Alexandra (Ally) Templeton, a self-described “Wellness Ambassador,” has been coaching her clients on wellness, fitness, and healthy cooking for the past 5 years. I learned about Ally through a Brussels ex pat Facebook group. After checking out her website and YouTube Channel, I was smitten. Ally’s philosophy on health, wellness, and fitness is soothing and holistic. Her website’s landing page sums it up well: “I believe in an uncomplicated approach to health and fitness where ever you are in the world.”
The Washington, DC, native became a fitness instructor after falling in love with fitness at the University of Georgia, where she studied Romance Languages (majoring in Spanish and Portuguese) and blew off steam by hitting the gym regularly. Her love of language paved a travel journey that includes living, studying, and working in Cuba, Brazil, Russia, the Czech Republic, and (now) Brussels, Belgium. (So jealous!)
Below is a summary of our conversation. This interview has been edited and condensed. Because we talked about so many interesting topics, I divided the interview into two parts. Below is Part 1; look for Part 2 in the coming week. And keep reading for some recommended videos to add to your wellness routine!
Can you tell our readers about your fitness journey and philosophy on fitness?
I’ve always been active. I did gymnastics when I was little and then in college I started going to the gym at the University of Georgia. When I moved to Prague, I realized that I always feel so good when I work out, and I wanted to make other people feel this way. So, I got certified in Prague, and I’ve worked as a trainer ever since.
My philosophy is to make people feel good and not have exercise be something they have to think a lot about. It should blend seamlessly into the day to day. Fitness is not just about a 30 minute workout; it permeates all aspects of life. It’s how you eat, how you move, how you talk to yourself and the people around you — it’s really everything. If you miss your workout one day, it’s not the end of the world because you can also be healthy in other parts of your day — getting sunshine, walking, or just living in a way that helps you to feel good and allows you to do all of the things you want to do.
Do you work out and train primarily at home?
Yes. About two years ago, I realized going to the gym was not time efficient. That’s why a lot of people slip out of it. So, I invested a little bit of money in some personal equipment — kettle bells, dumbbells, TRX — to stay in shape at home. And it’s been that way ever since. They say that the perfect routine is the one you will do consistently. It’s what keeps you motivated every day. You can really stay in good shape and not have a huge chunk of your day taken out. Thirty minutes is absolutely enough time to get in a good workout and sweat going.
You mention using TRX (Total Body Resistance Exercise). How do you use a TRX from home?
The TRX was developed by an ex-Navy Seal when he was on deployment and didn’t have a gym. So, he used his old martial arts belts to exercise. A few years later, the TRX was born. It’s wonderful, especially with body weight training. It’s hard to do pulling movements at home, which are so good for our back strength and functional movements, with just body weights or free weights. TRX is a nice way to incorporate that style.
(SF: For some help setting up a TRX system at home, click here.).
That’s a great idea! I’ve always struggled with pulling-type exercises that work the lats (latissimus dorsi). It’s really hard to get that part of the back.
Exactly, and I think a lot of women can relate to that because it’s that area where your bra pinches. When my female clients ask, “why are we doing this?” I say, “think about the times when your bra is really tight,” and they say “ok, got it!” And, of course, it’s also important for functionality and good posture. A lot of very good reasons to work your back.
It sounds like you started with strength training and then moved to yoga. I’m interested in your view on how strength training and yoga can work together the most effectively.
When I was working with clients in the gym, I noticed they all had different limitations, because people are people. They have different jobs, different lifestyles, different anatomical positions. I turned to yoga seriously 2-3 years ago for help. Many associate yoga with stretching. I use it to help my clients with a number of different things — back pain, to become more flexible, or to have greater depth and range of motion in a variety of moves.
The two go really well together. Weight-lifting is a lot of contracting movements where you shorten the muscles and then yoga helps you keep them long, mobile, and healthy.
Yoga also increases your spacial and body awareness. With strength training, we talk about the “mind muscle” connection. If you’re trying to work your bicep, we say “put your mind into your bicep.” Yoga helps give you a greater awareness of what’s going on in your body during movement. You have to slow things down, which can really help with injury prevention. With weights, you sometimes see people just throwing weights around without any real connection to the movement. This can cause injuries and a whole host of problems. If you slow things down, it’s much more effective.
There’s also the breathing side of yoga. This is where yoga is interesting when combined with strength training. Strength training feels very therapeutic. You can lift heavy weights and feel strong in your body. Yoga helps you find that inner strength when things get hard. When you’re holding a Warrior 1 or Warrior 2 pose and your muscles start to shake, yoga uses breathing to calm your body down. Similarly, when things get uncomfortable or difficult in strength training, you use breathing as a tool to bring your body back to a place where you can handle it.
(SF: Check out Ally’s strength training and yoga flow routines!)
Is it true that strength training tends to work the major muscle groups (e.g., quads, biceps, lats, etc.) and yoga works the “accessory” muscles that wrap around the larger muscles? So, if you’re doing both, you’re toning everything?
Absolutely, absolutely. It keeps your body well rounded. And one of my philosophies, that I also saw on your blog, is that it’s important to understand how the body works as a whole. You want to work to the body’s advantage and how it’s designed to move. And then you can structure a program that uses the muscles as efficiently as possible. Yoga helps with this because you’re stabilizing, you’re balancing, and you’re working to control your breath while also holding a position that contracts your muscles.
Do you incorporate mobility into your training sessions? How do you differentiate mobility from stretching?
Yes. Mobility is quite a buzz word now. Mobility and flexibility are slightly different. Flexibility is about how much you can move or stretch a muscle with assistance. For example, I can use my hands to pull my leg up to my head and hold it there. Mobility is how much you can stretch a muscle without assistance. It’s the strength behind that flexibility. It’s really important when you’re doing any kind of sport or when doing weight bearing exercises. It keeps the joints healthy when you get to that sticking point. An example is squats — how low you can squat down and get back up without using your hands. You want to find that sticking point and work to strengthen it so you can have a full range of motion throughout.
There’s a lot of temptation when you work out to push hard, “pedal to the metal,” the whole time. There’s definitely a time and place for that, especially when you want to work up a good sweat. But it’s also difficult when you slow things down and do deliberate mobility work, where you’re trying to increase the range of motion of your shoulders or your hips. Keeping joints healthy is especially important as we age. Mobility work can be a really wonderful supplement to your weekly training.
(SF: Check out this daily mobility routine from Ally)
Simple Fitness Conclusions, Part 1
Okay readers, I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of my discussion with Ally Templeton. After talking with Ally, I have a greater appreciation for the different roles yoga can play in our fitness and wellness routines. I was struck by Ally’s comments about how yoga breathing (which I have to admit I kinda ignore) can help you get through a tough strength workout, as well as tightening up those accessory muscles to support the larger muscle groups. I’m also considering adding a TRX to my home workout space (see here for how to set up a home gym). And, mobility is on my radar screen even more than before (as discussed in this post).
Look for Part 2 in the coming week and, in the meantime, try out some of Ally’s great content!
Till next time,