A phone store manager who “never exercised” in her life has gone from a standing start to becoming one of the UK’s top bodybuilders.

Samantha Ellis, who manages the EE store at Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre, in Wrexham, fits an ultra-tough training regime around her full on work day, and is building up her muscle power to achieve even further success in 2018.

She is being mentored by one of Europe’s top body building competitors and coaches, Michelle Brannan, who runs the Showgirl Fitness training organisation.

It means an action-packed life for Samantha, 37, who gets up at 5am for pre-work gym sessions and is back in the fitness arena when her day job finishes.

As well as her role as Eagles Meadow EE store manager, she is also EE’s regional Customer Leader, and she teaches high-flying aerial hoop fitness classes in Mold two nights a week.

Samantha said: “Since I’ve taken up body building my life has been non-stop, especially in the run up to a competition. I train six days a week. It’s exceptionally hard work but I love it. It has changed my life completely.”

Samantha’s stamina-sapping routine has seen her slim down from a 14 dress size to an 8 – reduced even further to a size 6 when she is in competition – and a 24 inch waist.

But despite being petite, her muscle power is phenomenal. “If the lads at work ever need anything heavy lifting from the stores, they always call for me,” she laughed.

“I’ve had great support from all my colleagues, and bosses, as well as friends and family. Everyone’s got behind me and they spur me on at competition time.”

Samantha, who lives in Wrexham, was ranked fifth in the UK finals of the 2017 Ultimate Physiques competition held at Hayes, London, having previously won the All-Wales heats at Port Talbot.

Her success was all the more remarkable considering she only took up body building two years earlier.

She said: “I never did any exercise at all when I was younger. The word didn’t exist in my vocabulary. But now I find it so therapeutic, it’s given me more energy. I’ve learned that with motivation and determination it really is possible to achieve the body shape you want, no matter how daunting it seems.”

Her enthusiasm began three years ago when she joined a pole dancing fitness class in Mold.

She explained: “I saw an advert for a free training session and thought I’d have a go. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much, but it was fantastic. It’s such a brilliant form of exercise to build up your core strength.”

After that she went on to do aerial hoop exercise classes and enjoyed it so much she enrolled on a course to qualify as a registered teacher. She now runs two aerial hoop evening classes a week at The Train Station Fitness Centre in New Street, Mold.

She said: “Having become so much fitter, in 2016 I set myself three separate challenges – one was to take part in the Tough Mudder competition in Cheshire; two, was to enter a body building contest; and three was to complete a 10km run.”

Samantha achieved all three of her ambitious goals and so enjoyed the body building experience that she decided to continue training and entering contests.

She said: “Everyone I’ve met is so encouraging. The support all the competitors give to one another is amazing. I think it’s because we all know how much work each of our fellow challengers puts in, this is not something you can do by halves. You have to be dedicated, do the training, and stick to the diet, but when you do it pays off.”

Samantha does a mix of cardio workouts to build energy levels and weights to enhance muscle strength. She exercises a different part of her body every day – shoulders, legs, chest, abs – and she rarely wavers from her diet.

She said: “Very occasionally when I’m not training I allow myself a couple of days to eat any treats I want. But the rest of the year it’s just healthy proteins, fats and carbs. That’s apart from in the run up to a competition when I cut out carbs completely. Then it’s lots of meat, fish, green veg, olives and coconut oil, with zero sugar.”

The diet and rigorous exercise have left Samantha feeling more positive about all aspects of life, not just her body image.

She said: “My coach gave me a book called Embrace Your Potential and that’s what I am doing now. It’s hard work but knowing I can do this, that I have the willpower and stamina to meet the challenges I set myself, well that’s so uplifting. It’s not just about physical strength, but mental strength. The fact that I’ve achieved so much in just two years, from a standing start, is a real boost to my overall well-being.”

Samantha uses her new positivity to boost the morale in her working life.

She said: “Only recently I did a motivational speech at work with the aim of encouraging people to channel into their more positive sides. It’s fruitful in the store to boost optimism and 100 per cent helpful in my aerial hoop classes.”

This year’s big challenge for Samantha is to step up from the Under 35s Bikini Class to the Fitness Model class which requires building up even more muscle.

She said: “I’ve already set to work on my new regime – this one needs a lot more arm strength, which wasn’t so important in the bikini class. I’m working on growing my upper body, biceps and triceps.”

She has her eyes set on two major UK competitions: the Physical Culture Association challenge at Middleton, Manchester, in September; and the Ultimate Physique Wales heats in October.

She said: “I can’t wait for them both, but I am especially looking forward to the competition in Manchester, as I grew up in nearby Oldham, so lots of my old friends and family have promised to come along and cheer me on.”

Eagles Meadow manager, Kevin Critchley, said everyone at the shopping centre wishes Samantha success at the forthcoming competitions.

He added: “We are all so impressed with Samantha’s athleticism and her commitment to training at such a high standard.

“It is not easy to succeed at this level in such a tough international sport while also undertaking a full time job. Her tenacity and perseverance are a credit to her.

“Everyone at Eagles Meadow would love to see her bring home a mantel shelf full of trophies to add to her collection over the year ahead.”