This is dedicated to her son Evan, all of the survivors and the victims of senseless gun violence.
I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while about this phenomenal athlete, wife and mother named Allyson Franco. With current events in play, I figured that today’s that day. Before I share the interview with Allyson, let me tell you a bit about her.
Allyson and I met in 2016 at a gym in Castle Rock, Colorado. She was working there as a Personal Trainer, and I hired her to help me get back into better shape. As she trained me, we began to talk and get to know one another, and eventually became really great friends. Coincidentally, we’re both from Georgia, close in age, and appreciate family, food, and running. After some major convincing between myself and her husband we FINALLY got her to do a photo shoot with me. Allyson is a natural in front of the camera!! Not once did she ever tense up, or give up on the all day marathon shoot we did.
On May 7th 2019, the Highlands Ranch, Colorado community was forever changed when a shooting occurred at the Highlands Rance STEM School. There were 8 students hurt and 1 was killed. For me this hit pretty personal because Allyson’s one and only son is currently a student there. Living here in Germany, I rarely see the news going on in the U.S., however Allyson made this post on social media that she shared with me, and has allowed me to share with you all:
“I rarely post very personal things on Facebook, but what happened today is bigger than just my family unit. There was a shooting at Evan’s school today, STEM. He was in the classroom next door to where one of the shooters opened fired. At least 3 bullets came through the wall into his room and one grazed a boy in his class on the leg. His soccer coach was the teacher leading class at that time. One of his teammates was actually in the room where it happened (his teammate is physically ok). He knew the student that did not survive his injuries and, though not very well, he knew the 18 yr old shooter. This is a small school, everybody knows everybody on some level. Our son heard and saw things today that nobody should ever be exposed to, least of all someone his age whose biggest concern should be his upcoming game and what he’s going to do on Friday night. He heard all of the gunshots that happened in that room. He heard a student yell “He has a gun!” He heard the confrontation that happened between a shooter and an officer. He heard the confrontation stop after more gunfire. He helped gather his classmates into the area where they were supposed to be during a lockdown, including collecting two classmates who were hiding together in a deemed unsafe spot, which left him positioned on the floor in the middle of the room instead of up against the wall where, he was supposed to be because he was one of the last two people to take cover. He saw blood pools on the floor and blood on the wall as he was evacuated from the school by armed officers. To the depths of my soul I mourn what happened today. I mourn the loss of life, I mourn for those that suffered injuries, I mourn the lives of the shooters and I mourn for their parents, and I mourn for the rest of these kids that should never have been exposed to everything that happened today. I am immensely proud of how our son handled himself today. Yet I am devastated at his loss of innocence. I am an adult, yet I am unsure of how to deal with the feelings I have. How do we as parents help our kids through this who, at this age, struggle with simply processing their regular daily emotional load?
I worry every time this boy gets in his car and leaves my sight. So much so that I make fun of myself in my head for being such a ‘mom’. Every fear came to life today when I got the text that said “don’t call me because my phone can’t ring...there is an active shooter...which is where I am...” I’m surely going to freak the eff out when he leaves home now.
I’m not looking to be political. That’s not what this post is about. I’m heartbroken. So many children are hurting. I cannot thank God enough for the moment when I was able to hug my son after hours of standing in a gymnasium with hundreds of other scared parents. Honestly, I don’t really know why I’m posting this other than I need a place to ‘put’ what I’m feeling (imagine how all of these students feel). And that feelings about what happened today should not be kept inside.
Hug your kids for me. I love them all. “
As a Marine that has experience in combat zones I hate the fact that this happened to these kids, or anyone that has had to deal with this when they’re supposed to be safe on our own soil. I’m not here to politicize this, however I will bring awareness to this as the rest of the world has by wearing orange today to honor gun violence victims and survivors. Now, here’s more about Allyson. #wearorange
Describe your life before you started training.
