Posts Tagged ‘fitness competition’

Q + A on Abs – what it takes worth it?

For today’s post, I want to focus on a question I received for the November Ask Me Anything Series:

Can you talk about what it really takes to have abs? For example, what did it take to have the flat stomach you had during your competition prep? Is it something that others could aim for in terms of their physique goals or do you think it's unrealistic?

I have shared a post on this before, but it was awhile ago before many of my current readers were around. Instead of just linking to an old post, I decided this was a topic worth discussing again so I updated that old post to more specifically fit the question above. I hope you all enjoy reading it…and if you were around for the previous post, my apologies. As well as my gratitude for being such a loyal, long-time reader! 😀


I will start off by differentiating two “styles” of abs. On the one hand, some view abs as the picture on the left. Very defined, no pooches visible, lean with obvious musculature, the six-pack (or even four-pack) look. Others define having abs as simply a flat stomach with some definition, similar to the photo on the right.


[Source 1, Source 2]

The difference between the two matters greatly. So, for the portion of the question asking if the pursuit of abs is a reasonable physique goal, my personal opinion is NO for maintaining and achieving the more “ripped” abs look. Why? Well, there are many factors to keep in mind.

1. It is very difficult to maintain. A lot of things have to happen in order to achieve abs like the ones above. It is highly probable that years of tough workouts and a very “clean” diet would be involved. You would likely be eating very controlled day in and day out with extremely limited or no treats for a long, long time. And have to couple it with a fair amount of time spent in consistent workouts as well. For some, a lifestyle like that works. But for many, we have other facets of our lives and have certain foods we enjoy and don’t want to give up for life. I had abs for awhile last year during my competition prep.


Even at 14% body fat, they didn’t look like what you see on a fitness model. During prep, I was very meticulous with my food – counting, measuring, tracking, and eating much less than what my body needed. I spent hours (yes, plural) working out each day with high intensity. I knew the way I was living during prep wasn’t something I could (or would even want) to maintain.Some things aren’t worth it and I realized it doesn’t make me any less worthy to not have that stomach.

2. Unhealthy low body fat levels. In order for abs to be visible on a woman she generally would have to reach a body fat level of around 12%. Athletes have an average body fat percentage of 15-20% and the average woman has a percentage of 22-28%, which is NOT bad. In fact, low levels, such as the approximate 12% for six-pack abs, can be detrimental to your health. Issues ranging from fatigue to menstrual issues to low bone density are common when living at such a low body fat level. Personally, I would rather be healthy on the inside with energy, the option to bear children, and the ability to walk when I’m 50.

3. Genetics. You could work your butt off in the gym, diet like crazy, achieve the required level of leanness and STILL not have abs like you see in fitness magazines. Some women have more predominant abdominal muscles that will stick out and show up more readily when they lean out. Others will end up with a flatter stomach and may not have the clear sections of the abdominal wall show through.

4. Even models don’t keep their abs year round. You have to be wary that what you see in magazines could be “refinished” to help the look along. In my opinion, the image below looks iffy and touched up. Also, when women work towards a photo shoot or fitness competition they have a specific date to work towards. They lean down for the event and then go back to more real life living. That doesn’t mean they don’t look amazing other times of the year, but it is likely their midsections aren’t quite as defined 24/7/365 like you think.


And while I do believe that it is reasonable to work for and maintain abs that more resemble a flat but not overly defined stomach, I would highly suggest focusing less on aesthetic goals. I believe it is more beneficial and rewarding to simply have a goal to care for ourselves with proper nutrition and challenge ourselves accordingly with fitness related goals. I think working towards those types of goals, without a specific image of our “perfect” body in mind, will bring us right to where our bodies feel best. And where we should feel best, too.

  • What are your thoughts on abs?
  • Have you ever worked hard to achieve a goal only to realize it wasn’t very maintainable and didn’t make you as happy as you expected?

Posted by on November 12th, 2010 74 Comments

pressure cooking

Good morning my friends! Happy Friday and Happy October! I want to wrap-up last night’s post. I truly loved all the growth and support it provided us and still believe it did great things. At the end, I am simply ready to move on from such topics on a daily basis. I do feel so blessed that my rambling thoughts on what helps build self-love inspired many of you. Thanks to Ela from Ulterior Harmony and Meg from Life Is Better Than Fiction for posting their reflections on the experience as well. 🙂

Now to segue into today’s post…Can I tell you how good it felt to start the morning like this?


With no pressure? Just a cup of coffee, my mind, and the netbook keys? Along with a Reader’s Request. 😉 Maria from Oh Healthy Day submitted a reader’s request asking to hear more of my thoughts on food and workouts from back when I competed in a fitness competition.

Disclaimer: Please note there will be pictures and discussion of calories/workouts in the rest of this post. These are in no way my thoughts on what someone should be doing to lose weight or what people should look like to look “fit”. This is all relative to my competition. Please, read accordingly.

