Leigh Clarke: 2Bros Pro Natural Masters Bikini Champ
Leigh amazes me...Single mum, self employed and nailing her fitness goals one show at a time!
"...It is not just the physical toll it takes...its the emotional side of the journey that is the hardest part; However that is what makes stepping on stage such a huge achievement, not many people can do it because it really isn’t easy..."
I first met Leigh at a posing workshop in Hove run by Livia Francis, that was just over two years ago. In those two years Leigh has competed in several fitness competitions, finally finding her comfort zone with the 2 Bros Pro Federation.
Last year she achieved 2nd in masters at the 2Bros Pro Women's Finals and 6 weeks later 1st in Masters Bikini and 1st in your height class at the 2Bros Pro Natural Classic.
So 2019 was your first year competing, but you had been thinking about it for a while...what made you finally take the plunge?
I had followed and watched Bikini Athletes for a while, admiring how they looked, in awe of the work they must have dedicated to get to the stage however at that point in my life I didn’t have the confidence or belief that I could ever achieve anything for myself.
I had a competitive background in the fact I would compete regularly with horses (this was my field of work at the time) but after separating from my ex husband I eventually left this line of work and I missed the goal driven lifestyle that competing brings. I spent two years thinking about ‘giving it a go’ until one day it sounds cliché but something in my head shifted and I decided I would go for it!
How was your first show experience?
It was amazing, I loved every second, it was a huge learning curve and life experience I will never forget, from registration, to tanning, hair and make up and the stage!
Did it meet your expectations?
It exceeded my expectations in so many ways, mainly due to the people I have met along the way. I can honestly say I have never met a more supportive community of people, something I am so grateful for. I have made friends for life through the sport and love that everyone is so driven by improving themselves rather then competing with each other.
Do you have any golden advice for new competitors?
Try to enjoy each part of the journey. Again it sounds cliché but getting to the stage is a roller coaster, you learn things about yourself constantly. Prep can be tough and there will be times you want to quit, it can be very lonely as generally the majority of your friends and family have no idea what it involves. It is not just the physical toll it takes (that’s the easy part haha) its the emotional side of the journey that is the hardest part; However that is what makes stepping on stage such a huge achievement, not many people can do it because it really isn’t easy.
Last year you began training Phoebe Hagan, who is a very successful athlete and trainer...how do you feel she helped you achieve your A-game?
Phoebe is one of the nicest people I have met and she deserves all the success she has.
I feel like the confidence she gave me within myself had a huge part in my achievements. I am a really small person, I will never be the most muscular or jacked girl on stage but she helped me present myself in the best possible way to the Judges, she was very knowledgeable in relation to what the judges were looking for in relation to balance and angles so this definitely helped with how I trained.
How did you fit training into your schedule as a single full time Mum and work?
There is no point in sugar coating it, its tough, there were times when I was so tired I didn’t want to train, times I felt terrible guilt for having this sport in my life, times I wanted to see my friends instead of going to the gym but if you want something enough then you do whatever it takes. I want my son to grow up seeing that whatever circumstances you find yourself in if you work hard you can achieve anything.
Practically my parents are my life savers, they help me with my son so I can train. As a single parent you can’t be picky with times you train, if he is with his Dad and 5am is the only time I can get to the gym that day then I’m there at 5am, if 11pm is the only time I can train then that’s when I do it.
So what has it actually cost you to compete this year?
Oh I dread to think of the exact cost but I guess around the £3500 mark, that’s without gym membership, supplements, travel, accessories, food, NPC membership. The cost of the sport really surprised me and this is one of the main reasons why I don’t compete in more competitions over the year.
How has the pandemic changed how you trained year?
I was on prep over the first lockdown which wasn’t so bad, I had some dumbbells, bands, a small barbell and minimal weight which I made use of. However this current lockdown I have been in off season which has been more frustrating as I really want to be pushing my weights up. I have recently managed to buy an Olympic bar, more weights and a squat rack, so my training is based around this.
What competitions are you doing this year?
I have qualified for Amateur Olympia by competing in the Naturals last year, so i am buzzing for this! I am keen to do the naturals again as well.
Recently you started Anabolic mums club on Instagram with Caroline and Dee on Instagram, what's the idea behind that?
We met at The 2 Bros Pro British Final as we were all competing in Masters, we got chatting back stage and just clicked! The back stage chat between the masters and other categories is very different, if I remember rightly we were discussing mum issues, supermarket temperatures and health and safety (all very glam haha) In all seriousness we all had the same vibe and it was so lovely to have girls a similar age, who have children and understand the different struggles of the sport with these circumstances. We all stayed in contact and chatted about how helpful it would have been if we had known each other when we first started out and how different it would have been if we had known certain things or had an open, honest account of what it is like to juggle everyday life. It was over lockdown 2.0 we thought why not start an IG page to help other women in the same way? So that’s what we did 😊 Honestly Dee and Caroline inspire me everyday, they are absolute grafters and I love having them to inspire me – they keep me focussed and tell me to get on with it when I need a talking to 😊
What would you like to achieve next time you compete?
Simple, I want to bring a better package to the stage, placings are the icing on the cake. After judges feedback I know what needs improving and my goal is to do this.
Leigh will be continuing her competition journey later on this year with a new prep coach, a new bikini and her sights on the next goal.