My 12 Week Body Transformation

I have just completed my first 12 Week Body Transformation with Michelle Bridges. Oh my hat, did I transform!

Have a look at my very daggy official before photo and then my rather 'show off-y' official after photos:



So the above pictures basically sum it all up - but this would not be much of a blog if I did not tell you more about how this all happened.

I was still breast feeding; John John was 12 months old and I was desperate to do something for myself. It was October 2012.

If I had been given a gift of a few hours, no kids, no house work, no husband, no pets, nothing other than me and the spare time, I would have not known what to do with it. I felt like my existence has been defined by the existence of my kiddies and there seemed to be a blurry line between where I ended and they began. *alarm bells were ringing*

We were back in South Africa (where I grew up and where my family still lives) on holiday for John John’s birthday. I had planned to join a friend of mines kettle bell gym twice a week for four weeks (Flux). I had never done kettle bells before, but I thought if I could get an exercise routine established while I had a family support system around me, it would be enough momentum to take back to Australia where my day to day support system was Hugo (my DH).

You may be thinking, what about the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation (12wbt), hang on, my transformation will take to the stage soon. (If you aren’t interested in this prelude, skip down to where I say – “I signed up” :))

When we got to Durban John John got struck with a rota-virus for 11 days. Well, I should clarify, it started with him and pretty soon the entire household got it. Vomiting and poohing, multiple bed changes during the night on multiple beds and not to forget the continuous cleaning up of bodily fluids during the day - It was hectic - I was also ill, but the intense nausea which had the other adults on their backs and in bed for 3 days, was nothing compared to the morning sickness I had previously experienced, so I coped better than them and was looking after everyone, like Florence Nightingale in a sanatorium.

My first session at the kettle bell gym was the day after John John’s first night of illness. I was determined not to miss out on my first ‘me time’ since I could remember. Even though I had very little rest and was not feeling too great, I still went to the class. To my surprise and delight, once I started the class, I forgot about how unwell I felt and also forgot about the chaos that was waiting for me at my mum’s house. When I go back an hour later, the family had coped without me.

For the next four weeks I got up at 5:45am twice a week and went to my kettle bell class, regardless of what the previous 24h had been like. I was learning a life lesson. If I made the effort, I could conjure an hour for myself. (Even if it seemed like I was sacrificing something else for it, such as an hour of dear sweet sleep.) I was also learning to deal with the guilt I felt by putting my ‘luxurious needs’ first.

We got back to Australia. I got a kettle bell. I did not know how to use it. What I had learned in 8 group lessons was not enough to send me swinging my way to super-strong-and-healthy all by myself in the garage. I needed a training routine. I looked on the Internet. I looked some more – I could not find what I was looking for.

One evening, I walked into the study. Hugo was on the computer reading about PC games...who does that?  And there, on the right hand panel, on the screen was Michelle Bridges, in an advert for her 12wbt. My internal universe shifted – I bent over the screen to have a closer look. I knew I had to go to that link and check it out (12wbt). I did.

I signed up.

I was what they call a late starter. I had to do all the preseason tasks in super quick time so that I could get the most out of the program. I am naturally a pleaser\achiever. If Michelle asked me to go do the pre-season tasks, I will do it. I did.

Weight loss was never a goal of mine, so knew I was not going to follow the eating plan. Besides, I was going to be increasing my exercise by 100% so by eating the same as I normally would; I could only look better for it. I also thought it would be more convenient for me and the family if I changed one thing at a time, and to see how it went.

I chose to do the Advanced Lean and Strong program because it was the one plan that had the most weight training in it. The routine lay out was perfect – exactly what I was looking for. I could print it off and follow the plan – I did not have to go down to the garage and ‘think up’ something to do on the spot. I was a bit intimidated because I thought perhaps I was doing something beyond my abilities.

I was shocked to see that there were 6 days of training a week – I thought my commitment of 2 days a week back in Durban had been my ultimate limit. I had to get Hugo on board; if I was going to do this properly I needed his help to watch the kiddies until I had finished my workout. He agreed.

