Training for triathlons. Teaching spin classes at night. Eating right. And bodybuilding in six inch heels. Just hearing “a day in life” of Ali Ruisi was enough to make us tired. This Westerly, RI native became a certified Personal Trainer when she was just 18-years-old. She competed in her first “Figure” modeling competition this past year, and we had the chance to catch up with Ali to find out just how easy and difficult it was to make this transformation. Ali tells us all, from the rewards and accomplishments, to the dieting, struggles, and necessary lifestyle changes. Find out how she went from simply working out and staying healthy to becoming a fitness competitor in a matter of months, exclusively here on TwentyTweets!
ES: So let’s back up a minute. What were you like as a kid?
AR: “Active! I was brought up climbing trees and playing outside with my neighborhood friends every day… And I really mean, everyday! We would be outside until dark, playing football, roller hockey, or basketball. Those days with my friends slowly turned into dance classes and track practices. I got really into dance and track in high school, and ran track at the University of Rhode Island for a year before deciding to become a certified Personal Trainer and Spin Instructor. I have been training clients, running fitness bootcamps, and teaching aerobics and spin classes ever since.”
ES: So it just made sense for you to make a career out of your passion?
AR: “Yes. I tore my ACL when I was in tenth grade. The rehab after surgery pretty much inspired me to want to help others with injury prevention, health promotion, and fitness. So I decided to major in Exercise Science at URI and had the opportunity to work at a Physical Therapist’s office at the same time. I learned a lot about surgeries and injuries, and knew that this was the profession where I would spend the rest of my life. I’m now working as a Group Ex Instructor and a Personal Trainer at a club called Luxe Fitness in my hometown, Westerly. I love it.”
AR:“When I was younger, I watched fitness shows on TV and was really impressed by the strong and beautiful women. I really wanted to be one of them some day. As I got older, I kept researching about the sport, and saw that bodybuilding, figure, and bikini competitions were all tied into one. I tried to diet and train on my own for a show, but I had no clue what I was doing or even how to enter a competition. So after a few years, once I had started personal training in Providence, I was introduced to a woman named Deanna. She’s this teeny, tiny lady who is a lightweight bodybuilder. Deanna hooked me up with her coach, and that’s when I seriously started dieting and training.”
ES: I bet it was a lot easier having people to train with.
AR: “Definitely! I’m still really close with Deanna today. Everyone told me that I should try bodybuilding, but I always thought that it was very masculine. I was under the impression that it was just about getting “big” and I wanted to find a way of keeping it feminine. First impressions are tough; bodybuilding is really about getting extremely lean and vascular. Deanna is really the one who got me into it though. She introduced me to all the right people and is truly an inspiration. She taught me about “Figure” competitions, which are more like pageants in a sense, or like bodybuilding in six inch heels! Judges look at your quarter turns, hair, skin, makeup, etc. as well as your physique. It has a much softer look than regular bodybuilding competitions and the prep before a show is actually really fun.”
ES: What do you do to get ready for a show?
AR: “Beauty prep is the most fun, but also the most stressful. All of your hard work of dieting and training can be thrown out the window if the final product and presentation isn’t ready. My first show approached so fast, and I was running around getting last minute waxes, haircuts, and appointments in for hair, makeup, tanning, suit making, and posing practice. Then, I literally spent the last week before the show with Deanna painting/staining our bodies with this awful stuff called Pro Tan. We could only rinse off excess tan, and couldn’t really use soap in the shower, or deodorant for that matter, because it would either wash the tan off or turn it green. For three days, we wore baggy, unattractive clothes with this dark tan paint everywhere except on our faces, feet, and hands. Can you even imagine the stares that I got from people in the store and around town? White face, white hands, white feet, and a dark brown body. Haha, gross.”
ES: That’s interesting! So the last week is “hell week?”
AR: “Well not really, I mean, like I said, it’s fun. But I did become over-trained in one of the last few weeks. I couldn’t sleep at night, I lost my appetite, I was cold all the time, and I would wake up in the morning wide awake after only two hours of sleep. Weird, right? Thank God it was only for a week.”
