Why this Hart Loves Bodybuilding

I received an email a few weeks ago that just made my day.  Ashley Manning Hart just completed her first bikini competition and I wanted to share her story with you.

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a 29 year old attorney from Albany, NY and I’m always looking for new challenges and adventures. I was born 3 months premature and have been a fighter ever since.  I get bored with the same routines, but I love routines in general, especially involving fitness. In 2009, after watching my friend compete in a Half Ironman Challenge – his first triathlon – I was inspired to push myself more, physically and mentally. I thought a half-marathon sounded crazy and unattainable, especially since I had probably only run 5 miles at one time, on a treadmill…once. That really began my crazy fitness adventures, and sent me on some sort of adrenaline/endorphin quest.

Ashley Manning Heart - before and after
Ashley Manning Heart – before and after

What made you decide to do a competition?

Your blog! I stumbled upon your blog one day somehow when I was looking for some healthy recipes for coffee “creamer”.  I don’t remember whether I found that on your site, but what I did find was much more impactful. After running long distance for a few years and finishing a half marathon and 5K last spring/summer, I was looking for something new and exciting for my fitness routine. But not another marathon – ugh! I probably read your entire blog in one weekend and knew that competing in a bikini contest was my next goal.  My main goals for the competition were to have more confidence in the way I looked and to drastically improve my physical appearance (read: look good naked).

What have you learned from this experience?

Wow – a lot! I learned how to push myself in weight lifting like I never did before; how to actually eat 6 small meals a day (instead of just thinking they were small, like I did before); how to cycle my carbs and work with my body’s needs for fuel; how to be confident in very little attire (a teeny bikini is not really clothing!) in public; and how to be happy with my body, both competition ready and after.Ashley Hart - Running

Was there a moment when you wanted to quit? If so, how did you push past that?

Sure. I can think of a few days when I wanted to quit, not so much a moment. There were times when people said to me “why don’t you wait a year to train and then compete like many first-timers?” Well, I knew if I put it off or didn’t give myself a deadline, I’d never get to where I wanted to be.

When I put my mind to something, I just have to finish, no matter how long it takes me, so that was a good motivator. Taking progress photos and seeing how far I had come really helped me push past wanting to quit. I signed up for the competition and membership in the Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders, so there was the financial incentive to not back out. Also, like you mention on your blog, the fear of committing to getting up on stage and strutting your stuff for a crowd was a great motivator.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m gearing up my training and diet for the OCB Green Mountain Thaw in March 2014 (special days reserved for cheats/treats on Thanksgiving and Christmas) and I’d love to compete in the figure division – if not in spring, then summer or fall. As for running, it may be a long time before I compete in a marathon again! But I’ll stick with 5Ks and half marathons. And I’ll probably tackle some other crazy goal 🙂Ashley Hart

Any advice or final thoughts?

When you have a wish or a dream, make it a goal by setting a deadline and putting yourself under some pressure. Maybe make it “unattainable” like I thought my goal was –competing in a bikini after only 5 months. I highly recommend the book The Dream Giver; the author’s message of finding and chasing your higher purpose instead of sitting on the sidelines always resonates with me each time I read it.

Make some crazy goals, especially for the new year, and attack them with all your might. You’ll surprise yourself in what you are mentally and physically capable of!

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions and share my story with your readers!  I am very touched and honored to be part of your blog.

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Ashley – I’m so proud of you!!  Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope it inspires other women to give bodybuilding a try.  You can’t argue with the results!

Lisa ;)

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