Posted 17 May 2012 by Interview:

Erin Simmons

What sparked your interest in training?

I have always played sports. Back in middle and high school, I started running track and that involved a lot of offseason time. So I started spending a lot of time in the weight room and really challenging myself to lift more all the time. I continued training while running track at Florida State University. Once I converted to a thrower, I was in the weight room 3 to 4 times a week. After college, I’ve kept lifting, training, and competing, though now I work out my competitive streak in triathlons and road races.

How do you stay motivated?

I have that competitive side to me so I am able to stay motivated by continuing to challenge myself. I keep track of past lifting stats so that I can try to improve them; I add another set to my circuit training once I get too comfortable with where I am; I have gone from sprint triathlons to Olympic distance and now have my sights set on a Half Ironman. I like to see how far I can push myself, so just that competition I have with myself can really keep me going. If I’m in the middle of a race or workout and just want to stop, I just picture myself and how I’m going to feel after I succeed versus how I would feel if I quit. That’s a huge motivator right there.

What types of cardio have worked best for you?

That really depends on what I’m training for. If I’m really trying to build strength and improve my lifts, then my cardio is short runs, sprints, and circuit training. If I’m triathlon training, then of course my cardio is swimming, biking, running, and circuit training. If I’m injured, my fall back is swimming or aqua jogging/sprinting. My favorite of all time, though, which is great for both cardio and strength, is doing stadiums. We used to have some pretty intense stadium workouts at FSU, but now I try to find stairs or high schools that I can use to get a similar movement.

Do you have a favourite healthy recipe?

My go-to meal is chicken with rice and veggies. I cut the chicken breast into bite sized pieces and sautee it in balsamic vinegar and olive oil (plus whatever spices I feel like at the time). Balsamic vinegar is really great because it adds so much flavor without fat or calories. Then I steam some veggies and cook some brown rice and I have a tasty, healthy, and quick dinner.

What does your diet consist of?

Well, it can vary quite a bit, but I usually start my day off with either cereal with fruit or a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter and my Orgain protein shake. Then a couple hours later I’ll make organic oatmeal or eat a Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts. I usually have one more small snack like a granola bar or piece of fruit before lunch. Lunch can be anything from a buffalo dog to veggie lasagna to a chicken salad. Most of the time it’s leftovers from the night before! But I also love the Amy’s line of organic foods, and since they’re frozen meals they are very convenient to take to work. They are all vegetarian, but since I eat meat for dinner nearly every night I don’t worry too much about not getting that protein at lunchtime. In the afternoons I’ll eat trail mix or an apple with cheese and then my protein shake before and after my workout. For dinner I always try to go for a good mix of carbs, veggies, and proteins.
You can find a sample diet and some of my meals on my blog:

How do you deal with cravings for junk foods,
sweets and salty food?

I don’t have much of a craving for junk food or salty food, but I have the world’s most awful sweet tooth. For any cravings, though, I just try to find a healthier alternative. This is really my big thing and why I don’t think there’s any excuse to not eat healthy: there is a healthy substitute for pretty much any bad food. For instance, instead of a regular hot dog or hamburger, both of which can be very high in fats and sodium, I get buffalo dogs and free range ground buffalo at the store instead. My new favorite snack foods are RiceWorks Sweet Chili chips and sweet potato chips. Both can substitute for a salty chip craving. And I satisfy my sweet tooth with frozen yogurt, fruit, or trail mix “cookies”. And of course, anything is ok in moderation. So I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have a scoop of ice cream or slice of cake every once in a while! Just not every day.

What are your top 3 favourite exercises?

I would have to say ring pull-ups, single leg squats, and hanging sit-ups. I like ring pull-ups because your hands are able to move and you can get a couple different muscle groups. They also allow you to work up to muscle ups a bit easier. Single leg squats are a great test of balance and strength, making sure that one side doesn’t get overbuilt. And upside down hanging sit-ups (on monkey bars or decline bench) are able to work the lower abs in a very unique way that really can’t be mimicked by any other ab exercise.

Do you listen to music whilst you train?

Absolutely! I’ve been in an 80’s rock mode lately, so a lot of AC/DC, Journey, Queen, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard. But then sometimes I end up putting on my Kesha or Eminem Pandora station, too, haha. It just depends on my mood really.

What is your training routine like?

This really depends on if I’m training for a race or if I’m in my “off-season” weightlifting mode. If I’m not getting ready for a race, I usually do some sort of cardio 6-7 days a week, which can be biking, running, or swimming for me. Then 3 days a week I lift, one day upper body, one day lower body, and one day upper and lower mixed with a lot of abs. For upper and lower body days, I’ll superset 2-3 exercises at a time with abs in between on a 10-8-6 scheme from light to heavy weight. On my 3rd lifting day, I stick to free weights (like squats, cleans, snatch, and push press) and either stick abs in between those or finish with an intense ab circuit (10-15 exercises for 10-20 reps each). You can see some of my sample workouts on my blog:

Do you set short and long term goals?

