Lesley Ann Armstrong’s day job at the Xtreme Gym on Derry’s Distillery Brae, is much more than just a career.
As a personal trainer, the 30-year-old Waterside based expert certainly practises what she preaches. In 2012, Lesley Ann was awarded the title Miss World Trained Body, and from the photographs, it’s easy to see why.
The perfectly sculpted figure is the result of years of commitment, hard work and discipline.
In 2012, Lesley Ann was working non-stop as she moved from one competition to the other, with very little time for anything else in between.
“It’s hard work, there’s no doubt about that,” she says.
“There is no time for a life when you’re competing. Everything from my diet to my social life had to change.
Almost two years on, Lesley Ann isn’t competitive at the moment but is pouring all of her energy into helping Derry people achieve a healthy level of fitness.
Looking back on her career, Lesley Ann said she first became interested in body building five years ago.
“I liked the shape and the figures people were able to achieve and I started weight training myself, although I never dreamed I’d get to the point where I’d be winning major competitions. I was totally in shock when I was told that I’d won the Miss World. It was totally surreal and it took a while to sink in.”
Lesley Ann’s background was never unhealthy, as she explains, although she admits it took a bit more than the average healthy lifestyle to achieve her figure.
“I had always been reasonably healthy, I was a vegetarian for 18 years and I always kept an eye on what I ate.”
Lesley Ann soon realised that a totally vegetarian diet wouldn’t suffice if she wanted to compete in the fast paced world of female bodybuilding.
“At the beginning, because I wasn’t eating meat, I was taking 35 egg whites every day, but even that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t working and I was feeling too hungry so I had to start eating meat and chicken, which, after having been vegetarian for so long was a massive change for me. I had to make that compromise.”
To maintain the figure which won her the coveted Miss World title, Lesley Ann revealed that her average weekly food shopping bill was coming in at between £130 and £150 every week because of the high volumes of meat and chicken she had to eat.
The huge financial sacrifice was just one aspect of what the 30-year-old had to do to achieve the level of success she did.
“I haven’t had a life for the last five years,” she says. “You’re eating very little, you’re not spending money because it costs so much to compete and the training is non-stop.”
Lesley Ann says reaching the top of her career made it worth it but adds that the motivation might be more difficult now because she’s achieved as much as she can, competition wise.
“It is worth it to some extent,” she says. “But I think I’ve got to the stage now where I need something else back. I competed last October but then I decided to take a wee step back.
“After such intensive training and preparation it takes five or six months to come around again!”
Lesley Ann revealed that in the course of her body building career, while she’s had great support from family and work colleagues, she’s been left open to some negative comments too.
“I think that’s just something to do with body building not really getting the recognition that it deserves here,” she says.
“You can get catty comments from girls and maybe that has something to do with jealousy at times too but a lot of the time people are just narrow minded really.”
While she’s not competing at the moment, Lesley Ann hasn’t ruled it out in the future.
“I’d love to compete again because I like to have a goal, and I’m good at it but I need an incentive and at the minute there isn’t a decent enough reward and nothing that will get me anywhere to further my career.
“I suppose ideally I’d have to leave Northern Ireland for that but there’s the matter of finance too and there’s a huge cost associated with the whole thing.
“The cost of the food I need to eat, travelling to the competitions, taking time out from work to train, flights, hotels for competitions and it all adds up. So in the meantime, I’m focusing on my job here at the gym and I really enjoy training and working with local people who come in.
“I work with all abilities and I really enjoy it. It’s not always weight training, it’s just about helping people get fit.”
To contact Lesley Ann about personal training, email firstname.lastname@example.org