This year was the 10th series of the 20 Weeks body and lifestyle competition. What an epic and amazing series it was. It was my seventh series and every year it just keeps getting bigger and better.

This unique competition showcases the individual journey of an entrant in pursuit of a mission they have chosen.

The judges recognise best changes in each category rather than just the best. It allows for anybody with a goal – big or small enter and do well. It allows trainers to offer a holistic style of training that can be tailored to an individuals needs.

Last week we celebrated 49 Leapstars completing in the Catch Fitness 20 Weeks Body and Lifestyle competition. It is my busiest month of the year. The last few weeks August involving testing and report writing, before submitting measurements, fitness tests, inside health check, testimony and photos to nationwide judging panel. Over two weeks they read every entrant across the country and decide the finalists and winners in 17 Categories. Then the entrants night of nights arrives. It is my most favourite night of the year as we see the transformation from the gym to the glamour and glitz they all deserve. We all attend a Black Tie awards function in the Grand Hall of the Chateau Hotel and then we take over a restaurant to celebrate the success of every LeapStar entrant.

There as simply no way we were missing out on the night. I never go in expecting winners or finalists, not because no one deserves one but simply because I believe every single one of my entrants has already won. I love celebrating their success and transformations. I am often asked who my favourite is or who do I expect to be a finalist. When asked I feel like a mother who is being asked to favour one child over another. It is a near impossible task as everyone has such a different set of results, a different set of circumstances that arrived them as a LeapStar, a different reason to share good news and celebrate their individual success. During the 20 weeks I get to see the transformation and bring it together in a judges report . I told the head judges this year, I am sorry if they are not in the correct order or we have submitted more than required, but I write my reports for my LeapStars to showcase their remarkable journey.

Last Monday night arrived into the Grand Hall and it looks exquisite – thank goodness I had waterproof mascara as the team looked amazing, and I kept hearing myself say “I did that, I helped shape that”. It was simply fabulous. I was so overwhelmed that I nearly missed our first finalists being named. What an evening, as were heading to the restaurant it was all surreal – We had seen Leap 18 LeapStars up on the big screen listed in 25 finalist spots We took home seven winners titles. I was totally overwhelmed in a uber proud and excited way. Then when the night seemingly couldn’t get much better it occured to me that this series the judges got us, they got what Leap was about in this milestone 10th series. They could see that we don’t do ordinary and we don’t focus only on weight donation. We focus on being healthier, fitter, stronger and happy from the inside and out. Seeing our entrants being acknowledged for that was the best feeling in the world.

Our finalists list is as follows with our winners underlined;
Adventure – Emma Alldridge
Balance – Anna Wright, Sarah Taylor and Guillermo Ocano
Cardiovasular changes – Rebecca Richards, Sarah Taylor, Dale Watson
Entrants Choice – Josephine Dove, Evan Taylor
Flexibility – Shannon Moore
Lifestyle – Dale Watson, Emma Alldridge
Maintanance – Bernadette Smith
New Mums – Sarah Taylor
Opals (Over 60s) – Cathryn McEwan
Overall Entrant – Lou McLeod, Kerrie de Haan
Strength – Amy Billingsly, Lou McLeod, David McLeod, Dave Race
Top Job (special mention) – Kerrie de Haan, Flora McCormack
Tutuman (Under 16) – Hannah MacDonnell
Upper Body – Evan Taylor

And we had a futher 31 other amazing entrants they also changed their lives and have opened new doors of opportunity. A special meniton to our entrants choice Wendy Davie who was voted by the tribe as an inpiration this series.

Congratulations to all our entrants and their support crews. We know your all all winners in some way in your own lives. And despite all the hard work, ups and downs, good bad and the ugly we will be back in April 2014 to do it all again and we hope you will be joining us 🙂

What an absolute whirlwind of a month. Just one month ago I was sworn to secrecy by a woman half way around the world. Just five days earlier she had called me at the end of her day, in the early hours of mine. In a gorgeous American accent the caller had left a message asking if I could please call her back as she was following up my attendance for London. What the………..??

