Category Archives: Fitness

My Runs Are Powerful Beyond Measure

I will be the first to admit, I have struggles in my mental fortitude and discipline from time to time. This week was a prime example of that. I am about due for my cycle, yes – maybe too much information – but there, I said it! And, boy can our cycle be a powerful wind of resistance and often times, hijack our physical stamina, emotions and discipline. 

This past week, I was unusually tired, I was craving non-compliant foods and I wasn’t the most pleased with my physique for the week. That all said, I did not waiver. I coached myself through with positive affirmations and fighter talk daily. I spoke to myself as I would a friend or client, after all, isn’t that what we should do? Sadly, more often than not, we aren’t as kind and forgiving to ourselves as we are others. That has been one of my own efforts of personal growth over the past eight months and it’s working brilliantly.

This morning I went out for my routine five mile run (and when I say routine, I mean since I was 12 years old!)  My run was SO powerful both literally and figuratively. My stride was strong and graceful and my mind was going wild! I starting thinking about the following few things and came up with this:

“Talent gives me goosebumps, but witnessing passion and hard work strikes the bull’s eye of my heart.” – Alli McKee

“Though they are directly correlated, I train to be strong and to perform optimally, but I eat to be lean. Both of these however work to challenge my mental fortitude.” – Alli McKee

More signs and positive affirmations from the universe 🙂 :

When I woke up this morning, I took a closer look at my calendar and the quote for the  month of June said: “You must feed your mind even as you feed your body, and to make your mind healthy you must feed it nourishing, wholesome thoughts.”

Then, as I was running, I saw a few butterflies along my path – something that may mean nothing to most of you, but when I was 16 years old, I got a tattoo of a butterfly because of the quote that states, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was coming to an end, it became a butterfly” – I smiled and took that as a “keep your chin up” sign.

Last, but not least! I had my ipod on shuffle and on came a song from Kings of Leon – Immortals. I have had this cd since the day it was released and I have NEVER tuned into the lyrics of this song until today..

They said:

The open road, the path of greatness, it’s at your fingers
Go be the one, that keeps on fighting, go be the stranger
Just put your foot, in front’ the other, crow like the rooster
We are allowed to get us something, fear is a danger
I say

(Chorus)
Spill out on the streets and start, right away
Find out what you are, face to face

The windows are, the perfect picture, they’re always changing
Go on get lost, jump in the waters, when they are raging
I say

(Chorus)
Spill out on the streets and start, right away
Find out what you are, face to face
Once you’ve had enough, carry on
Don’t forget to love, before you’re gone

So I picked up the pace in my run just to get home and put these thoughts down. No, not everything is easy for me and yes, I do falter, but I am learning to coach myself first and that helps me coach others. I have no doubt in my mind I am in the field I was born for.

Xo!

Saturday’s at the Turf & Track, Vol 2

“The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.” – Mia Hamm

I thought about this quote on Saturday a few times when I was bent over, at the point of exhaustion, during my sprint workout. No one was out there with me, just myself and the drive to push beyond comfortable limits.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my “Saturday’s at the Turf and Track”. I posted a track workout I did however it wasn’t my standard session due to some discomfort with my left quad. Going into my most recent session, I was extra aware to avoid a similar occurrence because I really look forward to these track days – just me and the open field – I absolutely love it.

Saturday's delightful view...

This past Saturday was a success on all fronts. The weather was great, the field was all mine, my body and mind were in sync with the demands and I ran the hell out of myself. I actually felt like my whole body got worked to the max and not a weight involved. In fact, my abs are always sore after my track workout and not a single, isolated ab exercise will be found on this day. Sure we can finesse the technique and mechanics of our sprints, but in my opinion, these are one of the most elementary and best exercises for a sharp physique and overall athletics.

My current, traditional sprint workout from Carter is as follows:

Dynamic Warm up:

  • 1 lap (casual) around the track (400m)
  • Ground mobility work and muscle activation
  • Stationary movement drills on my feet
  • Linear and lateral movement drills
  • Build up sprints

Phase 1: Acceleration Runs
(Note: I do a gradual build up throughout the runs, hitting top speed at 40 yards and maintain through target distance. So if it’s a 60 yard run, top speed is the last 20 yards. I did not time my rests, rather I just walked back and rested as needed between runs).

  • 50 yard x 3
  • 60 yard x 3
  • 70 yard x 2
  • 80 yard x 2
  • 90 yard x 2
  • 100 yard x 1

Recovery was approx 5-10 minutes, hydrate, etc. (I walked from the track to my next location for phase 2 which took about 8 minutes, perfect!)

