Alex Navarro Interview
MP: What sparked your interest in health and fitness?
AN: I believe I was born to move. My parents got me involved in gymnastics at a very young age and I continued to compete until my early teens. I’ve always had a passion for movement and challenging myself physically. It was in high school that I was introduced to the gym while on my schools wrestling team. From that point on I haven’t stopped lifting weights. Over the years my love for being fit and leading an active, healthy lifestyle has helped shape me into the person I am today and I am eager to share what this type of lifestyle can do for others.
MP: Describe your experiences growing up as a gymnast.
AN: I was only 5 when I was introduced to gymnastics and it quickly became an important part of my life. It not only gave me direction, it taught me balance, on and off the beam. When I began competing at a state level I was spending almost as much time in the gym as I was in elementary school and even less time at home. I learned at a very young age what it was to work hard, be dedicated and how to handle setbacks and disappointment. I learned how to pick myself back up when I fell and how to take each victory as a stepping-stone toward greater improvement. I knew back then that I would always have a passion for flipping and I remember thinking back then that I would continue to flip and flop around as long as my body would allow it. I’m happy to say that I’m even more capable now!
MP: What is the training for gymnastics like? How is it different than other sports?
AN: During my competitive years I was training 6 days a week for up to 4 hours a day. I competed in all the events; the uneven bars (which I was best at yet didn’t enjoy doing as much) the balance beam (which I had a love-hate relationship with), the spring-loaded floor (which I loved but wasn’t very good at) and the vault (which I found quite boring). Because you use ever muscle in your body for every event the training days were long and varied in intensity. Each day started with an extensive warm-up that lasted anywhere from 45-90 minutes. We would have a few days of conditioning and stretching and then the other days were broken up into events, depending on what we each needed to work on. I was always a strong tumbler so I would flip around just enough to keep it up and work on bigger skills. The areas that I needed improvement were in balance and flexibility, which limited my skills on the balance beam. Because I was young and resilient I don’t remember ever feeling “sore” or having the muscle fatiguing sensations that I get from my workouts these days. What was different about gymnastics from most other sports is that it’s an individual sport. Yes, I had teammates, but we only supported each other from the sidelines. When it came time to compete we flew solo - it was just me and the event. If I fell, it was my fault. If I succeeded it was because I was focused and I gave it my best. Gymnasts compete as individuals – competing against their teammates, other teams and mostly with themselves. Very few sports are like that – except how I compete today, which is a huge part of why I love competing!
MP: You even competed on the high school wrestling team. What was it like wrestling with boys? What did you learn from this experience?
AN: Joining the wrestling team was an eye-opening experience. I joined primarily for the workouts. I had a classmate who had been on the team the previous year and raved about how intense the training was, which was reason enough for me to take on the challenge. Once I did join I received a lot of grief from boys AND girls for wanting to be a part of a “boys” sport. Had there been a girls team I wouldn’t have joined it, but there wasn’t. I wanted a challenge like I had when I competed in gymnastics and no other sport in high school had the appeal of an intense workout and also allowed me to have that “individual” challenge that I craved after leaving competitive gymnastics. I was fortunate to have a coach who was all for girls wrestling and encouraged me throughout my time on the team. I wish I could say that everyone I encountered during that time was as excited about having a girl on the team as he was, but that wasn’t the case. The boys that I wrestled against were either afraid to hurt me or tried even harder because they didn’t want to be beaten by a girl. And those that I did beat, well lets just say they became the “girl”, tears and all! I learned a lot about self-esteem and how to not allow the opinions of others to affect how I felt about myself or what I wanted to do. Those that frowned upon the challenge that I gave myself only motivated me to work harder and to prove them all wrong. I can’t remember a time when I was put down as much as I was, but I also remember never feeling stronger and more capable. Its amazing the things that drive us. One event that stands out was at a tournament out of town and I will never forget the look on the boys face when I walked up the center circle to shake his hand. All of the wrestlers names were bracketed on the wall, showing who was wrestling who and when. Well since my name is Alex and it’s not short for anything, most boys assumed that I was a boy too. So to see the look of confusion and panic on this boys face was priceless. I started that match with a head bunt, just to shake him up a little more!
MP: You own and run a personal training studio in downtown San Francisco and have a range of clients. What are some of the training philosophies that you preach?
AN: The biggest philosophy that I preach is - abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. I can train my clients until they’re blue in the face, but until they make the necessary changes in their diets, they can’t expect to see the results that I know they hope to see. I’m not a magician and an hour of hard physical activity a few hours a week will only get you so far. Wanting to be “fit” and “healthy” takes commitment and dedication on all levels and across all areas of your life. One of my goals in working with clients, regardless of what level they are at, is to instill healthy habits and to teach them how to make the necessary choices that will help them reach their goals, now and forever. I make sure they understand that there is no “quick fix” and if that’s what they want, then they need to find someone else to help them. Another philosophy that I preach is that our bodies are our homes and we only get one. If you want to live in your dream home you better build it to last and do the proper maintenance work to keep it looking and functioning at it’s best.
