👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Allison Fahrenbach, I’m a natural pro figure athlete from Lancaster, PA where I live with my husband and four dogs.
I am a full time health and nutrition coach, and have owned my own company, Alli-Fitness Systems LLC since 2007. I have been an athlete my whole life, and was a collegiate cross country runner.
I have been strength training consistently for 17 years, since I was 18, and have been competing in bodybuilding competitions almost equally as long.
I competed in the NPC for eight years before my passion for natural bodybuilding compelled me to switch to competing in drug tested federations.
In 2015, I did my first drug tested competition, and earned my pro figure card that same year. I most recently competed in my 30th bodybuilding competition, the PA Natural Pro/Am where I placed second in pro figure.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
I approach each and every training session with intensity and purpose. I think many individuals are afraid to work hard – REALLY hard – in their training. But I deeply believe that even a poorly designed training plan can yield incredible results if you are mentally able to push yourself hard and tolerate discomfort in training.
In general, my training has a foundation on compound movements using barbells and dumbbells, and on the Olympic lifts. I also am a weightlifter so my training always incorporates Olympic lifting such as the snatch, clean and jerk, and their accessory exercises. I also include isolation work in each session as well, which helps induce sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
Typically, I begin my training session (after warming up) with compound movements. I typically use heavier weight, lower reps for these.
One reason I emphasize strength early in the workout is because of what’s known as “potentiation”. This term refers to what happens when you have the muscle produce a maximal effort, which increases the nervous systems capacity to engage muscle fibers during any subsequent strength work.
In other words, any hypertrophy work you do AFTER heavier strength work becomes more effective because you opened up with heavy weights. I then move on to more isolation work, usually higher reps.
My split varies. Right now I’m doing the following:
- MONDAY: Back/Biceps/ some high rep glute work
- TUESDAY: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
- WEDS: Snatch/Quads/Calves
- THURSDAY: Sprints, also usually some yoga
- FRIDAY: Back/Traps/Shoulders/Arms
- SATURDAY: Clean or Clean & Jerk/ Hamstrings & Glutes
- SUNDAY: Sprints, Yoga
I do not do much traditional “cardio” in the sense that I log endless hours on an elliptical. I walk a lot. I have four dogs and usually walk them for about 40-60 minutes a day.
In addition to that, I usually do some fasted incline walking when I get up in the morning. I read some devotionals, answer some client emails, and prepare mentally for the day.
It also helps me physiologically as I believe fasted low intensity aerobic work helps keep insulin sensitivity high. Aside from that, I am currently doing sprints twice a week, either running, on the airdyne, or the rower usually.
Occasionally I throw in a high rep “finisher” at the end of my workouts. This is, of course, all subject to change. Training is never something that is set in stone.
My session length varies but typically from warm up until the end it takes me about one hour and 45 minutes to two hours.
I train alone, in my own gym. I have a private facility my husband and I built right on our property where I also work with a small personal training clientele.
I always keep a training log and have for decades. I have logs going back to my early twenties, and having that kind of record is data that’s irreplaceable to me. It helps me see how far I’ve progressed and allows me to look back over my training, and see what has worked and what has not.
I take time to myself, before every session to sit down, and write out my workout in my training log, and mentally prepare for the coming session.
I think about what I want to achieve from the session, how much I want to lift, or how I plan to increase my weights, and make any last minute tweaks or adjustments to my program that I need to.
About 30 minutes before I train, I also take my pre workout, which is far from fancy but VERY effective. I take 1/4 tsp sea salt in about eight ounces of water. I also add 1/2 scoop of Genius Pre Workout Powder, 1 tsp Beta Alanine, and 1 scoop of NutraKey Hydro Pump, unflavored.
My post workout is always egg whites and protein powder in cream of rice, usually with some raisins.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
This is difficult for me to answer, for a few reasons:
- I don’t ever feel “unmotivated” and if I do, it’s never the basis for me to question whether or not I should or shouldn’t train. I always train. It’s who I am. It’s what I need to do. It’s as second nature to me as brushing my teeth. I don’t think about it. I just get in there and do it.
- I genuinely LOVE to train. Before I ever competed in figure, I loved to lift. And I will lift long after I hang up my heels. I don’t need motivation to train. It’s my passion. My heart’s joy.
- There’s a quote I love which says that “A strong why needs no how.” I feel like when you are driven by the right things, when what you’re doing matters to you, and your actions have a deep and meaningful purpose, you won’t question ‘how” to get something done. You just will. Because you WANT to.
