Bikini bodybuilding gives Mander the lift she needs

Antonia Mander after victory in the Welsh Championships.
Antonia Mander after victory in the Welsh Championships.

Leamington bikini bodybuilder Antonia Mander is representing Great Britain at the PCA World Championships in Birmingham this weekend after victory in the British Championships.

However, the 20-year-old says no matter what the result in Birmingham, she is already a winner after turning her life around through the sport.

Mander at the British Championships.

Mander at the British Championships.

A keen athlete and competitive figure skater, Mander suffered from anxiety and anorexia in her early teens.

Now a personal trainer, she says the gym played an important part in her recovery process.

“Once I had recovered I didn’t really have a release so decided to start going to the gym to help let off some steam,” she says.

“I started going to the gym around about three years ago. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing at the time and just copied what others were doing. I then started educating myself on training correctly and nutrition.

Mander with her silverware.

Mander with her silverware.

“Two years ago, I started taking weightlifting more seriously and decided just lifting weights wasn’t fulfilling enough, so I set the goal of competing the following year just to see how hard I could push myself.”

A third place at the UKBFF West Midlands Show and a sixth at the UKBFF British Finals confirmed her potential and she was hooked.

A year on from her competition debut, the 20-year-old won the bikini bodybuilding category in the Welsh Championships and went on to be crowned overall champion, earning her a place in the British Championships which took place at Birmingham Town Hall earlier this month.

She again won the bikini bodybuilding category to earn a place in the Worlds at Birmingham Rep, a goal she set herself at the start of the year.

“I love the routine of the training and dieting and I love seeing just how hard I can push myself physically but also mentally.

“In order to compete and to get into the condition needed to win I have had to go very extreme with dieting and training.

“I have now been dieting for 35 weeks, it will be 36 weeks by the time I step on the Worlds stage.

“Everything I eat is weighed to the 0.5gram and I eat the same food day in, day out, although the food quantities decrease as time goes on.

“Leading up to shows my food reaches about 850 calories a day.”

Mander also has a strict training regime, combining two to three sessions a day at Urban Sports Fitness Gym in Warwick and the Fitness Factory in Binley with training clients out of both Urban Sports and Leamington Tennis and Squash Club.

She explains: “The first session takes place at around 5am which is my fasted cardio session. This is usually around 70 minutes long - done on the cross-trainer - and is then followed by ten minutes of bike sprints.

“Session two is my weight training. This usually lasts around an hour. I push myself to the max during every training session and aim to beat previous lifts every time.

“My last session is my rehab, stretching and posing session. Posing and presentation is key in bodybuilding and I need to make sure my poses show off my physique to its best.”

Mander is now hoping her success can be an inspiration to others suffering mental health issues.

“Not to sound cliché but bodybuilding and competing has 100 per cent turned my life around. Even though it’s a sport where you are judged based purely off aesthetics, the hard work and dedication needed to step on stage is unlike anything else.

“I’ve thrived off the constant challenge of wanting to win shows but also the desire to improve my physique and my mindset as time goes on.

“I also would like to think I could inspire others to compete or to take up training.”