Ken Morgan copyright © 2004 all rights reserved
This month we're checking in with model and fitness competitor Allison Ethier in an interview with Ken Morgan. You can see Allison's previous interview with PT at http://ejmas.com/pt/ptart_ethier_0703.html
Ken Morgan: How about a little background information for our readers Allison?
Allison Ethier: I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada, and moved to Moncton, New Brunswick Canada at a very young age, where I did most of my growing up. I consider myself a Maritimer as I basically moved all over and lived in every major city.
I am engaged but not married as of this writing. No kids yet, but being a high school math teacher I deal with students aging from 13-17 years. That is enough for me right now. Besides fitness takes up a lot of time and I still do not understand how those with children compete. I can barely train, teach and eat properly while getting other chores done in one day.
Ken Morgan: What prompted you to begin weight training/fitness?
Allison Ethier: I became involved in fitness after graduating from University. I was involved in sports - mainly cheerleading - in high school and university and upon graduation, there was nothing to motivate me to stay in shape. I had seen a competition on TV, and knew that I could do that. I trained, dieted and developed a routine and entered a show. There was only myself and one other girl in the show, but it set the stage for future shows. There was a gentleman by the name of Gary Bartlett who was there to photograph the show and he also wrote an article for Musclemag. After competing in my first show I was able to see myself in an international magazine. Thinking it was pretty cool, I continued to compete through University (I was on my second degree), and keep my body in shape at the same time. It also enabled me to travel a lot more than I would have, had I not been involved with fitness.
I am serious about fitness in terms of wanting to do my best, but having another job and life outside of fitness keeps a balance that allows me to not get 'that' serious about it.
Ken Morgan: Do you prefer free weights or machines or do you just use what works best for you?
Allison Ethier: I tend to stick with the free weights, but sometimes I will develop a circuit training program where I go around to each exercise and do light weight and time myself for 1 minute and then change exercises without a break. I find it helps curb bordom that may arise from being in the gym so much. Also going to the gym at a different time in the day seems to help you stay motivated on those days you would rather be somewhere else. Of course I do plenty of cardio on season and off. I try to keep my weight within 5lbs of competition weight which can be tough especially since all social situations seem to involve drink or food.
Ken Morgan: What is your food intake like? Off season and on?
Allison Ethier: Food intakes is similar on season and off season. Off season I will allow myself more bread, dried fruit, fruit, the odd diet coke and of course nuts. I do not really crave sweets. I have so much chocolate in my fridge that I have basically collected from various trips or shows, it just builds up in my fridge and I cannot bring myself to eat any of it. I am just a collector. It is almost a reminder of how I used to eat, and now that I am older and have changed my lifestyle it is a motivator rather than a temptation to eat better and make better food choices.
Ken Morgan: How about changes in your workout routine, off season and on?
Allison Ethier: During on season training I increase my reps and cardio is doubled. Off season I lift a bit heavier and lower the reps. I do more cardio outdoors in the off season, as it is nicer in the summer and I want to be out in the sun. I usually compete early spring and the fall. In the fall I find it easier to lose the weight, it must be due to going back to school and my days being filled with things to prepare for the students. Summer I am much more sedentary during the day, even though I still work out regularly.
Ken Morgan: Any changes in the off season to propel you to great success next year?
Allison Ethier: Changes that I have made in the off season are very few. Since I have been competing for a while my 'equation' for success has been fine tuned every year. I have made mistakes and know this year not to do too many shows back to back. I did make this mistake this year. In the past I would feel that I had to compete, now I am more introspective and re-evaluate the situation to see if I want to compete. There is a difference.
One main goal that I want to stive toward this year is to make my routine as athletic as I can. Although the organization I compete for does not mark on the skills, I feel that as a role model for the 'fitness' lifestyle, one should incorporate difficulty into one's routine as well as entertainment value. I want to see how much I can pack into a 2 minute routine.
Re-evaluating what happened the previous year, and how I can better my performance/placing is how I determine what needs to be changed. Always wanting to be better I am willing to make the necessary changes in order to succeed.
photo by Thomas Oed
Ken Morgan: What you do is a lifestyle, how do you keep yourself motivated day in and day out? There must be times when you just want to say enough of working out, enough of exercising.
