Fitness Amateur Of The Week: Competition Infatuation

When the competition bug bites, it bites hard. Ashley knows this all too well. She used her skills from a successful dancing career to morph her physique into top-notch bikini form!

Name: Ashley (Van Den Top) Kurtenbach
BodySpace: ashkurtenbach
Location: Dell Rapids, SD
Age: 27  Height: 5'5"  Weight: 119 lbs
Years Competing: 1

How Did Your Fitness Journey Begin?

Growing up in Northwest Iowa, I always enjoyed sports. It's safe to say I had an active lifestyle. I was a shrimp in junior high, which was frustrating because I wasn't strong or tall like most of the girls I played with. My mom bought me a set of dumbbells and showed me basic lifts that helped improve my strength. It worked and my overall sports performance improved.

I was on the dance team for three years in high school and made captain my senior year. By the time I was 17, accomplishments and awards started pouring in. I had the opportunity to make the All-Honor Iowa Dance Team and danced in the pre-game and half-time shows of the 2002 Orange Bowl after being voted an All-American Dancer by the NDA.

While attending cosmetology school, I ran to keep the post-teen weight off and took dancing classes. Over the course of a few years, I went through the toughest trials of my life and was ready for a change. Instead of wallowing in my own pity and focusing on the bad, I decided to concentrate on things I had control of and do something I could be proud of.

I went back to college for my bachelor's degree and within a few months I started classes, moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and met my husband Jesse, a gym regular, former powerlifter, and an overall great athlete. He showed me the ropes and everything I needed to know to get started. I was hooked from there.

Making the Sioux Falls Skyforce (NBA D-League) dance team for two seasons drove my fitness interests further. I loved dancing again and learning more about fitness and nutrition. At that point, I was in the best shape of my life. I learned the difference between bulk training and building lean muscle and what I needed to do to look the way I wanted.

Looking for my next physical and mental challenge, I met with my now trainer/coach and friend Brandan Fokken, a athlete, in the fall of 2011. He prepped me for my first competitions and advised me through every step. I pushed myself every day and the hard work and dedication paid off.

Now, I love competing and inspiring others. I hope to obtain my IFBB pro card soon. I've met many awesome people during this journey and can't wait to see what the future holds.

How Did Your Passion For Fitness Emerge?

I live my life to the fullest. When I started seeing changes from training and dieting, the passion grew. I was amazed at what I accomplished in a short amount of time. It paid off when I got to my first competition. I want to be better than I was yesterday, physically and mentally. I learn so much in this sport every day and meet many awesome people; it's hard not to love it.

My passion for fitness grew when my friends and family said they were proud of me and truly appreciated my hard work. They know how much their support means to me.

What/Who Motivates You To Live A Healthy Lifestyle?

From the time we met, my husband said my health was important to him because he wanted me around for as long as possible. I owe that to him because I want the same from him.

Living an active lifestyle and doing what I love is important to me. I have way too many hobbies for one person, but I love them all. I want to enjoy the things I like for as long as possible like archery hunting, water skiing, training, backpacking, running my dogs daily, and many more. Therefore, I'll do what I have to so I can physically continue them all.

Those who believe in me and my goals motivate me. I'm motivated by others in the fitness industry and those who I inspire. Watching others get excited about their goals and journeys reminds me why I love being involved in this industry.

Where Did You Go For Inspiration?

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
I think about this when I need to get through a tough workout.

What Are Your Future Fitness Plans?

I will continue competing in NPC competitions, earn my IFBB pro card, and make an impact on the fitness industry. I want to help others reach their goals, be a role model for all people, and prove that anything is possible.

What Is The Most Important Fitness Tip?

Form a support team to guide your fitness journey, pick you up on the bad days, and be there to celebrate your successes. Everyone needs a "rock" or foundation. Having support around you is crucial to reach your goals.

Who Is Your Favorite Fitness Competitor?

Jamie Eason - this girl has it figured out. She's a great role model and inspirer. I love what she brings to the industry and what she represents. She's a powerhouse in the fitness community.

Brandan Fokken - as my friend and coach/trainer, this guy brought me every step of the way to where I am today. I couldn't have asked for a better coach to get me started. He's incredibly knowledgeable and an asset to the industry. If you don't know him, you need to get to know him; he has an incredible story and is truly an inspiration.

How Did Help You Reach Your Goals? is jam-packed with all kinds of good stuff. Whether you're a beginner or a vet, you can find something on I love BodySpace, articles, exercises, and much more. I enjoy connecting with new people and following their journeys and transformations. When I first started training, if I was told to try a lift I was unsure about, I refereed to and read how to do it correctly.