Hi Alyssa! Please tell us about yourself.

Howdy! I’m Alyssa, I work as a research economist for the State of Alaska. It’s much more fun and interesting than it sounds. I get to nerd out estimating employment, writing articles, managing grants, and (best of all) giving presentations.

imageI’m also currently going to school at UAF to get a PhD in Sustainability and Natural Resource. I’m trying to understand the impact of forest firefighting employment on subsistence and how it might be affected by climate change.

My #1 hobby right now is probably talking to my wife on the phone since she’s working far away right now. (Thank goodness for earpieces! I pretty much do everything while talking to her.) Other than chatting with my beloved, I really love to go for walks outside with our pup. We both really enjoy being outside. 

I also read, paint, make jewelry, and dance around the house to 80’s pop music while the dog refuses to make eye contact with me. I tend to immerse myself in a hobby for a while and then switch to another one. Most of them I come back to later; the only one that I haven’t gone back to is knitting. Sometimes, you just have to accept that it’s not your thing and let it go. 

I also really enjoy understanding and playing with the science of baking and cooking. I’m not a good cook or baker, but I’m an excellent backseat chef.

I love learning in general and enjoy spending time learning about all sorts of interesting, but mostly not useful information. Did you know the first creatures to ride in a hot-air balloon were a duck, rooster, and sheep?!?!?! Super cool, totally not useful.

Passion is a tough one! I’m passionate about my relationship with my super-awesome-bff wife. I really want it to be a wonderful and fulfilling relationship for us both. We’re absolutely best friends and I want to make sure we stay that way. 

When it comes to what I’m passionate about for my life’s work, I’m still trying to figure that out (and probably will be for the rest of my life). I find that what motivates me in my work and research is how whatever I’m doing might help people.

I really want to make a difference and help make people’s lives just a little bit better whether it’s by helping a small community get a grant to build a garden or holding the door open for someone whose hands are full. 

I get all sorts of riled up when debating about equal rights, so maybe I’m passionate about that too. Like I said, passion is a tough one.

You started working with us a little over a year ago. What were your top 3 goals at that time? 

My top three goals were: be a great wife, stay centered, and be healthy. The third goal was a seven part goal that involved losing weight, getting stronger, increasing cardiovascular fitness, increase endurance, eating healthy and actually seeing my muscles. 

img_6176Do you feel that you have been successful in achieving those goals? Why or why not?

I’m definitely a kick ass wife, so I think we can check that off … just kidding! That one’s a constant work in progress as is staying centered. I’ve been making meditation a priority and I think it’s helped me to be able to continually push myself at work, school, and in the gym without completely burning out. 

I’ve been practicing and building my mental toughness as well and I think that’s also been incredibly helpful in keeping my centered and on top of (and enjoying!!) all the different things going on in my life. 

I think I’ve been making great progress on my health goals as well and that’s thanks to you all at Figarelle’s and my fabulous, inspirational wife. 

Eating healthier is so much easier when you’ve got a meal plan, prep your meals for the week in advance, and surround yourself with people who are walking the same path. I never used to meal plan or meal prep and the fact that I do both of those now is thanks to Talisa who does both of those like a champ and has inspired and encouraged me to continue doing both even while I’m on my own. 

Eating healthier has helped me to nearly meet my weight loss goal. I’ve lost about 20lbs since I started with Figarelle’s in January and now I’m trying to see if I want to keep going and lose another 10 or if I like where I am.

I’ve definitely met my goal of being stronger than I was, but that’s an ongoing goal. The stronger I get, the stronger I want to be.

The Hulk is one of my favorite super heroes, when I can finally lift a car, I may decide that I’m strong enough! When I started, I could barely flip the light tire, now I can flip the heavy tire! It’s one of my favorite exercises because it makes me feel like the Hulk. 

I also want to be able to see my muscles like the Hulk. While I can see my muscles in my arms and shoulders, my leg muscles are taking their time.

I notice that I tend to have the mental fortitude to push through the uncomfortable muscle burn feeling in my arms much more than my legs. I tend to quit more quickly when my legs start to burn. That’s something I’m working on, because I realize that if I ever want to see my quads, I need to push through the discomfort and really work them hard.

