Have you ever thought about body building? Or competing in a body building competition? Probably not because of it’s reputation. Generally it’s thought of as being mostly muscle-bound men who partake in this type of training. I thought the same thing until I spoke with a woman named Leah Goettsch. We were connected through a friend because of our love of all things fitness. In one of our first conversations she told me she was in “training” upon which I asked what it was she was training for. “A body building competition…” I was intrigued. My initial thought was that she must be some muscle-bound weight lifter which was completely out of my league as far as fitness and exercise goes. I inquired more about it and came to find out that there are many women’s competitions, particularly the “bikini” kind that don’t involve getting a really bulky almost manly physique. I saw pictures of her last competition and was very impressed. You can tell she has a lot of drive and motivation to stay fit.
She was kind enough to do a short Q & A with me. Whether you’re interested in body building or not, I think you will find this interview interesting and it will probably inspire you to get to the gym! Don’t be intimidated by competitions, it’s a great way to stay motivated!
First, check out these killer before and after pics from her last competition. She looks fabulous in all of them, but the transformation is incredible. If you’re looking for some motivation to get in shape, print these out and post them on your refrigerator.
1) How did you get started doing competitions?
It’s a funny story actually. I was in Complete Nutrition to buy some protein powder, when the salesperson and I began chatting. I was a regular customer, so I always struck up conversations with the employees. She helped me pick out a new powder and then casually asked if I ever thought about competing? Having never heard of the “sport” of bodybuilding I asked, “Competing in what?” She then went on to describe bodybuilding competitions to me and said I would do great in the bikini division. We chatted for a good 30 minutes, she gave me her contact info and I told her I’d sleep on it. When I got home I immediately recruited the help of Google to gather all the information I could on bodybuilding and bikini competitions. I was completely fascinated at how strong the female body can become. I e-mailed the salesperson that night and she pointed me in the right direction.
2) Have you always been into working out and physical fitness?
Yes and yes! However, my focus, goals, style and intensity of training have, and are, constantly changing. Throughout high school I was in every sport imaginable, so my training was performance focused and determined by my coaches. After high school, I turned into a runner. Cardio is not my forte, yet I developed a liking to it as I ran more and grew stronger as a runner. However, running was just a pastime for me, I had no motivation and nothing to train for. Exercise often took a backseat to the demands of school and going to the bars. I found that I would run more when I was stressed, bored, or needed a study break. So, at that time in my life running was a way to escape and be alone. Soon, I found a friend who was a regular exerciser, and an early bird like me! (In college this is rare). We established a routine where we’d wake up at 6, run a few miles on the treadmill, and finish with a quick weight and ab circuit. However, at this time I did not realize nutrition played such a key role in seeing results. Many nights we would meet back up and make a buffet of frozen appetizers, open a bottle (or 2) or wine, and finish it all off by splitting a pint of ice cream. At this point in my life exercise was a social experience for me, it was gossip time, and it helped me maintain my weight with such a horrible diet.
3) What is a typical day like when you are in training mode?
When I trained for my first competition, the circumstances were a little extreme. I lived in one city and attended school in another city that was a little over 2 hours away. So I lived by the 2P’s; PREPARE AND PLAN! I ate every 2.5-3 hours but spent a lot of time in my car so most of the time food was eaten cold and with my hands. I slept on friends’ floors some nights to save me from having to drive back & forth all the time. However, this meant I had to prepare food for 4 days; at 6 meals a day this meant 24 meals, which I could fit into 2 coolers. I also had to pack a gym bag for clothes and shower supplies, an overnight bag for clothes to go to class in, and a book bag. Every weekend, for an entire semester, I would have to unpack, do laundry, wash dishes, catch up on homework, pack new clothes, prep food for the upcoming week, and still find time to train and to JUST LIVE! One goal I had before beginning this journey was to not make it miserable for my boyfriend (now fiancé). I knew that this was my thing, and I didn’t want to make him loathe it. So, I made time for date nights, which ended up being my cheat nights. With my crazy schedule, my training varied from day to day. Most days I trained in the morning; depending where I was staying I’d wake up between 4:15-5:30, eat on my way to the gym, train, shower at the gym, eat in my car, and walk to class. I did best when I trained in the morning because when that was out of the way all I had to do was make sure I ate every 2.5-3 hours (which was easy because all my meals were prepped and ready to go) and get my homework done. I probably picked the most inconvenient time in my life to train for my first physique competition, however I think the structure of the process actually helped me to keep my crazy schedule somewhat organized.
4) Tell us a little about the diet? I’ve heard it’s that’s the hardest part about training!
Because every minute of my day was planned, I actually enjoyed the diet. I think for most people it would have gotten monotonous, but it was one less thing I had to worry about. Basically, I got a meal plan that I would follow for a month. Yup, that’s right, I would eat pretty much the same meals every day for a month before I got my new meal plan. For me, at the time, that worked. Now, that would not fly! I have more time and I need diversity. After all, variety is the spice of life, right? My new plan is actually centered around macronutrients. So, instead of a meal plan, I am free to eat whatever I want as long as I hit my macros. This does take planning still, knowledge, a little more time, and a little more manipulating. As with most things in life, the more you do it, the better you get, and then it just becomes second nature.
