UKBFF Champion, Clare Barks, gives insight into the key areas of her career and competition preparation, exploring what it takes to perform at the very top of the health and fitness industry.
I have always been very active and played sports throughout my school years, representing them at county level in sprinting and netball. I have also ran two marathons, one in 2011 and one in 2012. However, my love for the weights room has been with me since I was around 19 years old, so bodybuilding and competing came naturally to me. I started competing for the UKBFF in Bodyfitness/Figure in 2013 and since then have gained the title of British Champion and represented them at an International level.
My competing achievements so far are:
Gaining the title of UKBFF Bodyfitness British Champion has to be one of my most memorable moments and something I never expected when I first stepped on stage in my first competition 2 years earlier.
I’m a very competitive person and have always loved getting involved in anything that challenged my body and gave me an incentive to beat others. I’m also fascinated by how our bodies work and all things nutrition, so it was inevitable that I would end up in this industry in one way or another.
I love training, so that part of it is a given, but I also love the mental challenge of prep and the discipline it brings. The rewarding part is seeing what I can do with my body each year.
The advice I would give to anyone wanting to compete is to make sure they have a few years of training behind them, have a good relationship with food and are doing it for themselves and not for sponsorships, likes on Instagram or because they think it’s the ‘done’ thing to do as soon as they start weight training. It’s not easy or glamorous and takes a hell of a lot of self-discipline, motivation, time, money and sacrifice. I’m not saying this to put anyone off, but it takes a certain character to be able to commit and you need to love the lifestyle in order to stick at it. I would also advise anyone to take some time learning about their body, try different training techniques, foods, try dieting by yourself before jumping straight into getting a coach and simply following instructions. This is one of the best things I did and I prepped myself for my first few competitions, which gave me a good foundation of knowledge before progressing to working with other people.
Possibly being a working mum and having a partner in the military, which has meant fitting any training and time away for competitions around my family. I’ve always made it work in one way or another.
That there are many different ways of doing things and no one way is the ‘right way’. This goes for training and nutrition. There are no absolutes and different things work for different people, but the fun part is finding out what works best for you.
I vaguely remember first entering a gym. I pretty much got stuck straight into the weights. I did, however, do the typical warm up on a cardio machine for about 30-60 mins at the beginning of a workout, which I wouldn’t do now!
Many people inspire me. Not necessarily celebrities, but anyone out there kicking ass, doing what they love, helping others and not whinging along the way!
Have patience. A strong, healthy body takes years to build and sculpt. It won’t come overnight. It will take perseverance, consistency, belief and hard work before you get there.
Don’t ego lift. Yes, lift as heavy as you can for you, but with good form and making sure you are actually working the muscle you’re aiming to work. Strength will come in time, but it needs to be progressive.
I have many highlights. Seeing any client of mine achieving something new is a massive part of what I love about being a personal trainer. Being able to help others reach their health and fitness goals is a real privilege to be a part of.
I need to be on my own. I’m quite withdrawn backstage and go into a little world of my own. I deal with stress better when no one is around me.
Back has to be my favourite body part to train and deadlifts are definitely my favourite exercise.
I currently do a Legs, Push, Pull, Rest workout split. Legs will be a full day of Legs and some Biceps at the beginning, Push will focus on Chest, Delts and Triceps and Pull will hit Back, Traps and Rear Delts.
I have to feel happy when I’m training, I’m not an angry lifter, so any music that makes me feel good. This can vary massively from dance, rap, rock to power ballads!
Protein will always stay consistent and mainly from chicken, eggs, beef and whey. I hate any kind of fish, so that’s a no go. Then carbs will tend to be higher on a training day and usually from things like rice, potato, oats and cereals. Fats will come from oils, avocado, eggs, nut butter. Typical ‘Bro’ foods I guess! The amounts of carbs and fats will probably get reduced as I go into my cut, depending on my cardio output at the time.
I used to love running, but now I like to put a good podcast on and go for an early morning walk before anyone is awake and up.
Staple supplements that I’ll always take are Whey Protein, Omega 3, Curcumin, Vit D3, Creatine and Multi Vits & Mins. Things like pre workouts I’ll have occasionally, but I do like a strong coffee before training!
Who knows! I’d like to expand my PT business when I get more time to put into it. I can see myself always living the training and diet lifestyle that I do now, as it’s part of who I am. The competing side of it just marks points along the way and sets challenges for me to hit, although I’ll always be striving for better on stage for as long as I continue to do it. I want to be a good role model for my children and encourage them to follow their own passions in life to achieve whatever it is they want to.
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