- I also think it’s important to separate action from emotion. I love training so for me, I’m always motivated. But if you are the type of person who doesn’t naturally love to workout, you’ll be hard pressed to be successful if you only take action when you “want to”.
I’m sure there are days you don’t “feel” like going to work, but you do anyway. Getting what you want means being committed to making the decisions you need to make, whether or not you feel like making them.
The biggest challenge I face is training and competing with Ulcerative Colitis, a form of IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease). When I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I was told to not compete again.
Once released from the hospital, the nutritionist I was referred to was adamant about the hardship of severe caloric restriction on the gut.
Two years following my colitis diagnosis I was also categorized as having chronic fatigue syndrome, and told, once again, that the excess training and dietary restriction of prep was risky.
And in 2016, I was mid prep for my pro figure debut when a routine colonoscopy found and removed an intestinal blockage that turned out to be a cancerous tumor.
But like much of my life, the hardest struggles have been blessings in disguise.
I believe God works in you when you work within yourself. When you give your best for Him, He will help you to rise.
I knew that if I was careful, I could compete, Colitis, Chronic Fatigue, Colon cancer and all. I simply decided that while I had to respect my illness, I didn’t have to live life limited by it.
As a result, I feel I have a new perspective on what it means to be successful, and a deeper appreciation of what a privilege bodybuilding, and training is.
I know that my body can turn on a dime – a sudden digestive flare or a bout of chronic fatigue, but it’s because of my health issues that I wake up grateful EVERY DAY just be able to do this. I am thankful just to have the opportunity because it was something that was almost taken from me.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The single most important thing to me is my health. Currently, I am transitioning out of contest prep and into, what will be a long growth season.
I’m reverse dieting, backing off of my cardio and focusing on hormone balance and digestive health. My goal is to take a good two years to train out of a caloric deficit before contemplating a return to the pro figure stage.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
When I was younger, I never used to prioritize rest or recovery. Thankfully, this is one area of fitness in which age works to your advantage. Experience has taught me how crucial it is to emphasize care for the body I push so hard in training.
After battling several injuries, I now am proud to say that rest and recovery are part of my weekly, and daily routine.
For physical recovery, I make sure I sleep at least seven hours a night, stretch, do yoga, take nightly epsom salt baths, walk my dogs, and prioritize addressing my muscular imbalances and weakness through corrective exercise.
also see a massage therapist for stretch therapy and massage every two to four weeks. I also pray, journal and read for mental relaxation and recovery.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I strive to be, as much of a “dietary agnostic” as I can be. I deeply believe that someone’s approach to nutrition and eating is incredibly individual. There is absolutely no one size fits all when it comes to how you can or should eat.
My own approach to eating is one that is really rooted in the consumption of whole, nutrient dense foods, I’d say 95% of the time. I believe deeply in food quality and the role it plays in not just how you look, but how you feel as well.
Having Ulcerative Colitis has made me increasingly aware of the power nutrition has within your body to steer not just your body composition but total body well-being.
I do track my macros, day in and day out. I happen to really love the structure and enjoy the process of logging. I like having a record of what I’m eating so I can correlate that to how I feel, how I perform, whether I’m losing or gaining weight and so on.
How much I’m eating depends upon where I’m at in my training and what my current goals are but in general I carb cycle year round and tend to eat a higher carb, lower fat, moderate protein diet.
I typically eat about five times a day, every three hours or so apart with my biggest and most carbohydrate rich meals being post workout and my dinner. I find carbohydrates before bed help with serotonin release and my sleep.
Because my food selections are so consistently nutrient dense, I find I very rarely deal with cravings for junk foods. I also don’t drink so alcohol is never an issue.
I personally don’t ever have full fledged cheat meals. Most people assume it’s willpower or self control tell but the truth is that it’s neither. I don’t have “traditional” cheat meals because I honestly don’t want them. I stopped desiring junk food years ago.
It’s scientific fact that junk foods stimulate the reward system in the brain in the same way as drugs of abuse like cocaine. This means that one “hit” of a food causes you to crave another and another and another. It’s why junk foods are so addictive and why you can wind up with such insatiable cravings for them.
So if you look at junk food for what it really is – an addiction – then you understand that splurges and binges just reset bad eating habits and restart the cravings. But if you remove certain foods from your diet for a long enough period of time, you’ll actually cease to crave them, which is where I’m proud to be at now.
When the body is healthy and balanced through nutrient dense food you won’t usually have cravings. This is also largely why I don’t binge eat or have epic cheats. I have abstained from those types of foods for so long that I no longer find appeal in them. And for me, food also isn’t a reward.
