Name: Hayley Hirshland
Height: 168 cm
Contest Weight: 54 kg
Offseason Weight: 54 kg
Social Media Pages:
- Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat – @hayleyhirshland
Sponsors: Currently Seeking Sponsorship
Trainer: Menno Henselmans (bayesianbodybuilding.com)
- 2015 NPC Pride of the Midwest Championships: Figure (Medium) 3rd place
- 2016 Wisconsin Natural Championships WNBF Pro Qualifier: Figure (Medium) 1st place, Figure Overall winner (earned Figure Pro-Card), Fit Body (Tall) 1st place, Fit Body Overall winner (earned Fit Body Pro-Card)
- 2016 WNBF Central USA Natural Championships (Pro Debut): Figure 1st Place
Training Split: Full-body weight training 6-7 times a week. Cardio is dependent on contest schedule, but I train in classical Indian Bharatanatyam dance for three hours each week.
Tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?
Hayley Hirshland: While I am originally a Midwesterner at heart, I am an international traveller, polyglot (I speak Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and English fluently), and absolute fitness addict. I was a competitive figure skater when I was younger and have always had a passion for watching and participating in sports (I worked at the Golf Channel in Orlando, FL as well as Golf Network in Tokyo, Japan, and my family is heavily involved in the golf world). I began weight training consistently in 2013 and starting competing at the end of 2014 – I cannot get enough! Outside of fitness, I am obsessed with cooking (I watch the Food Network like no one’s business), taking care of my cat (Xiao Hui – means “little grey” in Chinese), and I listen almost exclusively to rap music. The strangest things I have done are either drinking unpasteurized yak’s milk mixed with liquor in China or being on a Japanese game show (I intend to be on American Ninja Warrior next).
When did you start first start lifting weights and why?
HH: My high school in Madison, WI offered weightlifting class as an option for P.E, so I took that in my last semester of school after returning to the United States after studying abroad in the south of Japan. I am lucky that I was able to learn proper lifting form early on, which has certainly helped me with my training to this day.
I became more serious about my training while I was living in Tokyo, Japan. I moved there in January 2013 to work for a Japanese golf television station and my job was extremely stressful (it was not uncommon to work for over 12 hours a day). I would take the easy route when it came to nutrition by eating out constantly and not making the correct choices when at work functions. I was never overweight, but found that I had gained quite a bit after a few months of living abroad and I decided to make a change. I joined Gold’s Gym in downtown Tokyo, began lifting first thing in the morning before work, and stayed consistent in my training. Woman’s Shape and Sport Magazine, a Japanese fitness publication, eventually approached me, and they featured me on the cover of their Summer 2013 issue. My passion for weight training has only increased since then!
If you could go back to when you first started training what advice would you give yourself?
HH: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to hire a proper trainer from the get-go, make whole-food nutrition a priority for my overall health and wellness instead of choosing the overly-processed “bodybuilding” supplements/food that the industry is saturated with, and truly understand that the best way to achieve results is through dedication and persistence.
More and more women are taking up weight training and seeing the benefits. What do you believe is driving this growth?
HH: I truly am inspired by the athletic women that I have met through this sport and I think that the majority of them enjoy the confidence and physical and mental strength that bodybuilding gives them. I know for me personally, I was probably a more standard image of a “desirable body” in terms of what the media claims is “desirable” before bodybuilding, but I was restricting calories, felt sick, and was constantly seeking affirmation from others. I think women are starting to understand that having a “thigh gap” and stick skinny arms, or not bothering to eat when they are hungry or skipping meals, all to appease someone else’s idea of “beautiful” is both morally incorrect and damaging. Bodybuilding has given me confidence, physical, spiritual, and mental clarity, and has allowed me to meet a community of women who are constantly growing and improving on themselves. I hope that this trend continues, as I love to see women who can find confidence their bodies, minds, and true capabilities.
Although more women have taken up weight training than probably ever before the myth that doing heavy weights will make a woman masculine is still quite common. What would you say to people who believe this myth?
HH: Unfortunately I receive many comments daily on my physique stating that I am “too bulky”, “too manly”, or that I “look like a boy”. I would beg to differ and say that I went from someone who was sickly thin to an athletic, strong woman with curves, strength, and confidence. I personally believe that weightlifting allows for a woman to build a beautiful physique, but more importantly, gives her the confidence to love and appreciate the body she has for what it is capable of doing as wellas what it looks like. If you feel good about yourself, you begin to radiate confidence and can spend your valuable time and energy focusing on the things in life that truly matter!
What factors do you believe are important in creating a successful training routine?
HH: I think that people tend to neglect full body exercises and tend to focus on isolation work (which certainly has it’s place in weight training) when they first begin. I tend to see a lot of women enter the gym, perform triceps push downs, some bicep curls, and abdominal exercises, do some cardio and leave. It was only after I started doing exercises that utilize your entire body, such as pull-ups, push-ups, squat variations, heavy deadlifts, etc. that I found real results. I also make sure that I am always using full range of motion and proper form when lifting. Bodybuilders aren’t power lifters, but we should also certainly work with heavy weights and should constantly be progressing.
What was your motivation to step on stage and compete for the first time?
