Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Amanda Alger Interview
Amanda Alger competed for the first time at the 2010 NPC New England's and took 2nd, qualifying for Nationals. Pretty good for a debut show. Reading what Amanda has to say you clearly see her love for training, the sport, and most of all, improving. At 21 years old, there is definitely time to improve, and she surely will, and keep getting better. As she says in this interview, she isn't going anywhere. Keep on eye on Amanda Alger
Q: First, Amanda, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: Not a problem, I'm glad to have the opportunity to do this!
Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: I'm 21 years old, I'm from Mansfield, Connecticut right near the University of Connecticut. I actually go to UConn studying Nutritional Sciences and Sports Nutrition. My parents are divorced and I have one sister. Ive lived in Connecticut my whole life and its hard to see myself ever leaving here, but I'm sure the day will come where I will want to branch out further. I graduated from E O Smith High School in Storrs.
Q: Before the gym were you an especially athletic person? Play any sports or anything?
A: Ive always been a very athletic person. No matter what or where I am, I have to be active. Growing up, I played soccer and then once I got to high school, I started to run in track and cross country. By my junior year of high school, I was an all state runner. I really loved running for a number of reasons; however, I really found my true passion, bodybuilding, after I graduated high school. I really haven't run much long distance since.
Q: What initially led you into the gym?
A: I started getting involved in the gym scene during college when I started working at a local gym. For a long time, I was a "cardio queen" and never even picked up a weight, despite the muscular physique I already had. The only reason I ever hit the weight floor at all was to work on my abs and that was it. One day while I was doing my ab routine, one of the trainers at the gym, who was going to be my future boyfriend and later on my ex, asked me why I never lifted weights and we got started talking and one thing lead to another and he started training me to lift like a bodybuilder. He helped me with my lifting, dieting, supplements, etc and it wasn't long till I was obsessed with the sport.
Q: Was training something you picked up fairly easy? How long before you started to see results?
A: I did pick up training very easily actually. I really love the feeling of having a pump and being able to lift more than most men. I spent all day in the gym whether I was there working or working out. As soon as Id finish one workout, Id look forward to the next. I couldn't get enough of it. I really loved training, especially my legs. I started to see results immediately. Being that I was only 20 when I started lifting, I wasn't sure what type of results I would see, but as soon as I started, I began to lose bodyfat and gain lean muscle mass. I couldn't stop. I loved what I was seeing.
Q: What made you decide to compete for the first time?
A: Well, the same guy who got me into bodybuilding, was also the same one who got me to compete... but it isn't such a happy story. The relationship wasn't working out too well for a lot of reasons so he ended up leaving me. I was very distraught and upset and really needed an outlet for my emotions. My close friend Marc-Antoine Andrade, a national level competitor, really pushed me to do a show and helped me out every step of the way. Not only as an amazing friend but a very knowledgeable, skilled lifting partner. My friend Andrew Whitehill was a huge part of it too- he was going to be competing around the same time I had planned too so his support was huge to me as well.
Q: Was competing something your family and friends supported at the time?
A: Competing was a very controversial subject in my life. I knew 100% that it was something that I wanted to do; however, my family was less than supportive and couldn't understand why I was doing this to myself. To this day, my mother and my father hope that I do not compete again. During contest prep, I was very cranky and moody due to the restrictions in diet. I was doing cardio for up to 3 hours a day and lifting for at least an hour a day.. I was gone in the morning from 6 am to 10 pm at night. Going to school and personal training and then my own training, left very few minutes in the day for me to just relax, so needless to say, when I got home at the end of the night, the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and be friendly. So my family would rather not see me compete again.. as for my friends, they've all be supportive and beyond encouraging for me to compete. A lot of my friends either compete already or are looking forward to doing their first show, so they all have an appreciation for what I do and like to see me up on stage.
Q: Was competing what you expected? Did anything surprise you about?
A: There was so much more to competing than I could ever have expected. I really had no clue what I was getting myself into and in wasn't until I was onstage doing my routine at the night show that I really knew what I was doing. The feeling of being on stage was nothing that I had expected- it was the best feeling Ive ever had. The dieting, cardio and training leading up to the show was also not what I had expected. I didn't think it was going to be half as hard as it was. Initially, it wasn't bad at all and I really liked it but as I got closer to the show and the cardio went up and the carbs and fats went away, I really struggled. There were days that I would get in my car to go to the gym and I would cry the whole way there and I would get there, look at the weights and just feel so helpless and cry even more. When your body is deprived of carbs and fats, your serotonin levels (the "feel good" hormone) are very low, so needless to say, it makes for one very unhappy person. I really never saw this coming or expected it. So when it happened, I isolated myself a lot and just kept to myself... I didn't want to be around anyone. I thought I would never compete again because this feeling was the worst ever and I never wanted to subject myself to it again. I can remember being at one photo shoot trying to lift a 35 pound weight and I couldn't hold it on my shoulder for more than 15 seconds... it was truly awful. However, after being on stage for just 90 seconds, being the leanest, driest, and most cut I had ever been my whole life, I knew it wasn't going to be long before I got back up again. And to this day, I cant wait to compete again.
