Impact speaks to the strongest female student in Britain, Ms University.
The 2014 Mr and Ms University competition saw 40 finalists from over 20 UK universities battle for the title of best student bodybuilders. Impact spoke to this year’s winner, Holly Welch, a 3rd year Physical Education student at Sheffield Hallam University, to find out more about her experience of winning the title and how she juggles her university work with her training.
TELL US ABOUT THE RECENT MR AND MS UNIVERSITY COMPETITION. YOU’D ONLY BEEN TRAINING FOR A YEAR BEFORE ENTERING AND THEN CAME FIRST PLACE, WERE YOU SURPRISED?
I was absolutely over the moon! I wasn’t expecting it at all as I was a late entry to the competition, so I was amazed when I won. I’ve done other competitions before but these have been ‘Tonefigure’ ones. These are a completely different class to ‘Bikini’, which is what Ms University was.
I was a bit worried going in as I don’t really have a bikini physique, but I had a little bit of body fat at the time so I could get away with it. A lot of it was posing, which is completely different to ‘Tonefigure’, so I only had a week to learn all the poses and get everything right! It was such an amazing experience.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE COMPETITION ITSELF? WAS IT SCARY OR ENJOYABLE?
I really enjoyed it. The thing with me is that if I get too stressed and do it just for the competition then I don’t get anywhere. So I just tell myself to go all in. If you’ve worked hard for something all year round then it’s best to just enjoy it. You’re not on stage for long – it’s only a couple of minutes – so I just like to enjoy it whilst I’m there.
WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN BODYBUILDING?
I started around a year ago now. My brother went to the gym and one day he said I should join him. I initially just wanted to tone up for a holiday! After I started going to the gym I went on a low carb diet and I began to feel full up straight away.
WOULD YOU SAY A LOW CARB DIET IS YOUR SECRET TO GETTING FIT?
Definitely. Obviously you don’t want to go too extreme with low carbs though. Sometimes people cut them out completely and that has a detrimental effect.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR ENERGY LEVELS UP WITHOUT CARBS?
I split my meals up into six a day. Only three of them have carbs in, so I have a few carbs throughout the day rather than having a breakfast with lots of carbohydrates and having none for the rest of the day. It’s not good to do it this way, so I split my carbs up – some before my workout and some afterwards. It keeps my sugar levels and my energy levels high throughout the day.
IT’S YOUR FINAL YEAR STUDYING PHYSICAL EDUCATION. IS YOUR COURSE A PHYSICAL ONE?
It used to be. First and second year used to be quite activity based but my third year has become quite academic.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO STUDY THIS COURSE?
I wanted to become a PE teacher, but since doing my training I’ve had a different outlook on things. It’s made me realise I can do something different than just teaching.
HOW MANY HOURS A WEEK DO YOU TRAIN?
I aim to train for at least two hours a day, so around 14 hours a week.
DO YOU FIND IT EASY TO FIT IN YOUR UNI WORK ALONGSIDE TRAINING?
I find my training helps me focus better on my uni work. I’ve actually ended up working a bit more – I think it’s taught me how to manage my time better.
WHAT’S THE TOUGHEST THING TO DEAL WITH?
It’s got to be sticking to the diet; you have to be so strict with yourself. Going to the gym isn’t a problem because I enjoy it, but I hate it when I’m in the library and everyone around me is eating nice snacks and I know I can’t have one too. Preparing my meals is a key thing for keeping control – if I don’t prep my meals it tempts me to snack on things I shouldn’t.
ARE YOU AS DISCIPLINED WITH YOUR UNIVERSITY DEADLINES?
Yeah I am, it’s not difficult at all really. If I have an upcoming deadline I manage around it. My training has helped me with focusing and getting stuff done; I wouldn’t call training a distraction. It helps me manage my time better as I know I have a lot of things to get through in a single day. Deadlines aren’t really a problem.
WHERE ARE YOU HOPING TO GO NOW WITH BODYBUILDING?
In five weeks time I have more competitions lined up and once they all finish I’ll probably get a part time job for the summer alongside my competitions. In September I’ll decide fully what I want to do. I don’t know whether I still want to teach so I’m just going to use the summer to find the best path.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR STUDENTS AND KEEN BODYBUILDERS?
Just enjoy it. Don’t be put off, if you want to take it seriously then do but mostly just enjoy it. If this is what you want to do then don’t let anything get in the way of your success, but that’s the same with anything I guess.