Warilla woman Asher Prior can look superhuman.
It takes more than just absof steel to succeed in the ultra-competitive world of bodybuilding. Asher Prior told CYDONEE MARDON it involves a real strength of character to win.
Asher Prior can look superhuman.
When she stands on stage in her high-heel shoes and glittering bikini, her tanned muscles rippling in the spotlight, it’s easy to see why she is rubbing shoulders with the best figure competitors in the world.
Asher has a will of steel to match her physical strength and the self motivation mere mortals only dream of.
”I dont explain myself, we all make our own choices and I am confident in mine.”
Her commitment to pumping heavy weights while depriving her body of decadent sweets and treats for months on end has taken her to the top of her sport and made her an IFBB pro.
It’s a title she shares with just a handful of Aussie women.
Yet this school teacher and busy mum from Warilla is so humble about her successes and honest about her struggles, she can bring out the best in anyone – even people with no desire to muscle up.
“It’s funny because people see my pictures and think I must be huge, but at five foot three and 58kgs, I’m generally a disappointment to them,” Asher jokes.
“I do carry more muscle than the average girl but all covered up, I don’t look much different.
“The ultra-conditioned look we produce on stage doesn’t last long and is a product of how we manipulate our food, water and training over the final weeks before a competition.
“At my leanest, people do look twice but I think it’s more of a freak factor. Off-season muscly curves are my favourite.”
Asher spent her 20s like most other women, juggling work commitments and a busy social life.
“I wasn’t very healthy and found myself with a bunch of bad habits, like the glass of wine or two post work because I was stressed or I deserved it,” she recalls.
“I was not getting to the gym because I was too tired or had too much to do, mind you that was pre-child and I certainly know now that excuse was such a cop out.”
Eventually, tired of her own excuses, Asher decided enough was enough and signed up for some personal training sessions. And it just so happened her trainer was a competitor.
“The moment I stepped on stage at that first show, I knew I had found my calling,” Asher says. “I had a plain homemade bikini and no real clue what I was doing, but I loved every second of it.”
With a background in dance, sports aerobics and gymnastics, she took to performing like a duck to water.
“‘I love the way the body moves, how we can shape it, the way food impacts it, how far we can push it, the way the mind and body are connected, it all fascinates me,” the 34-year-old explains.
“The sport of figure ties all that together, it is athletic art. Standing on stage is an expression of your person, your learning, hard work and dedication.”
But make no mistake, it’s also a fierce competition. Strong women standing shoulder to shoulder who’ve spent months pushing their bodies to the brink, flexing their muscles and striking poses to snare the judges’ attention.
“Being judged for 15 minutes when the journey took you months and months is a challenge, it takes a tough mental fortitude,” Asher says.
“Many take it too personally, but I see my greatest competition as myself and this sets me free to have fun as a competitor.”
Asher is her own toughest critic.
“I have lost way more competitions than I won, but every time I came back improved to my own standards and that is what matters most.”
This year, she placed 7th at the Fit X in Melbourne and she recently returned from the US, where she placed 8th in a field of 33 of the world’s best at the Chicago Wings of Strength.
“Competing in figure forces me to set strict boundaries for a period of time.”
But she says it’s a challenge easily met.
“That’s because there is a daunting goal at the end. You’re on stage wearing a bikini with hundreds of eyes judging you and pictures that go around the world, it’s a no-brainer.”
For most competitors though, the real challenge comes when the lights go off.
“That’s when it is easy to slip back into bad habits, when you feel displeased with not looking stage-ready, a look that’s not sustainable anyway.
“That’s the time when your mind must be most connected to the body.”
Asher says figure competitors go through the same emotions as anyone else embarking on a weight-loss challenge.
“There is an end to one goal but there should not be an end to the healthy habits and rules that you put into place to get you there,” she says.
“You have to keep accountable to yourself and focus on maintaining those good habits you just spent so long developing.
“If you do slip, dust off, smack yourself on the hand and keep going straight away, don’t wait for Monday. And don’t guilt yourself to death, the shame spiral is such a waste of time.”
Many competitors find sticking to the strict comp diet – which revolves around high protein, well-timed carbs to fuel training such as rice, sweet potato and oats and good fats – tougher than their exercise regime.
But Asher insists the logistics of dieting in social situations is pretty easy.
“No-one really cares if you don’t eat the nibbles or if you order dressing on the side,” she says.
“We go out to dinner every week and I generally don’t say no to a party. People are usually curious and encouraging, and I love that.
“Occasionally, you get a comment like ‘is that all you’reeating?’ Or ‘that’s not healthy’, it disappoints me but I think it comes from an uneducated or ignorant place so it doesn’t affect me.
“I don’t explain myself, we all make our own choices and I am confident in mine.”
For now, the 34-year-old is focused on her own crew of Illawarra women – Team APF – who are preparing to grace the stage in October.
The sport of bodybuilding has grown in recent years as it encompasses the more mainstream look of “women’s bikini” category.
“This has brought a huge increase in girls in their late teens and early 20s competing. I think it is great to see girls focusing on health and fitness at a young age,” Asher says.
“Especially as teenage girls and young women generally drop out of sport and fitness pursuits during this time.
“The role models that inspire these girls are strong and fit, not waif thin and emaciated. My advice for these girls is to remember that the goal is to build a body, not just thrash it with a diet.
“Do a lot of research, be consistent with hard training, feed the body, find a good mentor and remember that the sport is more like a marathon than a sprint – you get better and smarter with each successive show.”
And if Asher’s little daughter, Myalee, wants to step on stage and strike a pose one day, her mum will be her biggest fan.
“This is the way I can be the most positive female role model for my daughter,” she says.
“Instilling her with the values of self-motivation, confidence, healthy lifestyle habits and living to the beat of your own drum is what I hope for most when she watches me and asks me questions.
“The sport has given me so much, if she wanted to compete, I would 100 per cent support her. But I think she’d be much happier playing golf and riding skateboards with her dad.”
Value yourself shut out negative inner talk and replace them with positive mantras like I am worth it, I make me happy. When you are healthy and happy, you are able to give more to your family.
Be flexible but committed have a daily exercise routine, but if something comes up and you cant do your usual time, commit to doing something else later in the day. If you were supposed to go the gym, but couldnt make it, have an at-home routine ready to go.
Exercise with intensity perform interval training, where you alternate short periods of high-intensity exercise with rest periods for a short period of time. This type of training produces a post-exercise rise in fat-burning potential and maximises your time.
Reduce daily stress we run on high for too much of our day, increasing our cortisol levels, which is directly linked to abdominal fat storage and carbohydrate cravings. Be prepared for stressful moments with strategies like walking away or deep breathing, and be aware if you find yourself reaching for food at this time.
Be accountable keep a food and training diary to track your progress. There are some great smartphone apps that can do this, or an exercise book is perfect. This will instantly make you aware of what you are eating, help curb mindless munching and make you recognise areas that can be improved.
IFBB Pro Figure Athlete Asher Prior is a specialist trainer, coaching women in body shaping, fitness and contest preparation. She is also the author of ebook MetaCharge a cardio-resistance strategy for maintaining muscle and getting lean.
- ^ ebook MetaCharge (asherpriorfitness.com)
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