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Women Who Lift

UPDATE: Ashley Horner’s #BecomingExtraordinary trainer: finishing Phase Two

So I’ve come to the end of Phase Two, meaning I’ve been on Ashley Horner’s Becoming Extraordinary trainer for seven weeks and am over halfway to finishing the 12 weeks. A lot has happened in that time: Ashley Horner got married (on top of a glacier!) and became Ashley Cline - a name change I’ve yet to adjust to. AND I found out that in just over four weeks time I will be moving from London to Dubai to start a new job as deputy editor of Women’s Health Middle East!

So Phase Two has been five weeks of workouts that are more familiar to me from my previous training - heavy lifting in splits, albeit with a two mile run as a warm up and four rather than three sets of everything. The benefits have been really seeing some big muscle gains in my upper body, particularly my back - and I can now pump out over 60 assisted pull ups on back day, as opposed to the big fat ZERO I could manage before!

BUT I must admit that I feel like I’ve lost focus in this phase. I’ve pretty much stuck to the training programme, although I haven’t always done the running warm ups because a) I get shin splints at the mere mention of a jog, and b) I’m lazy. What I’ve been embarrassingly bad at, though, is sticking to the diet plan. Finding out I’m leaving my job and my home country for pretty much a dream job in Dubai has meant lots of celebratory meals and drinks, goodbye meals and drinks and, of course, stress-induced meals and drinks! I also feel that, because the workouts feel similar to my old workouts, I’ve fallen back into my old habits - making sure I get enough protein in but eating a lot of crap along the way too.

The upside is that the training is so intense it must have raised my metabolism or something because I’m not looking AS fluffy as I’d expect, but I’m certainly not looking anywhere near as cut as I’d hoped either. Also, and this is a side note but, Ashley seems to focus less on glutes than I do usually so while my back and arms have grown (yay!) my beloved bum has shrunk (BOO).

Anyway, I’ve only got a week and a half left at work and then I’ll be able to spend as much time in the gym as I want, so I am trying to fully recommit to the programme for Phase Three, which is INSANELY full-on. One mile sprint plus a body weight circuit warm up, then intense split circuits - eg tomorrow I’ve got 15 exercises just for back and biceps, 3 sets of 15-20 each, in fast supersetted circuits, presumably to send my metabolism into overdrive. AND THEN 45 minutes of cardio - as if I won’t already be a sweaty lump on the floor by then. At least my rollerblade to work is exactly 45 minutes, so I’ll do that for cardio until I’ve left my job.

It’s going to be the toughest training I’ve ever done, but I’m here for it. And if I can commit to something like that in the gym, it should help me commit to eating better, too - largely because my body will be crying out for proper nutrition after a workout like that! Plus I’ve now got two major added motivations: I’m moving to a country where I’ll want to be in a bikini every weekend, and I plan to turn up in Dubai looking like the model Women’s Health deputy editor! Wish me luck…

RECIPE: Perfectly crispy sweet potato chips

Luckily, sweet potato chips are a regular feature on Ashley Horner’s #BecomingExtraordinary diet plan, or I would have failed already. I’ve finally perfected my recipe for ensuring crispy chips every time - and it’s stupidly simple.

  1. Heat your oven to about 190C
  2. Peel the sweet potato and slice into skinny chips (the skinnier the chip, the better the crunchy-exterior-to-succulent-interior ratio)
  3. Drizzle with olive oil. A full dessertspoon should do for a large sweet potato
  4. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of salt and a dessertspoon of paprika
  5. Getting stuck in with your hands, make sure each chip is coated with oil, salt and spice
  6. Stick the baking tray in the oven for 15 minutes
  7. Take them out, toss vigorously (hello boys) and stick ‘em back in for another 15 minutes
  8. Stuff your face with chips so good you’ll never crave french fries again