What a life changing call that would be.

I had just finished my last treatment for my latest flare up the week before, I was feeling very sorry for myself as my dream to be overseas travelling to celebrate my 40th was dashed, my legs were not working and we had no idea if the mabthera would work longterm. I was about to start work on the last few weeks of series 10 of the catch fitness 20 weeks competition with 53 entrants. Always a hectic time as I showcase what my LeapStars have achieved and encourage those who feel they haven’t to still test. I then have to put together judges reports for all of them. It is my most favourite month of the year as the stories, results and smiles remind me why I do what I do… It usually takes up every waking minute….. As I hung up my voicemail my initial reaction is – “Whoever this lady is – I don’t have time to ring her back let alone go to London”

Luckily my LeapAngel walks in the door for work as I am listening to the voicemail for a second time… Riwai has come in from night shift and is sound asleep… I squeal this time as the reality sinks in and I realise actually who has called and why they want me in London. Please call Lauren back from LifeFitness. You have been named one of ten finalists in the LifeFitness Global Personal Trainers to Watch for 2013. We need to fly you to London for live judging at the end of September.

For the next few weeks there were many early morning calls to Chicago while I asked hundreds questions about the competition, wrote my short and long bios and got pictures ready for their media release. A full day work personal training and then there were many discussions and late night calls to London as the amazing travel team came back and forth with ideas for flights. I have chosen to be in Christchurch for the 20 Weeks Awards night and fly the next day. It is important for me to celebrate my LeapStars success before I leave. This was a huge call and will be no easy feat. As emails, skypes and calls went back and forth I was reminded again of the burdens my disease carrys when you need to do extraordinary things outside our normal routine. The risk of flare is high, and I have very few hours to turn around and be at my best for judging. The stress was mounting and I was getting exhausted. So it was back to basics…to counter balance the sleep deprivation. I had to postpone some sessions to fit everything in and still couldn’t tell people why.

What was I thinking!! 52 hours of testing and then 52 reports to write in less than two weeks. We had to continue with our normal Leap business, prepare for London (still in secret) and a side trip holiday after, celebrate my 40th and get a media kit ready – I called in the troops for help with the 20weeks, swapping sessions with me for hours doing data entry. Thank goodness 🙂 Riwai fed and watered us, looked after the team and reminded us it was all worth it. Our team was sensational and I am so proud of us all. We did it 49 reports were submitted, three were unable to complete their testing in the timeframes required. What a feeling!!!!

They say timing is everything – as LifeFitness and Reps NZ released the names of the finalists around the world the 20 weeks reporting was at full swing and was at paper work stage. I enlisted more help as Sandy (your story communications). sent out and managed media for me (it sounded oh so pooosh – i have my own PR lady :). in between all of the madness I met with Bec Eleven from the Christchurch Press and she captured my story beautifully – here’s the link http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/9137421/Rheumatoid-arthritis-sufferer-turns-personal-trainer.

This week as the storm took hold in Christchurch and I realised what a whirlwind month we had. Thank you to everyone so far – I have no doubt the journey and this new Cate Grace chapter has just began.

Today I called my rheumatology team. Yes I am in another flare, but this time we will manage it. I have too! We finalised my crisis and treatment plan for flying and while I am away. In two weeks I will be waking up in London on the eve of judging, Riwai by my side, crutches at the ready, pill boxes lined up, uniform laid out and a tribe of LeapStars and supporters on my shoulder inspiring me to go out there, be myself, do my very best, smile and enjoy the ride… After all even if I am 10th, I know I will inspire some more people to Leap of their couches, let my industry and colleagues into some secrets of training people with conditions and have an absolute blast! I am in good spirits and so excited :).

Ps – Then i get a side trip to celebrate my 40th in Portugal with Riwai! How cool is that!!