👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
I’m Mariah, I’m 26 years old from Austria & Indonesia. I grew up in west Africa but I now live in Australia. I do at least one terrifying thing a month to push myself out of my comfort zone. I am constantly trying to outdo myself, have new experiences and unlock new skills. I have always greatly admired multifaceted individuals. Whilst training has changed my life, it isn’t my life. It simply enhances it.
Growing up, I was never very athletic and have always loved spending time indoors. I have always loved watching movies, creating art, reading, baking and, eating sweet things. During high school, I lived off a diet of instant noodles, family block Kit Kats & nuggets. My energy levels were terrible and I was always searching for the next shortcut to getting ‘a flat stomach’. I spent so much time indoors that I developed a Vitamin D deficiency which affected my knees, causing constant pain.
I was never very strong and remember struggling to push myself up of a surf board when attempting to learn to surf in my late teens. I was just 45kg. I signed up to a gym and started training 5x a week with my best friend after we witnessed the real-life transformation of a friend before our eyes.
At the time, he was being paid to make Warcraft tutorials and a few months later his biceps were popping out his uniform and the girls had started to notice how muscular he was. It was a beacon of hope amongst a sea of ‘3-day-diet’ promises.
When I first started training, I followed a classic ‘bro split’ plan and trained with heavy weights. I ate in a surplus, the goal being to grow my glutes and gain some muscle overall. I soon started seeing results. Training taught me discipline, provided me with confidence, strength, improved my mood and overall happiness.
I had always been very shy and in 2015 I decided to enter into what I thought was the scariest thing you could ever do: A bikini competition in a bodybuilding federation. After all, what could possibly be scarier that being judged in swimwear solely on how you look, in front of a large crowd of people, on stage? I am fortunate enough to have won 2x golds and 3x bronze with the IFBB and have achieved placings every time I competed in INBA & ANB too.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
I used to train just at the gym. Alternating between a push/pull split, back & biceps/legs/chest & arms/shoulders. Whilst competing as a bikini competitor I then changed the split to prioritise areas that needed more development such as my back and shoulders, glutes & hammies.and omitted any chest isolation.
I currently train six days a week and I usually still do something active during my ‘rest’ day. If I need more rest, I take it. I no longer isolate my chest or biceps for aesthetic reasons. I train my lower body with weights at the gym. I currently train staple calisthenics exercises such as pull-ups/dips outside and often add weights to make it more challenging.
I’ve also become fascinated with rope climbing because it is so incredibly hard. It never gets easier, it’s a constant inner battle. It is such a fantastic exercise for your back and also helps develop minor muscles which are often overlooked and your tendons!
There are few things which compare to training outside in a beautiful place like Bondi. I also run regularly in order to maintain my heart health. Do cardio for your heart! Whilst you can lose bodyfat without training, I recommend against it. Having more muscle means you can eat more food!
During the years in which I competed in bikini competitions, I always trained alone, fitting in my training at odd hours such as during my lunch break, at 9pm at night after work etc. with a few workouts here and there with friends. If you want something, time will magically appear. Even if it is 15 minutes during your lunch break.
I only recently begun training with a group. Training with people who are stronger than you is incredibly rewarding and inspiring. It helps push you to the next level. I still prefer to run on my own and enjoy running at night when the stars are out and there is no one else around. I run about 3kms a few times a week and sometimes do stair runs.
Things that you can find in my bag include: liquid chalk, creatine, snacks (I love food), prepped meals. I try not to use anything which I may become overly dependent on such as caffeine, music or gloves, regularly. I don’t ever want to find myself saying ‘I can’t train because I don’t have XYZ’.
My favourite exercises include: Pull-ups, deadlifts, weighted glute bridges, rear delt cable pulls, nordic hamstring curls & rope climbs.
I used to keep extensive training logs for several years to ensure progression. This included rest time, RPE, reps/sets etc. These days I mostly track reps/sets and have a good idea of what my timing is like.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
From the day I decided to become fit until today, I decided to make training part of my lifestyle. It is not an option. I don’t ‘have time to train’, I make it. It’s non-negotiable. More often than not, I do not look forward to it. Pushing yourself to your limit is not necessarily enjoyable. Either way, it is always very rewarding when it is over.
During competition prep I would wake up at 6 a.m. to train. I was at my work desk from 8:30 a.m. until as late as 8 p.m. I had a 20-minute cardio break at lunch, and an additional session at 9 p.m. after work. I then cooked and ate dinner and worked on side projects from 10:30 p.m. – 1 a.m. Whether it be a certain person, or a dream, if it’s important to you, time will appear. It is all about prioritisation.
Get to know yourself. If you are struggling to stick to your plan, identify where/when this is happening. If you work in an office for instance and train after work, pack your training stuff so you can go to the gym as soon as you finish. This will not only save you time but spare you from coming home, sitting down on the couch after a tiring day and staying there.
Remember that you do not have to improve by leaps or bounds every time you train. What you do need to do is be consistent, show up and give it your best. It’s you against yourself.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
A few months ago, as my scary thing for the month I did quite a bit of Ninja obstacle training. Salmon ladders (almost like a muscle-up with a free hanging bar), floating boards, laches. It’s very easy to constantly do the things you are good at and I think it is very important to regularly humble yourself and try things that you are absolutely terrible at.
I am really enjoying my training at the moment. It’s very different to how I trained for years, which was mostly centred around building a symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing physique.
Now I am really passionate about pushing my body out of its comfort zones and discovering new capabilities. Achieving the muscle up last year was huge for me. It took me a whole year, which was far longer than I, or most people around me expected. I have a compilation of so many failed attempts. I would be down at the bars even in the dark, trying like crazy to make it happen.
