Tough to get toned
Alexa Towersey, wearing a tracksuit and ponytail at the crossroads of Hollywood Road and Lyndhurst Terrace in Central, looks like any one of the tourists ambling about.
That is, until her track top is lifted. There doesn't seem to be an ounce of fat on her well-defined abs. Surely this body was built after a lifetime in the gym.
'No, I was teased for being too skinny through intermediate and high school. My nickname was Alexa Anorexa,' says the fitness expert. 'So, in contrast to a lot of people, I started going to the gym to get bigger and put on some muscle.'
She was a runner at school. 'I was far too polite to win, though. My mum told me I said 'excuse me' when I had to pass the other children on the track.'
Then she tried soccer, netball and skiing, but her true passion was riding horses. On most weekends, she was up at dawn, competing in various events around New Zealand.
These days, however, weight training has become a love affair. Like most gym-goers, she gets really 'grumpy' when she hasn't trained for a while. But she swears her body is the result of smart, not long, hours at the gym. 'Doing crazy hours in the gym is how you get injuries, not results.'
What are you doing differently?
Honestly, it's something as simple as having a goal. I started triathlons 15 months ago, and set myself a huge goal of getting to a World Championships of some sort. I've managed to qualify for this year's Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Las Vegas [a triathlon race consisting of a 1.9-kilometre swim, 90-kilometre bicycle ride and a 21-kilometre run]. That's my goal.
Are you determined every day to reach that goal?
Don't get me wrong, I don't wake up every day excited about having to train. There are days when the work-life balance is overwhelming and I'm tired and irritable, and it's hard to find the motivation. But I do it. It's just a choice I make. That said, the most important thing I have learned in the past six months is to listen to my body. I used to train through thick and thin, on no sleep, when I was sick and even injured. Recovery is just as important to getting results as training.
Is there a weakness anywhere in your regimen?
Swimming is not really my forte, and has been a humbling experience for me. I have progressed from hating it, to disliking it, to enjoying it on the odd occasion - 'odd' being the operative word there.
What's the secret to rock-hard abs?
I don't do traditional sit-ups - never have, never will. It's just not my thing. My core strength comes from a background in heavy weights, and when I'm eating well, you can see the definition, which is always a bonus. To see abs, you need to have low body fat. To lose fat, you need to gain lean muscle, and you can only do that when you train and eat for your body type.
How much weight training do you do?
I enjoy lifting heavy weights, and my body responds really well to this type of training. One of my pet peeves is that there is a huge stigma attached to women and weights. Girls shouldn't be afraid to do weights. I know I'm not everyone's ideal body type, and a lot of girls are intimidated by how much muscle mass I have, but you have to put this into perspective. I have spent a good proportion of my life doing this. I didn't walk into a gym and transform overnight. Most women don't have the hormonal profile to be able to develop this much. And it takes time and dedication on so many levels.
What's your diet like?
I think people really underestimate how important good nutrition is. You can train as much as you like, but unless you're a genetic freak, if you don't eat right, you won't get the results you want. I'm definitely not into deprivation, I like clean, green and lean. Clean and organic fruit and vegetables where I can, Brussels sprouts, lean white meats, and fish. I tend to avoid gluten and dairy - that cuts out a lot of processed foods - and I don't drink any more.
What do you indulge in?
My one weakness is Cadbury's Creme Eggs. I once ate 18 in a row, then had to give the last six away, not because I felt sick, but because I felt guilty.