Great Expectations

No, I’m not going to talk about the literary classic (flashback to high school English class). Rather, I’m going to vent a little, about self-expectation, and how it can be both encouraging and stressful.


Last year, after competing I entered my off-season with pretty low expectations. I knew two things, one was that I was going to train with Kyle for seven months and then start to get ready for my next competition (Provincials as a bikini athlete). The second thing I knew was that I wanted to get on stage as a figure athlete at some point in 2014, but had no show selected yet. During my prep for Provincials, as body fat started to come off, we realized that I had put on too much muscle to do well in bikini, so we changed plans. I pushed hard through prep and stepped on stage at a different show, both in figure and physique – and loved physique.  This was the category I’d hoped to end up in, but hadn’t expected to reach it nearly this quickly. Now, with the 2014 season behind us, and two full months into the off-season, my expectations have spilled over into the stress-causing realm.

Why? Because I want to do well, to prove that I belong in this category, and mostly, to be proud of the physique I build. I imagine none of this is shocking to anyone who has competed in a sport. So, what’s the problem? Last year’s off-season went so well, I’ve put a great deal of pressure on myself for this off-season to live up to the same standard…. and I have no idea if that’s realistic or not.

Problem 1 – I have the expectation that every workout has to be incredible, that I need to / will feel that “pump” and be sore after each training session. I know this isn’t realistic, nor is it necessary. But, every bodybuilder chases those feelings, it’s like our litmus test to ensure we’ve had a successful workout.

Problem 2 – I expected to transition into off-season smoothly and look pretty great all winter. I knew my body would change and I couldn’t look like the “stage version” of me for too long. But, I figured the muscle mass I built last year would provide a great base and I’d look pretty great. Instead, the worry of being”too soft” is in the back of my mind. I expected to look a little better than I do now, that’s for sure.

Problem 3 – I’m a control freak. I hate the unknown and doubt myself and the process constantly.  This is exhausting and takes a lot of the fun out of everything. In fact, I often complain that we don’t do anything fun… but that’s because I’ve taken the fun out of everything by being stressed.

Expectations are a good thing – you should have expectations for yourself and for those around you. I think they help set a standard to guide your behaviour and what you’ll accept from others. I’ve learned the hard way about accepting crappy behaviour from other people, even though they weren’t living up to the expectations I had for them. So, it’s truly not a bad thing to have expectations.

What can we do? Recognize that the outcome of these expectations is in our control. Usually, we don’t know how these expectations will turn out, how we handle the stress of not knowing makes a big difference. I could step on the stage next year and look my absolute best and still not place where I want to, that’s out of my control. All I’ll know at the end of the day is that I did everything I could to get the best result possible. Stressing every day until then isn’t going to change that fact.


It’s great to set your expectations high, they’ll keep you working hard and striving for improvement. But, be sure they don’t result in stress – keep them realistic.


Additionally, these expectations are solely my own. No one else is putting any pressure on  me. The pressure I feel has been created by myself, in my own head, out of the fear of disappointing someone. The truth is that simply stepping on stage with improvements from last time is successful, and everyone close to me has made that clear. The pressure is self-induced, and not necessary.

There might not be a happy wrap-up to this post… I’m making the effort to take one day at a time, enjoying the time I spend with Kyle in the gym doing what we love.  The expectations are still there, they won’t go away as it’s a goal of mine. But, they need to be viewed as positive fuel instead of stress-inducing. Until then –


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.
This entry was posted in Body Image, Bodybuilding, Education, Fitness, Health, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Motivation, Personal, Training, Wellness and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Great Expectations

  1. Jamie says:

    Great post Ashleigh. Good advice for life’s challenges in general.

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