Q: Can you share your contest history.
A" I competed for the first time October 23rd, 2010 at the NPC New England's in Boston. I placed 2nd, which qualified me for Nationals. I competed at lightweight, which was where I wanted to be, I came in at 123 lbs. I plan on competing again either this summer or fall. I'm going to wait to compete at the national level until 2012 or even later because I'm only 21 years old now, and I really don't think Ill be ready to compete against the ladies at the national level until I get a little bit more muscle maturity.
Q: As far as body parts, what do you feel is your best one?
A: My abs would have to be my most developed and prominent muscle group- because they are the ones that stick out most and what people see first. But strength wise, my legs are my best muscle group. I can beat up my legs most out of any muscle group and really load up the weight.
Q: Do you have a part you most like to train or favorite exercise?
A: I love training legs. Like i said, I can really load up the weight with them and push very heavy. My favorite exercise is most definitely squats. I know most people dread squats but for whatever reason I love them. I love being able to go up in weight and surpassing the people I'm lifting with at times. I did 345 pounds for 6 reps a few weeks into my off season and the feeling after lifting that much weight was indescribable. Its amazing to be able to do something that not a lot of men can even attempt to do.
Q: What is your normal training routine and diet like, and how do you alter it for contest prep?
A: During offseason, my training routine includes a lot more reps and sets than I would do in contest prep. I can do a lot more exercises and lift for longer because my carb and fat intake is higher than contest prep. During contest prep I had about 200 grams of protein a day, 60 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of fat. On the offseason, I have about 200 grams of protein a day, 115 carbs a day, and 30 grams of fat. I like to stay somewhat lean year round so I don't have to diet down much for my next contest. I usually do legs on Monday, chest on Tuesday, back on Wednesday, arms on Thursday and shoulders Friday. I hit abs, calves, traps and forearms at least twice a week or more.
Q: When someone sees your physique or hears you compete for the first time, what is the most common reaction? More positive or negative?
A: I get very positive reactions when people hear Ive competed. Most people are very fascinated by what I do as there really aren't that many female bodybuilders out there. Also, because I am so young and have competed already, people are really amazed by how and what Ive done. I remember during contest prep in the summer and going to the beach, I was really surprised by the amount of people who came up to me to talk about my body. It was really awesome talking to so many people at first but eventually it got to be a bit much, it was a lot of attention and it made dating hard. Being in that kind of shape and the amount of attention coming in, makes it so hard to date.
Q: When they see it that first time, what is the one question or comment you are most sick of hearing?
A: There are 2 questions that really get under my skin: "Can I touch your muscle?" and "Do you take steroids?". I don't personally like being touched by strangers, as is true with most people. It never made sense to me why people thought that would be acceptable and I'm not a rude person so usually I would just nod my head and smile but it was always a little awkward. I just had to keep in mind, "I do what a lot of people cant do, this isn't normal". I hated always being stared at and looked at every where I go. And the whole steroids question, that's the one that gets under my skin big time. When ever someone sees someone who looks muscular, the first question is always about steroids. My rebuttal for this is, I don't ask overweight people if they eat McDonald's every day. This seems harsh but its asking the same thing. Just because someone might be overweight, doesn't mean they eat crap all the time, it could be a number of reasons. the same goes for people who are in good shape, or who compete, or who body build, doesn't mean they use steroids.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about women who train and compete or the one thing you wish people understood?
A: I wish people actually respected and recognized female body building more. As a female body builder, we defy genetics more than anyone knows. We do things that 99% of the population cant or wont do. Females are meant to have bodyfat in order to carry babies, well, as a female body builder, we are trying to lose as much fat as possible to show off our muscles. We have an extra layer of fat, we have periods, and a lot of hormones that prevent this from happening. We have to work so hard and a lot of people don't get or understand the amount of work that goes into this sport. People seem to think that its just as easy for women as it is for men... its not at all.
Q: What is the best and worst part of competing?
A: The best part of competing is actually the moment when you get comfortable being on stage. I remember being behind stage before pre-judging and I couldn't even focus on just one thing I was so nervous. I remember doing a few pump-up exercises before going on stage, then walking across stage into my place... this was surreal. Then front relaxed pose, quarter turn and so on. By the time I reached my front relaxed pose again, I was comfortable. I was in my element and couldn't have been happier. It just felt right. After all the hours of posing practice, days worth of cardio, and dieting to the extreme.. I remember thinking "this is what I endured that for". The feeling of being on stage was the best part of it all. The worst part of competing would have to be the last 2 weeks before the show. This period of time was so awful for me... the dieting primarily consisted of chicken and asparagus... I really grew to hate asparagus to the point that I couldn't eat it anymore. The stomach pains were awful, my mood was even worse and to top it off, I had 3 hours of cardio a day to do. I really wasn't enjoying life at this point. The day before my competition, i met with my posing coach Luis Santiago, to go over poses and my routine for the final time, and i made it through about 15 minutes and ended up crying and falling to my knees. I was so ready to give up and call it quits that day because I was just so miserable, but I'm so glad he talked me down and I ended up competing. It was all worth it though getting on stage.
Q: Do you have any favorite competitors or any you admire?
