WO Interview ► Erin Simmons
Name: Erin Simmons
Weight: 135 lbs (61 kg)
Height: 5’7″ (1.7 m)
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Location: College Station, TX
Sport: Track and Field/Triathlon/Weightlifting/Challenge Races
Years Training: 12 years
When and how did you start training?
Since I was young, I have always been active playing sports and enjoying outdoor activities. I really began training seriously when I got on the Florida State University Track & Field team. I knew if I wanted to reach my goals, I’d have to apply serious dedication not only at practice, but also to what I was eating and drinking as well. Once I graduated, I wanted to continue to compete so I took up road races and triathlons. Such sports also take a lot of fine-tuned workouts as well as diet, so my interest in all aspects of fitness has greatly increased.
Free weights or machines? What’s your preference?
I use them both. Free weights are a bit harder and that’s where you can really see increases in strength as you do your maxes. But machine weights can also help you to hit muscles individually that may be harder to do in a compound free weight lift. Balance, body control, and coordination, however, are other great results that come from free weights. If I want a total body workout, I’ll definitely pick free weights.
What personal workout routine has yielded the best results for you?
I love my circuits. This one is a personal favorite:
What does your cardiovascular routine consist of? How often?
I enjoy all kinds of cardio, including cycling, swimming, stairs/stadiums, walking, paddleboarding, surfing, rock climbing, kayaking, and yoga. But honestly, I don’t think there’s anything as good as going out for a run. Read Born to Run or check out the TED talk done by the author, Christopher McDougall to get yourself a bit more pumped up about a run! I race, so I vary the time, mileage, and intensity of my runs. Some days I work on speed, some days I work on endurance, and some days I just need to jumpstart my morning with a few miles. In terms of training for races, speedwork and distance are both critical. In terms of getting lean, aiming for longer, lower intensity runs is key. I usually do some sort of cardio everyday.
We all experience days when we’d rather stay home and skip out on a WorkOwt. What keeps you motivated and focused?
I like to self-motivate. I set goals that I want to accomplish to push myself further every day. For every main goal that I have, I break down sub-goals in order to create milestones for myself. I think this is very important because having one big goal can sometimes be too monumental, and intimidating. A lot of my fans have a huge goal of losing 100 or even 200 pounds! That can seem overwhelming at times. If you break it down to something achievable, perhaps 10 pounds each month, then that main goal becomes surmountable with just a little patience. An added benefit is the motivation you get as you begin to reach your small goals and begin picking up momentum towards your big goal.
What does your diet consist of? Any favorite cheat foods?
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!
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 lunch time. 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. (Note: You can find a sample diet and some of Erin’s meals on her blog.)
One of my favorite cheat foods is ice cream! So I usually try to make it better by opting for frozen yogurt instead.
How do you fend off your cravings for junk food, salt, or other unhealthy foods?
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, I just try to find a healthier alternative. This is really my big thing and why I don’t think there’s any excuse not to 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.
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 supplements do you use? (If any.)
I only use protein supplements because I’m very wary of any other performance enhancing supplement. 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, 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 a shake and drink half before a workout and half afterwards. Sometimes I’ll make one right before bed as well.
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 had a mental block that I was a sprinter, who couldn’t run distances. I realized it was just something I had constructed in my 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 has made me realize all of our hurdles are only in our head; it just takes dedication to overcome them.
I’m also really proud of having completed my master’s thesis. Two of my three years of grad school were also spent completing my track eligibility, so it was a balancing act between school and athletics.
I’m proud I was able to pull it off!
Who inspires you the most?
I’ve always really admired Dara Torres for her ability to not only maintain her fitness level as she has gotten older, but also for the balancing act she plays between family and fitness. I’ve heard [people use] family and having children as an excuse over and over again, but she is an excellent counter-example.
I also recently read about Madonna Buder, the oldest woman to have completed a full Ironman (not just one, mind you, but I’m sure she has racked up a respectable number of finisher’s medals!). The will, determination, and drive that this woman has is truly inspiring to me. You can read her awesome story here.
What are some the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in achieving your fitness goals? What sacrifices have you made along the way?
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, 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.
What 3 tips would you give someone wishing to obtain a beyond ordinary physique like yours?
1 ― Expect to work hard. As much as advertisements would like to make you believe that they have that “magic diet/workout/pill”, they don’t. Unless you count hard work and diligence in your diet as magic.
2 ― Expect road blocks. Again, things don’t come easy. There will be days you want to give up, or injuries that get you down. Just let the past be the past and come back swinging.
3 ― Expect the “haters”. If you accomplish something above average, those who are below average will always want to bring you down to their level. So do it for yourself, not others, because if you do it to try to please others you will never succeed in pleasing everyone. The only person whose opinion matters is yours, so make goals that are right for you and go after them, regardless of the naysayers.
WorkOwt! Magazine is focused on helping our readers excel ‘Beyond Ordinary’. What ‘s the #1 piece of advice you’d give to someone wishing to push beyond their ordinary thresholds?
You really have to want it for yourself because in the end, that’s all you have. You have to set your goals, you have to get motivated, you have to work out, and you have to stick to it.
Regardless of what TV shows or fad diets or workouts try to tell you, it’s not easy and you can’t do it in 15 minutes a day. Obviously, you want to find exercises and sports or competitions that you enjoy but in the end it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication. And not just in the gym or on the track, but at the table, too.
Half the battle is what you’re putting into your body, so you want to be healthy from the inside out. Eating right can be a challenge at first, but it just takes some readjusting and self-discipline. But in the end, it will be so incredibly worth it!
What are you doing when you’re not working out?
I enjoy doing all kinds of things though most of them revolve around athletic activities!
I really enjoy going to yoga with my friends or with my mom when I get a chance to go home. I really like to cook, especially when it involves finding ways to make favorite dishes even healthier! I love to go out dancing when I can find the energy to stay out half the night. And, like any girl, I enjoy shopping whether it’s for dresses, shoes, workout gear, or a new bike. I love being by the water where I can go diving, paddleboarding, surfing, or just relax on the beach.
I have a great mutt that I love to run or share the couch with, too. And while my core workouts are usually by myself, I’ll go swim, bike, trail run, or compete with my friends and support them in their competitions as well.
Other hobbies include writing, photography, art projects, and reading.
What are some of your favorite motivational quotes?
“Well, you know, as long as God is giving you your health, there’s no reason to stop”.
― Madonna Buder (the “Iron Nun”)
“Today, I do what others won’t do, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t do.”
“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired… You’ve always got to make the mind take over and keep going.”
― George S. Patton Jr.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out.”
“Today I will make a choice, a choice to be fit and feminine, a choice to be beautiful and strong, a choice to be healthy and lovely, a choice to show dedication to making me the best version of myself possible, a choice to show courage in being different from the norm, TODAY I will make a choice.”
― Erin Simmons
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