I’ve tried to change my mindset when it comes to a move or exercise that I dislike. I tried to figure out what it is about the move that I dislike, why it’s hard for me, and what I’m improving by doing that move. Thinking about how each exercise is helping me get closer to my goals really changes my mindset and helps me push myself harder. (Thanks leapfrog jumps)

You’ve been working really hard on mastering your pull-ups these past few months. Why is this goal so important to you, and what’s your plan for improving this movement?

In all honesty, it’s my goal because it’s so darn cool. I never thought I could do a pull-up, so it was never a goal of mine. 

img_8192I saw other FF members doing them and was impressed, but still thought I wouldn’t ever be able to do them.

One day you said if we wanted to stay and practice our pull-ups that we were welcome to do so and I thought, “Sure, I’ll practice.” I still wasn’t thinking I’d ever do a pull-up, just that I’d practice working those muscles. Then the more I practiced and saw incremental improvement, the more I started to think that someday I might actually be able to do an unassisted pull-up. That’s the day it kind of became an obsession.

Now I really want to do an unassisted pull-up and not just one, but five, ten, twenty! I want to be able to do a pull-up anywhere on anything that is remotely capable of holding my weight. It’s the thought of being able to do a pull-up anywhere anytime that I hold in my mind when I practice my pull-ups. I don’t know why that’s so appealing to me, but it’s what pushes me to keep trying and keep practicing.

I plan to keep doing pull-ups before and after each boot camp, and I work on them at home as well. We have a doorframe pull-up bar at home that I use. It doesn’t allow the perfect body form, but it still lets me grease the groove and keep my back and shoulder muscles remember what it feels like to do a pull-up on non-boot camp days.

I also try to lift more and more when we do any kind of rows. I want those muscles to get strong enough to pull me up to the top of that bar with ease!

I noticed the most difficult part of the pull-up is the start for me, so I also started practicing unassisted pull-ups that only result in about three inches of movement. I plan on asking for help on that part 😉 Asking for help is always part of my plan for improvement and success.

You take the education side of your fitness journey very seriously, and you ask a lot of great questions. What are a few life changing things you’ve learned about your health and fitness over the past year?

Wow, what a great question! I’ve learned so much that I’d be hard pressed to pick just one. I think the overall best thing I learned through asking questions is that it’s okay to be uncomfortable in a movement so long as you’ve got proper form. What we’re doing is tough and hard, but you can work through it.

You just have to become comfortable with discomfort. There’s a difference between discomfort and pain, but I very rarely have actual pain in movements (I’m lucky!). 

Along with that, I’ve learned that form is everything. Doing something with bad form isn’t helping you at all. On the flip side, doing movements with proper form reaps HUGE (dare I say Hulk-sized) rewards. 

I carry myself differently, with more sureness in my daily life because strengthening my body with proper form has bled over into every movement I make throughout my day from carrying groceries, to walking upstairs, vacuuming and lifting awkward boxes and luggage. 

I’ll never stop asking annoying questions about form and how a movement should feel. The “how should it feel” and “where should I feel this” questions are some of the most helpful to me. The answers to those questions seem to click better in my brain. 

You regularly attend Boot Camp classes each week. What are a few of your favorite exercises and workouts that we do?

Glad you didn’t just ask for one! I like exercises that make me feel like the Hulk: tire flipping, chest press, and squats of all kinds. I love practicing pull-ups in the workouts because I feel like I can spend more time on improving versus just practicing them before and after workouts. 

I really like bear-crawls. They, like leapfrog jumps, used to be ones I dreaded, but after I got the form down, I really like them! I can feel the right muscle groups working getting stronger every time. Anything with medicine balls and abs gets me excited too. I don’t know why; I just think they’re fun!

As for workouts, there aren’t many I don’t like. I even learned to like white boards. I think it’s all in the mindset with which you approach the workout. I particularly LOVE stations and hurricanes! They’re fast paced and social. You guys are my buddies and I really like workouts where we can be a little social (and even laugh) while we sweat!

What have been some of the struggles (if any) that you have faced over the past year, and how have you overcome them?

