The lifestyle of a bodybuilder is not for everyone.
The sport requires hours of punishment in the gym, an extreme dedication to a strict diet and an intense personal drive that wills you out of bed in the predawn hours of those days you’d rather roll over and sleep in.
But the rewards, oh the rewards, are sooo worth it — like the increased energy and stamina throughout the day, the personal satisfaction and confidence garnered from sculpting a perfectly chiseled, hard-body physique that stares back from the mirror, and the accomplishment of setting and achieving personal goals. Did I mention a perfectly chiseled physique?!
And if you’re lucky enough to be training with the love of your life, that’s like the cherry on the sundae.
Just ask Platteville’s Jessica and Todd Allion.
This Saturday the Allions will compete in the 2012 Midwest Natural Bodybuilding Competition — the first for both — at Monona Grove High School near Madison.
But that’s only a tiny piece of the couple’s incredible journey. Let’s start at the beginning.
Jessica, a 41-year-old mother of three, who works part-time at McCandie’s Boutique and is a full-time cosmetology student at Southwest Tech, has worked out continuously since giving birth to her first son Max 11 years ago.
“I weighed over 200 pounds with him and looking at those pictures were quite motivating to me to at least lose that weight,” said Jessica. “I had two more babies after that and got close to hitting that weight again and it was a very scary place to be, and uncomfortable.”
But it wasn’t until the summer of 2011 that husband Todd joined her in the gym.
“Jessica has been working out for years, but after watching her work so hard to get in great shape I decided I should do the same,” said Todd, the 41-year-old co-owner of Gobin & Allion Flooring Center in Platteville.
How they became body builders is another story altogether.
One October morning last fall, local bodybuilder Jennie Weber approached Jessica while both were working out at Platteville’s Snap Fitness.
“She said, ‘I had nice symmetry,” remembers Jessica of that first conversation. “I replied, ‘ummm, what?’ She again said, ‘Symmetry. You have good symmetry.’ I again replied, ‘What?’ I wasn’t sounding very intelligent at this point.
“I had never been told that by anyone before. I thought it was a funny way of starting a conversation, but little did I know.”
“Todd, Jessica and I actually met through my sister who is their neighbor,” said Jennie of their newly formed friendship. “But we got to know each other at Snap Fitness in Platteville. We all seemed to be gluttens for punishment by working out at 4:30–5 in the morning.”
“After we met Jennie she suggested that we should be bodybuilding and it all started from there,” added Todd. “When we thought about it, it seemed like a good idea. It was something we could do together to live healthier and it gave us a chance to spend more time together each day.
“A year and a half ago I would never have dreamed I would be bodybuilding, but here we are.”
When the Allions decided to go all-in on the bodybuilding they turned to Weber for guidance and advice on everything from diet to lifting and cardio scheduling to practicing performance poses.
“I don’t work out with them, but sometimes at the same time they do,” said Weber, who began bodybuilding in 2004 as a way to get healthy. “More often it happens that they will bring me questions and I will offer suggestions regarding their lifting, cardio, and ratios for committing to those two aspects of the process. And then also helping them, along with my friend and fellow body builder, Cindy Meyerhoffer, with handling their diet and nutrition for competition preparation.”
Weber competed in five shows as an amateur winning her fifth to earn her WNBF pro card. She then competed in two shows as a professional before she retired from competition.
“Jennie Weber is amazing,” said Jessica. “Todd and I would never be doing this if it weren’t for her and what she can see in us. She is one smart trainer, person and friend.
“Out of pure love for the sport she gives everything she has to help us reach our goals, goals I didn’t even know I had. She has a perfect balance — tough when she needs to be and listening and supportive when we need to vent about what we know we should’ve done [or not done]. She gives up so much for us in return for some hot coffee, a bag of carrots and a peach from our peach tree. She is a gift. Todd and I are very spoiled with her constant interest in bringing our best to the show this week.”
The Allions work out six to seven days a week for approximately two hours at a time in the early morning hours between 4-6 a.m.
Todd, who is 5–foot–9 and usually weighs 165 pounds, will cut down to 145 pounds for the competition with a strict 16-week diet.
“No junk food, no pizza, no cheeseburgers, no cheese and no bread. I have to cut out the carbs,” he explained. “I eat lots of fish, chicken, vegetables, oatmeal, protein bars, fruit like apples and bananas, salads, broccoli and avocado.
“You really have to eat healthy and smart. For me that is the hardest part of this bodybuilding. I love working out, but I am hungry all the time. Getting off the fast food was the hardest thing for me, but once I started getting healthy and feeling better it became a new way of life.”
Todd and Jessica both track all of the food and its nutritional value. Todd has set daily limits of 250 grams of protein, 65 grams of fats, 275 grams of carbs and 2,500 total calories. Jessica has similar limits based on her body.
“Once I reach my limits I am pretty much done eating for the day,” said Todd.
Jessica agrees that the diet is the hardest part.
“Getting up at 4 a.m. to get to the gym is not hard for me,” she said. “That had become habit a long time ago. But having the discipline of staying away from the “bad foods” is the hardest part. I love cake. I miss cake.”
“Juggling school, kids, home, job is a little daunting,” she added. “I feel terrible when I can’t be the mom, wife, homemaker, student, employee, friend and daughter that I want to be. Being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years was such a blessing and I did not take any of that time for granted.”
The Allions children are 11, 9 and 7 years old.
“We work out in the morning so we don’t have to miss out on time with the kids at night,” added Todd. “They do miss the junk food though. It’s too tempting to have that stuff around so we no longer have it in the house. Our kids are eating healthier now too.”
Todd was a swimmer and diver in high school and was always in shape during his military stint.
Jessica played tennis in high school and even played number one singles in a tournament as a freshman but, “never stuck with it.”
For both, body building has relit their competitive fire. And both have high goals for this weekend.
“My goal is to win,” said Jessica. “I am not doing this for second place.”
She will compete in the Women’s Open Heavyweight (over 120 pounds) division as well as the Women’s Masters (over 41 years old) division.
Todd will compete in the Men’s Masters division and the Men’s Bantamweight division.
“I would like to place in the top five in both categories, but no matter where I place I look great, feel great, and have spent a lot of time doing this with my wife. I already feel like a winner.”
“It has been an amazing transformation and journey and it is definitely never boring,” added Jennie. “Todd and Jessica’s enthusiasm and energy have been contagious.”