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Welcome to Gainsville (ft. Women Who Lift)

TheFitness is becoming the newest American fad. More and more, I find that people are getting into “healthy-living”- taking workout classes and eating all-organic- not because it’s a great idea to take care of your body, but rather because it’s “in”. Usually I have a problem with following fads so blindly, but I have to say that there are worse things for a culture with an increasing obesity problem to be doing. Plus, I can’t deny that I love wearing leggings and sneakers and this new fitness apparel culture is making it more and more acceptable for me to do so in public. Especially for younger women, the possibilities are basically endless (heeey Lululemon, Athleta, Fabletics.)

My own personal addiction over the past few years has become spinning- trap me in a dark room with the music blasting for 45 minutes to an hour and I’m in my happy place. No excuse to look at my phone or think about anything outside of how badly my quads are burning (and boy are they burning). I love it. It’s the perfect way to clear my mind, and on days when I’m working on 5, 6, 7 things at once, it’s a good feeling to be centered and focused on one thing for awhile. Be that as it may, I know a good number of people who absolutely hate spin classes. Like can’t-stand-them kinda-hate-me-for-ever-bringing-them, type of hatred. But that’s the great thing about fitness- to each his own! Find a workout you love and kill it (not to say that you shouldn’t mix it up to hit all the major muscle groups). I’ve played softball, volleyball and soccer, I spin, I erg, I do free weights, but never have I EVER considered bodybuilding. Bodybuilding is becoming more popular, though, and two girls in particular have served as a huge inspiration to me through their journey to keep pushing myself and not remain at a level where I’m comfortable. Meet Kelsey Coughlin and Sophie Golden, two badass friends of mine who have recently entered the bodybuilding world and look GREAT. Kelsey and I just recently spent the semester in Los Angeles through the SULA program, and I know Sophie through a mutual bestie, but despite the fact that they come from two completely different backgrounds, attend two completely different colleges and both go about their workouts slightly different than each other, they’re both rocking the fitness world and proving that just because you’re in college doesn’t mean you have to be a lump on a log.

The freshman 15 is not inevitable. Being college-student-broke doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. And having a busy work load doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish whatever you put your mind to.

I’ve always been curious about just how exactly one “starts” bodybuilding and what Kelsey and Sophie attribute to their own success, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized other people probably have these questions too, but without access to someone with the answers! So without further ado, I’ve asked Soph and Kels some of my own pressing questions about their workout routines and diets and just how they stay so shredded and toned. I’ve also included some pictures so you can see for yourself what I mean when I say they are absolutely KILLING it, as well as their social media platforms so you can follow their progress and reach out if interested!

Favorite body part to train

K: Shoulders and the booty!

S: I would have to say my favorite body part to train is probably my back. My back is definitely my strongest muscle group so back days consist of my heaviest weighted sets, making me feel like an absolute powerhouse. I typically group my back workouts with some killer bicep workouts and nothing beats a good arm/back pump combo!

#1 thing (food or nonfood related) you miss while in prepK: It might sound silly, but I miss “sampling” things. I miss being at the grocery store and being able to try the samples of different foods they have to offer, or I miss taking “just a bite” of a cookie. Something I miss non-food related would be complete rest days. While in prep I have days off from lifting, but when I’m 3-4 weeks out I start going to the gym everyday to at least do cardio.S: My trainer (shoutout to Dan Farnham), brought me up on the IIFYM lifestyle, which stands for “if it fits your macros.” Simply put, your diet is focused on modifying your intake of carbs, fats, and proteins- the three “macro” nutrients- to reach your body composition goal. If what you want to eat fits your macro numbers then you eat it! Prep isn’t easy and takes a lot of discipline, but IIFYM is more my style. I’m a huge foodie and don’t like having to restrain myself from the pleasure I get from say a good ice cream cone or slice of pizza. The only thing I missed as we neared the last couple weeks were carbs. Om nom nom.

Your go-to meal after a competition K: This changes every time based on what I craved the most during my prep. For my most recent competition season, my go to meal afterwards was pizza and ice cream (of the Ben and Jerry’s variety).S: Again, anything with carbs. I threw my macros out the window for a couple of days (maybe a week) after the competition, so I was finding comfort in whole pints of Ben and Jerry’s.

Most common misconceptions about bodybuilding/ weight training K: [To me] it’s that if a girl lifts heavy weights she’s going to get “bulky” like a boy. Girls don’t have the level of testosterone needed to build that kind of muscle, so it’s incredibly difficult for a girl to look that way. Many girls want to get that toned look, and lifting heavy weights is going to help them get that. Girls should never fear the weight section, it’s a friend, not an enemy! 🙂S: There are so many misconceptions, but the all-time most irritating is that girls who lift weights are manly. Believe me when I say that it takes a whole hell of a lot of work to look manly because we women simply are not built and don’t have the hormones/metabolism that men do. Strong is sexy, remember that.

Something more difficult for female bodybuilders than maleK: This goes well with the previous question, but it’s so much harder for a girl to gain muscle mass. In an off-season, a guy can put on two or three times the amount of muscle a girl can put on in the same time.S: Making significant gains!!!!