A: This question always gets me. Ive usually heard it phrased as "If you could be any female body builder who would you be?" and my response never changes... I just want to be the best me I can be. I don't want to be anybody else. I have a lot of respect for all bodybuilders male and females. We all do things that very few people would ever elect to do on their own. I would have to say my favorite bodybuilder, who I had a great conversation with at the Connecticut Europa, is Kai Greene. For so many reasons, I have a lot of respect for him and his philosophies. The conversation I had with him really gave me a lot of insight as to what this sport was about and how he personally viewed the hardships of the sport. I'm also a huge fan of Arnold; he has such a unique outlook on bodybuilding and tells it exactly how it is, I really respect him for that.
Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: I'm such a sweet tooth person, but I know sugar is one of the worst things for me so I would say my favorite cheat food is peanut butter. I remember the day my all natural peanut butter got taken from me during contest prep and it was like the worst day ever. haha. The one tablespoon of peanut butter I was allowed to have each day was perfect and was almost like a treat.
Q: If another woman told you she wanted to start training, what is the one piece of advice you would most want to give her?
A: I would tell her to always believe in her dreams and goals no matter what happens. I cant tell you how many times people said I would never be able to do this or I would give up on it. I had a few unfortunate things take place during competition prep that really could have held me back but I never let it get me as down as I could have been. I never gave up on myself or the dreams I had of making it. The first thing I said after I got off stage when they announced I was 2nd place was "I never gave up, I really did it". Those words still hold true and I have never forgotten that. I would tell any woman who feels discouraged or that she cant do whatever it is she sets her mind to that she CAN! Even with the clients I train at my job, I never allow them to say "can't".. its worse than a swear word in my vocabulary. I tell them that they can say "Not today, but I will do this!". I wish women in general had more confidence in all the things we can do instead of holding back.
Q: Do you think it is becoming more common to see women in the gym training as hard as men?
A: Unfortunately, I regret to say, no. I wish I saw half as many women in the gym as I see men. From a personal training standpoint, I can tell you, a lot of women fear the weight floor. Ive taken clients (I mainly only train women) out on the weight floor and I see the "Are you really taking me to this awful, scary place?" face. Once these women start lifting and disregard everything else, they are always surprised at what they can do and tap into their muscles, they realize how powerful they are and the weight floor isn't as bad as they think. I was once of these women and I can say now, I feel the most comfortable on the weight floor than anywhere else.
Q: Outside of training, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: Weight lifting is my main hobby, obviously; however, I do have many other things I like to do. I enjoy Mauy Thai very much, which complements bodybuilding in some respects. Ill do anything physical- hiking, biking, dancing... if its like exercise, I'm in! I enjoy relaxing and watching movies once in awhile but I really love being active. Traveling is one thing I like to do that I don't do enough of. As any woman would agree, shopping is also a favorite.
Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Amanda Alger.
A: I like to sleep in sometimes, as sleep is very important when it comes to training and growing muscle. When I wake up I eat my eggs an oatmeal and head to the gym and get my cardio in. I usually lift in the afternoon, and meanwhile eating every 2 to 3 hours. I take my clients at night and train then. My life is very centered around working out and being in the gym. Weekends are usually resting days for me when I can kind of relax and get my meal prep out of the way and see my friends.
Q: Describe Amanda Alger in five words.
A: Motivated, Determined, Courageous, Independent and Brave
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I use to suffer eating disorders. It wasn't until this past year that it wasn't an issue for me. Competing and being on a regimented diet is actually what "cured" me from it all. I battled it for 7 years and always suffered poor self-esteem. Getting in the best shape of my life and learning about my body really helped me to get past whatever was wrong with me before. After my boyfriend left me, I stayed single and really focused all my energy on my passion, i really got to know myself and what I was capable of doing. I now know I can do ANYTHING I set my mind too. I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe in myself and I am aware of the capacities I have and I'm not afraid to tap into my potential.
Q: Any set plans for the near future as far as competing or anything else?
A: I'm currently in the process of deciding when to compete again. I had thought about taking the year off and competing again at the NPC New England's next October but Im starting to get the itch to compete again and it has crossed my mind to find a show to compete in this spring or early summer. I want to get more muscle maturity before I step onto the national stage and id like a little more exposure to the competing scene before I get up there.
Q: Anything you want to take this opportunity to plug or promote?
A: As I previously mentioned, I am a nationally certified personal trainer and I'm always looking to expand myself and take on more clients whether it be online training/coaching or any locals who would be interested in working with me. My website is currently in the works and I'm hoping to launch that this winter or early spring.
Id also like to thank anyone and everyone who has helped me reach the point I'm at now. I have never had such an amazing group of friends and supporters in all my life and I plan to never let anyone down! i am so thankful for all that I have been blessed with this past year!
Q: Are you looking for sponsors. If so how can they reach you and what are they getting in Amanda Alger the athlete and competitor?
A: I would absolutely love to have a sponsor! I can most easily be reached by email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Amanda , again, I thank you for taking the time to do this. Any last words before you go?
A: Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity! I really appreciate it and I look forward to hearing from you again in the future- Im not going anywhere!