MP: What is the fundamental difference between training a beginner versus a more experienced person?
AN: Knowing and understanding what it means to work hard in the gym and stay committed. The experienced been through it and know that it won’t come easily or quickly. While the beginners can be impatient and give up easily.
MP: You have competed in over 30 fitness and bikini contests. Which was the most memorable and why?
AN: One of my biggest inspirations to start competing in fitness was watching the Ms. Fitness World’s on Fox Sports years ago. I saw the women on that stage, with their amazing physiques, talented skills and the grace that they carried and I knew that was something I wanted to experience. The top 5 winners that year were women that I grew to know over my first few years of competing. I looked up to them and sought out their guidance. In 2010 I qualified to compete at the Ms. Fitness World’s. After a tough competition I earned the 3rd place spot on the podium, next to two women that had been my initial inspiration to start competing. I was overwhelmed with excitement and disbelief. My dream of sharing the stage with my fitness icons had come true and tears of joy streamed down my face. It’s a moment that I will never forget.
MP: Describe what goes into a fitness competition. How do you prep your body and mind weeks leading up to the competition?
AN: There’s nothing quite like competing in the fitness category. There are so many aspects of the show to consider when preparing. First and foremost is the routine and for me the best part! I always start with a theme and then choose the music to best show off my “story”. I have skills that I work on year-round and once the music is together I begin to choreograph the routine. I usually make a list of all the skills and stunts that I want to incorporate into the routine first and then add in the transitions second. Once I have most of the pieces together I visit my dear friend and fellow competitor Sharon Polsky, who helps me clean up the routine. Her helpful eye has made for some amazing, top placing routines. She is also who has created my routine outfits, which is next on the list in prep for competing in fitness. Like every other category in a competition the rest of the prep for the show comes down to diet and training. I generally lift weights 5-6 days a week and perform HIIT (high intensity interval training) 3-4 days a week. My nutrition is a little unconventional (you can check out what I do below), but it works wonders for my body and sanity during this time. I incorporate routine practice into my training days at least 3 days a week for several weeks leading up to the show. Once all the components are together for the routine I spend each and every evening before falling asleep to visualize the perfect performance. Positive thinking and visualization has been key to my focus and success.
MP: What is your favorite muscle group to train and why?
AN: I LOVE legs! I feel crazy strong when I work them and can’t get enough of the changes that I see after.
MP: Do you take any supplements? Which are some of your preferred favorite and why?
AN: My supplements are fairly basic. I use Whey protein isolate post-workout with 5grams of creatine and 5 grams of leucine. Other than that I only take a multi-vitamin and Vitamin C.
MP: What’s the best advice to give for a woman to keep lean all year round?
AN: Diet is # 1! Staying on a plan, however strict or not, will help you stay consistent. What I love about the nutritional programs that I use, CarbNite and Carb-backloading, is that they allow me to make gains “off season”, while maintaining my leanness and then when it’s close to show time I can achieve the “stage look” without compromising my favorite foods. Plus, always having a goal has been key to my success. Whether it be for a photo shoot, an appearance, a stage-coaching seminar or a fun trip, I always have something on the calendar as a reminder to be consistent.
MP: What are your future goals both personally and professionally?
AN: My professional goals span across a few planes and include – Coaching more women to hit the stage and provide them with the tools to get there, present themselves in the best way possible and to keep the physique that they worked so hard to earn. I don’t want to simply “get someone on stage”. I want to instill the healthy habits associated with being lean and fit from now until forever. Writing is another avenue that I have found to be a fun and accessible way of sharing my knowledge. I have a lot to share and writing has allowed me to reach more people and challenges me to seek out new information and research. There’s a lot of bad information out there on how to get in shape and stay in shape and I want to provide information that is researched and proven to be affective. Fad’s come and go - I want to be a source for concrete info that works and lasts.
My personal goals have taken a back seat so to speak over the years. Beyond my physical goals, like getting and maintaining a six-pack or being able to do a standing back flip, my early twenties were all about having fun, learning about “me” and figuring out “who” I wanted to be. Now that my twenties are fading away my personal goals are more and more important to me. I can and will continue to grow as an individual, even it it’s setting small physical goals along the way – like doing handstand push-ups, but I would also like to settle down and one day have a family. I have recently found a special someone who shares my passion for health and fitness and I look forward to our future together and the adventures that I hope to share with him.
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