Alli's story is truly amazing. Going from back problems to near death and coming back stronger and healthier than ever before. If this is not inspirational, I don't know what is! Read on.
Q. Where are you from?
G'day mate! You should have a good idea by now. Haha. I was born in N.S.W., Australia and have lived here all my life. Aussie through and through.
Q. How many kids do you have?
I have two children. A boy who has just turned 7 and a girl (an indoor tornado) who is 3 and a half years old. Busy times.
Q. When did you get into fitness and working out?
I grew up being encouraged to play and exercise outside as a youngster. I was Swimming Age Champion 6 years running in high school, played soccer during my teens to early 20's and first began using a gym during high school sport activities one year. I enjoyed the challenge of lifting weights and was so interested in the science behind human movement, that I decided to go to University to study Exercise Science.
Q. You went through hard times with your health, tell us about it.
I began developing lower back pain during repetitive bending and twisting movements at work with heavy loads. Over the years, the pain gradually worsened and acute bouts of back pain became more frequent and would last for weeks, leaving me in agony. I was unable to function. It got so bad, that I had to ask my Husband to help me wipe myself on the toilet, dress me, help me into and out of bed and even feed me. Ongoing tests finally revealed I had ruptured 2 discs, which required surgery. In the next couple of years, I also developed severe, ongoing episodes of neck pain. Tests showed that I had ruptured 3 discs in my neck, one of which also required surgical removal and replacement. So I now sport 3 titanium discs in my spine. I also suffered a brain haemorrhage, 3 months prior to the lower back surgery. An aneurysm ruptured suddenly which required emergency brain surgery. I'll never forget the excruciating pain, the feeling of dread and wanting to die to escape the pain. I'm very lucky. Not only to survive it, but to be left with no long-term complications. And grateful, for such amazing Neurosurgeons.
Q. How did fitness help you through all of the hard times?
I have no doubt that my fitness level helped my ability to recover from such traumatic events. I think that exercise can also teach you a lot about yourself. You learn how to push yourself. You learn self-discipline. And willpower. You learn how to find motivation and feel inspired. You need all of these things to help you through the hard times.
Q. Who are the people in your life that helped you through this?
I am very fortunate to have had such amazing support from my husband. Not only physical assistance, but emotional support. These times were most difficult and often overwhelming, not only for me, but for him too. Challenging. My emotional state suffered. He was always there, to pick me up when I was down, to lift my chin up and help me see the sunshine. To know that life moved on. That I would move on. And that things would get better. He was right. Things did get better.
Q. How did you get yourself back in the gym?
I remember going back to the gym about 7 months after my brain surgery and at this stage it had also been about 4 months since my lower back operation. I felt very fragile and my confidence was at an all time low. It was daunting. I felt like I was learning to move again. I was scared I would hurt myself. The scar from my forehead to ear was still evident. I'd put on weight too.I felt like everyone was staring at me. It wasn't easy. Everything I had been able to do before seemed so distant. Those things now seemed unattainable. I didn't think I'd ever be able to do those things again. Fear was a major factor. I took a very slow and steady approach. I started swimming again. And I kept going to the gym. At first just to ride a bike & get some condition back. I eventually felt confident enough to use the machines to do my weights. It took some time before I began using free weights. But slowly, my fear subsided and my confidence returned. And now, there is no looking back!
Q. What kind of activities do you have your children participate in?
My children have both learned to swim & my daughter still participates in weekly swimming lessons. She also loves gymnastics. My son has just finished his very first year of soccer and loves to go indoor rock-climbing. Both love to ride their bikes, trampoline, throw a frisbee, play in the park and climb on equipment and run around being silly. I wish I had their energy!
Q. What is the typical eating habits your family has?
I like to think our eating habits are reasonably good. My children eat a healthy variety of foods. But like most children, they often object to fruit & vegetables, especially my son! My daughter is far better at trying and accepting new tastes and textures. I do most of the food preparation, so I try to incorporate 'hidden' veggies into most meals. So long as it's finely diced, they barely notice! Of course, we're not horribly strict parents and we allow the children to have some treats if they have eaten well throughout the day. And we have treats too! Moderation is key.
Q. How do you normally eat?
I'm not always well behaved. Like most people, I have weaknesses! I'm normal! Saying that I love my food is a massive understatement. Food glorious food. Mmmmmm ~dreaming~ again. Haha. Personally, I like to try and eat a good amount of protein throughout the day, from lean meats, egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, tuna, protein shakes & occasionally protein bars. I tend to avoid starchy carbohydrates and prefer to eat more fruit & vegetables. Summer is much easier than winter, however. Less comfort food and loads of salad instead! I still enjoy red wine when I'm not being too strict. If I'm really focused, I will only allow red wine once a week.
Q. Do you and your family have any treats you like to share together?
We generally order take-away once a week. The kids like to order a Hungry Jack's Cheeseburger (and I eat the pickles! Mmmmm). My husband and I are creatures of habit and we tend to order a gourmet thin crust pizza and wedges as our weekly treat. And we all love chocolate. I mean, who doesn't? We allow our kids to have ice-cream a few times a week if they have eaten well through the day and finished their dinner.
Q. How do you find time to stay in shape with your busy life?
Finding time can often be difficult and I'd say is probably the biggest excuse people use to avoid exercise. The associated guilt with leaving the family for purely selfish reasons is not easy either. But I have learned that it's ok for me to go and workout. That I should make that time for myself. I deserve that time away, to stay fit and have a breather from home duties. To be my own person for a short while. I'm also lucky that I can schedule in a few workouts whilst the gym child-minding facilities are open. My Daughter has a play there with other kids while I workout. And by making time to stay in shape, I'm also a happier Mum and Wife. Bonus!
Q. What is your favorite exercise?
Oh, now that's a difficult question to answer! Where do I start? There are so many things I love doing. I can safely say at the moment, that my favourite exercise is NOT pushups! I'm in the middle of a '3000 pushups in 30 days' challenge, so you may understand my dislike for them. Lol. I probably favour suitcase deadlifts, overhead presses and have recently attempted single arm snatches using a barbell and have fallen in love with them! A wickedly challenging exercise.
Q. Do you have any advice for our readers out there that think that life is over when something terrible happens?
Staying positive is never easy when you're suffering acute or chronic pain or have endured a life-threatening event. Don't bottle up the way you're feeling. Talk to someone. What you're feeling is normal. Surround yourself with positive people. People that will encourage you to keep fighting, to never give up. Read some amazing autobiographies and feel inspired! Try and keep a sense of humour. Think about people that are suffering worse than you. And don't let fear get in the way. Life will get better. Look to the future and try not dwell on the past. Practice smiling again and be happy!
Thanks very much Angelique for the opportunity to be a part of your great blog. I'm honoured that you asked me to answer some questions for you. It means a lot. And thank you very much to everyone for reading. Much appreciated.