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Lesley Ann Haswell Interview

NPA 2005 O Overall Champion


Lesley Ann Haswell is the 2005 NPA under 55 and Overall bodybuilding champion. In this exclusive interview, she shares with you her life, training, dieting and so much more...

o What is your full name and profession?
Lesley Ann Haswell independent Sports Physiotherapist, Alternative Holistic Therapist and lecturer.

o Where do you live? What's it like living there?
o In the North East of England, in a small town called Fulwell in Sunderland. The North East is a great place to live with excellent leisure facilities and outdoor pursuits. So there really is no excuse not to be out and about keeping fit. I really love living in Fulwell with its village atmosphere. My gym 'Fitness 2000' is only two minutes away and the beach is even closer, fantastic for cardio!

o How many children do you have?
I am a single parent of two girls my oldest is 14 years of age and my youngest is nearly 10.

o Have you always been "a sporty type"?
Yes, luckily I was told by my teachers from an early age that I was a natural athlete and so sport really has been a fundamental part of my life and daily routine. I have pretty much tried most sports over the years from scuba diving, aerobics to squash. As a teenager I was a competitive swimmer taking part in North East regional competitions. This took a lot of dedication even at such a young age, training every morning before and after school I also worked on my local beach for many years as a lifeguard which was a very rewarding experience as you can imagine.

I have also trained in Karate, whilst taking up Thai kick boxing a couple of years ago - excellent all rounder for body fitness. My male training buddies were quite restrained in the first few sessions before they realised I could pack quite a punch! After that they showed no mercy! I have even played for a local girls football team, an experience I really enjoyed. Did I kick like a girl? What do you think?

o At which point in your life did you decide to take up bodybuilding? Did you have any mentor that would get you into such a male dominated sport?
I can always remember from an early age wanting to train and compete. My first body building book, written by Marilyn Luscombe 'Designer Body', was given to me as a Christmas present by my father. That book became my bible as a teenager and I still have it to this day. To take part in body building competitions I suppose became a dream of mine since that day really although it took me until I was 37 for the time to be right. So for all those ladies out there, IT'S NEVER TOO LATE to go for your dream and make it come true. Sounds corny but true! I think my first organised brush with muscle fitness took place at my local leisure centre. My swimming coach at the time wanted all swimmers to have resistance exercises brought into the training schedule. I was only 12 at the time. By the age of 15 I was regularly training in the gym using machines and weights, although I pretty much worked alone.

Unfortunately I never had a male mentor as the men in the gym tended to keep themselves to themselves. So although I never trained to severity and extent that I train now, training has always been a big passion of mine. I still have my first ever posing photos taken by my sister; I was aged 15 or 16 I should think.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to find 2 organisations which require you to be drug free in order to compete. This concept to me was the epitome of the true athlete - results through sheer hard work, grit and determination. This fired me on to compete in the BNBF (British Natural Body Building Federation) and the NPA (Natural Physique Association)

o How would you classify yourself: physique or bodybuilding?
Whilst I compete in the under 55kg physique category, I prefer to build my body or sculpt it to the shape I want, so both terms would apply really.

o What is your training routine like? Are there any exercises that you exceptionally like doing or just hate?
My training routine is very strict. I never miss a session and I always train alone (usually with my iPod on full blast to avoid disturbances). As the competition day gets nearer I do cardio every morning at 6.30 before I start my days work.

This routine does get very tiring as the weeks go by but it is a necessary part of my training therefore it just has to be done. I actually love all aspects of my training, especially training chest and my legs. My gym has an excellent selection of free weights and machines to choose from. Although my favourite is the dumbbells as I love to train strictly and without the back up of the machines.

o What's the hardest part for you in your training regime?
Early morning cardio, sometimes I feel I'm running in my sleep. And of course, having to juggle my training with running my successful sports physiotherapy business full-time is demanding. Life is hectic and I rarely have a quiet moment!

o What supplements are you taking at the moment and how do they help you?
I take protein powder like LA Whey every day. If I am struggling with food consumption I will make up my protein calories with a protein shake, this is quick absorption and is simple to measure intake. I do love LA Whey Protein Bar chocolate and LA Muscle Flapjacks are my favourite. When dieting it's very important that you do not omit any minerals, vitamins etc. supplementation is a back up to ensure all aspects of your diet are covered. I use good fats in my diet every day two, which are measured carefully.

o What do you like the most about the sport you devoted to? Have you ever considered switching to other?
I must like the challenge lol. Watching your body taking shape for a show is very rewarding, although I can be impatient as I usually diet for 20 weeks. Preparing for a natural body building competition is the hardest thing I have ever done. Training is one thing but the diet aspect is very difficult, requiring lots of commitment and self-control. Some days I could die for a large jar of peanut butter - I even dream about it! Mental strength plays a major part in training.