I am super lucky to live in a spot with some of the best athletes in the world. What was really amazing was that even at the strangest hours, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. I would often run into someone I knew who would encourage and help me!
I’m incredibly excited for what is to come. I do at least one scary thing a month to push me out of my comfort zone and help me grow. I suggest you do too!
I always have a specific goal in mind with a time frame attached and I am very persistent and passionate about achieving these goals. Sticking to my word is incredibly important to me. This includes promises I make myself. The worst person you can lie to is yourself. As such, I do not always necessarily share my goals with others.
It is incredibly important to me to have variety in my life. At the moment I am studying, working in marketing & exploring creative passions such as drawing & acting. The creative aspects have a therapeutic effect on me and help me tap into new parts of myself.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I love using a foam roller & ball for recovery and stretching in-between sets.
In the past I have suffered from shoulder injuries and Achilles and triceps tendonitis. I find that when I do injure myself, the most difficult part is always laying off the training and the mental aspect. These things happen and we can only control what is in our power.
I have also found over the years that with things such as tendonitis performing strengthening exercises in small amounts to condition the tendons rather than laying off entirely has been successful. This does of course however depend on the severity and specifics of your injuries. Always seek expert advice.
In order to avoid injuries and setbacks I have become much more diligent when it comes to stretching, mobility work and listening to my body.
Unfortunately, I have operated on remarkably little sleep over the past five years with as little as five to six hours several times a week and highly recommend against this.
Sleep is incredibly important and whilst the effects may not be immediately apparent, they have been shown to have several negative implications in the long run. I have now made sleep more of a priority and aim for eight hours a day. I find that too little sleep immediately puts me in a negative mood and increases my hunger levels and cravings.
Over the past few years, I have been doing a lot more breathwork and some yoga here and there. Take a few minutes today to consciously inhale and exhale deeply and see how it transforms. Your day.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I track macronutrients (carbs/fats/protein) which varies according to my current goals. At present, I am maintaining. I am also very conscious of things such as fibre and try to consume lots of different coloured foods.
I eat plenty of vegetables (beets, spinach, pumpkin make a regular appearance), fruit every day, carbs (everything from sweet potato to black rice and bread). I eat a lot of lean meat such as chicken & barramundi (white fish) and red meat and fatty fish at least once a week.
If I am dieting, I eat more volume foods such as zucchini, pumpkin, soup, turkey, etc. this allows me to feel fuller whilst eating less calories than usual. I save a good chunk of my carbs for around my training times.
I have a very addictive personality and try to limit my coffee intake. I stopped drinking alcohol about eight years ago. I still go out, dance and have a good time though! I drink way too much tea… can’t have scones without tea.
I don’t have ‘cheat days’ as I am usually able to incorporate everything into my macronutrient intake. I do have occasional days off tracking and/or higher calorie days.
However, I do not eat ‘intuitively’. It simply does not work for me. I started tracking food because I was under eating and it allowed me to ensure I was eating enough to grow.
Years of tracking food mean that I subconsciously analyse the nutritional makeup of most foods. If I eat out, I can usually choose foods that fit into my intake.
I have tried eliminating dairy/gluten/wheat/nuts/soy… pretty much everything delicious and seen no positive changes from it. So back to my delicious, balanced diet I went.
I prefer to eat my food over drinking it and prefer real food over supplements. On the rare occasion have protein shakes/bars (usually if in a rush). I prefer to have plant-based ones with as natural ingredients as possible as these seem to be better for my gut health.
When dieting, my energy levels always suffer. Particularly towards the end of a prep. The mind is however immensely powerful and with the right timing of my food (particularly carbs) I was always still able to have great training sessions.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
I am forever learning from the people around me. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by some of the best fitness experts. From Cali and bodyweight experts like Marcus Bondi, Jarryd Rubenstein to bodybuilders, my friends Vanja @ helps me with mobility and friends like @mark_edward_g and @aleksei_mast were a big part of helping me achieve my muscle up. Andre Barrows transformed my posing for bikinis comps and really believe in me. I am very lucky. There are dozens of other people that inspire & support me.. This includes several individuals oversees.
Unsure of the origins of this but I love the idea that ‘To achieve what others won’t, you have to do what others don’t.’ for its simplicity.
People you follow on Instagram, etc. because they are awesome:
@_tbeau is next level strong, love her girl power
@erika.gasztonyi for handstand inspo.. one day
@natemezmer for incredibly creative health orientated tips and exercises
@manithegoof for comic relief
@dragan1947 for inspiration over 70
my friend @vanja.moves for mobility
@yogawithjoelle for mind blowing contortions
and many many more
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
I remember being very embarrassed as a beginner at how weak I was. My best friend Henry reminded me that everyone that I saw at the gym who was now fit, was once a beginner. If you still feel uncomfortable, try and find someone to train with so you can be it in with someone else.
Anyone who discourages beginners or people trying to make a positive change, should be ashamed of themselves. I embrace being bad at things as a challenge.
I would advise anyone who wants to improve their health to track their food for at least two weeks and look into what macronutrients are. I have some videos on my IGTV.
I have some videos on this on my IGTV and will add some to my Youtube channel. If you would like me to help you with this, you can reach out to me. A common misconception is that ‘healthy’ foods such as chicken breast or ‘good fats’ such as avocado will not make you fat. However, the excess consumption of anything will make you put on fat.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I have my ‘abs and pull-up strength plans’ on my site, which includes the things people ask me about the most.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
Any other enquiries, please shoot me an email.