Archive for the ‘General Posts’ Category

How many athletes can you think of that have turned pro before age 12? The answer is probably none, but that’s about to change. I’d like to introduce all of you to my former teammate and friend, Miss Tori Allen. Tori pole vaulted at Florida State, but was actually a professional athlete before that! As a pro rock climber, she won an X-Games gold medal and even had her own action figure.  These days, she has “retired” to Colorado but she still stays active and healthy. Check out her story, experiences, and advice in her interview with Erin Simmons Fitness:

Can you give us a basic intro? Name, age, where you’re from, etc.?

Tori Allen, age 24,…but, the “where I am from” part is more tricky…I was born in Auburn, Alabama and currently live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. During my 24 years I have lived in 5 states and 2 foreign countries (3 continents in all)….so “home” is a relative term. The place I loved living the most was Savalou, Benin (West Africa), though.

How old were you when you started climbing? What made you start?

When I was 10 ½, I was Christmas shopping in a mall where a new sports store had just opened. When we went in the sports store and I saw their HUGE climbing wall, I had to climb it. It was easy for me. Over the next weeks, I kept asking my parents to take me back to the store so I could try harder things on the wall. Around New Years, my family joined a local climbing gym and I started climbing 4-5 times a week. I had never been so happy doing anything as I was when I found climbing.

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How did your life change once you started climbing?

Six months after I climbed that wall in the sports store, I was crowned Jr. National Champion. From there, it was a blur. Within a year, I was entering and winning national level adult competitions. I was invited to elite competitions like the Gorge Games and the Mountain Games in Vail…and was winning those as well. Before I turned 12, I turned pro. I had sponsors for shoes, rope, gear, chalk, clothing (First, The North Face, and then Nike), sunglasses (Oakley), and even energy drinks (Red Bull). In fact, not only did I get free stuff from these companies, they PAID me to climb. Having sponsors meant having to travel to go to photo shoots and appearances, in addition to competitions, so I was on the road about 50% of the time.

Then, I won the X-games right after my 14th birthday, and things got really crazy with TV appearances (from games shows to talk shows to Discovery Channel to Ripley’s Believe it or Not…and more!), invitations to speak to various groups (I spoke to over 300 groups in 4 years), and lots of photo shoots for articles in magazines like Sports Illustrated. I had an agent. I had an action figure. I wrote a book. And, I had lots of haters. In the climbing world, all the attention I was getting, at such a young age, was rubbing people the wrong way. Plus, when I climbed, I was still a girly-girl. I designed and made my own climbing outfits so I would wear pink leopard print shorts, or shiny silver polka dot ones, or even tiger striped sports bras. It really stood out in the sea of neutral colored, baggy clothes most girls climbed in and made people even more annoyed at how I “didn’t fit in”.

All the while this was going on, I was also a full time high school student (I started high school at age 13 after being homeschooled until 8th grade) and a competitive pole vaulter. Sometimes, I would literally have a national level pole vault meet in Nebraska one weekend and an elite climbing competition in Oregon the next. I would be home for one day in between to unpack and re-pack. My training during those years was also insane. I would go to vault practice after school for 2 hours and then drive straight to the gym for 3-4 hours of climbing. I spent my lunch hours in my coaches’ classroom going over vault video and I spent my “free” time writing speeches for climbing appearances and doing interviews for articles. And, when I traveled, I would work out in the stairwell of the hotel, running stairs and doing plyometrics for hours at a time. I loved every minute of it and wouldn’t change a thing. But, I really never experienced a “normal” teen life.

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Did you do any other sports growing up? How did you go from rock climbing to pole vaulting?

I grew up in an African village. I didn’t do any sports there except play outside all the time. When I moved back to the USA at age 9, I took up figure skating, ballet and soccer.Yet, when I started climbing18 months later, I quit all three of those.

As for pole vaulting, I saw Stacy Dragila vaulting on TV and announced to my mom that I wanted to do that because I loved heights. Then, a few months later, we were at the Indiana state fair and there was a pole vault competition going on. Seeing it in person was even more exciting and I decided that I wanted to learn how to flip over a bar like that. When I was 12, I started working with a local boys’ HS vault coach. I was still climbing competitively at the time. I continued to pursue pole vault and competitive climbing at very intense, high levels, year-round for the next 5 years. When I went to Florida State, though, I had to give up competitive climbing so I could be classified as an “amateur” athlete by the NCAA in order to accept my scholarship.

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What made you decide to pole vault at Florida State?

My “official” visits were at University of Florida, Florida State and Purdue (my parents made me visit one, in-state college). Although I had some offers from schools I did not visit, I had my heart set on moving to Florida (for the beach) and was looking for a strong overall track program. When I visited Florida State, I felt totally “at home”. After that visit, there was no question in my mind where I wanted to vault.

