Athlete Profile: Alaina Hardie

by Erin Weiss-Trainor, January 22nd, 2009
Sometimes losing weight comes down to a battle of will:
choosing healthier foods when sweet and salty snacks are
calling out, hitting the gym when all you want to do is hit the couch, and
outlasting the temptation to throw in the towel when nothing seems to be
working. Success, it seems, often requires the willpower to fight off all that
is enticing.
Alaina Hardie never expected that actually fighting would enable her to win the battle
against herself, nor that it would help her find the inner power to shape up both mentally and
physically. And she never expected that fighting would change her life for the better.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a grappling and ground fighting martial art —
if you’ve seen the UFC, you’ve probably seen some BJJ.
Something about the combat sport just clicked for Alaina; she fell in love with
the people, the training, and the sense of empowerment she felt when she was
rolling around the mats. Once it took hold of her, nothing kept Alaina from
blazing her path, leaving a trail of medals and championship belts behind
her.

Blurry cellphone camera shot, one of the few remaining
pieces of “before” evidence

Alaina, before: “Probably the bagpiping was at least as
unappealing as the squishiness.”
In late 2006, Alaina was over 200
lbs at 5’5″, unhappy and unathletic. She’d been following a high-carbohydrate
vegetarian diet that left her listless and carrying a lot more bodyfat than she
was comfortable with. She’d endured major surgery, moving house and a variety of
life stressors, all of which had left her under-exercised and over-fed.
And then, in the summer of 2007, she
started BJJ training.
In less than a year of training, she
transformed herself into a champion contender. She earned her blue belt in BJJ
from women’s grappling legend Felicia Oh within the first 9 months and then went on to get
her purple belt from BJJ superstar Eddie Bravo
only 8 months later, an almost unheard-of accomplishment in the sport. With her
passion for BJJ driving her forward, she really never even stopped to consider
that she was becoming an athlete. It wasn’t until the Arnold Grappling
Championships in March 2008, when Alaina won four out of five matches by
submission in under a minute, that she started thinking maybe she might have a
knack for this grappling thing.
Until that point, Alaina had
gotten by without much concern for her nutrition and the role it played in her
performance. It’s not that Alaina didn’t think about food. As she says: “I love
food. I love to make food. I love to eat food. I love to think about food.” But
when she lost an overtime match in the final at the NAGA World Championships to
an opponent who was very skilled, and much stronger and better conditioned than
she was, Alaina consoled herself by “eating her weight in barbeque”.
After that moment, she
realized she was ready to start to do things right. She had decided to compete
in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club’s World Championships, the world’s premier
invitation-only submission grappling event, and knowing that the best grapplers
in the world would be competing in that event, she knew she would have to be in
fantastic shape to face them.
With a team of excellent instructors
and training partners, the training part was and still comes easy for Alaina.
Five mornings a week, she hits her home gym or Bang Fitness for strength
and conditioning training: one heavy day, two interval days, one explosive
conditioning day. She then trains grappling in the evenings and on the weekends,
six days a week, alternating hard sparring days with technique-focused sessions.
Just recently, Alaina has started teaching a women’s MMA morning boot camp at Kimonogirl, Toronto’s only
women’s BJJ academy, and has had to shift more of her training to the evening.
But this hasn’t posed a problem.
Now, she can’t imagine not
training. “It keeps me centered and focused. It’s fun. It’s challenging. And I
never leave the gym feeling worse than when I came in. If I go for even a day
without training, I get anxious. The hardest part is definitely taking a rest
day.”
Bustin' out the pullups with training partners
Bustin’ out the pullups with training
partners
Playing in the park
Playing in the park
Despite facing scary opponents,
Alaina’s major challenge usually comes from her childhood love of complex carbs
and what she calls her body’s “apparent lack of a satiety mechanism”. Luckily,
she doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth and has found a way to balance out her
body’s cravings with the right foods to fuel her appetite and performance, while
maintaining her weight to still easily compete in her class.
A friend introduced her to the PN
system and it’s now become part of her life. Two key strategies for Alaina are
