Posted on 27 Feb 2014
6 min read
Melissa Haywood is currently one of the UK’s most successful and popular bikini athletes.
Her rise to the top has been swift and impressive.
In 2012 she won the UKBFF Bikini Tall title and last year later she placed 2nd at the European Championships and the Arnold Madrid.
We caught up with Melissa, who is also a corporal in the British Army, to talk about her career in bodybuilding, training and nutrition, and her goals for the future.
Some great insights and advice below – especially for women looking to get involved with fitness and bodybuilding for the first time.
Hi Melissa, thanks for chatting with us today.
To kick things off, can you tell us how you got started with bodybuilding and fitness?
I am in the Army and a few years ago whilst deployed on Exercise I came across a copy of Muscle and Fitness Hers.
On the front cover was a curvy, tight and toned woman who looked fit, healthy and strong.
Looking through the magazine I saw sample weight training programmes and diets that consisted of 6 meals a day and lots of protein.
I just thought ‘hey I can do this!’ and started from there!
I later discovered the cover model was Amanda Latona who has become an idol of mine.
When did you decide to take it more seriously and enter competitions?
After about 8 weeks of training I started to notice changes in my body.
My arms and legs were getting more shape and my mid section began to tighten up.
I was really enjoying my training and felt like I had found my passion.
It was then I set myself the challenge to get on stage!
How do you balance Army life with the rigours of working out and staying in shape?
I don’t stay in competition shape all year round as the body needs a rest and to recover from competition prep.
As a woman it can sometimes be unhealthy to keep our body fat quite so low.
That being said, I tend not to fluctuate with my weight too much in between shows so I keep my training intensity high and diet focused all year round.
The Army have been very supportive in allowing me time to train during work hours when I need it.
They are not so keen on my smelly tupperware boxes though!
What do your Army pals think of your success as a bikini model?
They just say they can’t believe it’s me!
They see me everyday in my Army combats, hair scraped back in a bun and no make up on.
Once I’ve got my make up on, my hair down and I’m all glammed up for stage, I look like a completely different person.
A lot of them say they admire my hard work though and didn’t realise it took as much dedication as it does to look stage ready.
Tell us a little bit more about your training regime?
What does a typical day/week look like?
It all depends how far into prep I am as my training changes depending on my goal.
I am currently 11 weeks out from the European Championships in Santa Susanna so at the moment I am doing 2 x HIIT cardio and 1 x steady state cardio session per week and weights 5 x per week.
I train legs/glutes 3 x per week and 2 x upper body.
I tend to do my cardio in the morning before work and my weight sessions in the evenings.
What is your favourite body part to train?
It’s got to be glutes!
I like to feel the burn haha.
What is your approach to nutrition and what does your diet look like on a day-to-day basis?
Again this varies with where in my prep I am but my coach Luke Haslett from Physique Consultant always includes a balance of carbs, fats and protein within my diet.
An average day will include oats, blueberries, sweet potato, chicken, different types of vegetables, olives, beef, rice and fish.
As you can see there’s lots of variety so I never get bored!
What’s in your supplement cupboard right now?
At the moment I have Grenade Ration pack, Grenade .50cal pre workout, PHD pharma whey, krill oil and EAAs.
I am waiting for the Grenade Killa Ketones to come out and I cant wait to try it!
For ladies still thinking about hitting the gym, do you have any beginner routines that you would recommend?
I did a programme called the ‘Bikini Body Blast’ with fellow Grenade Athlete Jamie Alderton.
This programme includes a full weight training programme with videos of all the exercises by myself and also a nutrition plan.
We aimed this programme at complete beginners as well as girls who have done some training as it can be daunting going into the weights area when you are unsure of what to do.
You can find the programme on www.grenadejay.com.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for women wishing to enter the realm of fitness and bodybuilding?
I think perhaps woman sometimes feel shy entering the weights area as it is a predominately male environment.
I have had comments before like ‘do you need a hand with that’ when I’ve picked up a set of dumbbells and it can sometimes put you off.
You’ve just got to brush it off, stick your headphones in, and show them how its done!
How do you react to people who see the sport as a glorified peep show?
I just laugh, if they knew how much dedication it took they wouldn’t think that.
What are the biggest mistakes you made when you first started training?
And how did you fix them?
I did way too much steady state cardio when I first started training as I didn’t have the patience and wanted to see results quicker.
After getting a good health coach who changed my point of view, I realised that HIIT cardio works better for me and to just trust the process, be consistent and then the results will follow in time!
Who is your favourite physique in the fitness industry – male and female?
I love Amanda Latona and also Nathalia Melo – I cant choose between them!
And male physique I’d say Ryan Terry.
His symmetry and shape is second to none.
What are your long-term goals for the sport?
I would love to earn an IFBB pro card.
Its been my goal ever since I decided to step on stage in 2012.
I placed 2nd in the European Championships and 2nd at the Arnold Madrid so I’m hoping to go one better this year!
Well, that just about wraps things up for the interview.
Thank you very much for talking to us and all the best for the future, we’ll be rooting for you!
For more from Melissa you can follow her Instagram and Twitter.
That’s it for now – but stay tuned for more Gymtalk interviews coming your way soon!
Going to the gym a lot and wearing a bikini doesn’t make you an “athlete”.
“Strong glamour model” is more appropriate.
Progressive stuff Foster, I suppose you’d also expect her to have your dinner piping hot and on the table as soon as you came in and rescind her right to vote.