Alicia is a guest writer for one of the newest online magazines called Human Performance, check out her article below.
For many Australians, maintaining a fit, healthy and active lifestyle is often impeded by everyday life and seen as a chore. For World Beauty Fitness and Fashion (WBFF) Diva Pro Alicia Gowans, it’s a way of life.
Alicia is the Australian WBFF team captain, owner of Oasis Health Club, the founder and Head Coach of Ally’s Angels and Alphas and is fast becoming Australia’s most renowned fitness models. Her passion for fitness as a fully-qualified fitness specialist, with qualifications in personal training and sports nutrition, has complemented her corporate background and a Business Bachelors Degree as well as ongoing Bachelor of Exercise and Movement Science/Bachelor of Behavioral Science studies.
We had the pleasure of speaking to the down-to earth fitness fanatic, coach and elite athlete to get an idea of her meticulous preparation and routine with just under four months until her next competition. Her first and foremost point about preparation, the next one will be completely different to the last.
“No two comp preps are ever the same. Each prep is always different because each year your body changes and you need to take a different approach.” 15 weeks out from her next competition, Alicia says this period should encompass a strong focus on heavy lifting and building lean mass, combining heavy lifts with volume-based sessions.
However, Alicia’s current preparation has been hindered following a re-injuring of an injury sustained at her last World Beauty Fitness and Fashion(WBFF) World’s competition. However, you don’t reach the elite levels that the mother of two has by succumbing to injury. Injury is not a simple excuse to relax, but an opportunity to spice up the training routine and try something different. “So instead of lifting heavy I have been focusing more on volume based training utilising the occlusion or blood flow restriction training method to amplify the intensity of my sessions.” “Occlusion training is great way to still achieve significant gains in size and strength while only lifting 20-40% of your One-repetition maximum (1RM). “My favourite exercise at the moment is actually the primers that I conduct prior to every session.
“These exercises help me to ensure my engagement, biomechanics and technique are all on point even before I touch a weight. And when you really tune into your body you can feel every muscle and fibre turning on. It is really amazing to feel and a great way to connect with your body.” She has also complimented her current routine with Pilates, foam rolling, plenty of stretches, and training in high-altitude conditions. Extensive research suggests a strong correlation between high-altitude training and fat reduction. “The higher altitude forces the body to utilise more of the anabolic energy system keeping metabolism elevated for a longer period post training.”
Without an injury impairment, Alicia says there is no set-way to optimising results. A common misconception is that there is a designated workout or technique that will optimise the construction of lean muscle, fat reduction and generally optimise fitness and body image.
However, preparation is a rapidly-changing, delicate science that requires frequent adaptations. It’s all about listening to what your body desires throughout the preparation and adjusting the training accordingly. “Preparing your body for stage, and coming in on point and on time is a science! There is a lot that goes into it and it is never the same. You have to really know your body and be able to adapt to its changing needs.”
“My training is always focused on my goals, so no two training phases are ever the same. Because body building requires symmetry, shape, size and leanness it is important for me to assess my physique at regular intervals and adapt my training as I progress. “ “For me in the months leading into competition I am generally training 6 days a week, for around an hour each day. Training is predominately lifting based with minimal cardio, focusing on lean mass growth and the enhancement of my development zones from the previous competition.”
Alicia prefers the use of non-linear programming over standard progression, a technique used in foundational training, due its limitations. She states that elite athletes, or goal-driven individuals who compete at multiple competitions throughout a year can achieve far greater success adopting a non-linear program. “It’s largely because the adaptations developed in preceding phases do not get carried over into sequential phases. For instance by the time you have reached the later power phase in the progression sequence, the adaptation developed during the hypertrophy phase will have been lost.
“Depending on the training phase I will generally work my non-linear progression programs in weeklong micro-cycles that will include rep ranges and loads targeted at hypertrophy, strength and power. “For example a simple 6 day undulating program for me may focus on 2 days each of strength, power and hypertrophy, with day 7 rest or active recovery.