My first workout was the Thursday of week one. I did it. I did every workout asked of me after that. I rested when I was asked to and I optionally did the optional extra cos it was optional :)
I started reading the forums fairly late into the program – But once I was reading them I would check on them each day. I was so so embarrassed to comment on any threads, because I felt like the other ladies would go “who is she and why does she think I care about what she says”. Anyways, I warmed up a bit to the way things worked and even started my own new thread about saggy tummies during planks.

I never felt sore after a workout. (Some may think this is good thing and others may think I did not try hard enough during my sessions, the main thing was that I felt great) I did feel defeated during some workouts because I just could not do everything on the workout. Polymeric Lunges totally and utterly beat me. Burpees blew my lungs out my throat.

After the first 4 weeks – that is the 'muscle building' phase. I could already see changes on the way. I could see definition in my arms and my strength and stamina were improving.

I weighed in each week and I moved up and down the graph a bit – but by nothing much. I had the good sense to not freak out because my focus was to get strong and we all know muscle weighs more than fat. I started to drink a protein shake after my workout with my brekkie. I think that helped with my recovery and assisted me not to feel sore or stiff.

The 'specify' phase - week 5 - 8, was hard work. This is where one focuses on specific muscles per session. I did each work out as it was set out for me. Hugo and I both thought I responed better to the type of work out in the first four weeks. But I was confident in the program and gave myself over to the plan. I knew it has been designed by th epros, who was I to question it?

There was a lot of hype in the forums about the 'getting ripped' phase - this is the last four weeks, where the fat is meant to be stripped off as a result of a more intense workouts. I was very apprehensive and intimidated by this. I did not falter, I kept my head down and just did each work out as usual. I took up the nutrition challenge that was proposed in the Lean and Strong forums. This challenge was to eat clean and not to have alcohol until the Final party.

One evening - I saw a bump just under my bra - I thought 'ahh, look at this weird lump of fat' , I touched it and it was firm-ish. I pulled my tummy muscles and it got bigger and more defined - OMG - it was the beginning of a six pack - I was totally blown away! This discovery really got my tail up and I also felt the first twinge of competitiveness kick in. (There had recently been an email about the Lean and Strong comp. The prizes were incredible - the top 3 would win a personal trainers course. I had longed to do one. Imagine winning) I knew right then I was going to do my after photos and I was going to submit them for the comp!

The evening Hugo took my after pics was an interesting one. I was excited to compare the before with the after pics and he was keen to be the technical adviser and photographer. We got the kids down, I got changed and he got some lights set up for the 'shoot' (a bedside lamp on the table). I channelled 'Chesty', a guy I used to work with who does body building and Hugo snapped away. It was fun, and hard work too I was sweating by the end. We were happy with the results, we chose the 3 photos I was going to submit - then realised that I had not held up a newspaper to validate the date of the photo...Oh no, it was after 9pm by then and we had to start all over again. It took a lot of effort, but with newspaper in hand, click click click, chose the pics and submitted - done and dusted in 20mins. That was Tuesday of week 12.
err missing the newspaper, but smiling...

On Thursday of week 12, I got home, read my email and saw an extra special one from the 12wbt crew saying that I, had made the Top 20!

I had not booked to go to the Final Party - it had worked out to be too expensive. But as soon as Hugo heard me shouting and jumping up and down in the kitchen, he immediately said "Go to Brisbane!"  I was in such turmoil, to go or not to go. I had to phone my bestie, who was also duing the 12wbt, for advise. She so wisely and calmly pointed out that this was something I was doing just for me - for the first time in years - just for me. Going to Brisbane would be the first time I would be away form my kids since they were born and it would also mean I was going to drop the entire pay check I had just received on a 1 night stint in Brissy.