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You were always really into leadership and volunteer activities in college. What are some of the best experiences you’ve had in that area?

Those activities really shaped who I am as an adult. Learning to budget my time between a job, pole vault, classes, social life, leadership and volunteering while in college gave me the skills to do that now, in my community. One of the greatest things that came out of my time in leadership at FSU was being selected to attend the NCAA national leadership conference at Disney. During that week, I learned things about myself and about my leadership style that have inspired me to reach for bigger and bigger leadership roles every year of my life since then. As far as volunteering at FSU, I really loved, and still do, going into local schools and speaking to students about reaching for their dreams.

What are you doing currently? Are you still involved in athletics? Still vaulting or climbing?

I live and work in the best mountain town in the world, Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Here, I have a pretty “normal” life for the first time in my life….work, play, hang out with friends. I have not vaulted since leaving FSU but may start volunteering to coach some girls at local high schools. On the other hand, since leaving FSU, I have been climbing a lot more. I don’t compete, but I am thoroughly enjoying the sport of climbing both outside on real rocks, and inside the gym. It’s a regular part of my life, and that makes me happy because, during my four years at FSU, it was not.

The only competitive sport I participate in is rugby. I am on the Steamboat Women’s Rugby team, and I play wing (because I run fast). If I had found this sport a few years earlier, I may have tried to be competitive enough to play at a national level. But, for now, I am happy with my hometown team, playing against other women’s teams from all over the West.

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What does a typical day look like for you?

Work day=wake up at 7, shower, eat breakfast, leave for work at 7:40, arrive at work at 7:45, 1 PM take a break from work for lunch and a workout (a swim or a run or time on the elliptical), back to work until 5 PM, 5:30 go to a class at the hot springs gym…Jazzercise and Zumba have been favorites lately, home by 7 to make dinner, then either spend the night watching TV or playing board games OR, a few nights a week I climb at a little private gym built in a friend’s warehouse. In the summer I also play softball and practice with my rugby team a few nights per week. I’m usually in bed by 10 or so.

Weekends=get up and make a HUGE breakfast (eggs benedicts, usually), clean the house, then get outside…wakeboard/bike/snowshoe/snowboard/hike/climb/play in a rugby tournament, catch a late lunch with friends, hit the hot springs to relax after a day of being active, come home to make a big dinner (usually steak and potatoes and a big salad), then watch movies all night.

What is your go-to food when you go climbing?

Trail mix, tuna on crackers, and, if we are camping on a climbing trip, I have gotten really good at dehydrating food to rehydrate over a campfire for a healthy, hearty, hot meal.

Is there any other athletic activity that you like to do “just for fun”?

LOTS! Zumba, modern dance, jazzercise, swim, hike 14’ers, surf, kite board, wake board, paddle board, softball, rugby (LOVE), snow shoe, snowboard, bike

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A “healthy and fit lifestyle” is just that, a lifestyle. Describe what that means to you.

When I was younger my choices were made in a “training” mindset…what impact would X have on my training? I scheduled my day around my training and chose my meals based on my training needs. Since I was in that mindset since age 11, when I became a professional climber, until age 21, when I graduated from college, it was hard to think any other way.

Over the past three years, I have transitioned out of that mindset into a more balanced mindset. Now, I am more flexible in how I schedule my life. For example, I look at being active as more of a social endeavor, than a competitive one. By doing that, I have found the fun in participating in a wide variety of activities, rather than just one, over and over. I like the added benefit of staying in shape, but I am not “in training” for anything. Also, other choices like what I eat, how much I sleep… are based on their impact on my overall well-being rather than their impact on my readiness for competition. It’s a more relaxed way to live and I find that I am very happy with my “healthy and fit lifestyle”.

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What is one piece of advice that you would give anyone interested in living a healthy lifestyle?

Commit to little things (new activities, new routines, new eating habits), one at a time, and stick to them, in order to build solid healthy habits that will add up to an overall healthy lifestyle.

What is one quote that really motivates you?

Never give up!

I know it is sort of obvious…but, there are always other roads to take rather than the one leading to the things that make life amazing. And those “other” roads are often easier. So telling myself not to give up means not to give up the BEST for the mediocre in life

Any other tips or pieces of information that you’d like to pass on?

Cooking with my boyfriend is one of the things that contributes to my healthy lifestyle. We are both good cooks and so we really plan our meals and like to try new things. We love eating our home cooked meals, so restaurant food doesn’t hold much charm. This has led to healthier eating choices for us…and lots of good memories.

