We talked with Ali Burkhardt in February, 2020.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi there! My name is Ali Burkhardt. I am a 27-year-old Chicago transplant (originally from small town Indiana.) I moved here about five years ago and have been working as a certified personal trainer. I got my start in a big corporate box gym where I was promoted to group fitness manager.
However, I wanted to branch off on my own in order to truly focus on a small handful of clients rather than the sales and marketing aspect of managing a franchise gym.
My boyfriend Rick, who is a diet and bodybuilding coach, and I team up for most of our clients. He does their diet and I train. It’s a pretty dreamy set up if you ask me! ☺
I got my own personal start in the sport of bodybuilding a little over three years ago. Even though I was working as a trainer for two years prior, I originally had zero interest stepping on stage or competing.
The gym has always been a saving grace for me after struggling with severe anorexia for five years in my late teens. So I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I would begin to obsess over food and unhealthy body image again.
However, after some careful consideration I decided to challenge myself, mind and body, and begin training for my first show. I had already had the mature muscle foundation so I trained for the figure category and got 2nd place in my first show!
That was the beginning of it all, as I am entering my third show, (first two were INBA/PNBA, this third one will be NPC) this April. Except this time I will be competing in the new beautiful Wellness category.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
My training has always been sort of intense. But that’s what I love the most – I love the challenge of pushing your mind and body to its limit each day.
Hitting sets and reps until failure, until I couldn’t possibly do any more. However, rest and recovery is just as important as hard work. Never forget that! When you train you’re continuously ripping your muscle fibers so the rest in recovery is vital in order for them to repair and be ready to be ripped up again the next day.
Since prepping for the new wellness category, my training has changed a bit to cater to and focus on my weaknesses and to build up any areas that need size or condition.
My back and shoulders are overly developed so I spend a lot less attention on my upper body as of late. This means I’m hitting legs harder and heavier than ever.
My typical week right now, seven weeks out, is as follows:
- 45 minutes of morning cardio and 15 minutes of abs six days a week.
- Monday : Heavy hamstring and glutes
- Tuesday : Quads and calves
- Wednesday : Upper body – back and shoulders with a bigger focus on shoulders
- Thursday : High rep hamstring and glutes
- Friday : Full legs
- Saturday – Conditioning workout
- Sunday : Rest day
- 10-minute post workout cardio on stairs – slow and digging my heels in in order to hit glutes
I’m also so very lucky to live with a block of Quads Gym, one of the most famous gyms in the country, and train there.
The gym is hardcore, beautiful, full of old school and new school machines alike, and has pictures all over the walls of famous bodybuilders and athletes who have made an appearance there. As well as its members who compete!
Basically, there’s inspiration everywhere. I am so very grateful to be able to train here and be in such a motivating environment for this incredibly intense prep!
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
For both myself and my clients alike, I think the beginning of any training program, diet program, or competition prep is that absolute hardest.
Conditioning your mind and body to a new strict regimen, reorganizing your life in order to make the time for it as a priority, and finding (and keeping up) the motivation to do so, is a huge challenge. But with anything, if you TRULY want something, nothing will stand in your way. If I REALLY want a French vanilla coffee, I’ll make sure to get it.
Goals and aspirations work the same way. I always tell my clients, if you can be 100% for one month, just 30 days, your body adjusts, your mind adjusts, and it becomes more natural and less challenging. But you have to be 100. No small cheats. No workouts skipped. 30 days to set yourself up to succeed.
For my own physical physique growth, and my clients as well, constantly challenging your body and time under tension are my two biggest tips. Challenge your body by never letting an exercise feel easy. If it feels easy, up the weight, slow down the reps, or increase the number of steps.
Heck, make it a drop set or a super set, change your foot position on leg workouts, do half reps at the end of each set of your regular reps… whatever it takes to push your muscles.
Secondly, time under tension, this is important for increasing muscle in order to not give your muscle a break. Each slow and steady rep, while not breaking between the next rep, allows your muscle to be torn and worked at it’s best!
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I have big plans for my future, both personally and in this sport. I would love to compete this 2020 season and next season to ideally become nationally qualified and earn my pro card.
I then, would like to ease back on competing myself and instead focus on building our training business, continue to educate myself as this industry is ever-evolving, work on personal life goals, and eventually start a family.
I wouldn’t want to change much of my fitness journey, if I had the chance, because each trial and failure was a learning lesson to be better. Finding out what doesn’t work helps you to figure out what does!
However, I do wish I would have picked a more knowledgeable coach for my first show. Although I did well, it was a miserable prep full of constant hunger, way too much cardio, and a cookie cutter plan. A knowledgeable, caring and passionate coach is invaluable.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
My best advice to avoid injuries? Form, form, form. Invest in a good trainer/coach/educator that can teach your proper form. When you know how to do each exercise correctly, the chance of injury goes down exponentially, not to mention your muscles are being utilized and worked in the best possible way.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, test and recover is vital in order to prevent injury. Eight hours of sleep every day and at least one full rest day or off day is my recommendation in order to be at your best.
