My Journey Back to Stage: Part I

If you’re reading this, thanks already.

– – – – –

Can you love yourself unconditionally and still desire to change? My answer: damn straight you can.

This was the question that pondered my mental space for the last 2 years as I toyed with the idea of experiencing competition prep yet again.

Now, finally, after a personal 4-month voyage back to the stage, I feel as though I can come here and answer it proudly and with confidence. So here we go, as requested by the lovely people of Instagram- a blog solely devoted to something I thought I would never write about again: My Competition Prep:

I began seriously considering competing again in November 2018 after finishing one of my top Competition seasons as a coach. It wasn’t my favourite season because of medals or trophies or placings, but because of ATTITUDE, HAPPINESS, WORK ETHIC and the FUN and TRANSFORMATIONS these ladies were undertaking. My Fall 2018 Competition Team was unique (in fact, almost a year later and I am still actively coaching 90% of them). But, because of THEM (you ladies know who you are) a small light of enthusiasm for the sport was born again.

I had dimmed that light repetitively on myself every time it sparked since throwing in the towel on the sport 3 years prior. I continued to try and convince myself that I was better off without it- but the tug at my heart seemed to press on. My passion is a stubborn bitch and I couldn’t get her to shut it. So, I started listening.

You see, up until this point I had been on a journey of self-love and self-discovery for quite some time. I openly adopted the “happy, healthy, balanced” slogan which is the foundation of my business (Perfectfit4u) and in the last 3 years more specifically, (the years I spent away from the bodybuilding/competition stage) I began incorporating a more balanced and health-based approach to my own fitness lifestyle.

If you’ve been following my company and/or myself online over the years- I’am confident you would have noticed this paradigm shift. Competition Photos, ab selfies, sparkly bikini’s and Vaseline smiles used to fill my feed- and then they slowly disappeared into the abyss as my fitness goals veered elsewhere- I trained for 3 complete Femsport seasons, I hiked Macchu Picchu, I ran a half marathon, I hiked the Italian Coastlines and I fell in love with fitness in other ways.

This feel-good approach to my athletic and aesthetic endeavours allowed me to form a newfound appreciation for my body’s abilities and gifts- a gratitude towards my functionality as an athlete and a graciousness towards my body image. I took on new athletic-based goals, smashed ‘em, and learnt a TON about myself in the process.

This appreciation rolled over into the branding of my business as well: as after all, a business tends to work in alignment with the owner’s personal beliefs and values. The two run parallel whether purposefully or not, I cannot help but correlate them. As Ashlyn grows, matures, changes and improves, so does Perfectfit4u– as it should.

This body-positive branding allowed my business to connect with women who were on a journey of self-discovery and were needing a gentle and wholesome approach to transforming their bodies. I dig this. These are my people. These are the women I wanted to work with. The joy of posing practices, comparisons, strict dieting regimes and obscene amounts of cardio were no longer my passion, or something I felt excited to prescribe to my client base.

I tried to lead by example in my field by continuing to set goals and reach them in a healthy fashion, and admittedly, I began to feel more appreciation and love for my body than I ever had in my lifetime prior.

I also vibe-d higher with my friend group- most of whom I met during this fantastic phase away from the stage: a phase full of self-love and personal development. Creating a tribe of solid friendships based upon commonalities and a love for health and wellness has been life changing.

I genuinely felt, that as a 27-year old woman I gained a pretty good grasp on the whole “love yourself” movement. I preached that shit daily. I got it. It clicked. I attended workshops, wrote affirmations, created self-love rituals, read countless books, listened to endless amounts of podcasts and adopted yoga and meditation amongst my “fitness” practices… and, guess what? It’s helped me feel pretty damn good about myself.

Over the last few years life has been good. Fitness, good. Business, good. Body, good. Nutrition, good. Mindset, good. No complaints here. I’ve been good.

During my time away from the stage, I was eating a high carb, high fat, high protein diet with no kCal cap and no macro tracking. I ate socially and for pleasure and I negated any restrict & binge cycles I previously had experienced with food. I maintained a healthy body fat % (~16-18%), I had a killer BMR/Metabolism, and I would continually exercise with love for my body and a passion for ultimate HEALTH.

GUYS, I had searched for YEARS to find this mindset and acceptance of myself. Seriously, YEARS… and then, I got it on lockdown. TA DA. Yahoo, I did it… I am healthy, I am happy, and I am balanced. I had created for myself what women all over the world were striving to create: that balance between work, life, fitness, family, aesthetics and athleticism- But then came the stubborn-passionate-bitch within me: Well Ashlyn, now what ya gonna do?