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Run Against Cancer

Posted: October 2, 2012 in General Posts
Tags: , , , ,

For those of you who don’t know, I’m running a half Ironman in a little less than a month. And I’m not just doing it for me, I’m also trying to raise money for the organization Infinity and Beyond. This organization was started by my friend whose father was battling cancer. He found that there were many underserved areas of cancer research that could really benefit from somewhat smaller fundraising efforts (as compared to organizations like Livestrong). My friend did his first fundraiser by raising money to bike across the country, now it’s my turn to help out.

 My grandmother fought and beat breast cancer, but my grandfather was not so lucky. He passed away just a few months ago after prostate cancer visited and revisited his life. Nearly everyone has been affected in some way by this terrible disease. That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate my 70.3 miles to all of those people. You never know if that one dollar you donated helped to fund research that eradicates or greatly reduces cancer. If you have an extra dollar or two, please consider giving to the cause! You can find my donation page here. I really appreciate any help you can give me to reach my goal!

Chances are, you’ve thought about working out at some point in your life. If you’re a woman, chances are that you’ve worried that working out would bulk you up and make you look like a man. Why do we worry about this? Why do women think that any little bit of muscle is manly? Why don’t we embrace a strong, healthy woman and instead insist that curvy and soft are the only womanly features we can have? Well, to start off with, let’s look at a little history. Back in the middle ages/Renaissance Era, women with very voluptuous figures were regarded as “sexy” and were the subjects of numerous paintings. This was based on the fact that your status was represented in your body type: if you had money, you obviously weren’t hurting for food. On top of that, women of the upper class likely had maids to clean, cook, and watch the children, so she had little physical activity to do leading to the celebration of body types such as those seen below:

The idea of women as a curvy, soft specimen were continued up through the Victorian Era until the 1900’s.  The pendulum seemed to swing to the opposite end of the spectrum during this time, with fashion highlighting models who were not only thin, but in some cases dangerously underweight. So where are we now? Thankfully, with the increased fame and celebration of female athletes, an athletic body type seems to be rising to the forefront of what “sexy” embodies. Even many Hollywood celebrities have traded their uber skinny bodies for a more toned look: think Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Biel, and even Jennifer Aniston.

So back to the original point: why should you work out and how can you make sure you won’t look manly doing it? The perception that lifting weights will make you bulk up is utterly false and is based on the images of female bodybuilders who likely are using “questionable” supplements and countless hours of lifting in order to achieve their size:

Such body types are unhealthy in a variety of ways, however maintaining muscle mass in general is just the opposite. A good mix of strength training, cardio, and a proper diet will keep you at weight that is healthy. In fact, muscle burns calories even when you’re not working out which will promote a leaner body type!

To avoid undesirable mass, you have to first pick where exactly you want to fall on the spectrum. If you just want to be toned, then an exercise routine consisting of 3+ days of cardio and 2-3 days of lifting is the way to go. On those lifting days, think lower weights and higher reps, and incorporate a whey protein supplement or my favorite, Orgain. Yoga and pilates are also good options for either cardio or strength days. For someone who wants to maintain a slightly more athletic build, moderate weights 3-4 days a week will help you target muscle groups more specifically, for example one day will be biceps and triceps, another abs, shoulders, and back, another quads and glutes, and yet another of hamstrings and calves. Protein supplements can either be whey or a more “build” oriented protein such as Muscle Milk. Keeping consistent cardio in your workout schedule will keep you from building too much muscle. Remember that cardio for most bodybuilders is going to consist of low intensity cardio, like walking or doing the stair climber, to allow calorie burning to target fat instead of muscle. Running, Crossfit, biking, and other high intensity cardio activities will break down muscle in addition to burning fat, so keep that in mind once you start incorporating some strength training into your workout plan.

In summary, just know that you will get the body that you train for. Realize that going to the gym and lifting weights is not going to make you look like a female Arnold. Even my 55-year-old mother lifts weights and trust me, she is nowhere near “bulked up”. Just because we’re female doesn’t mean we should be soft, fleshy, and plump. Let’s advance past that 18th century, housebound female stereotype and show the world what a strong woman looks like. We’ve been strong on the inside all along; it’s time to let it out!

And on a final note, here’s some humor for the road:

Whenever I get a piece of inspiration, I like to pass it on. And some of my fans and supporters do the same! This was sent to me by a follower on my Facebook page and I wanted to share it with everyone:

I AM UNBREAKABLE

By: Lucas G. Irwin

Most people don’t understand, but you’re ok with that. For you, training is not a hobby or a social activity; it is a way of life. Those around you say that you are obsessed, taking it too far and possibly insane. They can’t understand why you won’t eat birthday cake, why you bring Tupperware full of chicken to a party or why you go to sleep early on a Friday to rest up for a Saturday training session. But you don’t care. Their accusatory tones, sarcastic remarks and insults are merely cotton bullets firing at a titanium wall of perseverance known as YOU.