Attitude, attitude, attitude. I struggle most in my own head. If I throw a little pity party in my head because I have a lot of work to do, I’m bound to slip up on my food plan and accidentally snarf anything that stands still for too long. 

Getting my mind centered and strong (“You can do it! This isn’t even hard!”) helps me to stick with it when all I want is to pout with a piece of cake. Pep talks from Talisa help, too. She’s always great about helping me see the big picture and not get hung up on a short-term problem or setback. 

On the physical side, setbacks from an injury were tough to recover from. I’d get so bummed about losing strength that I’d start to get discouraged. I think it was in one of your youtube videos where you mentioned that motivation isn’t real and you can’t wait for it to come back. That really hit home. I’ve used it several times to push through any kind of discouragement I’m going through and remind myself that I just need to keep pressing on and never give up and I’ll eventually reach my goals. 

You’ve recently been working to improve your meditation practice. How does meditation help you, and what advice do you have for someone who wants to begin a regular practice?

I think it helps me cut through all the nonsense I tell myself about how hard things are or how much I don’t want to do things. I make things a much bigger deal in my head than they really are. Meditation helps me quiet my inner whiny voice and see a clear path of what needs to be done to accomplish my goals. 

When I finish meditating I typically feel much more calm and clear-headed about whatever I need to do that day, that week, that month. It helps me be more proactive and less reactive.

For anyone just starting out, I’d suggest starting small and being patient with yourself. It’s difficult to quiet your mind, especially for 15 minutes at a time! Some days I still can only do five minutes of meditation because I just can’t handle it, but even five minutes helps me feel better. The next day I try for 10 or 15 minutes again. 

I’d also suggest not taking it too seriously. Don’t get wrapped up in needing perfect conditions or time or anything else. My dog seems to know when I’m trying to meditate and comes over trying to distract just when I’ve finally cleared my mind. Just give it a little try and see how you feel after a few days or weeks; don’t give up after one session because you didn’t instantly have the patience of Buddha in traffic later. (H.W.B.D. How would Buddha drive? He’d use his freakin’ turn signals!! Wait… Ommmm)

Taking that initial step to change your life is the most difficult thing for most people. What advice would you give to someone who wants to lose body fat, become stronger, and lead a healthier life?

img_8197Just jump in! Time is going to pass no matter what, so you might as well try to reach your goals. If you don’t even try, you’re guaranteed not to achieve your goals. If you try, at least you’ve got a chance. 

Also, don’t expect rapid results. We gain weight and become sedentary slowly over time, and we’ll lose weight and become more active slowly over time as well. At least that’s how it works for me! 

Get excited about the little successes and allow those to keep you motivated. Lifted an extra 5lbs? Celebrate that! Foam rolled instead of eating an extra dessert? Organize a freakin’ parade!!! Small stuff turns into big stuff. You’ll reach your goals so long as you just don’t give up. Everybody has crummy days where they can’t push themselves as hard as they did yesterday, but just keep showing up and not giving up and you’ll eventually crush your goals.

What new goals are you working on, and why are these so important to you?

Pull-ups are still a relatively new goal for me and they’re important mostly because, even for months after joining FF, it never occurred to me that I might be able to do an unassisted pull-up. Now, I really think I can do it! (soon, not today, but soon).

Another goal of mine is to jump on the tires instead of stepping up. I’ve done it a few times, but I’m still really afraid of falling on my face. It’s more a mental challenge than a physical one. I don’t have confidence in my own legs and body. I want to be able to trust that my body will do what I tell it to do. Overcoming my fear of falling on my face and being able to trust my body will be a huge mental accomplishment for me.

A long-term goal of mine is to see my thigh muscles. I want to see the one on the inside above my knee and the outside above my knee. I’ve only seen one of them once in my life. It was for a few glorious months when I was young and played volley ball. 

Maybe it’s just vanity, maybe it’s because I like the Hulk so much. I think the biggest reason why it’s important to me is because I know it’s going to take a huge amount of effort. I’ll have to push through so much discomfort to be able to see those muscles and that’s why achieving that goal will mean so much. 

It’ll be a visual reminder of what I have accomplished and what I can do when I put my mind to it and don’t give up.