This “Now What” mentality can be a positive thought process, don’t get me wrong. The “Now What” character doesn’t let you settle or even revel in the glory of your most recent goal without trying to catapult you onto the next. It is the brain telling you that settling for the end result you initially believed would be ideal, is no longer an option. There is more. The “Now What” headspace tends to come right at the tail end of the accumulation of a big goal, milestone or event. The “Now What” is what keeps you going when you thought you made it. The “Now What” has some fricken’ grandiose thinking and she’s a pretty cool chick to daydream with. Without a “Now What” mindset we would remain stagnant, unmoving, un-growing… and, who the hell wants that? If you’re always asking yourself “what is next for me?”- I applaud you- cause THAT’S how we grow. In the midst of discomfort is where you’re getting the best results- NOT during Netflix and Chill hour. Now, back to my story:

So, once I obtained the balanced lifestyle I preached daily, my brain (and my heart) and my “Now What” started screaming at me to make a big goal for myself: a goal that might require me sacrificing my “balanced” approach to fitness in order to achieve it “successfully”. Sounds ridiculous- BUT, let me unpack that statement a bit:

I grew-up in the bodybuilding industry, my mother as both a trainer and competitor- bringing me along to competition venues, athletes’ meetings and spray tans. About 10 years ago, I started utilizing competing and fitness competitions as a motivator to get fit, to learn more about nutrition, to make a living for myself and to expand my passion and knowledge as a young woman looking to work in this field. Bodybuilding was the initial foundation from which Perfectfit4u was built. I mean, the bodybuilding industry circa 2010 did A LOT for me (and my business) and I am eternally grateful for my experiences.

I built Perfectfit4u, I created an online community, I spent tens of thousands of dollars on food-science education, I met new fit-friends and I dove-deep into nutrition literature and research to learn more. BUT I would be blowing smoke up your ass if I said that I personally gained a “healthy” and “balanced” relationship with food and exercise throughout that process as a young female. (See: Balance- The In-Between of Extremism).  I’ll be honest, it wasn’t until I took a step away from the stage and the bodybuilding industry that my true appreciation for my body and my health began.

It’s a tough one ladies. I know it’s not “healthy” to walk around at 10-12% body fat as a female but getting “stage lean” AKA “risky lean” AKA “unhealthy lean” is a standard for a physique that will be successful on stage. Not mind the constant judgement of your body from yourself, from your competition, from your online audience, from your judges. It’s a sport based on obtaining an unreasonable expectation of a woman’s body. A sport based on comparison and judgement. Without the correct headspace this sport is a recipe for self-love-sabotage, and I’ve seen it plenty. I’ve experienced it plenty.

Competing in the past had consisted of declining attendance at certain social events and negating celebratory food and drinks, it consisted of early morning fasted cardio sessions rolling out of bed like a frickin’ zombie 5 days per week and counting almonds and weighing nut butter on a food scale. It consisted of schedules and routines and meal prep and sparkly bikinis and re-feed meals and water loading and spray tans.

Competing is a journey: it’s about scheduling, creating routine, establishing structure, experiencing the glam, setting the goal and enjoying the body achieved. It’s motivating. It’s fire under your ass when your alarm goes off at 5AM. It’s pressure to work harder. It’s pressure to look better. It’s pressure to change. I live in the high kilopascal range. Did I say I like pressure?

As you can likely imagine, there’s no lack of “extremism” in the bodybuilding industry. If you’ve read my previous post’s, you’ll likely learn that extremism and me are quite good friends. In fact, being extreme has often brought me contentment. That’s where I like to live. The stubborn-passionate-Now-What-bitch I alluded to previously is definitely extreme, that’s why she pushes me.

So here I was stuck asking myself- After 3 years away from this bodybuilding lifestyle:

Would diving back into the competition mindset partially negate my newfound love for balance, happiness and fitness as a lifestyle … NOT just a “sport”?

 OR

Perhaps, will my new appreciation for my body and mature mindset outside of aesthetics set me up to become a BETTER athlete in this regard? 

 I’d like to argue the later.

So, in my next blog I will unpack my 16-week journey to the stage and provide all ya’ll future competitors or those interested in this sport my best advice for keeping your head on straight and your body in tip-top shape. The journey has been a blast and it’s still going folks.

If you want to know when the post is up so you can read along, drop me your email and FOLLOW along. I’d love more friends.

See you in the next one.

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