The “softer side” of bodybuilding

In an effort to be completely transparent and honest, I really wanted to get this post written. I’m not writing it to complain, or to fish for compliments, I just felt the need to open up about the softer side of this lifestyle…. also known as the off-season.

Everyone is on a different journey with different goals, a big one of mine is moving up the ranks as a bodybuilder (not news to most of you). Two weeks ago I competed at a level one show, in an effort to qualify for provincials (level 2). I did that, and am excited to make that step forward. The feedback I received from the judges was great, and matched the plan I already had in mind – build more size to bring a bigger package to the provincial stage. The only way you can build muscle is through solid training paired with a calorie surplus – so you have the nutrients needed to repair and grow.  A calorie surplus also means gaining weight.

Well, obviously, right? You want to build muscle, you’re going to get heavier… yes, and along with that muscle is body fat. In short, our stage weight is not maintainable. We get incredibly lean and even manipulate our water to look tighter – trying to maintain this for any length of time would NOT be healthy. Have you heard the saying “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels? ” I HATE IT!! That person has obviously never competed in bodybuilding! EVERYTHING tastes way better (especially cupcakes and burgers)! LOL. I love abs, I loved watching my abs come in and look sharper than they ever have, but I love food FAR more… so I’ve said goodbye to them for now, BUT I just keep telling myself they’re only hiding, and will come back even better next prep.

Before and after - pre to post comp body. Top pics are from the week of my competition, bottom are from two weeks after.

Before and after – pre to post comp body. Top pics are from the week of my competition, bottom are from two weeks after.

I get asked about abs all the time, how to make them show, pop, come out, look good, etc. The answer is always the same – train hard through heavy lifting to build them, and then diet down to reveal them. Everybody is different – some people can maintain their abs fairly easily. I’m not that person. My abs are the last things to come in and the first things to go, whereas my legs usually maintain some decent separation all year long. At this point, to get my abs to show requires such a consistent and clean diet, one which wouldn’t allow me to gain and build any muscle. So, I’ll see ya later six pack – it was fun while it lasted.

Right now I’m finding a balance for my body, which has proven to be tougher than it was last year post-comp. In this last week I held water like crazy because I snacked a LOT, and it hurt physically and mentally. Mentally, watching the definition disappear is a struggle, and physically because it just felt terrible to be bloated! The added body weight and food has already been a major benefit – I’ve had some of the best workouts of my life in this last week as my strength has bounced back and increased quickly – that feels amazing!.. this is me trying to focus on the positive…

The plan – I’m planning on competing again in September (12 weeks from now). I want to bring a stronger package to the stage for that show, so I’m focusing on a mini off-season right now, and will start prepping (leaning down again) in about 3 or 4 weeks depending on how I look. Starting today, Kyle and I are both taking a week off the gym to recharge and fully recover from the last 7 or so months of training. We’re going to follow a 85 / 15 % rule: 85% of our week will be our usual food (just more of it) and the other 15% will be more relaxed. It won’t be easy to stay away from the gym, as it’s the place we love to be, but we both know the physical benefits of it and that our systems NEED it at this point.

I want to show everyone what can be done through diet manipulation, so after this recovery week, I’m going to focus on documenting my diet and resulting physical changes. Don’t worry, I won’t post about it all the time, I’ll just provide short updates occasionally. You can watch the changes happen, and see how big a role nutrition plays – like a science experiment 😉

All that being said, I want to be clear – it’s NOT EASY. I have food cravings, I want to eat everything in the fridge most days, and I’m insecure and often frustrated with what I see in the mirror during the off-season. One of the popular sayings in this sport is that you have to “love the process “- otherwise it’ll chew you up and spit you out. You have to be mentally tough to get through all the changes necessary – I always tell people that the toughest part of competing is the head games, training is the easy / fun part! So, for now, I’m embracing the softer look to bring an even better physique to the stage next time… or at least I’m going to try embracing it 😉  Just like in other aspects of life, sometimes you have to deal with some shit to get the benefit in the long run! As always, thanks for listening / reading!  XOXO

About Ashleigh

I'm passionate about health and fitness. I work as a Health Promotion Specialist, a group fitness instructor, and also a coach for physique competitors / weight loss clients. I grew up as a competitive athlete, and have continued with this passion as a Women's Physique competitor. Research and writing is another interest of mine, which I use to share my knowledge with the general public.
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