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Since the bikini competition category was established at the Olympia eight years ago, Ashley Kaltwasser has stood at the top spot three times (2013–2015), becoming the first rookie to take the title in 2013.
Since her first competition in 2011, Kaltwasser has placed first in 15 IFBB Pro League events. But after winning in 2015, she decided to take a much-deserved break from competition. Note: This doesn’t mean she abandoned the gym.
“Taking a break from competitions allowed me to focus on lifting heavy and not having to constantly prep,” she says. Kaltwasser trains six days a week, including five days of strength and three days of cardio. Like everyone else, she has good days and bad, but she uses the down days as motivation to keep her going.
“There will always be times when you don’t feel like hitting the gym—but those are the days you make the most improvements,” she notes. “Attitude is a powerful thing, and it’s important to learn how to build up your mind as well as your body.”
Kaltwasser’s competitive streak dates back to her youth. Growing up in Akron, OH, she started competing in gymnastics at age 4. She switched to running in high school, where she broke seven records for track and set a record in cross-country. Kaltwasser began training in 2011 and found that she was instantly drawn to the world of competitive fitness.
She emphasizes that a competitor’s diet doesn’t have to be miserable. “I believe in eating tasty foods during prep,” she says. “If you don’t like a certain food in your diet, then just make a substitution.” During prep she’ll typically remove additives like almond milk, coffee creamer, and other condiments and cut down on any extra food nibbling, while making an effort to increase her water consumption to at least 11⁄2 gallons a day.
Kaltwasser hopes her hard work and dedication will pay off in Las Vegas this September but acknowledges she’s had to adapt to the sport as it continues to grow.
“The sport of bikini is always changing. If you take a look back at the first few years, it looks nothing like what’s being rewarded today,” she says. “The bikini styles, posing, and body types have definitely advanced. I have to improve each and every year to keep up. But I love it!”