Before I started training for my fitness competition, I didn’t restrict at all. I was mindful of my intake and focused on eating as wholesome foods as possible, but did not count calories fanatically or deny myself of cravings. Following that approach, I managed to get into pretty dang good shape at only 9 months post-partum. I easily maintained it and felt really, really, really good here.

9 Months after Birth - 12 Weeks away from showday

Even looking like this, for a fitness competition I had to lean out more so the muscle definition (the point of one of these competitions) would be more distinctive. To reach the goal of competing, I had to change up my diet and workouts.

Diet: I diligently tracked my food. My food choices didn’t change drastically, but simply having to make things fit into a certain ratio of protein/fat/carbs and a specific calorie range drove me mad! I did have to limit fat consumption and calories below normal. I followed a 45% Carbs – 15% Fat – 40% Protein diet with 1500-1700 calories per day on average. Not fun trying to manipulate food day in and day out to fit!

Workout: Madness! I do not recommend following training like this for regular workouts. This was strictly for competition prep and wore my body out. It was required to get to the level of leanness for show, but never intended to upkeep longer than a couple months. I did heavy weight workouts 5 days each week. I did intense cardio for over an hour 6 days per week – intervals, spin/kickbox classes, loonnngg and grueling hours spent on the stepmill, plus tons of plyometric drills. All to get here.

In the process, however, I grew to hate my workouts. I began craving all those “naughty” foods again and profiling things as good or bad. I felt food guilt and anxiety that I hadn’t in a couple of years. I wanted the competition to be done and not have to do anything fitness related ever again! It was all too easy to gain the weight I needed to for my body to regain its menstrual cycle and allow us to try to conceive after the show. My motivation fell to nonexistent. I had to fight tooth and nail to get back to the gym before gaining more weight than I needed. I battled a couple episodes of binging for the first time in years the first couple weeks after my show ended.

I could go on longer, and if you want to read more I do have a full post on the topic here. Basically, the pressure of the show and having to do things removed the joy. Similar to how I felt by the end of this past month. I do not enjoy placing pressure on typically enjoyable actions for me. I don’t mind hard work. I don’t mind working towards a goal. But having to do things that otherwise were purely pleasure and hobby frustrates me to no end. It makes me want to give up, instead of powering forward in the natural progress achieved through continued practice and effort. Which is why you will never see me do another show and why you see me so excited to just go about my passion for this blog in a less-structured and lighter manner. Life has too much pressure already! 😉

Have you ever experienced pressure in something you normally enjoy for fun? How did it affect you?

READER/BLOGGER FUN QUESTION OF THE DAY! – Pick 3 words to describe yourself. For those who missed last night, I want to get to know all of you more and will ask a fun question of the day. Share your answers and I’ll randomly pick a few to post for us to find new bloggy friends. 🙂 My answer = passionate, caring, and analytic.

Motivational Quote of the Day: Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted by on October 1st, 2010 48 Comments


Catch Up With Recent Posts

Announcement Time

Posted: November 23, 2011 at 7:47 am

Well, I have had a whirlwind of a few weeks over here. I missed all of you so much! I can’t express enough gratitude for your patience while I got some important things sorted out. Some scary things. Are you ready for the announcement? Here goes! I will no longer be blogging at Faith Fitness […]

88 CommentsRead more →

Self-Love Reflection: The Road Not Taken

Posted: November 20, 2011 at 11:47 am

Hello FFF readers! Nice to meet ya! My name is Carissa and my husband and I blog at Fit2Flex.  Well, I blog…he consults! We are both certified personal trainers with a passion for healthy, active living and clean eating.  I am also studying to become a registered dietitian, a race announcer, and a runner.  Stop […]

24 CommentsRead more →

Healthier Eating For Kids

Posted: November 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

Thanks to Plum Organics for sponsoring my post about tips for baby feeding magic. What if you let baby choose what’s for dinner? Check out their cute "Quest for Yum!" video and see what happens! As parents, we want the best for our children. We help them to feel loved. We strive to teach them […]

14 CommentsRead more →


Posted: November 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Hey, everyone! I wanted to pop in and say I am working on some new and exciting changes.  As a result,I may not be posting as much during the coming week.  Please stay tuned for the big announcement! Love you all! And still feel free to find me on Twitter and Facebook for the time […]

21 CommentsRead more →

Where The Change Happens

Posted: November 16, 2011 at 7:54 am

It’s kind of funny. I become a certified personal trainer and the first workouts I turn to this week come from someone else. The book came in for me at the library last week and, after flipping through it, I couldn’t wait to give the circuits a go. Making The Cut includes a lot of […]

79 CommentsRead more →

From Beginning To End

Posted: November 15, 2011 at 11:53 am

Good morning! First off, thanks for the many congrats yesterday. Love you all bunches for the tons of support you have given me in so many things this year. I hope I can return a little bit of that love through this here blog as well. So yesterday I had my first parent-teacher “conference” for […]

55 CommentsRead more →