An undulating program simply refers to altering the repetitions in a single day’s work out, almost in a wave formation. The theory behind the process again is based upon optimising the output for an athlete’s input. Whilst you only get out what you put in, undulation is a technique that assists in maximising results. “Using a daily undulating program can often result in a further maximisation of gains, as the body is placed and continually varying stressors for growth.”
“An example is focusing initially on priming lifts which are low weight and high reps, before moving onto a heavy compound lift for high sets, low rep sand then combining this with more of a volume super-set sequence of four – five sets of 12 – 15 reps. As the preparation progresses, the importance of cardio and aerobic capacity comes into play. “As I get closer to stage, the focus of training shifts to greater volume with a steady increase in cardio, along with one or two metabolic conditioning sessions.”
And the last fortnight before a competition incorporates higher intensity, increased cardio and things really kick-off! “The last 10 days prior to a competition is what body builders describe as ‘peak week’. This is where there is a greater increase in physical output in order to deplete the body of glucose stores and continue body fat reduction, in preparation for carb loading the evening prior to stage.” “Peak week is the most exciting period in comp prep because every day you wake up and your body has changed in some way. It is like Christmas morning EVERY morning as you find new cuts or new definition that wasn’t there the day before!”
Training and optimising performance and preparation, particularly at an elite level, is never as basic as simply working out. A key ingredient to optimising performance and output is an athlete’s diet. Again however, it’s not simply about living on a diet of vegetables and protein, there is an incredible science behind an athlete’s food consumption. As an elite athlete, everything must be done by the book. “One of the biggest mistakes I see aspiring body builders making all the time is not fuelling their bodies correctly to achieve their goals. This often means either eating too little or too much, or equally as important, not eating to the right macro-nutrient splits.”
“As any elite athlete will tell you, nutrition is intricately linked to performance. You can’t expect to eat poorly while achieving optimum results. This is more important in body building than most other sports,given the package you bring to stage is the determining factor in your success. “ For bodybuilding, the diet, likewise with training methods, varies vastly depending on where the athlete sits in their competition cycle. For example, off-season training, which is built around muscle growth and development, would generally see Alicia consume between 3000-4000 calories per day.
“A standard day would normally consist of fats and protein in the morning, carbs and protein around training, and either a high fat/high protein evening meal, or something more carb based depending on my training schedule. “The challenge is always to come in on point at the right time, without losing too much muscle mass during the cutting phase.” “It is important to have as long a prep as possible so as to keep calories high for the longest possible period to avoid damaging your body or wasting muscle.
“For me coming into stage I never drop below 2000 calories, choosing a longer period to dial in, rather than a more aggressive and calorie restrictive approach. “Competition nutrition, or ‘prep’, is of course very different to off-season nutrition.” And yes, don’t worry, even the best of the best manage to sneak in a little treat every now and then. “I try to incorporate a cheat meal every so often, but I never schedule these choosing instead to listen to my body and what it needs.
However, it’s a fine line to walk when searching for a clean treat. “My idea of a cheat meal is different to most people! I particularly love Cajun crusted salmon with chilli beans, or lemon chicken with homemade sweet potato wedges and asparagus…YUM! I will always go for a clean option rather than something ‘dirty’. For any budding bodybuilders who have been inspired by Alicia’s incredible rise to the pinnacle of her sport, or her lifestyle in her eyes, the mother of two says suggests seeking professional help to filter the incredible catalogue of information is the best approach.
“Perhaps the most challenging thing when you are an aspiring body builder is that with the amount of information available out there, it can be difficult to discern what is useful knowledge, and what is just junk. This can lead to misconceptions and loads of mistakes when you are starting out.” “I always suggest any one aspiring to compete in body building or just looking to build a toned physique seek out a coach that can provide good quality guidance, especially in the initial stages of development.”
“A good coach can make the world of difference and help you lay the correct nutritional foundations and understanding. Most coaches, like myself, will guide you through both nutrition and training and this can be invaluable when you are first starting out.” “The saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is very true in body building, so having someone to step you through the process can be a very rewarding experience.”