Elise Gerst - Physique Competitor
I have been an athlete from a young age and started weight training to improve athletic performance when I was 13 years old. I continued to weight train in my adult years, but didn't attend my first bodybuilding competition until I was dating my now husband in 2008. That is where I discovered the type of physique I was trying to achieve! I then had to relearn my approach to my body type, my nutrition, and my weight training. It was a difficult transition, yet I vowed that I would be on that very stage a year from that time, which actually turned into 1.5 years and since there wasn't WPD at that time, I competed in Figure Division.
Diet and Training
The biggest change from off season diet to pre-contest is that I add a little more fat to my diet and I get a cheat meal 1x/week off season. I still meal prep, because I find I do much better mentally, emotionally and physically when I keep that as a habit. Transitioning into pre-contest and getting my goals for the next competition is much more attainable when I maintain a deliberate plan in my off season. During the 2016 season, I was in pre-contest mode all year long, so after 4 competitions, 3 of which were national level, I definitely felt a bit of the post comp blues. I knew it would happen and having a plan helped me get thru it and not totally wreck the progress I had made. My gain potential is thru the roof, and that is in reference to fat as well as muscle. When I haven't maintained a deliberate plan in my off season, I tend to eat under my resting metabolic rate which sits normally at just about 1650 calories. My body slows down its metabolic rate in order to compensate for the lack of calories and I gain fat. So I try to never dip below that and while I might scale back the cardio a bit in off season, it's still a part of my plan to maintain a manageable healthy body composition I feel good about.
Failed diet: Chicken, green beans and almonds for 16 weeks. Never again. I'm not going to say there wasn't any improvement, anyone will improve to a certain degree- however, I've been much happier, healthier and MORE SANE once I transitioned away from that approach.
Morning cardio is always a part of my routine. The frequency, intensity, and duration varies depending on where I am during my progress in off season or pre-contest. I tend to lift heavier in off season because of the extra energy from higher body fat and I like the feeling of being strong. I love being shredded, but there's a point in pre-contest weight training where everything just feels heavy. I typically work large muscle groups every MWF and smaller groups Tues, Thurs, Sat with rest day on Sunday. During pre-contest I push pretty hard with intensity, but it's also very important to manage stress levels. There were a few days I just rested on high stress days and I believe it was key in continuing to make progress.
I believe being involved in Athletics from a young age helped me develop a confidence and knowledge about myself which served as a huge compass and source of happiness in my life. By the time I reached teenage years, when beliefs about yourself are so challenged, I knew who I was. Part of that was knowing I was strong and could do hard things. I ALWAYS knew I was an athlete, so having a little more muscle mass than other girls didn't bother me. Even so, I didn't truly understand or embrace my body type fully at the time, maturity and education helped with that. The knowledge of who I am as an athlete transferred over to bodybuilding and every time I step on stage, or step into the gym, or make a post for social media, or pose for a photo session, that is how I see myself and aim to portray myself. I am an athlete. Plus, I have spent a lot of time as a performer in dance, musical theater, and bands which I think has helped feel pretty comfortable on a stage.
I have always felt an amazing camaraderie with other competitors, maybe it's just my, "you do WPD. You're my new friend" attitude, but I have thoroughly enjoyed each contest I've competed in. Comp day is the fun part, it's where you get to celebrate all your hard work and guess what? There's always pizza at the end. Recently, I competed at the 2016 NPC National Championships in Miami, and before "game day" I was thinking about the possibility of not placing as high as I had in previous contests. I wanted to be proud of my performance and improvement no matter how I placed and what helped was having a plan for each scenario. I didn't wind up placing as high as I had in Chicago and in Vegas, yet I met people, made relationships, and learned the importance of structure-all things that wouldn't have happened if everything hadn't happened exactly the way they did.
I am currently on prep for Team Universe the end of June in New Jersey. I am so excited to bring an improved structure and more all around balance to my physique!!