Lastly, taking your vitamins daily in order to keep your body running and operating optimally. A multivitamin, fish oil, 10,000 iu D3, zinc, and 500g of vitamin C daily as a minimum is a great start.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I truly believe two things about nutrition: First, food should be enjoyed, second, having a healthy relationship with food should always be a priority.
Personally, I choose to track my macros all year long. However, during off-season I simply set a minimum number of protein that I need to take in daily while being relatively flexible with my carbs and fats. I do this so that I can simply enjoy life and not be on a strict diet.
During prep, I weigh and track everything per my meal plan set up for me by my coach. This season, we have utilized carb cycling – two or three low carb/high protein days, and one high carb/low protein day – while keeping my fats even.
This prep itself has been incredibly breezy. I get to enjoy good tasty food and not struggle with hunger. My only small cravings have been for chocolate because… duh, it’s chocolate! I have the biggest sweet tooth so that’s the only thing I occasionally crave on prep. To combat that I take a chromium supplement which seems to really help!
I personally also choose not to go out a whole lot during prep as to not feel tempted or feel sad that I’m missing out. I am able to go and enjoy myself, for sure, I just prefer to keep my head completely in the game – I’ve got goals to accomplish! The outings won’t stop, they’ll continue when prep is over.
My only real vice is my morning coffee. I allow myself to have a cup or two every single morning – it’s a great little amount of caffeine to kickstart my day, it’s a diuretic and helps you to go the bathroom, and it tastes soooo gosh darn good! Especially the packaged Starbucks dark chocolate mocha.
I personally don’t feel the need for alcohol anymore. There was a time where I would indulge a tiny bit on weekends to let loose and have fun with girlfriends.
But for the past year or so, I haven’t felt the need or desire for several reasons: 1.) It doesn’t align with my goals – meaning I can’t drink on prep because it’s extra carbs and chemicals, 2.) I no longer want to waste my money on something as trivial as alcohol – I can save $50 a weekend that I would’ve spent on drinks and use it towards a vacation or a concert or something of value, and 3.) I’m so happy and content with myself and my sport and living healthy that I no longer need alcohol to “let loose” or have a good time.
So that being said, when going out with friends, saying no to alcohol is really a non-issue for me. As for food, it’s definitely a lot harder, BUT when your goals are so strong and your determined to slay them, it’s so much easier to say no to temptation. Food isn’t going anywhere. It will be there as soon as my 12-week (or however long) prep is up.
Not to mention, if you have an amazing coach with an amazing food plan, you don’t even crave cheat food as you used to!
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
Four things come to mind when I think about my own personal inspirations. First and foremost, my own journey from struggling with anorexia and getting down to 76 lbs to competing successfully as a bodybuilding athlete is motivation in and of itself. If I was able to do that, I can do anything.
Secondly, my mother inspires me to give this sport my all. She laid the foundation for my idea of work ethic, working three jobs to support me growing up.
Thirdly, my boyfriend Rick and the beautiful physique he’s built and his fire and passion for learning the sport inside and out.
And lastly, successful women in the sport like Karen Brandao from Brazil and Sidney Gillian. Seeing these women’s physiques push me every day because I can see what’s possible.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
The best advice I have for anyone interested in this sport would be, be patient. Quality muscle building and conditioning take time. Of course, there are supplements to help push you along, but the hard work it takes to build the muscle foundation has no time stamp. Learn good form, be relentless with your daily training, and enjoy life along the way.
The most common question, and most common misconception, I get from women is this, “Will lifting weights make me bulky/manly?”
Here’s the simple answer:
No. Putting on muscle is HARD and takes TIME. Women don’t have as much testosterone in their bodies as men so they consequently have to lift very heavy and for a long period of time to put on the slightest bit of quality muscle.
Lifting weights simply helps to tighten and “tone” you body as well as create beautiful curves. Most importantly, lifting weights and resistance training increases your metabolism and burns more fat!
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
My passion for this industry, this sport, helping others, and overall health and wellness runs so very deep. Because of that, I choose to take on just eight to 10 in-person training clients, and four online clients at a time. This way I can make sure that each client receives my undivided attention and is sure to reach their goals.
I am picky about who I take on simply because I get invested into my clients ability to progress. If you don’t truly want it, you won’t succeed. Regardless of all the tools I provide you with.
You have to want it for yourself just as much as I want it for you and have the willingness to work HARD. With that, people also seem to want quick fixes and fast results.
Healthy weight loss and healthy muscle building take time, hard work, and dedication to reach the goal. Be willing to invest your time in yourself and in your health. I currently have four in-person training spots open and one online spot.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
To keep up with me, my shows, and for any questions, you can follow me on Instagram @missalijean or email me at [email protected]
I also will be vlogging my second prep this year and you can watch it all unfold on my YouTube channel @missalijean.