Chantel Pipe is a personal trainer and – technically – is still the reigning Over 35s Miss Bikini Bodybuilding Champion in this region. In advance of her live classes starting again next month, she explains why she won’t be praising her daughters on their looks anytime soon
Every day is, and has been, an opportunity to learn. There have been hard times and happy times, but it’s all led me to where I am and who I am today.
Technically I am still the Anglian Over-35s Miss Bikini Bodybuilding Champion. I took part and won in 2018, and there hasn’t been another competition since then. It was something I had always wanted to ‘have a go at’, since I was young. The combination of a strong physique combined with all that big hair, bling and bejewelled bikinis just appealed to me. I had always said I wanted to do it ‘one day’. Fast forward to 2017, a huge change in my life circumstances and the death of someone very special to me, and I just decided that I needed to stop saying ‘one day’, and just crack on with it. So, I did! I prepped for the competition for about 20 weeks, working out on average for about two hours per day and sticking to a rigid nutritional plan. It was a fun day and a great learning experience, but personally I feel that doing something like that long term can be detrimental to physical or mental health, so at this point I am not sure that I would do it again. But never say never, maybe I’ll make it a goal for when I turn 50!
Fitness is my second career. I used to be a civil servant working for the DWP. I took a career break in 2010 when I had my first daughter, and I think, like a lot of people when you become a parent, your whole world view shifts. I just knew I could never go back to doing something so soul destroying. I had always been active and been into fitness, and people had often suggested I should become a Personal Trainer, so that’s what I decided to do. I started in about 2015, just teaching a few classes locally and planned to build things gradually. However, I separated from my ex in 2016, so found that I needed to accelerate things to build an income to support myself. And the rest is history. I was able to build a solid client base (most of whom are still with me now), and now spend the majority of my time with one-to-one sessions.
Like everyone at the start of the pandemic there was the initial panic. The pessimist in me didn’t believe for one minute that it would be ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’, so I moved all my classes online pretty much immediately. Most of my PT clients carried on with sessions via Zoom, and I ran a variety of classes online every weekday. I offered the classes for free or ‘pay what you can afford’, for anyone whose finances had been affected by Covid. It was good for me, to be honest, It forced me to think outside the box and learn new systems and processes to deliver training.
I think we are much more aware of looking after our mental health, and many people are realising that you can’t separate the two. When physical health suffers, so will mental health and vice versa. Many of my clients tell me they feel their sessions with me are as vital to their mental health as they are to their physical health. Unfortunately, there are still a huge amount of people looking for that quick fix, whether it’s a ‘get skinny quick’ diet, or a cosmetic procedure to change their appearance.
Positive body image, and positive messages for girls, are vital. We are bombarded daily by products designed to change the way we look, the underlying message being that the way we are is simply not good enough. Imagine how many industries would collapse if females weren’t taught that the way they are born isn’t good enough! So, for me, it is super important. I try to actively avoid praising my daughters for how they look, and instead praise them for being strong/clever/kind/funny etc.
I help people by coaching them to identify, first of all, what exactly it is they want to achieve, what the barriers are that are preventing that, and ways to overcome them. Based on this we will then identify the way forwards, which is completely different for everyone.
I have plans to offer more remote coaching. I trialled this with a group of ladies this year who all made fantastic progress. This will be a great way for me to help more people, who maybe can’t commit to, or don’t necessarily need face to face sessions, but do need guidance and accountability to help them achieve their goals. I am also currently running a free 21-day programme designed to help people develop better nutritional habits. It’d been a busy year, so I am ending my online classes over the summer and starting face to face classes again in September.