Absolutely. Goal setting is extremely important regardless of whether that’s in a sport, career field, or life in general. My overarching goal is to continue to live a better and healthier lifestyle that allows me to keep racing, competing, and lifting for years to come. A long-term goal of mine is to complete an Ironman. Some of my short-term goals include a half Ironman this fall, perhaps a marathon in the fall as well, and completing the Spartan Beast race in December. Some of my short term lifting goals are a bit up in the air right now, as I am about to have to have knee surgery at the end of this month. But that will give me time to work on some upper body goals. I’d like to get my bicep curls up to 40 lbs each arm for 4-6 reps and my bench max above 135. I’ve hit a plateau on bench lately and I’d like to break it. Obviously, after rehab my lower body goal will be to get back to my normal lifts as quick as possible!

What are you most proud of?

I’d have to say I’m most proud of the way that I have been able to transform myself from a sprinter to these endurance events. I used to hate running or biking any kind of distance beyond the sprints that I was comfortable with. I’ve realized that the mental block that I was a sprinter and couldn’t run distance was largely something that I had constructed in my own head. The fact that I’ve been able to push through that and take up a whole new sport is something that I’m really proud of. If you had told me even a year ago that I would have run a half marathon or even a 10K, I would probably have laughed and called you crazy. But now I’m looking forward to a half Ironman. It’s really made me realize that all of our hurdles are really only in our head; it just takes dedication to overcome them.

Have you had any obstacles or setbacks towards achieving your goal physique?

With all the activities that I like to do, my setbacks have always been injuries. I am pretty good about working around them and trying to find ways to work out that don’t involve whatever part of me is hurt. Ultimately, however, it takes a lot of hard work and patience to get back to peak performance without reinjuring yourself. Time constraints have also been an obstacle in the past, especially when I was finishing my master’s thesis. Sometimes you just have to weigh what’s more important and work extra hard at the other things when you get the chance.

How do you measure your progress, scale,
mirror, performance?

All of the above! If I am not working out enough, I actually lose a lot of weight. So the scale actually helps me to judge how much muscle I’m putting on. The mirror is helpful to see changes as you progress, but since you look at yourself every day it’s sometimes subjective. Performance, however, is not. Tracking maxes and weight lifted for sets as well as performances in races is the real mark of progress for me.

Who are your favorite, athletes or fitness models?

I really admire Dara Torres. To have continued to not only train but to compete at the level that she has for as many years as she has really says something about her character and dedication to herself and to her sport. That is definitely something that I would like to strive for over my lifetime.

What supplements would you use/recommend if any?

I only use protein supplements because I’m very wary of any other performance enhancing supplements. Since they don’t have to go through any FDA testing and so many have been shown to be detrimental to users’ health, I just stick to protein. I love my Orgain shakes in the morning, because it gives me a protein boost early in the day as well as 10 servings of fruits and veggies, vitamins and minerals, and has zero saturated fats. Plus, it’s organic. I have noticed such a difference in my energy levels since I started using it in the mornings, it is amazing! Before and after workouts, however, I use Collegiate Muscle Milk. We used this at FSU and I had really good results with it, plus it has less saturated fat than regular Muscle Milk and adheres to guidelines for carb/protein balance set forth by the NCAA. I’ll make up a shake and drink half before a workout and half afterwards. Sometimes I’ll make one right before bed as well.

What 3 tips would you give to any woman wanting to get a feminine, CutandJacked physique like yours?

  1. First of all, know that it takes work! You can’t expect it to come easy, or else everyone would look that way. Stay focused, determined and make achievable goals for yourself.
  2. Secondly, find things to do that you really do like. Not all of your workouts are going to be fun, but finding enjoyable activities that also work to enhance your fitness is an absolute must. For me, I regularly incorporate yoga and long walks with my dog into my routine. Both of these really help to improve both my physical and mental health.
  3. Finally, don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t look like. You absolutely must do it for yourself and yourself only! If you are doing it for any other reason or person, you will end up disappointed. I get comments on my pictures all the time that I am too big here, too small there, too skinny, too muscular. If I had not chosen this lifestyle for myself and instead based it on others, I would be sorely confused and unfulfilled. But my goals are a part of me and based off of my wants and needs, no one else’s. I think this is very important, especially for women who often base what they want to look like off of an airbrushed, photoshopped model in magazines. Be yourself, just continue to make yourself better!

Erin Simmons

Stats - Born: 1988, Weight: 135, Height: 5’7”




Twitter: @ErinSimmonsFit



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