatment on heard me go on about how far I had come. My husband practically didn't see me in the last month. I was the first person at the gym in the morning and the last person to leave every day. Wow how my life had changed from having nothing to look forward to, to being excited about getting up every day.

Then it happened. I was at the gym doing my thing and this woman came up to me. "I've been watching you" she said. Ok stalker I was thinking in my head. "You look amazing" she said. "I watch you and wish I could work as hard as you". I'm thinking are you serious woman, I have no idea what I'm doing. She went on and on about how fit and fabulous I looked. This was the first time I had spoken to anybody at the gym other than someone who worked there and I decided to show her my progress pics. I told her this was only my 2nd month in the gym and she was blown away. She asked me about the challenge and said, "oh no I couldn't possibly do that, I'm too old, you young ones have lots of energy". "How old are you?" I asked. She was only a year older than me.

In the weeks to follow, people kept complementing me on the way I looked and to be honest I was starting to finally see the changes. Then I was approached by the floor manager at the gym and told that I was the member of the month. I remember jumping on him and wrapping legs around him, crying like an idiot and thanking him for noticing how hard I had worked. I couldn't believe it, I had never been a member of a gym in my life and after only 2 months I was member of the month!

I never signed up for the challenge to win a competition or to place anywhere in the top 50. I did this challenge for me. I was at a point in my life where I needed to be selfish and put my needs first for a change.

It wasn't till the last month that I could really notice a change in my body. My daughter took a photo of my husband and I in the kitchen and I was gob smacked when I saw the definition in my shoulders and back. I was jumping around my kitchen like a lunatic. I said to Dave OMG, I have more muscle definition than you. I honestly had no idea how far I had come until I saw that pic. From here on any spare moment I had I just trained and I went to the gym every morning and night and did some stretching and mindfulness techniques on my lunch breaks at work.

On that very last day of training I gave it my all, I trained like I had never trained before. I felt so strong and confident and I looked like a completely different person. When I compared my first pic of my backside to my last I just started to sob. I couldn't believe that was my backside in that pic. Was I really that big, had I really toned my butt that much?

I still hadn't really understood what I'd achieved until I got that phone call from Janet Kane telling me that I was in the top 10. I was driving to work with my daughter who was home sick. I looked in the rear vision mirror and saw my daughters face light up, she was beside herself with pride. I never thought I would speak to Janet again after that, so I seized the opportunity and asked her as many questions as I could about training. Now I really wanted abs! She told me to keep the phone close by the next day as she was going to call the top 3 and who knows l could be one of them.

As soon as I got to work I told everyone that I made top 10. This was the first time I honestly thought, "Shit, I might have a chance at winning this" The thought of winning the competition never crossed my mind till then but now I wanted it badly. I had given the challenge more than 100%, I stuck to the nutrition the whole way through and I had put so much effort into my training.

I didn't get much sleep that night, I was so excited for the following day and the possibility of getting that call from Janet Kane. I got up super early, did my usual 5am cardio session and started work at 7:30am. I took my mobile into every treatment with me, hoping I would get that call. It happened at 930am, I was about to wax Cherie's eyebrows. When I answered the phone I just screamed out loud, I knew it was the call I had been waiting for. OMG, I made top 3, I was screaming like a crazy person, shaking and crying and screaming and crying all over again. It was Janet on the other end, she was talking to me but it was going in one ear and out the other. I was in shock. By this stage my work colleague came into my treatment room and all three of us were crying. She told me that I had made top 3 and she was about to tell me where I had placed. I said "hang on, doesn't that happen on the 16th December?" "I'm going to tell you right now" she said. "No" I said, "I'm not ready, I need to breathe, no seriously, are you going to tell me now?" I could feel my heart pounding a 1000 beats per second. I need to breathe before I pass out. Finally, she told me that I didn't come third, there were only two places remaining. That could mean only one thing, either I had placed second or I had won it. "Congratulations Leanne, you are the Maxine's Grand Champion" she said. "No way, no way, are you serious, did that just happen?" My screaming reached decibels, I didn't even think were possible.

As I sit here writing about my journey l am still overwhelmed with emotion, I have cried a thousand tears whilst writing about my experience. I am so proud that l took the time out of my hectic life to make time for the most important person "me". A mother rarely puts themselves first, but you know what? I have learnt if you're not happy with yourself than how can you possibly be a great mother, wife or friend!

I have no idea how to put into words how this whole experience has changed my life. I've gone from being frumpy to toned and ripped in only three months. I feel fitter, stronger and at the ripe old age of 42 I am feeling the healthiest version of myself. Let's just say things have changed significantly in the romance department too, if you know what l mean!

I hope my story inspires others to take on this journey, it will be the greatest gift you will give yourself!

Leanne Jones