Allison Ethier: I really cannot start my day without exercise. It is similar to having a cup of coffee. I just don't feel awake until after my workout. It also gives me time to reflect on what I need to accomplish that day. This sounds really weird but I really like to sweat. Lately I have been visualizing what I would like to have my body look like and I know the work required to do that. It is the challenge of trying to make my body look its absolute best that keeps me motivated. I am always trying new things, new training techniques to try to better my physique. It is almost an experiment on a daily basis to see what works the best for my bodytype and what I really should be doing to optimize my time in the gym.
Ken Morgan: Do you participate in any other sports?
Allison Ethier: I love to go rollerblading and listen to my MP3 player but that is about it. I can appreciate other sports but working out, training with weights and doing cardio is my staple to staying in shape. The odd time I may play frisbee or shoot some hoops, but that is more to socialize with friends than to work out.
Ken Morgan: What do you do to relax? What else besides fitness interests Allison Ethier?
Allison Ethier: To relax I love to watch TV and get lost in the dramas like Law and Order, or the reality show on TLC - Life in the ER. I also like to go to bed early and read. Also going out to dinner with my sweetie and just talking about future plans for ourselves seems to relax me. Email is my biggest stresser and biggest stress reliever. I get so much, but at the same time the movement of my fingers on the keys seems to calm me down at the same time. Working out after after a hard day at work can also bring down any tension that I am feeling from being a teacher. It is not only a hobby but something that I would do anyway even if not competing. Competing was the reason I started working out but even if I did not compete I would still get up at 5:30am and go to the gym. Working out is my morning cup of coffee.
Ken Morgan: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Allison Ethier: In 5 years, I would love to be competing for the IFBB. Having 1 to 3 children is also in the future and perhaps we would be on #2 by then. I would like to get my degree in Nutrition as well, and this I hope to accomplish before 5 years.
Ken Morgan: How do you pay the bills?
Allison Ethier: I am a high school math teacher of grades 9 and 10. Fitness as a full time position would not pay the bills in this area of the world.
The two give me a nice balance of life.
Fitness is a sport where you can get completely absorbed into the fantasy and politics of competing. I like to compete as it is my time to dress up and play a character onstage. It is a different side to myself that I feel I need to express to give more of myself to other areas of my life. In fitness I am in control of nothing, including the judging.
Teaching is the conservative side of my life. I am responsible for the well-being and learning of these students. I am the leader and in control of everything that is happening within the classroom and what the students are doing at any moment.
You could compare my life to a frosted mini-wheat. The fun sugary side is fitness, whereas teaching is the plain, more serious side.
photo by John W. Atherton
Ken Morgan: Is having a life outside of sport in any way detrimental to your success within that sport? What do you say to people who sacrifice everything for their sport?
Allison Ethier: Having a life outside my
sport is the balance that I need in order to be successful at both.
Fitness is more of a fantasy life. One that can pull you in to the politics
of it, if you do not have something else to put your focus onto.
I have found teaching keeps me grounded in what is occurring in everyday
life. The students keep me humble and make me realize that there
are many more important things such as family, friends and your relationships
Sometimes to achieve a goal in sport you do have to make some sacrifices. Financially, fitness costs money. Your social life will take a hit, as you are now not able to eat and drink like you used to due to the modifications in diet. Sometimes personal relationships also take a hit due to the training and dieting. Emotionally you have to prepare those around you and make sure that they are in this with you for the time you are preparing for a show. Finding someone (a spouse) that can handle the ups and downs of this sport or any sport is tough. It takes a secure individual to be the support system of an athlete in fitness.
I am sure that many in the world of bodybuilding/fitness do have trouble maintaining solid long-term relationships while being involved in this sport. It is tough to be as selfish as you need to be for your training, and still have energy enough for your loved ones. Personal relationships may (at times) have to be sacrificed in order to succeed.
When you want to be the champion, you will do whatever it takes to be #1.
Ken Morgan: Is there any message you would give any up-and-comer to the sport that you wish you were told?
Allison Ethier: This is a judged sport
and you have to realize that sometimes when you do your best, you may not
place very well. I learned this the hard way. I had faith in the system
that the best competitor would always come out on top. Unfortunately,
with sketchy criteria for fitness, and unskilled judges out there, 'the
best' is often a reflection of someone's personal opinion on what they
think is the most 'fit'. Having a good performance that you
are proud of and know that you could not have done any better is what any
competitor should strive towards.