Phase 2: Hill Sprints
(Note: Full out effort here)

  • 5 sprints – 30 seconds each to the top of the hill.
  • 2 minutes to walk down the hill, recover and reset between sprints.

Recovery was approx 5-10 minutes again, hydrate, etc. (I walked back up to the track for phase 3 – about 8 minutes again)

Phase 3: 400m (1 time around the track)
This took me 1:24 minutes to run the 400. A few weeks ago it took me 1:25 minutes. I’m not sure if it’s good that I was consistent or not so good that I didn’t beat my time but a second 🙂 I’m not even sure how to compare it to others. Either way, it was my best effort as I was starting to feel quite gassed from the acceleration runs and the hills prior to the 400m.

Phase 4: 1 mile run around the track
This was a casual run to chill out, enjoy the pace and wind down. I still kept track of my time though – 8:30 minutes.

Phase 5: Walk it out, stretch, hydrate, home, eat, nap.

 

As for current training, I have just wrapped up my eighth week of training (two 4 week blocks) with Carter. Sometimes people ask me what I’m training for now and I simply tell them, “to get better every day.” We are taking a deload week this week (week nine) and I will begin a new four-week block on Monday. In the next post, I’ll share a little detail on my deload, a few training videos and upcoming plans!

Strength In Numbers

This past week has been a really exciting week for networking! It all started when Bret Contreras wrote a blog post titled “Where My Ladies At.” Be sure to check it out for yourself because it’s a very inspiring compilation of 13 strong women training hard in the gym!

Bret’s post was a take off of Nia Shanks Beautiful Badass movement. Nia is one STRONG female!! She can deadlift 300lbs and ladies, one look at Nia and you will see she is FAR from “bulky” – so get that silly myth out of your head right now if it’s your reason for not training heavy! I suggest you witness this for yourself, check Nia out here.

Monday after Bret’s post ran, Molly Galbraith and I were tweeting back and forth about lifting. That quickly turned into an idea of training together. She mentioned that she and Jen Comas Keck  were getting together to support Julia Kaufman Ladewski in a meet in August. I thought, let’s get some more ladies involved and one thing lead to another – now the weekend of August 20th evolved into a gathering of some serious brains, beauty and brawns! We will all be joining for one hell of a girls weekend to support Julia, train together and have a girls night out…including but not limited to Molly Galbraith, Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, Jen Comas Keck, Mandy Stafford, Nia Shanks, Jen Grasso, Julia Kaufman Ladewski and possibly Neghar Fonooni. I am SO stoked to meet these amazing women, train, talk shop and hang!

Bret also connected a handful of us from his post (Thank you Bret). I can tell you readers this, great things are ahead. We are all going to put our strength, passion and brains together as we join forces to create a bigger movement for females and strength training.. REAL STRENGTH TRAINING.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these Beautiful Badasses yourself. I have previously mentioned Jen Grasso, but make sure you bookmark the rest of them as they all have great knowledge, passion and hard work ethic!

Your valuable list of strong female resources:

Elsbeth Vaino – Her Blog and Female Fitness Forum
Molly Galbraith – On Elite FTS
Marianne Kane – Free Fitness Workouts
Rachel Guy – Rachel’s Website
Nia Shanks – Nia’s Website
Jen Grasso – Renegade Fitness, Jen’s Blog
Neghar Fonooni – Neghar’s Blog
Jen Comas Keck – Jen’s Blog and Interview on Robertson Training Systems
Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic – Website (and link to her blog)
Julia Kaufman Ladewski – Blog
K
ellie Davis – Mother Fitness and Get Glutes

If I have missed anyone or another valuable website, please feel free to add them in the comments section!!

Again, I am so STOKED to begin networking with these incredible women of strength! Together we are going to bring new meaning to STRENGTH IN NUMBERS – we are joining forces to bring you all the best in the female side of the strength and conditioning industry.

In the words of Bret Contreras “It’s about time you gals made some shit happen” — AMEN!

More exciting news to come!

p.s. For those of you who want to check out the original Beautiful Badass post – you can check them out on Nia’s site. She is also in the works for creating great T Shirts. Join the movement!!

Saturday’s at the Turf & Track

I haven’t posted in a while. My blog is not a low priority, in fact, it’s been on my brain a good bit as I’m excited to reveal a new and improved site in the near future.  On the flip side, when I’m not training clients or training myself, I’ve been spending a good bit of my free time studying for my CSCS. By the time I’m finished reading, my mental energy has been spent and I’d rather get up and move than write.