The mental determination to stay focused is particularly hard. However the rewards can be great - I love the feeling after a show of a trophy in one hand and lots of goodies to eat in the other. Would I consider switching? Ask me that question after the ?????? Edinburgh. My out of season sport is Thai boxing and I absolutely love it. I tried to keep both sports going but only have the energy to prepare for the shows, I couldn't bare the thought of picking up any injuries, as this is a contact sport. I am planning to go back to my Thai combat club which is owned by Stu Baillie in Rhyope in November (WARNING to Stu "I'm coming back, get your pads on")

o What do you consider as you biggest achievement in your life?
Having my two beautiful girls of course and bringing them up single-handedly. Developing my successful sport physiotherapy business, with it's loyal client base. Winning UK Champions 2005 and Overall. Coming second in Britain 2005 NPA, being part of the Natural Bodybuilding World, oh! And being featured on the Tyne Tees News (Ambassador for Natural Bodybuilding).

o What is the atmosphere like behind the scene before competitions? Do ladies get paranoid about their looks and are very competitive?
What you have to bare in mind is that we are all by nature, highly competitive individuals regardless of the fact that we are females. People react to the competitive environment very differently and the great physical and emotional stress that this involves. Some girls may be friendly and others very quiet, stress affects people differently. Over the last ten years I have met some great male and female competitors and we have stayed in contact and met up over the year. It is great to have this shared bond as we understand what the sport entails and can support each other. My friends, Jason Rickerby and Jon Harris, have body building forums where everyone can stay in touch ( and Anyone can join- feel free. It's great to chat to like minded people and be part of the body building community.

o And how do you feel on stage?
I feel brilliant. After all, I have worked all year to get there so I absorb every second of it.

o Do you have to change a lot for a competition?
Yes, my weight loss is very dramatic and everyone comments particularly on how my face looks. I'm known as "tiny little cute head" by my friends, and because of my muscular shots as "Lesleytraps" on the forums. To compete it does have to be a way of life, my social life is the gym.

o Do you have a daytime job?
Yes, I have two jobs( four if you include house and kids.

o You run your own Sports Physiotherapy Consultancy business, is it something that has grown from your passion to bodybuilding? How does your sport help you in work?
My life has always evolved around some form of competitive sport whether through my job as a Sports Physiotherapist / Lecturer or as part of my hobbies, one of which is Thai boxing sport, human anatomy and physiology has always been a passion of mine. My working professional life and hobbies work hand in hand, each compliment the other. My body has been good advertisement for my career. My knowledge of training has helped gain respect from my pale patients who also body build. I have found that my male patients whom either I train or treat have no hang ups on taking advice from myself as they know I am very experienced in what I do, in the gym and treatment room.

o What type of therapy do you specialize in? Can you tell us something more about it?
I specialise in a wide range of on-site therapies including sports injury treatments, remedial, sports, advanced massage, deep tissue massage, lymphatic drainage and aromatherapy massage, postural analysis, gym instruction, personal training, rehabilitation techniques, pilates instruction, core stability in addition to the above I am also a lecturer for the WEA (Workers Education Authority). I am currently teaching alternative therapies and fit for life courses through Sunderland and South Tyneside.

o And what sort of clients do you usually get: men, women, professionals..?

I treat a variety of people from professional sports people, professionals, to builders and nurses, male and female of any age, shape and size. I have met some great people through my business, with many staying as long-term clients. If they have an injury I will treat them a range of appropriate therapies. If they want personal training from me I'm able to create a personalised training plan to meet their personal goals over a realistic period. My oldest ever Pilates student is 82years of age and she never misses a class.

o Do you usually give yourself some "time off" during the year?
Yes I try to go on holiday once a year with my girls, although I do train on holiday. I only diet very strictly for competitions. On the off season I eat healthy well balanced diet, any kind of dessert and peanuts being my favourite.

o How do you cope with everyday life, work, training and competing?
It's very hectic. It's very hard trying to fit everything in, I think that's why there are so few women competitors in the sport. Understandably, they seem to fall by the way side, it's a real test of mental strength.

o What sort of feedback do you get from your friends, family and people in general?
Mixed response really, my friends, family, patients and students have said that they are very proud of me although you do get the odd comment such as "Why do you do it?" etc. I usually answer "Because I can!"