Describe what one day of average meal prep during training looks like for youK: So I follow a “flexible dieting” prep style that means NO foods are off limits. My coach establishes my macro amounts (grams of proteins/carbs/fats) and drops them as they are needed to lean out for stage. This approach leaves me feeling less restricted because if I’m crying something I can “make it fit”. For bread, I can easily fit two slices into my macros for the day. However, as I get closer to show day (2-3 weeks out), my coach gives me a list of foods I can choose from to fill these macros. It’s a short list, so a typical day 2-3 weeks out looks like this:

Meal 1: oatmeal w/ blueberries, egg white omelet

Meal 2: grilled chicken w/ asparagus

Meal 3: two rice cakes w/ almond butter

Meal 4: egg white omelet

Meal 5: salad w/ grilled chicken and almondsS: This would depend on how far into your prep you are. The closer to the competition, the less carbs you want to be taking in, so towards the beginning of my prop I could eat much more closely to how I would eat normally than towards the end where I was eating mostly straight protein and water packed veggies.

Any special products you use/like?K: I’m a huge fan of whey protein and BCAAs. I take whey protein out of my diet during peak week (the final week before the show) because I, personally, get a little bloated from it. Throughout prep I train fasted in the morning so I sip on BCAAs to minimize muscle loss. I buy the flavored ones and mix it with water and it also helps with my sweet tooth.

My favorite whey protein brand is PESCience and my favorite BCAA brand is ScivationS: When I was craving something carb-y I would munch on a bag of Quest protein chips. They were my healthy addiction and such a great alternative to regular chips. Also towards the end of prep you get a little grouchy (for me, due to lack of energy), and on these days I relied on my all-time favorite energy drink, Bang by VPX.

How/why you started bodybuildingK: I’ve been living a healthier lifestyle since the day I graduated high school. I lost 25 pounds by eating a cleaner diet and exercising more, and, along the way I fell in love with weightlifting. As a member of the bodybuilding community, I was exposed to the world of competing and I always found it so admirable. I used to say, “one day, when I’m ready, I’ll compete”. I quickly learned that I’d never be 100% ready for anything I ever do, so I decided that I might as well try it out! I prepped for 10 weeks, did a show, won (!!!), and now I’m hooked. It’s the strangest and hardest thing that I have ever done but I love the whole prep/show process.S: I became interested in weight training before I became interested in fitness competitions. To be honest, I saw that there were only a few girls who would work out on the free weight floor of our campus gym. I was definitely intimidated at first, but I think that’s what gave me a push to want to know what exactly I was doing, and if I was doing it right. I did some research and had some help from my guy friends, and off I went! I eventually felt comfortable to go by myself and three years later I’m here in the best condition of my life wondering where else I could take it. Enter, fitness competitions, where you physique and presentation is judged up against people who have worked just as hard as you.

Spray tan or UV?K: Spray tan for sure! It’s the only way to get the right color so you shine under the harsh stage lights.S: BOTH! Save me the spiel about how I’m going to get cancer and die, please. I am well aware of the risk but I also know what the judges want. You see girls with super orange skin and think, “Yuck! Who told that Oompa Loompa that looked good?” The judges probably don’t think it looks good either so get yourself a good base tan with UV and then spray a couple days before competition- it will look a lot more natural! Skip the airbrushing that will inevitably get on everything and everyone you touch. That’s my process and I’m sticking to it!

1 thing you’ve learned since startingK: It’s all about progress and never about perfection. There is no use dwelling on what I don’t have- if I want to change myself I have the power to do it. There’s this saying that goes, “the day you start lifting is the day you become forever small because you will never be as big as you want.” I chose to embrace that I’m a constant work in progress and that’s the greatest realization I’ve ever had. I’ve learned to be proud of who I was, who I am, and who I’m going to be.S: It takes time. Well, unless you’re juicing. Really, though, we want everything this instant and it just doesn’t work like that. Stop buying those fat burners, stop doing those weekend detoxes and most of all don’t hate your body because it doesn’t look like Instagram fitness model Kayla Itsines or whatever her name is. Stop comparing your progress with everyone around you. It’s a process, but trust me, it’s worth it.

How bodybuilding has changed you?K: It has made me my own number one fan. This world has knocked me down, picked me back up, and knocked me down again. I feel like a typical girl full of overly dramatic quotes, but here is another one that really describes what bodybuilding has done for me: “One day I decided to lift the weight of the world rather than let it continue to crash me. And that was enough.” Bodybuilding has shown me how strong, dedicated and disciplined of a human being I am, both in and outside of the gym. It has taught me to never apologize for being me and to always stand up for myself, no matter what.S: I really have to thank the guy who got me started into lifting all together (thank you Usman), because it’s changed me in a lot of different ways. It’s made me more patient, more disciplined, better at managing my time… straightened out my priorities, changed what I look for in my relationships and made me stronger more than just physically. It’s boosted my confidence through the roof.

Will you continue?K: Yes, this is not a fad diet or a quick fix for me. It’s been a lifestyle change that I will continue for the rest of my life.S: I said a million times to almost everyone I know that I don’t think I could do it again. I compare it to childbirth (even though I’ve never had a kid.) You go through all this pain but as soon as it’s over you have this amazing feeling and forget about the pain and want to experience it again, in due time that is.

Any favorite female fitness fanatics?K: Oh, so many! Some of my favorite are Emily Hayden, Kara Corey (my coach), and Nikki Blackketter.S: None whatsoever. I believe that to idolize you must envy, and I refuse to compare myself to anyone else. I push to be the best me and that’s all I’m worried about. Now if you asked me about my male fitness idols, that’s a different story, but we’ll save that for another day!

Sophie’s Instagram: @SophDawggg

Kelsey’s Instagram: @healthy_kelsey

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