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Conversations with the Inspiring Alicia Heilner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alicia Heilner.

Alicia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My love of fitness stemmed from being an athlete in high school. Being a volleyball player was a big part of my image, and choosing to ditch the idea of playing in college to attend the University of Arizona was a big decision. Like many incoming freshmen, I developed the unhealthy habits of eating poorly, exercising close to none, and dismissing the reality that I no longer had the metabolism of a year-round athlete. I reluctantly ran a half marathon because I believed it would be a solution to the weight I had put on, but it just ended with me in a lot of knee pain.

It was the summer after my Freshman year that I got my act together and educated myself. I worked a 9-5 job when most of my friends were working night shifts, so I spent most of my time by myself. This was the time I dove head first into teaching myself about tracking macronutrients, the importance of resistance training for females. Luckily, I had attended a weight training class in high school, so I knew the basics of compound movements like squats, bench press, and cleans, but my college weight room center was an intimidating madhouse that smelled heavily of testosterone.

Being the extremist that I am, I decided to compete in a bikini competition. I had found a coach online that agreed to put me through prep, and I was off. This was also the time I created my Instagram as a secret (what is now @fitnessbyalicia) as simply a way to document what I was going through. There were times when I honestly felt like the people in my life didn’t understand what I was doing or why, so Instagram served as a place for me to not only document but meet others who were in the same boat as I was. When you go to a school like the U of A, it’s easy to feel isolated and judged if you skip partying to go to the gym, and turn down late night pizza. Over time I gained more confidence in my journey, shared my Instagram publicly, and was able to connect with even more people.

Fast forward three years: I no longer compete in bodybuilding, but my message on Instagram remains the same: Encourage women to step into the weight room to build their bodies and to let that confidence integrate into other aspects of their lives. I post about my struggles with my body, relationship with food, balancing life and fitness, mental health, recipes, and travel. I still have my accounting career, which I share as well to those who are balancing a full-time job. I am lucky to say I’ve found a handful of amazing and educated women from Instagram that I can now call my true friends. I wouldn’t have met my best friend, Mikayla, had I not decided to be vulnerable and start posting my journey. To anyone that is scared to start sharing what they love out of fear that others will judge them, DO IT ANYWAYS. People will judge you no matter what, so you might as well show up as yourself, unapologetically.

Has it been a smooth road?
There have been so many struggles on this journey. First, it was a struggle during my competition prep, then it was a struggle when I decided to bulk and put on weight (33 pounds to be exact). I had to learn to appreciate myself for other ways aside from how I looked. It was an extreme process, but it taught me a lot.

This last year, I’ve struggled a lot with finding balance since I decided to not compete anymore. I made a post recently, actually, about how extremes are EASY. Isolating yourself and giving your all to one, singular goal is hard in itself, but the rules are outlined for you. During a prep, you have to say no to temptation, you can’t go out to eat often if at all, you have to go to the gym x times a day, and you have to do your cardio. I don’t regret competing, because putting myself through something so difficult has shown me what I’m capable of, but I am glad that I moved onto the next season of my life.

Like I said before, my mission is to encourage women to step into the weight room to build their bodies, and to let that confidence integrate into other aspects of their lives. I try to make myself as vulnerable as possible on the app, instead of just showing my best pictures, angles, etc.

To any women who are just now starting their journey, start small, making daily habitual changes you can continue for the rest of your life: Develop a workout routine you can stick to, incorporate more fruits and vegetables, drink more water. Once you get the hang of the small stuff, you can focus on being more specific. It’s easy to fall victim to diets that have strict rules, because like I said earlier extremes are easier than finding a balance but try to live a healthier life overall. I think tracking macros if the man/women want to, is a great way to figure out what’s in food as well as what portions look like, and how much you’re eating. Having an adequate protein intake is first and foremost, but I also encourage women to not restrict, especially if they have YEARS under their belt of trying to diet down. Trust your body and love it enough to feed it more of the good stuff.

Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Right now, I’m a grad student, who plans to move to San Diego and start my accounting career. I’d say that sets me apart. I’m just a girl who loves living a healthy lifestyle and documenting it all. I don’t use Instagram as a medium to sell people things or to pump out promotions for my own products, which I think has led me to create the friendships and following that I have so far. I also try to keep my posts and Instagram stories fun and light-hearted. As much as I take my health seriously, I show all the parts of my life. If I have a night out I show it, if I skip the gym I show that, if I want to rant about something I do that too. I treat it as a way to connect with others, and I try to post helpful captions that people can benefit from. I don’t try to not just show my favorite edited pictures of myself.

I did create an 8-week workout and nutritional guide that I had on sale for a little, but now, I just have the PDF with me, and if people reach out wanting it, they can purchase it directly from me as opposed to from a website.

It would be great to hear about any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve used and would recommend to others.
YES, I’m a huge audible gal. Every month when I get my “monthly credit,” I ask for book suggestions, share my favorites, as well as post about what I’m reading at the moment. I love self-help books, and they have really helped me change my way of thinking. My top ones are:

Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

Stay Sexy and Don’t get Murdered by Karen Kilgraiff and Georgia Hardstark

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Unf*ck Yourself by Gary Bishop

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Wai Yan Han, Prime 24 Photography, Chris Clark

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