Goals, Strategies, Perception and Change.

What are you training for? Do you have a goal? Is it measurable? Does it have a time frame? Do you have a plan?

You know, if you don‘t know where you‘re going, how will you get there??

I debated whether or not to write this post, because it may turn some of you readers off.. Or give you the impression that I’m shying away from my love of pure strength training. What I’m about to write has been a thought process of mine over the last few weeks however and I think it’s worth sharing.

The Arnold wrapped up about three weeks ago. Since then, I took a week off from training and have been back at it for the past two weeks. My current regimen consists of four 30 minute sessions of fasted cardio each week and five afternoon sessions of strength training. My next show on the horizon is tentatively July 9th, Team Universe in NYC. With this upcoming show, my training methods are shifting. For the past 3 years, I would say I have focused on athletic based movements with a strong physique emphasis. Primarily working on strength and power in the gym, followed by physique and function. Conditioning too in the mix consisting of all out short bursts of intensity for 10-60 seconds maybe up to 3 minutes depending on the challenge, but you get the point.

For a while now, I have specifically been trying to hammer home the message to women of the benefits of STRENGTH training and heavy lifting. I am not afraid to lift with every ounce of effort. I have followed and performed all programs ranging from 9 sets of 3 reps, 10 sets of 10 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps, 3 sets of 15 reps and 2 sets of 24-30 reps…and so on…I am not turned off by any lift, set / rep scheme or challenge as long as there is a rhyme & reason. I am not afraid of getting “bulky” because I think I have proven as a figure competitor, you can train like the big boys and still look like a chiseled, petite, feminine woman. Ladies, hear me loud and clear.. genetically and hormonally, we will not beef up! Unless of course we have a poor diet and then we’ll beef up from fat, not muscle!

If you asked me to define an “athlete” in a few words, I would immediately think “strong, agile, powerful”…then I thought, what about the triathelete? They are built very different from the average power or field athlete and function quite differently, yet they are an athlete. From there spawned my thoughts: What defines “athlete” and what defines “being fit”?

My brother is a sick athlete, but he’s not a field athlete or a triathlete. In fact, he’s a rock climber and snowboarder. In a recent conversation with my brother Doug, we were talking about training disciplines. We often identify with a specific one and may even limit our attention and appreciation to one. Why not, if it’s what interests us and pleases us to pursue. We may also however fall into the trap of becoming opinionated and closed-minded towards other disciplines and training methods. Remember, it‘s the principles that we adopt that are most important – not necessarily the method(s) we use or the discipline we tackle. Now there may be more favorable methods to utilize when pursuing a particular goal, but there’s also a lot of ways to skin a cat or there wouldn’t be so much debate on the internet regarding the good, the bad and the ugly in training exercises and design.

This brings me to another point. What defines “being fit?” I think I’m fit…I have gotten my pull ups to 10 body weight reps for four sets, my DB bench to 60 lb Dbs and my legs can outlast most. I like to pull tires, hit the prowler, run sprints, or jog for an hour. Ask me however to swim for an hour and I think I’d sink. Ask me to train only in circuit or high rep ranges, I may vomit. Ask me to go rock climbing with my brother and my forearms would fry. Take me for a 50 mile road bike venture and well, I might gas out at that too 🙂 …but I’m fit right? And so is the triathelete and or my brother who doesn’t lift in schemes of 5 sets of 5 reps or push the prowler all day long.

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

So my brother and I were talking about training disciplines. Once you master one, its good to switch it up, both for the learning experience AND the mental and physical challenge. He referenced his personal experience of rock climbing because that is one of his thriving passions. My brother has been climbing for 14 years – about as long as I’ve been lifting (going on 13 years). When he was younger, he used to spend his time mastering bouldering – a style of rock climbing that is essentially all strength and power. You may get 5-8 moves in a bouldering challenge. At the time, Doug had disgusting relative body strength. Years later, he wanted to challenge himself differently. He decided to pursue the outdoor climbs more and challenge his endurance. Now he scales 3,000 foot walls such as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. He even sleeps suspended from an edge because the climbs take a few days. Talk about a challenge and change!!! Doug’s shift in style stayed within his love for climbing but demanding completely different energy systems and tolerance of his body. Not to mention, a new learning curve and stepping outside of his comfort zone both physically and mentally.

I share this conversation with you, because I believe we should pursue what we love but also push ourselves to be open-minded, learn and master new things. Stepping outside of that mental and physical comfort zone. Learning something new and trying to enjoy sucking at it at first only to make new gains over time.