Anyhow, that all said, I’ve been training as regular as I always have – minus a bit of the cardio.   My weekly training schedule is typically the following:

Monday – Strength, Power and METABOLIC day
Wednesday – Lower body STRENGTH
Thursday – Upper body STRENGTH
Saturday – Track Workout
Tuesday, Friday and Sunday – I freestyle with outdoor runs, recovery work or a rest day

I love to train with the iron – no doubt about it. However lately, I’ve been enjoying my Track Saturday’s the most. It takes me back to my roots of athletics, sports and training. I love going outdoors – no equipment, no walls and no crowds. It’s just free space, sunshine and athletic movement.

I’m really fortunate to have gone to a highschool that has a phenomenal facility. Among the great athletic programs Hereford High was known for, it’s weight training facilities also had a great reputation. That’s where I started lifting when I was 15 with Coach Turnbaugh, the highschool Varsity Football Coach. I still have my training folders from the good old days which show I followed a Mon / Tues, Thurs / Fri split with a track day on Wednesdays…  🙂

Ten years later, I’m so grateful to still have my highschool grounds for personal use.

I was really looking forward to my track day today. I put my earbuds in, turned on Wolfmother and started with a dynamic warmup on the center of the 50 yard line. I tend to freestyle my warm up, but always incorporate consistent activation, mobility and movement drills. Now that it’s a track day, I also dug into my library of movement prep from my days at the Parisi Speed School.

Today’s Dynamic Warm Up looked something like this:
On the ground – T-Spine mobility, Double leg hip bridges, Single leg hip bridges, Fire Hydrant Hip Circuit, Push Ups, Push Up Plus
On my feet – Prisoner squats, Good mornings, Jumping Jacks, Seal Jacks, Crossover Jacks (repeat x 2)
Movement Drills (20 yards up, 20 yards back) – Walking High Knee Hugs, Skips (for frequency), High Knees, Walking lunge, Reverse lunge with an overhead reach, Lateral shuffle, Side runs, Dynamic lateral lunge
Running Prep Drills – Arm mechanics, then a mechanical sprint drill: quick feet (5 yards) into high knees (10 yards) into a build up sprint (20 yards) x 3 rounds.

All was great…music, environment, sun, sweat, free space… my left quad however was feeling a bit off.. As I ran through my first 40 yards at a build up pace, it seized up on me. NOT TODAY I thought – I was so pumped to sprint! (Although, it’s never a good time 🙂 ) I stretched and tried again a few more times. Each time it got tighter and more painful – my body wasn’t having these sprints today. I was determined however to make the most out of my time and the gorgeous day… so I improvised, tried a few things and made due with what I could tolerate.. it still wound up being a great day of movement. Not full blown intensity but still good. My quad seemed to bug out with full force hip and knee flexion on the flat surface, but it was tolerant of hills. fortunately, I had those nearby too.. in fact, the hill at Hereford probably makes any athlete cringe at the memory of climbing it!

So the following was my workout today:

The Dip - well, most of it...

Phase 1: Hill sprints (aka, up the Dip ;)) 8 rounds (1 Round = roughly 30 second hustle to the top (I say hustle bc I couldn’t sprint) plus 2 min rest to get back down, recover my heart rate and stretch my quad)
Phase 2: Back up to the track – 8 rounds of 10 explosive burpees (push up included variation) Rest between rounds was self regulated – as much as needed but as little as needed.

Phase 3: Slowing things down a bit with two miles around the track (quad is tolerant so long as I don’t try to exert too much force on the flat surface)

Phase 4

Phase 4: (I still wasn’t ready to call it a day.. too nice out… so I incorporated “Four Corners” A, B, C, D – which included the 50 yard line, sideline, the endzone and the other sideline)
Round 1 – Point A to B jog, Point B to C side shuffle, Point C to D reverse run, Point D to A side shuffle
Round 2 – Point A to B High knees, Point B to C Side run, Point C to D High skips, Point D to A Side run
Round 3 –  Point A to B Walking lunge, Point B to C Lateral lunge, Point C to D Reverse lunge, Point D to A Lateral lunge
Round 4 – Jog Final Lap

Overall, still a great day despite a resistant left quad. I will post my “real” track workout in an upcoming post.. plus videos of the warm up drills AND the new and improved site should be up soon 😉

 

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!

Your Firm-Up Lean Out Secret!

I don’t like to toot my own horn much, but I do want to share some exciting information with you all. 🙂 In the latest issue of Oxygen Magazine, April 2011, you can find my article, “Your Firm-Up Lean Out Secret” on page 114.

