Lisa-Marie Graham is part of the UK team in Johannesburg this weekend competing at the Arnold Classic Africa.

She's a great example of the opportunities available within the UKBFF: so far this year she has won the UK Nationals, which qualified her for the IFBB European Championships in Spain, with the cost of her flight and hotel covered by the federation.

Now she is in South Africa for her second major international event of the season, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.

Lisa-Marie qualified for the Arnold by finishing in the top six at last year's UKBFF British Championships.

This result also entitles her to line-up at the Arnold Classic Europe in Barcelona in September so she is in the middle of a busy year.

Athletes keen to experience this calibre of event have an opportunity to qualify for the Arnold Classic Europe at the English Grand Prix in Reading on May 27.

More information here

Lisa shows her glute game is strong at the UK Nationals. PHOTO: Christopher Bailey.

Lisa shows her glute game is strong at the UK Nationals. PHOTO: Christopher Bailey.


Lisa-Marie Graham

AGE: 33
HEIGHT: 167 cm / 5 ft 6
BEST CONTEST RESULTS: 2018 UK Nationals champion in bikini fitness up to 169 cm height class; 7th at 2018 IFBB European Championships and 2nd at 2017 UKBFF British Championships.
AMBITION: To be British champion and work towards IFBB Elite Pro status.

How do you feel about competing at the Arnold Classic Africa?

Very excited! I love having such incredible international opportunities, thanks to the UKBFF.

What is your goal for this event and the rest of the season?

My goal for this show is to try my best to improve on my placing at the European Championships, where I just missed out on top six by one place. My goal for the year is to simply keep improving.

With fellow British bikini fitness competitors at the IFBB European Championships.

With fellow British bikini fitness competitors at the IFBB European Championships.

How did you get into competing?

I got into the sport very randomly. I used to be a musical theatre actress and have performed in the West End, fringe theatre and on TV. I was always passionate about staying fit but at this point it was largely through dancing. A few years later I lived in Australia for a while and got more involved in fitness by working in a gym in Brisbane and when I returned home I trained first as a PT and then eventually went back to university at the age of 30 to do a masters degree in sports therapy. My whole life moved more towards health and fitness and through this I met a great friend who used to compete in New Zealand. We started training together and the rest is history.

With members of the UK team at the Europeans.

With members of the UK team at the Europeans.

Realistically, how many times can bikini fitness competitors compete in a year? Is there a limit to how long you can stay in shape?

Last year I competed five times and this year it may be six. As long as you work with your coach and plan your season well this is fine. It's about pacing yourself, knowing when you need to recharge and keeping things on track between shows. If you rebound massively between shows and don't take care of yourself that's when it can become tricky. My coach Michelle Brannan has taught me so much these last 18 months and always priorities a healthy approach to the sport.

What's your weekly split?

Mentally and physically I generally have an alternating split of three lower and three upper body training days but my programme is changing constantly depending on what we need to work on.

How much cardio do you do?

Cardio also changes a lot at various stages throughout the prep in terms of the amount I do, but I generally stick to incline walking to reduce the stress on my body.

What do you eat in a typical day of dieting?

My diet is a flexi-plan designed by my coach: again the macros will change throughout my prep as and when they need to. But for me it tends to be relatively high in complex carbs and lean protein and two-to-three portions of healthy fats over five meals per day. I'm a pescatarian so this usually means a LOT of white fish.

How difficult is posing in bikini fitness?

Positing is very tricky for bikini as sometimes you are not sure exactly what the judges are looking for, particularly when transitioning from a UK show to a European one. You may be given directions on the day, which means you have to quickly adjust your posing there and then so you have to be ready to adapt. Stick as closely to the rules and mandatory poses as possible – and keep smiling!

Favourite cheat food?

Without doubt, my favourite cheat food is Italian. After every show I try to go for an Italian meal and usually I am lucky enough to have my family there supporting me so we all go together and have a lovely celebration with pizza and pasta and red wine - it's my favourite thing.