Now, going way back to my first point – training goals. Over the next four months, I am a FIGURE COMPETITOR. My training goal is to step on that Team Universe stage with the best physique I can bring. If I had a sports performance goal in mind, I’d train for that. If I needed to get stronger, I’d train for strength. If I needed to put on muscle, I’d train to put on muscle. My goals however are to streamline and fine tune the foundation I have built. To come in more petite than previous shows. Although I don’t want to lose strength or the athletic nature of my movements my training is shifting.

For a while, I have identified with heavy lifting. I am proud of my strength and conditioning abilities. I love feeling like the strongest girl in the gym but I am shifting my training methods because my goal over the next four months is not to be the strongest girl competing, if so, I’d enter a power lifting competition – it is to get on stage with my best physique yet. Please please, don’t get me wrong, I will never turn my back on STRENGTH nor will I stop studying it, appreciating it or prescribing it for most, if not all, of my clients. I however, will be shifting my personal training methods to a new scheme in order to see what response it brings. It took me a few weeks to wrap my mind around the change in training because I like and identify with the strength and conditioning crowd. My goal to compete however dictates my latest training style and I am excited to change things up, suffer at first because my body is not used to this style, learn to be open-minded and use myself as a guinea pig to see what works and how I can transform my lines and physique. Believe me, my principles will remain intact and you better believe I will keep the intensity high in my sessions, but it will be different 🙂 To me, this is a shift much like my brother took on. There will be crossovers in my latest training program, but at the same time a very different approach. (and yes, I will continue to post the new training days)

So I ask you again, do you have a goal? Do you train (and eat) to meet those goals? Are u in a trap of closed-minded training beliefs? To you, what defines an athlete or being fit?

Already, I have had to step outside of my comfort zone both mentally and physically. For now, I will be putting the training I have done for the past three years on hold. I also thought I was going to vomit on one of my recent leg days and I was sweating like it was 110 degrees and humid out. I look forward however to embracing this change, holding on to the things I love about training, learning from the experience and sharing the ride again! After all, if you do what you always did, you’re going to get what you always got. I encourage you to do what you love but don’t get caught up on one style or discipline forever…

My brother Doug, "sleeping" on his big wall climb (El Cap)

p.s. Doug plans to climb El Capitan again in late spring / early summer. He is one rad guy and the very best big brother. I love him to pieces and am so proud of his accomplishments and pursuit of his talents and passions!


18 responses to “Goals, Strategies, Perception and Change.

  1. Ali I think we all go through this at one point and its not a cop out its just necessary! I look forward to following your training I too am doing the same thing.

    • Thanks Kristy 🙂 What exactly are you doing? switching gears? A figure show? or Team U?? Whatever it is, keep in touch and keep me posted!
      Best of luck,

  2. Your blog strikes very close to home for me. Thank you for your post. I will follow you on your journey and try in the meantime to figure out what I need to do. I’m also a figure competitor, 48 1/2 years young. I have not wrapped my mind around getting big during the off season. It scares me to death to not fit in my size 0 clothes. Crazy, huh? I’m so afraid of not getting lean again.

    Thank you again for sharing your new goals.

    • Hi bstone,
      I can certainly appreciate it can be a difficult transition from a show to the “off season” – the focus, the routines and of course the physique all change some. Hopefully, we create a lifestyle that is in sync with our goals, likes and of course health. Also important to be kind to ourselves, roll with life a little bit and talk to ourselves as we would treat and coach our friends and clients. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Please keep in touch, Alli

  3. Congratulations on being open minded and trying new things. In the long run I think it will make you an even better trainer, because you aren’t just telling your clients what is “supposed” to work. You have been there and done it yourself. That is one of the best things about my trainer. We set long and short term goals and he creates the workouts to help get us to those goals whether it is building muscle mass, increasing lift strength, cutting fat, or any number of other things. Best of luck ,and I can’t wait to see the leg training routine that almost made you vomit. It must have been crazy.

    • Hi Yvonna! Great to hear from you 🙂 Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts. I am sure this will add to my experience as a trainer. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy competing – the learning process in and out of the gym.

      It also sounds like you have quite the trainer yourself and continue to set and hit new goals, that’s awesome 🙂 Keep going Yvonna!!

  4. I too am trying something different. My 10 yr old son did his first 5k a few months ago and gave me the inspiration to try one too. Ive always been a strength trainer, doing different things for cardio too, but when I saw him achieve this goal I thought to myself, hey I can do that too! The major obsticle is that I hate running !!!!and havent really done any major distance running before. But for the last few months Ive been putting that out of my mind, running not just for me but my son and hopefully when I run my first race April 16th not only will I finish, but finish with a time my son would be proud of. He ran his in 24:32!