Hugo and I stayed up after midnight trying on various combinations of the outfits and frocks. Some I have owned through a few decades. (I kid you not, I still have a 2 dresses from 1992) Despite our efforts, we just could not  put together anything suitable. Hugo proved to be a very informative and opinionated fashion consultant!

Friday was intense. I had to find something to wear. I had the kiddie-winks with me and I had one chance to hit Moruya high street. I went to a shop - tried on 2 dresses - the shopkeeper was not that friendly and when she did offer her opinion, she suggested that I don't do shopping with my kids and that I should return to her shop when I can get my husband to look after them. (for the record, they were not running riot or causing any trouble, John John was just shouting and making a noise in the pram) Needless to say I left without buying anything from there. I then went to the surf shop - thought I would try my luck at the sale. There  I found a sweet shop assistant and a dress I knew was perfect. I got it.

I was so nervous - I rollercoastered from being super excited to being extremely blase and then pendulumed from being energised to feeling nauseous. These emotions kept swirling round and round like a whirlpool in my solar plexus.

I arrived in Brisbane too late to do the group workout, but had just enough time to get my hair and make up done, get changed and to meet a group of friendly and beautiful 12wbt ladies in the foyer\bar of my hotel. That $5 mojito we had together, gave me the dutch courage to strut up the street to the convention centre.

I had to keep pinching myself - I could hardly believe how many people were there and was also trying to process everything that happened since Thursday night. I met up with the other Top 20 finalists - what inspirational people, I was so proud to be associated with them.

The Top 20 Round 3 2012
I was nervous and it thrilled me to be nervous, I could feel my blood coursing through my veins, I could hear it passing over my ear drums. My breathing was quick and deep - I was going to go on stage soon and I was going to meet Michelle. Then there was an internal lull, a calm came over me and a silly kind of happiness - I did not care about the prize anymore and I surrendered to the overwhelming feeling of being involved at this level. It felt real.

After we went on stage Michelle kept things moving swiftly, before we had time to think she was announcing the winners. When she started to describe the 3rd place winner for Lean and Strong, she began by saying the winner came from NSW and has had two cesareans...I just knew it had to be me and crazy-zinging emotions twirling with fear and elation came washing over me - I was so so proud and so so humbled to be the winner. I remember nodding my head and instinctively walking onto the ramp as soon as she said my name.

I also remember doing an arm pump when I heard the compare confirm that I had won a Master Trainer Scholarship with the Australian Institute of Fitness. OMG I was going to be a PT. Wild dreams, which had been slumbering in the back of my mind for so long, had been evoked and were in the early stages of motion!! Words will not explain how appreciative I am of this awesome gift!!

I honestly believe that I would not have even considered committing to the 12wbt 6 workouts a week if I had not experienced the testing time in Durban. I had proved to myself back then, that I could make time for myself and that it was me putting limitations on my own needs. It also showed me how determined I could be if I had made something a priority. And I also learned that I could separate my needs from my kiddies needs. I hope this illistrates how the todays of our lives are affecting our tomorrows of our future, it is up to us to make the connections and to learn from our experiences. Perhaps I could even take it a bit furher and say, if we strive for positive things today, we are setting ourselves up for more positive things later.

The 12wbt has tought me so much too. I organise my day to ensure that my workout is never compromised. I believe my housework management has become more efficient due to this new regime and my little kiddies have not missed a beat with my new appraoch to how I divide up our day. I do feel as though my days are fuller and I fit more into my awake time, but that is because I really really do.

The pictures of me in the final are downloaded from the Michelle Bridges flickr stream


  1. Hugely inspiring.
    From a fellow ex-S.African and another 12WBTer!

  2. awesome story - loved hearing from a fellow Durbanite! (who strangely used to date a bodybuilder, with a nickname Chesty - wander if its the same guy? :)But most of all a lesson to this mum of two young kids to make time to put me first. thank you.

    1. Hey Bridget - Durbs is so small - it has to be the same guy,without being too cryptic does JT work :)? Thanks for your comment, good luck with claiming your time slot! :)