I grew up being uncomfortable in my skin. I was always the “skinny girl”. In fact, the mom of my best friend while I was growing up used to say I looked like a “refugee from Guam”. She didn’t mean any harm behind it, she loved me almost like a daughter, but it still stung and it definitely stuck. I spent some time trying out different types of dancing in my youth, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my “thing” so I didn’t stay with it as I got older. I spent my high school years trying to come to terms with myself as a whole, just like everybody else did. I feel like I didn’t really start coming into my own until after I graduated. I’d have to say that the best I’ve ever felt about myself was in my early to mid twenties. Whether it’s related or not, that’s when I began to dabble in the gym. My then fiancée and I joined Lifetime Fitness and started working out to get ready for our wedding. I wasn’t nearly at the level physically that I’ve since become, and there have been many evolutions in my fitness journey since then, but after I started that one gym membership, I haven’t stopped.
How different do you feel now compared to then?
Night and day. But sprinklings of that very insecure girl still show up more often than I’d like. There are moments when being a 45 year old, pre-menopausal mom and wife catch up with me. But my time that I spend training is what helps to keep those demons at bay. I’ve learned to appreciate my strength and the feats my body has been able to accomplish over the years.
Was there is pivotal moment that motivated you to start training? If so, what was it?
Not really. At the time, John and I joined a gym in preparation for our upcoming wedding. It just seemed like the thing to do. We didn’t realize that we had begun what was to become one of the biggest parts of our daily lives.
Do you remember your first training session? How different is your training today?
I remember when I first joined a gym after having my son. That was more significant to me than my first time ever training in a gym was. I was a new mom and needed to get out of the house and find a community. I found it when I came back to the gym. (I’d had to give up the gym during my pregnancy due to complications.)
What has been the most rewarding aspect of training for you? Why?
By far, my sense of self. I feel more confident and secure in my station when I have my outlet. I am a better wife and mother when I’m able to get my training in. My personal fitness evolution also lead me to becoming a personal trainer, which became my career passion the minute I started.
What has continued to motivate you throughout your training? Why?
Setting a good example for my son is a huge motivation. I want to show him that just because we have to age, it doesn’t mean we have to get old. And also to show him that taking care of yourself is a foundation to leading a good life. Training is also my outlet. I’m a better version of myself when my training is on point. My family and my clients deserve my best.
What are your qualifications - why did you set out to achieve these?
Professionally, my personal training certifications are through NASM - National Academy of Sports Medicine. I have my Certified Personal Trainer certification, Corrective Exercise Specialist certification, Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification, Weight Loss Specialist certification, Women’s Fitness Specialist certification, and Youth Exercise Specialist certification. NASM is one of the most highly regarded institutions from which to become certified. I figured that I’d be wasting my time, and my clients’ time, if I didn’t set high standards for myself from the beginning. Each new certification I acquire makes me a more effective and well rounded personal trainer. My clients deserve my best effort, and that includes not only my attitude, but also my knowledge. Beyond my professional certifications, I try to practice what I preach. I have tried to be accomplished both professionally and personally. I have finished multiple 30 hour adventure races, completed multiple marathons, completed a 50k ultramarathon, finished two 70.3 distance triathlons, and also crossed the finish line at the inaugural Chattanooga Ironman 140.6 triathlon.
What have you had to overcome to get to where you are today? Did that change you in any way? If so, describe how.
I’ve been blessed that my road to becoming a personal trainer has been a fairly smooth one. My husband has supported me 100% since day 1, and he’s my biggest fan. He has trained along my side and in many of my personal endeavors too. We trained together and held hands as we both crossed the finish line in the Chattanooga Ironman. My son has also been consistently positive about everything I’ve done. My support system is strong.
What is the number one lesson you have learned about health and fitness through your training?
Sustainability is key. Each person has to find a nutrition and training regimen that they can stick with long term. Health and fitness should be a lifelong endeavor.
What do you wish you had known when you were 16?
That great things happen when I push myself outside of my comfort zone, both mentally and physically.
Describe how training makes you feel.
Strong. Capable. Beautiful. Centered.
Do you have a quote that you live by? If so, why this one?
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” We all can become complacent in a blink if we aren’t paying attention. This applies to all areas of life - physical, mental, social, professional....Nothing progresses if we are stagnant and comfortable.
What was your reason for taking health and fitness to the level you have? Why is it so important to you?
It’s been an evolution for me. As I gained more confidence in what my body could do, I kept pushing my limits. Every time I completed a race, even though I was beat down and exhausted, I felt strong and accomplished. I also want to be strong and healthy for my family. I try to lead by example so they will be encouraged to be strong and healthy as well.