    • Hey Jennifer! Thats SO awesome you are taking up running to do something 1. that you are new to and 2. to do with you son!! 🙂

      In college, I used to run for pleasure and distance. My mom encouraged me to do a marathon in 2005. With her encouragement and my enjoyment of challenges – I signed up… I remember my longest practice run of 21 miles – I went to a bike trail that spans through Maryland and she road a bike next to me…it took me 3 hours… it was a fun thing to do together and I still remember it so vividly. I’m sure your son will appreciate your hobby and race together!!

      I don’t know if you have a plotted plan to accomplish your distance running, but I often send people to this site: http://www.halhigdon.com/ …I actually created a plan for myself from this when I did my marathon.

      Anyhow, keep me posted after the 16th!! I think that’s so great!!! 🙂

      • Jennifer Hall

        Hey Alli, Just wanted to thank you for the website on running it did help. The 5k went pretty good concidering it was very hilly, and it was cold and raining! I finished 2nd in my age bracket,(Im 41) and 27 out of 136 total. It was funny to me that I felt great during the race because all of my training runs were very grueling. I didnt beat my sons time but now I have the running bug! I cant wait to do my next 5k and now know that I can push myself even harder. Also, great article in this months Oxygen, we recently purchesed a sled(my hubby is always trying to find new gadgets for the gym) I love it! I do like the harness you had and will hopefully get him to buy it for me! Keep all the great blogs coming!
        Jennifer 🙂

      • Hi Jennifer!

        Congratulations on fininshing the 5K and placing well!! Not to mention feeling GREAT during your run is such a BONUS!! (You were well prepared ;-))

        Thank you also regarding the Oxygen article! I love sled work plus it’s variety – it can be done in several ways with many tools! Let me know if you have any other questions and CHEERS to the running Bug! “Enjoy the STRIDE” 🙂


  5. Good stuff! If you talk to most folks about training or life, they can’t tell you want they are looking to accomplish with any clarity. It’s a shame to train or live that way in my opinion and clearly you don’t!

    Train with purpose,

    Sandy Sommer RKC

    • Hey Sandy, thanks so much for posting. Yes, sometimes like others, I hit a few junctions in life and I try to figure out how or where to go…but I remind myself those things don’t all have to be figured out that day. At least on a smaller scale, I know what I want to accomplish in the gym! 🙂

  6. You should definitely do whatever it takes to pursue your dreams. But I have to say it makes me a little sad that Figure Competitions don’t really reward truly athletic physiques like yours anymore. That is what it is, and I’m sure you’ll look great more petite, as well. Your blog has been a great and inspiring read because it’s hard to find women who truly love training (HARD training!) and are able to write about with passion and poetry. I hope you will keep sharing that love of training, even as your methods change.

    • Hi Rosie,

      Thank you for such a kind and thoughtful note. Yes, figure comps can be subjective (from show to show and between federations) – that plus the possibility of politics does make it tough to know what you’re shooting for. It’s not exactly like having a faster time than another…pressing more weight or more reps…a higher score / points on the field or having fewer strokes in golf!

      Regardless of what they reward on stage, how I do “win” is the personal accomplishment and also sharing my thought process and training experience with people like you who read this blog and knowing it has helped someone in some way…that to me is sooooo rewarding.

      I also got into competing because yes, I liked the physique, but I LOVE to train… it fed my desire to train with a purpose, a plan and a finish line. We’ll see where this goes… time will tell if I love Figure comps enough to change my training long term or if I love a certain way of training more than continuing the Figure demands to succeed. I’m sure it will unfold and I will learn more…. 🙂

      All that said, I love to train and I love to write. Regardless of how or what I do, I’ll always do both of those!

      Thanks again so much, I really appreciate your thoughts.

  7. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
    Ayn Rand

    “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goals. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.”
    Benjamin Mays

  8. Keep up the great work Alli!!!
    I couldn’t be more proud of your accomplishments!!! If I had the determination and drive to train like my lil sis I feel like I could really accomplish some much HARD CORE goals in climbing. It is all about working hard and most importantly HAVING FUN. Rock on Alli!!! Keep up the hard work!! Never let the Passion burn out in anything you do!!

    • Thanks Doug.. You’re 100% right…Yes we have to work hard, but it has to be fun in the meantime 🙂 Love you!

      See friends, my big bro and I have the same passionate blood running through our veins!

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