carbohydrate timing and getting plenty of fruits and vegetables. For the most
part, she sticks to four meals a day, but recently has been experimenting with
intermittent fasting on some days, where she will eat all her food for the day
between 6 am and noon, and then fast until 6 am the following morning.
Alaina relies on and loves bananas,
pears, cauliflower, kale and squash of all kinds, and for most meals, pairs
these foods with meat and seafood. She’s become enthusiastically omnivorous:
Beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp, salmon, and scallops are all staples in the
rotation but right now, Alaina is in a bit of “sausage-phase” -– if its done up
sausage-style, she’s all over it. Lunch and dinner are generally quite similar:
a kale or spinach salad with some meat, mixed with pesto and stirred into
shirataki noodles and squash. The noodles have become Alaina’s “new best friend”
as they are extremely low calorie and they leave her feeling full without
risking topping out her weight class.
Around her workouts, Alaina relies
more heavily on the starchy carbs she loves. Prior to her morning session,
Alaina indulges in her “weakness”, an almond milk latte and a banana, and then
blends up a post-training breakfast shake of some wild combination of vegetables
and fruit. After her evening training session, she will opt for some raw fruit
or a fruit shake she has whipped up before leaving for the gym.
Beyond the training and nutrition,
it’s been the people involved in the sport of BJJ that have given Alaina the
opportunity to take her competition to a higher level. “There are so many
awesome people involved in BJJ. I have traveled all over North America and
trained with many of the legends of the sport. Everybody has been amazing. I
have yet to meet a high-level grappler who wasn’t incredibly friendly and
generous with her or his time”.
Thanks to the unfailing support of
people like Sheila and Brian Bird of BDB Martial Arts in Calgary and Clint Kingsbury of the Canadian Amateur
Wrestling Association
, Alaina was invited to be part of the first Canadian
national grappling team this past November. Originally from the US, now a proud
resident of Canada, Alaina rushed her Canadian citizenship through in order to
be able to make it. The team traveled to the FILA World Grappling Championships
in Lucerne, Switzerland just before Christmas.  Alaina placed 4th in
the no-gi event, and earned a silver medal in the gi facing some of the toughest
women in the world. That’s pretty amazing on its own, but even more so
considering Alaina has less than 2 years of grappling under her belts… her
championship belts, that is. And thanks to PN-style nutrition, she easily
weighed in at a muscular 152, well under her 158 lb (72 kg) weight class limit,
and a long way from her squashy 200-plus-pounds of 2007.
Facing off against an opponent
Facing off against an opponent
At the FILA World Championship, December 2008
At the FILA World Championship, December
2008
Alaina’s passion for her sport has
driven both her accomplishments on the mat and her personal goals. As Alaina
continues to develop as an athlete, she also is putting much of her energy into
cultivating the sport for women and spreading her passion for BJJ to empower
women all over the world. “There just aren’t many women who do grappling, and
it’s a small community that needs to be nurtured so it can grow. “ Alaina feels
that finding and using what you’re passionate about is the key to discovering
what you are made of. “You are capable of so much more than you think. Find your
passion and what excites you, surround yourself with positive and supportive
people, and believe”.
And the proof is in what Alaina
discovered for herself. “I have the willpower necessary to drop 70 lbs and go
from an out of shape slob to a world champion in less than a year. If I can do
it, anybody can.”

About dkpilates

Pilates Instructor, Yoga Instructor, Personnel trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. Don teaches Contemporary and the Authentic forms of Pilates, in the later 90's, Don began his study of Yoga. His study of Yoga includes the Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram, and Astanga disciplines. His other areas of interest in fitness include Martial Arts, Spin, Boot Camp Training, and Weight Training. Don has extensive training and certifications from AFFA, IDEA, MadDog, B-Fit and Polestar. Don Continues his of Pilates education with Michelle Larson in Santa Fe New Mexico. His personal philosophy related to fitness is to aid students in a personalized balance of strength, stamina and flexibility. He is dedicated to design a program specifically for his students independent of the season of their life to create functional movement and help them reach their fitness goals.
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