After all, a recovering drug addict doesn’t indulge in her favorite drug because it’s her birthday, and a former alcoholic doesn’t get wasted on the weekend as some sort of reward for not drinking all week. When you release bad behaviors and close the door on them, there’s no need to re-open it.
I tend to be on the leaner side year round but this is mostly because my body is genetically slender and lean. Also, I have been lifting for 17 years and muscle maturity causes denser, harder leaner muscle, so I simply seem to stay lean naturally year round, despite putting on a good 10-12 lbs in my off-season.
I typically do not like to list specific supplements that I personally use, for the same reason I do not ever like to list my specific macros. I never want someone to see what I do personally and assume that it will work for them as well. Supplementation, like nutrition, is highly individualized. What I take for myself may or may not work for someone else.
Some general supplements I use however, that would have a high likelihood of being of benefit to others would be:
- Health Force VitalMineral Greens
- Nutrabio L Glutamine
- NOW ZMA
- Bronson Krill Oil
- Dymatize All9
In general, the brands I like the most for quality supplements are Integrative Therapeutics, NuEthix Formulations, Nutrabio and Nutrakey.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
I feel most inspired and motivated by my faith. I am constantly encouraged to do my best and give my best because of the love of God and who I believe He created me to be. I am driven to improve, as much as I can, and make the most of the life He has blessed me with.
The most influential individuals who have contributed to my theories and knowledge as an athlete and a coach would be my husband Randy who is a former bodybuilder and powerlifter, Christian Thibedeau, John Meadows, Charles Poliquin Mike Nelson, Erin Stern, amd Greg Everett.
Above all of that, I also believe that inspiration is all around us if we’re perceptive enough to see it. Everyone has a story and a struggle and something you can learn from.
So many of my clients inspire me on a day-to-day basis. I work a lot with average men and women, versus athletes, and it’s inspiring to see them give their all to their goals despite load of stress and obligations.
Many have multiple jobs, busy families, and precious little time, yet they still find ways to give their health and fitness goals priority in their lives. I’m beyond fortunate to work with so many individuals who encourage, uplift, and inspire me on a daily basis.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
The best pieces of advice I can give are:
- SOMETHING is always better than nothing. Many people think if they cannot go to the gym for an hour a day, then they just shouldn’t work out. But can you go for 45 minutes? Can you walk for 30 minutes a day? Train at home? Look at what you can do, and what you have available to you. Do something!
- Accept that long lasting change doesn’t happen overnight and you can’t undo years of bad habits in a few weeks. Far too many people define dietary success in terms of how rigid or restrictive they can be.
It’s common to think that a “win” means eliminating all processed food, sugar, carbs, and eating nothing but fish and broccoli. But the truth is that your eating habits were not formed overnight. They were formed slowly, over the course of weeks, months, even years. So it is unreasonable to think that you will be able to change every bad habit you have in an instant.
I always tell my clients to take it slow, and to remember that ANY decision made that’s better than a previous decision is PROGRESS. For example, if your breakfast is usually a bagel with cream cheese but now you’ve added scrambled egg whites for a protein boost – that’s a success.
Normally drink two sodas a day now you switched to diet? Success. Normally drink alcohol nightly but now you have cut back to just two nights a week? Success. Not a fan of vegetables but have added two servings a day to your meals? Success.
- Focus on yourself and don’t get wrapped up in comparing your progress to anyone else’s. I have coached clients for over a decade and I can assure you, firsthand, no two bodies are the same. Everyone responds differently and at different rates more than someone else, because we all have different genetics, different experience levels, different support systems, different lifestyles, etc.
Focus on being better each day, and defining success on your own terms, not by what someone else is doing, or by what you read online or in some magazine.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I’m always open to welcoming new clients. I work with men and women of all levels, from all backgrounds, and with varying health and fitness goals.
In working with me you will eat better, become stronger, finally be able to ditch the fad diets and food rules, and most importantly, learn to achieve and maintain your goals no matter what life throws at you.
I believe very firmly in using both science AND experience to coach my clients, and my methods are a blending of my education, proven research, and my own experience as both a coach and athlete.
I provide both personal training and virtual coaching. No matter how you choose to work with me I guarantee an approach that’s customized to fit your ability level, schedule, goals, and equipment availability.
I do not believe in “one-size-fits-all” approaches. And as a result of having every aspect of your program designed uniquely for you, you will finally be able to enjoy real, lasting change.