Alana Shipp: “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
Take one look at the incredible physique of NPC National Champion Alana Shipp and a long list of adjectives comes to mind; outstanding, inspiring, incredible, jaw-dropping, unbelievable, beautiful, graceful, stunning, superb – but it isn't the accolades that matter, it's her brand new title, IFBB Pro.
Although she entered the weekend with relatively little hype despite her dominant performance earlier in the contest season at the NPC Steve Stone Metropolitan Championships, she exited Florida as one of the competitors fans and experts alike couldn't seem to get enough of.
I recently had a chance to talk with the newest sensation in female bodybuilding, and you can catch all of the details right here, in this Rx Muscle exclusive interview.
Q.) Before we talk about your success at the 2013 NPC National Championships I'd like to take a step back and look at the journey you've taken to reach this point. From a competitive bodybuilding perspective, you're relatively new to the sport. However, prior to beginning your bodybuilding career, did you have an athletic background?
A.) No, I didn't have an athletic background. Actually, when it comes to sports, I'm very awkward. I was forced to be active while in the Marine Corps and it was quite challenging for me. I would even say the intense physical training is one of the reasons I left the Marine Corps.
Q.) Many fans may not be aware that you spent eight years serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. What prompted you decision to initially enlist?
A.) The main reason I enlisted in the Marine Corps was the tuition assistance. I knew I wanted to attend College but I couldn't afford it without heaps of student loans. After completing my degree I felt it was time to move on and try something different.
Q.) What would you say is the most valuable tool that you learned while serving?
A.) Never give up. That's by far the most valuable tool I learned while serving. If you start something, finish it! Devote yourself to it completely and see it through. Marines say "pain is weakness leaving the body". The greater the struggle the stronger we become. Often time’s people give up when challenged and that's usually just before the turning point.
Q.) The bodybuilding lifestyle requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice and discipline in order to be successful. Looking back, do you think your time spent serving helped instill tools that have allowed you to make the successful transition into bodybuilding?
A.) I'm sure that some of the tools I learned while serving played a role in my transition to bodybuilding. Of course discipline is extremely important in the Marine Corps but I think it takes a certain type of courage and commitment to even enlist in the Marine Corps, so I believe a lot of this work ethic was instilled in me while growing up.
Q.) Tell us how you first discovered the sport of bodybuilding.
A.) I've always known of bodybuilding but, I knew very little about the sport itself. I knew of many of the top competitors from fitness magazines and on the internet but I didn't understand exactly what it was they did until I went to a bodybuilding show two years ago. I was fascinated by the way these men and women sculpted their bodies. I remember sitting there in awe!
Q.) Prior to beginning your training, did you have any previous knowledge about the competitive aspect of the sport?
A.) When the idea of competing was brought to me, I had very little knowledge of the sport. I had no idea what category I would even compete in, let alone what I would need to do onstage. It was during the time I was training that I began researching and developed a better understanding of the sport. I spent my days preparing with diet, exercise, and everything else that goes into contest prep, and every night before bed I would spend time online learning whatever I could about the sport. It has been a bit of an obsession.
Q.) As you began to see the incredible transformation that was taking place with your physique, what was your reaction?
A.) The better I looked, the better I wanted to look and the harder I worked. The changes in my physique served as motivation for me to keep going. I never relaxed and felt that since I was looking great that I can slack. It was the opposite. I knew what I was capable of and wanted to push it even further.
Q.) How did you come to the decision to enter your first competition?
A.) I hired a trainer because I wasn't happy with my size and wanted to lose weight before attending a Marine Corps ball. After losing ten pounds in the first month I was inspired and decided to keep going. After about four months of intense training and dieting, there were noticeable changes in my body. My trainer recommended I compete in a competition in Israel. I didn't believe I was a candidate because I couldn't see myself the way others did, but I decided to give it a try. I felt I had nothing to lose, it would give me something to do while my kids were at school, and I would be really happy with my new body.
Q.) Away from the stage you're a wife and busy mother of two. How instrumental has the support of your family been to fueling your success?
A.) My family is my greatest support, but when I say family I'm not only referring to my immediate family, but also my family and friends in the U.S. and Israel as well as my coach and Team Elite sisters. They have no idea how much their encouragement fuels me. I was nervous about how my family and friends would react to my decision to compete. I didn't want to say I would be competing and give up midway, so I waited until I was sure I would compete before announcing it. I received nothing but support from my family and friends. That motivates me to continue to work even harder. They say that I inspire them, but it is them who inspire me.
Q.) Although you're currently living in Israel you decided to compete in the states twice this year, including your recent win at the NPC National Championships. Why did you decide to compete here as opposed to taking the stage a bit closer to home?
A.) Competing in the U.S. was an easy decision. I competed overseas and enjoyed it, but I had other goals in mind and felt it would be difficult to achieve those goals overseas. Since I'm an American citizen I felt it made more sense to compete in the NPC since it is the organization that awards the most IFBB pro cards. This is a more expensive option, but it has been worth it. The icing on the cake is being able to have my family at shows.
Q.) Take us back to NPC Nationals as you're standing onstage and you hear the judges announce your name, and you realize that you've just won your IFBB Pro Card. What was your first thought?
A.) My first thought was; I did it, I'm a Pro. I worked so hard, I shed so many tears and I made so many sacrifices, but none of it was in vain. I have an amazing coach, Arthur Gooden, who mapped out a plan for me a year ago and everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be.
Q.) When is the next time fans can expect to see you onstage?
A.) Lord willing, my Pro debut will be spring 2014.
Q.) Your incredible physique serves as an inspiration to up and coming female competitors. If you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?
A.) Nothing worth having comes easy. My path to becoming an IFBB Pro was a short one, but it doesn't mean it was an easy one. I believe in working hard now for future success. You can't give a part of yourself to this sport, you have to be willing to give all of yourself. As a competitor there will be many people telling you what you should and shouldn't do. Listen to one person and one person only. There are many different systems out there that work but they don't all work together. Think carefully when choosing a coach and when you do, be patient. Give your coach time to learn your body before giving up and moving on.
Q.) Complete this sentence. In five years Alana Shipp will be....
A.) A successful IFBB Professional athlete as a competitor and as a brand. I want to have some wins under my belt and place top 5 at the Ms. Olympia. I will work hard to be amongst the best of the best.
Despite her obvious genetic gifts, Alana knows that success is never given, it's earned. In order for her to achieve her fullest potential and etch her name into the collective consciousness of female bodybuilding fans around the world she's going to have to continue to approach the sport with the same ferocity that's brought her to this point. And, if she's willing to accept the challenge, she's going find that she's capable of reaching heights that even she never imagined.