o Do men's points of view differ much from women's?
Surprisingly I receive a lot of attention from women, who want to have my muscular shape although both men and women are intrigued. Nearer the show time people tell me I'm too thin. This is only temporary for the stage and my weight comes back to normal within a couple of weeks. Strangely enough perfect strangers do come up to me an feel my arms, wanting to know what I feel like, but I suppose I'm getting used to it more now.

o Do you have many friends from outside the industry?
Yes, I have friends that do train and friends that don't. They are all cool whatever I choose to do. Although they miss me a lot, on a weekend as I don't go out socialising when in competition mode. Training comes first! My close friend has bought on a couple of occasions chocolate fudge cake with her coffee and always apologizes. I don't hold it against her.

o How has your body changed throughout the years of training?
I have always trained in some form over the years, the diet shows off your greatest achievements so the look you get for the stage is very different to the look out of season. I have been working extremely hard on widening my back, working on my X taper, this is the ratio of back width to waist, I have managed to widen my lats this season so I'm very pleased about that.

o Are you afraid of losing feminine features?
No not at all, I will always be natural competitor so losing my feminity is not an issue. Although I have a masculine most muscular that I am proud of (Lesleytraps). Women tend to think if you train in the gym you will automatically get the physique of Ronnie Coleman. This is so misleading and so untrue. You can only work on the muscles fibres that are already present, you don't actually gain any more than you are actually born with, a healthy training regime can make you toned and make you stronger for everyday life, especially when us, women, do most of the heavy housework and carry all the heavy shopping and children around, gym
workouts can help to make life at home a little easier.

o How do you cope during the time of the month?
I tend to bloat up, maybe gain an extra 4lbs in weight due to water retention which isn't good if the dates coincide with competitions, I also feel like eating bars and bars of chocolate every month.

o Is the sport you do affecting your love life?
My boyfriend is a natural body builder, I must have given him the bug. He has just won his first ever competition.. He is currently the South- East Middleweight Champion. We have been dieting for months together, so our social life is pants at the moment but that's par for the course, we are both tired on a nite, but we understand that competing comes first for now.

o How do you choose your stage outfit and make-up?
The White Salon in Fulwell has an excellent hairdresser and colourist, for my hair and my nails are done also. Thanks guys! They do a fab job. My girls and my sister help me with my stage make-up. My little girl chose the last bikini I bought.

o In general, how would you encourage people, women especially, to care more about their fitness and wellbeing?
Never think that because you haven't been in the gym in years or never been in a gym in full stop that is too late to try again or to take part in the exercise. It's the biggest buzz in the world to give yourself little goals and each week tick them of the done list, plus, stimulating your mind , body and soul in the process. If you can do a couple of hours a week then it's a start. Healthy eating, living healthy mind long healthy life. Go girl, go- if you live in my area I will be able to get you started!

o How do you usually relax?
My new relaxation time is going to my local hair / nail salon. It had just opened at the bottom of my street, I go every week now as I have had my hair cut from being very, very long to bob. It's easier to manage when training and competing (Time Management being crucial). The White Salon has a great pampering atmosphere with girlie chats and they do a fab coffee. I love to go to the cinema with my girls and boyfriend.

Although it is very hard at the moment, I'm finding the temptation of eating pop corn very difficult to handle (I usually have the large box). I love to spend my time with girls, I call this "mum time". It's very important to get the balance right. I love to go socialising, dancing all night. I will make up for lost time in November (great time to stay in shape).

o What would you say are the most important do's and don'ts with training and nutrition?
I found keeping a journal very helpful, keeping track of everything you eat, drink, and write down any form of exercise you do. I have very good results from my clients who I gave personal training to, as I keep the motivated and also give them a programme to follow in and out of the gym. Motivation is the key, if you can't get it from within you may need a helping hand. I teach many skills not involving the gym environment. You can make housework or walking the dog tools for a healthy life approach. Nutrition is basically "you are what you eat". Good food ratio is the key. Well balanced diet, including fresh vegetables and fruit, water plays a big role in my diet, it's a must.

o How do you motivate yourself on a daily basis?
The hunger of wanting to win, the idea of finishing something I have started, never giving up, no matter how hard it gets. I put my achievements down to sheer competitive girt and determination to win.

o What will be your next competition?
My next competition is on the 1st October. It's the British Championships Final (BNBF). Then I have a NPA Qualifier (Natural Physique Association), under 55kg physique and a couple of competitions with my boyfriend Dale.

o What is your priority in life?
My girls, family, boyfriend and friends.

o Is there anything else you'd like to add?
It's never too late to start a healthy life style. Give it a go!



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