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Ashleigh Gass: Featured Expert Profile

The physical and mental transformation that occurs during preparation for a figure or bodybuilding show is challenging and very interesting. While stepping on stage may not be an appropriate goal for everyone, certain aspects of the preparation process can certainly benefit most. Whether aspiring to have a figure athlete’s physique or simply a leaner and healthier body, following PN guidelines in all stages of training is one of the keys to achieving both.

Building and preparing a stage-ready body is one thing. Managing yourself afterwards is quite another. What happens after the show, or once the transformation is complete? The lifestyle of a physique athlete off-season is somewhat of a mystery. The only pictures we see are those from competition day or from the photo shoots, and too often we hear the stories of the post-show binges and rebounds that commonly occur.

Ashleigh Gass, a certified strength and conditioning coach and Precision Nutrition Network provider, knows this story all too well. A decade ago, when she was competing in bodybuilding, the post-show feast was a standard part of the game.

"In the final weeks of dieting down, most competitors have cut out many of their favorite meals and snacks. Long gone are the wonderful Gourmet Nutrition Bars, peanut butter shakes, and casserole dishes. At this point, the highlight of your day becomes extra chili pepper spice on steamed celery. Thus, as the show draws near, food fantasies of all sorts begin to take shape. Ask any figure competitor who is two weeks out what she plans on eating when all is said and done -– and watch her face light up as she describes in detail the snacks she’ll have with her backstage."

Ashleigh has been there herself. The exorbitant fantasy has to acknowledge the actual post contest reality. “What you end up with, if you choose to gorge yourself, is a very sore, cramped, and upset stomach“. And often this behaviour lasts long beyond those first post-contest meals, long enough that the figure competitor quickly finds herself back at square one getting ready for the next show.

These days, Ashleigh has come full circle and is back looking to make a name for herself in the Figure world. With her competitive experience combined with her own extensive expertise in the fitness industry and the direction of Carter Schoffer, Ashleigh is enjoying a balanced approach to training, nutrition, and competition.

As a new strength and conditioning coach years ago, Ashleigh became a fully supported client of PN and a provider through the PNN program. Since then, she’s invested many years expanding her knowledge, studying under some of the best coaches and specialists around the world, and becoming an expert in sport prehab/rehabilitation. She currently runs her own facility in Florida and is still a big proponent of Precision Nutrition and the PNN program - see an interview with Ashleigh here.

When Ashleigh decided to get back into physique competition, she contacted Carter once again to mastermind her success on stage. Describing Ashleigh as the “best overall client one could ask for”, Carter has been happy to oblige.

This time round, however, the plan for Ashleigh has been very different. Ashleigh is working with Carter to not only bring her best physique to the stage, but to find sane, sustainable strategies to maintain a healthy, lean body year-round. As you can see from the shots from a show in September 2008, Carter and Ashleigh have the first part down pat.

Despite preparing for and appearing in competitions, Ashleigh’s strength, flexibility, and gym performance continue to improve. At the same time, her bodyfat has stayed within a few percentage points of her stage physique, and her bodyweight within 5 lbs. Clearly, it’s possible to get stronger and reach performance goals while maintaining a lean physique.

Using a combination of her experience and expert coaching from Carter, Ashleigh has come up with her own set of guidelines for maintaining a healthy physique between shows.

Rule #1: Create your post-show training, health, and physique goals before the show.

Typically, figure athletes keep a tight schedule going into a show, but if they don’t have a game plan for afterwards, it’s very easy to feel “all over the place"

Having a nutritional strategy ready will help you remain focused when you wake up the next morning after a show. While it’s important to incorporate both a physical and mental break from dieting, it’s just as important to keep your focus on the ultimate goal. For Ashleigh, Carter’s input has been fantastic. Following her competitions, he keeps her on track with a PN appropriate nutrition plan, and a gentle, restorative training program.

Rule #2: Stick to Precision Nutrition principles, and re-introduce “normal” with care.

“Normal” for a physique athlete means all those foods they haven’t had in a couple of months. When you follow the PN guidelines to keep your nutrition in check, your body will adjust safely and comfortably to a new normal.

Rule #3: Monitor your physique.

By continuing with weekly tracking of measurements, skin folds, body weight, recovery abilities and other indicators of body composition and health, you create a significant degree of accountability. This will ensure you don’t stray too far from your plan or your optimal physique.

Rule #4: Retain emotional and logical control over your food choices.

To remain on track with your goals, continue to make the right decisions each meal, and each day. Ashleigh’s friend Tim Sales says it best:

“You have to change what you eat to get 10% body fat. I didn’t wake up one day and suddenly like spinach more than I liked peanut butter cookies. I promise. I had to determine what a person with 10% body fat eats. Then I had to be that person. Wanting 10% body fat doesn’t get me 10% body fat. Eating like a person with 10% body fat gets me 10% body fat.”

Rule #5: Hang around with cool friends who care as much about their health and fitness as you do (and who put up with you even after those inevitable cranky days!.

For Ashleigh, this has been a key component to her journey thus far –- thanks guys!

Rule #6: Find good coaches, like Carter and JB, and work with them continually to improve all areas of your training and nutrition.

When you make injury prevention your top priority, you will guarantee performance enhancement. This includes flexibility training, soft tissue techniques (eg. self-massage with foam rollers, ART, massage), and proper warm up drills (Carter designed excellent drills for this purpose).

Ashleigh is turning the mistakes of her past into the experience she needs to break into the Figure industry. With quality coaching on her side, we’ll be keeping an eye on her progress and success in the 2009 Figure season.

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” ~ Oscar Wilde