Also, on page 30 is a preview for another article to be released in next months issue and we are all very excited about this one!!

If you haven’t picked up your issue or read the article already, be sure to do so! These are training strategies that I use both on myself and with clients! It’s a great full body blast incorporating multiple muscle groups, elevated heart rates, grip strength and fun! The concept is great because you can get creative with varying the exercises as well as complete it almost anywhere – including outdoors as we get into spring!

Also, in addition to finding Oxygen Magazine on the newsstands, you can find them online here . You can even follow Diane Hart and her behind-the-scenes coverage of various fitness events, working with the models and interactive messaging with the readers in her blog here.  

Check it all out and enjoy!!

Strong Legs are Sexy Legs!

 

Alli McKee

Alli McKee

  

I love the feeling of the heavy bar on my back. The initial lift as I un-rack the weight and settle under the bar. Backing out of the squat rack and situating my stance. My entire body is comfortably under tension as I lower down and then drive through to the upright position while feeling everything work together.

Today was a lower body training day and I can feel myself regaining my strength back each week. Despite a herniated disk problem that limited me in the last show season, I feel my body is working very well for me this time around. My body fat is coming down at a great pace and my strength is going up each week – it’s a beautiful balance to have.  I just reached 135lbs again for four sets of eight on my back squats. Although I’d like to see my squat climb more, I’m happy to be doing more than my body weight – hell, I’m happy to be doing them at all 🙂

I have a very good feeling for this season. My mental and my physical state are in sync and it’s a lethal combination! I’m training and dieting like a winner and it’s so much fun right now. I am really enjoying the time spent on creating myself this time around. I love the release I get from training, the challenges I work through and the social aspect as I have been floating between my three gym locations. I’m blessed to work for such a phenomenal company, FX Studios which is partnered with Under Armour. The energy from my colleagues and the fitness enthusiasts around me are making this an incredible go-round.

I was at the Under Armour facility today for a lower body training day. Still the same pattern I mentioned in my previous post about the strength emphasis followed by diverting movements.

For those of you who like to follow the training or gather ideas for your own training, here is what today looked like:

A Dynamic WarmUp:
1. 5 minutes of jump rope
2. Hip Circuit:

  • Double leg hip bridges x 8
  • Single leg hip bridges x 8 per side
  • Fire Hydrants x 8 per side
  • Forward circles x 8 per side
  • Reverse circles x 8 per side
  • Superdog x 8 per side.

3. Bodyweight Super Leg Variation:

  • Bodyweight squats x 16
  • Bodyweight reverse lunges x 16 total (alternate legs)
  • Bodyweight split jumps x 16 total (alternate legs)
  • Bodyweight squat jumps x 8

4. Overhead Squat with a dowel rod x 8 reps
5. Front Squats with the naked barbell
6. Back Squats ( 2 sets of 8 ) with progressive weight building up to first working set.

Note: I always vary my warm up depending on the muscle emphasis for that day, but I also keep certain movements consistent for proper muscle activation, CNS activation, mobility and movement prep. Again, there are so many ways to structure warmups, have fun with them and pair your training knowledge with common sense. 🙂

The Strength Component:

Again a lot of this can be tailored to your abilities, likes / dislikes, needs, etc. but here is a glimpse of a lower body workout for me at the moment:

1a. Barbell Back Squat 4 x 8 – 12 reps
1b. Push ups (think of all the various versions to choose from) x 20 reps
1c. Core / Abdominal work

2a. Reverse Lunges (Barbell or Dumbbell) 3 x 12 per leg (NOT alternating!). (Note: for added challenge and range of motion, elevate your front foot on a weight plate)
2b. A pulling movement (ie: TRX rows, band rows) x 20 reps
2c. Core / Abdominal work

3a. Stability Ball Leg Curls (single leg if you’re able) 2 x 15 – 20 per side
3b. Core / Abdominal Work

Conditioning / Finisher:
The options here are endless as well as the structure of the intervals and intensity. Today I challenged myself to 75 flights of stairs. Another gym I have access to is only a 1/8 of a mile from the other. It’s in a building that is 25 stories high. I LOVE running the stairs. It’s task oriented and it’s hard as hell each time I get to the top. It takes me roughly 4 minutes to the top, 1 minutes to rest and 4 minutes back to the bottom.. repeat 3 rounds today for a total of roughly 27 minutes.

Again, lots of options from sprints, Airdyne bike intervals, etc. I have been having a blast mixing it up this season.

Stay tuned for more training suggestions to come!!

 Wishing you Health and Happiness,
Alli McKee