How Allison Tibbs Applies Her Functional Training Philosophy IRL

 Photo:  Mark Kuroda

"I never in a million years thought I would be in fitness," Allison Tibbs explains. "I was the girl who would start sweating and say, 'Okay, I’m done working out. Goodbye!'” But after years struggling with depression and two failed suicide attempts, Tibbs knew she needed a change. She left her marketing job in Manhattan, embarked on a 10-month "Eat, Pray, Love" journey in Switzerland, and made healthy eating and exercise her priority.

"I was so unhappy with myself and my life. And I just remembered my seventh grade health teacher talking about the 'happy drugs' you get from working out. I was so desperate, I knew I needed something, and I really didn’t want start a recreational drug habit, so I decided to tap into this 'happy drug.'"

It turns out that Tibbs' teacher and Legally Blonde were correct: Exercise gave her endorphins. Endorphins made her happy.

Tibbs wasn't only changing her own life; she was helping other people along the way. She began sharing recipes and fitness tips online, and people started asking her for personalized training programs and meal plans. At her grandmother's urging, Tibbs gradually transitioned from marketing to wellness. Now, after seven years in the industry, she's a full-time trainer and healthy lifestyle coach who offers personal training, group fitness classes, and online coaching. Regardless of budget or geography, she can meet people where they are with her unique brand of positive advice.

 Photo:  Mark Kuroda

In San Francisco, you can catch Tibbs' Booty and Ab Bootcamp and Midday Mindfulness classes at Dogpatch Dance and Yoga. (DDY owner Kafi Payne promises that Tibbs is "truly a phenomenal human being" and "a trainer to watch because one day she'll be on every DVD, fitness equipment, and cereal box.") Allison also offers training, meal plans, and coaching through her website, AllisonTibbs.com, and hosts pop-up classes with groups like Supergirls SF.

"When I work with people, I want to help them create their own philosophy around fitness and nutrition. It gives you flexibility and balance. It’s sustainable," she says.

Curious about how Tibbs brings that philosophy to her own classes and training? Read on.

Rockyt: How do you prepare for classes?

Allison: My classes are all loosely tied back to music; it’s kind of how I’m feeling that week. If I’m feeling sexy, all the music’s going to be super sexy. If I’m feeling scrappy, it will be like Kendrick Lamar. I’ll get on a vibe, and—God bless Pandora, they know me so well—I’ll start with one song, and they’ll play more. For me, music is so motivating. I try to play music that feels good and that I can dance to. From there, I sit down and start creating. It takes about an hour to put it together, and then I do it to make sure it all flows well.

Rockyt: How do you cross train?

My whole philosophy on fitness and training is about functionality. If you’re functional, you’re strong. We sometimes go through life not really feeling strong, in one way or another, and I think if I can build that functionality in myself, I can do anything.

I’ve spent the past three years on functional movement patterns: deadlifting, pull-ups, working my lats, working big muscle groups, doing a lot of single-leg work, balance work, core-training. I don’t enjoy lifting crazy-heavy. For me, it was about how could I make my body strong holistically. Then I asked myself, 'What else can I do,' so I started working on the cardiovascular aspect.

 Photo courtesy of Allison Tibbs

Photo courtesy of Allison Tibbs

Rockyt: What are your favorite studios for cross-training?

Allison: I train a lot at Kezar Stadium and the Lyon Street stairs. Fitness Urbano has all the fun stuff like tires, and you can slam stuff around or deadlift. The community is really nice. I live in the Inner Richmond, and there’s a new LiveFit on Arguello. Those are typically my go-tos for a gym feel. For yoga, I hop around and take different classes. I take Britteny’s Trap Yoga [at DDY]. It’s pretty amazing. And I love Ritual. (One of my friends, Alex, is an instructor there.) For dance, I go to Dogpatch and PopStar Booty Camp. I’m doing Ginuwine’s "Pony" and it’s the Magic Mike choreography.

Rockyt: Are you training toward a particular fitness goal?

Allison: I’m training for a half-marathon. I’m not a runner. But because of all the cross-training—I love band work, I love TRX, I love kettle bells—I just feel like my body can do anything. 

Rockyt: What's your training regimen?

Allison: I thought it was going to be horrible...and it’s been shitty. But every time I finish six or seven miles, it’s like, 'I didn’t die! My limbs are still attached! I feel great!' Three years ago, there’s no way I could have done that. 

I incorporate a lot of yoga into my work. After I do my 6 or 7 miles, I do yoga. After a heavy lift, I’ll do yoga. Meditation’s also really important to the point I now teach a mindfulness meditation class. I’ve just seen how it’s changed my life and my body. For me, it’s just about variety. As long as I do things that lead to me body maintaining its functionality and its strength, I don’t stress myself out about what I’m doing. From a mental perspective, it is good to change it up

 Photo:  Mark Kuroda

Rockyt: Do you take rest days? What's your rest day like?

Allison: As a trainer, your energy levels and point of view are so important. If you’re not taking care of yourself on a daily basis, it’s only a matter of time until you burn out.

For me, I don’t need rest days because every morning, I take an hour for myself. I wake up at 6, and from 6 to 7 it’s journaling, meditation, reading, being silent, thinking about my day, focusing on gratitude... If I don’t do that, my day is shot. Daily regeneration and that daily practice are very important to me.  At night, before I go to bed, I’ll think about the day and put the day to rest. I make a few notes about that the day ahead so I can sleep and not worry about what I have to do. That’s really important to me.

When I’m not lifting, I go for a walk, do yoga, get a massage, or just take a bath. Every day, your body needs it. And some weeks, I’ll do yoga every day because my body needs it. I listen to my body. I got out of being so rigid with my training; I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.

For more of Allison's wellness advice, check out AllisonTibbs.com, or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.