You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that any negativity that surrounds you is fueled purely by jealousy. Jealous that you are capable of unconditionally committing to something that most cannot stick to for more than a few weeks as part of their yearly resolution. Jealous that you gladly embrace a level of pain, discomfort and fatigue that others cringe at the idea of suffering a fraction of. Jealous that you take time to count carbs, protein, fats and calories while they count their chicken nuggets to make damn sure their 10 piece isn’t a 9 piece. In short, they’re Jealous of YOU.

Ironically, all the comments, nagging and questioning that is meant to break you down a little, does just the opposite. Every negative word reminds you of how special and uncommon your mechanical allegiance to training really is, in turn, pushing you harder. So bring it on! Let them call you obsessed, crazy or insane and watch you get stronger with every word. The only one who can slow you down is yourself. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, you are both an immovable object and an unstoppable force……

YOU ARE UNBREAKABLE.

In the course of talking to my mom about changing body shapes as we grow older, I mentioned how great of shape I’ve noticed the older female triathletes to be in. My mom then tried to tell me that men do really well in their old age in such sporting events because they have more muscle mass and testosterone, but women don’t do so well. I, of course, took to google and found a stellar counter example: Madonna Buder, also known as the Iron-Nun.

Though this nickname may initially sound strange and even comical, you will realize shortly that it is the absolute embodiment of awesomeness. This woman, born in 1930, is now 82 years old and completed her last Ironman under 17 hours at the age of 81 years old. At the age of 76, she became the oldest woman to complete the Hawaii Ironman, also under 17 hours. Overall, she has finished 325 triathlons, 45 of which were Ironman distance races. Can you imagine the dedication that it has taken for this woman who just started training at age 48 and completed her first Ironman 7 years later?

So for anyone out there who thinks they are too young, too old, too big, too skinny, too out of shape, this is the end of the line. No more excuses. Get out there and find something to compete in, something to train for, some goal to reach. In the words of Ms. Buder herself, “Well, you know, as long as God is giving you your health, there’s no reason to stop”.

Here’s some more pictures of this amazing woman:

In short, the Iron Nun gives a whole new meaning to the phrase when she says, “I train religiously”.

If she can do it, why can’t you?

Articles/References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_Buder

http://news.softpedia.com/news/78-Year-Old-Iron-Nun-Races-Triathlons-112882.shtml

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/story?id=7671970&page=1#.T8J6nY6lDao

For this week’s picture post, just remember that the core is the just that: the heart, strength, and stability of your entire body! Keep it strong with a clean diet, regular ab workouts, and cardio 🙂

Even classical philosophers knew the benefits of working out! Image

Give your dog an extra hug today if you have one, because this review of past studies found that pet owners (and especially dog owners – take that, cats!) are physically healthier! While there have been many studies that have shown the positive psychological effects of interactions with animals, this review also highlights improved physical health benefits, which are mostly linked to cardiovascular health, as well. So if you have a pet, thank them for helping to make you a healthier person. If not, maybe you should check out your local shelter, keeping in mind that not only will you be helping an animal but they will also help you in return!

Find a local shelter with PetFinder.

The Study:

Title: Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk reduction: Supporting evidence, conflicting data, and underlying mechanisms. 

Authors: Arhant-Sudhir Kanish; Arhant-Sudhir Rish; Sudhir Krishnankutty
Source: CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL PHARMACOLOGY AND PHYSIOLOGY  Volume: 38   Issue: 11   Pages: 734-738

“It is widely believed that pet ownership is beneficial to humans and that some of this benefit is through favourable effects on cardiovascular risk. In the present review, we critically examine the evidence in support of this hypothesis and present the available data with respect to major cardiovascular risk factors.

There is evidence that dog owners are less sedentary and have lower blood pressure, plasma cholesterol and triglycerides, attenuated responses to laboratory-induced mental stress and improved survival following myocardial infarction compared with non-pet owners. However, conflicting data exist with regard to the association between pet ownership and each of these risk factors.

Numerous non-cardiovascular effects of pet ownership have been reported, largely in the psychosocial domain, but the relationship is complex and can vary with demographic and social factors.

A unifying hypothesis is presented, linking improved mood and emotional state to decreased central and regional autonomic activity, improved endothelial function and, thus, lower blood pressure and reduced cardiac arrhythmias.

Overall, ownership of domestic pets, particularly dogs, is associated with positive health benefits.”

My Channel on YouTube!

Posted: December 15, 2011 in General Posts

Hi Everyone!

I now have an official channel on YouTube for the videos that I post, so check out the following videos:

Benefits of Coconut Water

Muscle Ups

Stability Ball Ab Workout

So keep checking back to my Erin Simmons Fitness YouTube channel for more diet, nutrition, and workout tips!

-Erin-