Okay, back to the training diet. So, we wanted to slowly decrease my caloric intake the closer I got to my show. The reason we wanted to go slow is because we wanted to ensure I had enough energy to power through my workouts, enough food to feed my muscles, and to emphasize losing fat while maintaining as much muscle as possible. I would weigh myself once a week, and depending on the change we would make slight adjustments. We found that I had a high metabolism so we actually had to keep adding carbs to my meal plan.
My meal plan was centered around what you would call “clean” foods. Though I was given a meal plan, I was offered choices, so that did help a little with variety. Here are some of the foods I had throughout my training old fashioned rolled oats, whole grains (pasta, bread, tortillas), sweet potatoes, brown rice, rice cakes, natural nut butters, flax oil, avocados, berries, bananas, apples, oranges, spinach, asparagus, green beans, peppers, onion, shrimp, tilapia, orange, salmon, lean ground beef, lean ground turkey, chicken breasts, eggs, and protein powder.
5) How do you stay motivated?
Once I develop a routine it’s hard for me to stray away from it. The first few weeks were an adjustment and some work, but after that the training, prepping, traveling became a part of my daily routine. Another thing that was my greatest motivation was Instagram. I followed other physique competitors and fitness enthusiasts and they helped me keep my eyes on the prize. On days I didn’t feel like going to the gym, I would open up Instagram and see everyone else working out, and then tell myself, “This girl could be standing on the stage next to me. She isn’t skipping her workouts.” Then, I’d get my butt up and go to the gym. Instagram was sometimes dangerous though, because there is always so much tasty-looking food posted that it would tease my cravings. Two final reasons for my motivation is that as people found out about my training, I realized there was no backing out because I didn’t want to be seen as a quitter. And lastly, my goal, from the beginning, for when I stepped on stage was to “look the part”, but to look the part I had to actually do the work. I would constantly remind myself of these two things and that helped to keep me motivated through my long cardio sessions.
6) Do you have any suggestions for anyone who may be considering training for a competition?
Do your research. Find a qualified coach. Ask questions. Practice. Don’t lose yourself. There are so many coaches out there who are not qualified to be giving nutritional or training advice. They are looking for a quick buck, and ruining people’s lives in the process. If you are not careful there can be very detrimental consequences to extreme training and dieting these fluke coaches are offering.
There are 1,000 different reasons many people do this “sport”. I put the quotes around sport because some people don’t see it as a sport, but for me, that’s what it is. It’s a competition with myself. To me, there is an off-season and an on-season. When I am in season, I am in competition with myself and I AM my toughest competition. I am the only person who can get into my own head. The training process is so much more mentally demanding that I could have ever imagined. It is also so rewarding. Other people compete to get in the best shape of their life, some to beat the competition, and others to hopefully become sponsored and make a career out of it. Whatever the case, there are those who are having fun with the process and will be willing to offer advice and take the time to answer your questions and there are others who thrive on the competitive aspect and will not share anything with you. If you run into someone like this, don’t let this discourage you. Instead, let it light a flame under your Gluteus Maximus!
Evaluate why you want to compete. Get as much information you can. Find a qualified coach. Practice by adding a daily workout into your routine and eating healthy before you actually start training for your show. Pick a show date and write out a rough draft plan of what the next few months of your life will look like, because during this time you will have to say no to wine at your best friend’s wedding, popcorn at the movie theater, ice cream with your kids. Ask yourself if you’re willing to do that? Though you have to give the treats up, don’t give yourself up! It’s easy to turn into a grumpy hermit (don’t get me wrong, there were nights when I didn’t want to leave or see anyone), but realize that it was YOUR decision to compete and your loved ones shouldn’t suffer. I learned to do my normal life things without the treats. I tailgated with bottles of water and chicken breast, snacked on cucumbers at the movie theater, and drank tea during girl’s night. It was tough at times, but I told myself that it is only 12-weeks of my life.
7) What’s next for you as far as physical fitness? Do you plan on continuing competitions, training others, doing something completely different etc…?
I am itching to compete again! I’ve taken almost a year off of competing. It’s been fun to just live life. I still train intensely: weight training 4-5 times a week, cardio 1-2 times a week, but if I miss a day (or a week), that’s okay. And until recently, I ate whatever I wanted. That doesn’t mean I have been bingeing on ice cream and pizza. But I enjoy eating healthy most of the time and indulging on my favorite snacks with family and friends a couple of times a week. This past week I decided I wanted to do another competition. I want to bring in a more muscular package. I’ve put on quite a bit of muscle since my first show, so I just want to see if I can better myself. After that, I will probably take a break to finish my final year of school, get married in next Fall, find a job, and hopefully start a family.
Health and fitness is my passion so I would like to keep it a part of my life. Whether I’m training for a competition or not, I’ll always be a regular gym goer. I am actually really interested in strength, not just looks (though that seems very hypocritical considering I compete in physique competitions), so I could see power-lifting or cross-fit in my future.
Right now I am a personal trainer at my university’s gym and I am also the personal training supervisor.
What is your go to workout what you are not training?
Weight training by far. Specifically, legs. My favorite exercises are deadlifts, squats, glute kickbacks, and leg press. Most of the time when I am not training I will just write out my workout the morning of, or just head to the gym and do whatever I want. Sometimes it’s a quick 30-minute workout, and there are other times when I look up and it’s been 2 hours!
Thanks Leah!! This was a very informative and fun interview. I found it inspiring and think my readers will to.
We love hearing from our readers! What do you think of body-building? Would you ever consider training for a competition?
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