HH: Honestly, I wasn’t interested in competing at all when I first started training. The Japanese magazine that I write for asked if I would be willing to compete so they could get an idea of how the competitions in the United States work, and I thought “why not?” I competed in the NPC, and didn’t enjoy myself, as I knew that I couldn’t succeed against athletes that may or may not have been using PEDs, but I thought I would give it another chance, but in a drug-tested competition. After meeting all of the incredible athletes, coaches, and attendees through the WNBF and feeling confident in my performance in the gym and on the stage, I caught the bug and can’t get enough!
You won two pro cards in your first ever natural competition. How did that feel?
HH: I honestly was so shocked, as I went into the competition solely for the experience. I did not have the greatest experience competing in the NPC, and I wanted to give bodybuilding competitively one more chance. Having to pose six times in one day (morning and night shows for Figure and Fit Body, as well as Figure Overall and Fit Body Overall) was extremely draining (we also seem to pose for a lot longer in the WNBF), so I felt a rush of emotions – I was honored, excited, tired, and had tears in my eyes; I was so happy that my hard work had paid off in such a way. I will forever be grateful to the WNBF for making competing one of the best experiences!
Physique and competition wise what do you consider to be your strong points?
HH: I currently think that my best body parts are my shoulders/deltoids, which is funny to say, because I always was self-conscious about my arms in general, even before I began bodybuilding. I certainly would like to add more size and definition to my calves, and am looking to further lean out my legs, which should happen over time. Competition-wise, I always make sure to smile and look directly at the judges – even if it is cheesy, I feel like it allows me to connect with them and gives me good stage presence.
Competitor numbers are growing across all divisions in the natural federations. What do you believe is driving this growth?
HH: I think that people are finding out that there are more divisions other than the few that may be more notorious for non-tested competitions. I think what was happening was that people would compete in those federations, get discouraged as natural athletes who could physically not become as big as the non-natural competitors, and then give up on competitions all together. I nearly did that, but I’m glad that I did my research and found the WNBF and its affiliates. That being said, one of the most impressive things about the natural federations is that all of the competitors have impressive conditioning and can certainly hold their own in the other federations; we just have to work a little differently (and over a longer period of time) to get similar results, but that makes the final result all the more satisfying.
Now that you’ve achieved your pro card what goals do you aim to achieve moving forward in your professional career?
HH: I am a translator by trade, so I am extremely lucky in the sense that I have the ability to control my schedule. This allows me to train and eat at optimal times for my body and, despite having strict deadlines, makes my work life relatively stress-free. I am looking to continue my training as usual, earn a sponsorship, and potentially squeeze in one more competition before Worlds in November. I would also eventually like to compete overseas in a natural competition.
You lived in Japan and have been published in Japanese fitness magazines. What is the fitness and bodybuilding scene like in Japan?
HH: The bodybuilding scene is just starting to make waves in Japan, but it is still relatively underground, especially for Japanese women. Unfortunately, there are still social stigmas for women that do not have extremely “skinny” body types and much of the fitness industry targeted at women is still flooded with gimmicky “diet” products (a great example is the face roller that “makes your face slimmer”…). Many of the exercise programs targeted at Japanese women still involve general aerobics, stretching, yoga, and Pilates for “weight loss”. I think it will be a while before bodybuilding truly takes off as much as it has in the United States, but Japanese people are starting to realize the benefits of weightlifting as fitness publications and television shows gain more traction. Currently, the only true “bodybuilding” gym in Japan is Gold’s Gym, which has a fairly large presence throughout the country, but gym memberships generally range from USD $200-$300 a month, so people end up not joining because of the cost.
Why do you choose to be a natural athlete and compete in natural, drug tested competition?
HH: I choose to be a natural athlete because it’s extremely important to me to exemplify that a fit lifestyle is something that can be maintained over the long run. Although drugs, supplements, and other shortcuts have permeated the bodybuilding world, it is very important to showcase that bodybuilding can be achieved in a healthy and holistic manner. Your “prime” while on drugs is most likely a very short one before you risk illness or severe injury due to the side effects, whereas drug free athletes are overall healthy individuals, and personify hard-work, effort, and dedication. I hope to showcase that great muscular gain can be made the natural way through a combination of intense effort and calculated approaches to dieting and training. It certainly is not the easiest way to go about bodybuilding, but it is absolutely the most gratifying.
What would be the number one piece of advice you would share with our readers?
HH: The biggest struggle of the natural athlete is that our gains come more slowly. My transformation up to this point has been years in the making, and no one sees the hours and discipline I have put in in both the kitchen and gym to get results, and I am still in the midst of progressing and further improving my physique. Stick with it, enjoy the process, don’t stress (it releases cortisol anyway!), and the results will come in time.
Thank you for your interview. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Hayley Hirshland: I would like to thank my family, who didn’t really understand my interest in the sport at first, but have come to be very involved, my boyfriend (my biggest supporter and, most importantly, executive “body oiler/suit gluer”), my trainer, Menno Henselmans (I couldn’t have achieved my current physique without his guidance), the WNBF for their integrity in the sport by promoting natural/drug-tested competitions, and my fans (both in the U.S. and abroad) and fellow competitors who inspire me to work harder every single day!