ES: That sounds pretty tough. And loss of an appetite for a bodybuilder can’t be good.
AR: “No, it’s not. I was always under the impression that I would have to starve myself as a competitor, but really, I had to eat A LOT. Every three hours, I was shoving chicken breast and sweet potatoes down my throat. Carb/protein ratios are really important and usually, I was hungry ALL the time. But the transformation was totally worth it. I had a lot more energy and I got stronger and faster everyday.”
AR: “Everyday is different. I’m not prepping for a show right now, but when I am, it’s this times two, haha. I do 45 minutes of cardio everyday, and alternate chest, back, circuits, crossfit workouts, shoulders, legs, and glutes in between my clients sessions and the spin classes and bootcamps that I teach. I also do Power Yoga on Sundays and let Mondays be my recovery days, especially from running. Lately though, I’ll run a couple extra miles at night because there are a few triathlons that I want to do this summer.”
ES: Now you’re triathlon training?
AR: “Well, I’ve decided to take this year off of shows. I did a triathlon once before and I want to beat my best time so badly! So I’m taking this time to work on my diet on my own (without a coach) so that I can fully learn my body and what it needs. No one knows your body better than you do.”
ES: Before I forget, tell us about that famous bodybuilder’s diet.
AR: “Oh, the dreaded diet! The hardest part of the contest prep was preparing the food. I worked late hours at the gym and would come home at almost midnight and had to cook ALL of my own meals. Toward the middle and end of the prep, workouts get really hard, especially running on low fuel while training clients, doing double sessions of cardio, and dealing with everyday stress. It’s really important to make sure that you’re eating enough calories. The diet can make or break an athlete, literally. If you aren’t eating enough calories, your body starts to attack your own muscle tissue. So honestly, it’s really about learning your own body. A lot of bodybuilders think that high protein builds you muscle, which is true, but that’s not what’s really important. Your body can only handle a certain amount of protein, and any amount after that will either be eliminated through urination or stored as fat (depending on if your body needs it). Based on body type and metabolism, you need to make sure you have enough carbs for energy. You also have to look at body composition measurements on a weekly basis to see how much body fat percentage is dropping, and if in fact you gained or lost any muscle. Scales only tell you so much. It’s really a true investigation of yourself.”
ES: What motivates you to keep doing it?
AR: “Fitness is a lifestyle, and being fit is my life. I’ve always been active and making sure that you’re eating right is 90 percent of good health. I think from the knowledge that I’ve gained and the things that I have seen happen from chronic illness and obesity, I am very motivated never get near that point of being that sick. Chronic diseases later in life are usually the result of poor health during your twenties and thirties. Polluted organs shut down quicker, so you have to remember that what you’re doing with your body will effect you for the rest of your life. Another thing that really motivates me is just being able to do anything that I want. I see people who aren’t able to go hiking, ride their bike to the beach, or even play with their kids because they’re too out of shape and overweight. I don’t ever want to limit myself like that. It feels great being able to go snowboarding, rock climbing, swimming and surfing in big waves, and doing other things that I love to do. I’m motivated to workout and push myself everyday because it makes me stronger and makes me feel like I can fully enjoy any adventure that is out there.”
ES: So what’s next?
AR: “Well, like I said, triathlons this summer. I hope to compete (in bodybuilding shows) again next year and in the future. It helps me stay in really good shape, and I hope to win a Pro title in an IFBB Show by the time I’m 28. In the meantime, I’ll be setting small goals for myself to eventually reach that big one.”
Thank you, Ali, for giving us all a little kick at the gym tonight! I know that I’ll be working just a bit harder knowing that there are others out there who care about their bodies, too. Ali says that when she’s not at the gym, you can usually find her in the grocery store (haha), or on a lifeguard chair in the summer. She also says that you wouldn’t be the first person to approach her saying, ‘Hey! You’re that girl that I see running all over town!’ Other plans include going back to school for nursing, to fulfill her dream of working with babies and/or orthopedic surgery patients. “I love knowing that I taught someone else something new,” she says. “Or that I’m helping others reach their goals too.” Thank you, Ali, for being an inspiration to us all here at TwentyTweets!