What advice would you give to women wanting to get into the best shape of their life?
Don’t get discouraged. No one thing works for every person. Don’t be afraid to try different avenues of exercise.
What is the most important thing women need to remember when training? Why?
That it’s ok to take that time for yourself. We tend to feel that by doing something that seems like it is for us alone, we are taking away from the people that we love. That’s not the case. The truth is, this small amount of time that we take, makes us better for the people that count on us.
We all have days where motivation is low – how do you overcome these? Have you always been able to do this?
I am a “doer.” I’m very task oriented. If something needs to be done, and I’m the one that is supposed to do it, I complete the task regardless of how I feel about doing it. The same principle applies for me with regard to my training. If it’s on the schedule for the day, I do it. That said, there are occasional days where I might be particularly low energy or run down. Perhaps those will turn into unscheduled rest days. I’m trying to listen to my body more. I was not very good at doing so a few years ago. My last line of defense, though, is my husband. If I’m really failing to get myself moving, he’s very good about stepping in. He’s been known to create a butt-kicking workout for me so that I don’t have to think about it. I just show up.
Do you enjoy training alone or with a partner? Why?
Really, it depends on the day and what I’m doing. There is something great about being in my fitness studio alone, my music turned up loud, and doing my thing. But I also have fun when my friend comes to join me and we help push each other. I love the times when my husband and I can get in the gym together too. My son will come workout with me sometimes as well, especially during summer vacation. Those are great opportunities for us to spend time together.
What would you like to see change in the health and fitness industry?
I’d like to see some regulation on vitamins, proteins, and supplements. So many people think that all supplements are created equal. They’re under the impression that these products are all safe because they’re sold over the counter. That’s not true and it makes it difficult for the average person to make informed decisions about what they are putting in their bodies.
What would a perfect Sunday involve for you?
A perfect Sunday would come at the end of a successful training week. There would be snow on the ground, I’d sleep in with my husband, stay in sweats all day, there would be a big pot of homemade spaghetti gravy on the stove, and I’d finish off my evening with a couple of glasses of red wine.
Contest history - do you have a highlight? Why?
I’ve completed multiple 30-hour adventure races, several marathons, a 50k ultra marathon, two 70.3 distance Ironman Triathlons, and the Inaugural Chattanooga 140.6 Ironman Triathlon. The highlight would have to be the Chattanooga Ironman. My training had been sidelined by a few unexpected surgeries I’d had at the beginning of that year. I had come to terms with not being able to participate in this race that coming September as I hadn’t been able to train at all for the first 6 months of the year. But at the last minute, I decided to go for it. I trained hard for two months and, while my time wasn’t as good as it would have been if I’d been able to train properly, I crossed the finish line next to my husband. Running down that finisher’s chute was one of the highlights of my entire life.
[Please outline a typical day’s meals and your workout]
Breakfast - Isagenix IsaLean Strawberry shake, coffee
Snack - small handful of raw almonds and an apple
Later lunch/ post workout - 2 Mediterranean grilled chicken skewers, 2 tbsp hummus, cucumber slices
Dinner - roasted chicken, roasted red potatoes, and a salad
Breakfast - Isa shake, coffee
Snack - 2 slices sharp cheddar cheese and an apple
Later lunch / post workout - Just Shredded Chicken from Sprouts, 2 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot wing sauce, and baby carrots
Dinner - baked salmon, brown rice pilaf (made from scratch), steamed asparagus
Breakfast - Isa shake, coffee
Snack - beef jerky
Late lunch / post workout - one of the two lunches described above
Dinner - chicken stir fry with carrots, baby bok choy, and bell peppers, served over brown rice
Breakfast - same
Snack - same
Lunch / post workout - same
Dinner - baked chicken breasts, roasted potatoes, baked Parmesan squash and zucchini “chips” (dipped in Greek yogurt ranch dressing)
Brakfast - same
Snack - same
Lunch / post workout - same
Dinner - chicken tinga tacos from Yolanda’s
Breakfast - avocado toast on Ezekiel bread with 2 eggs and a sliced tomato, coffee
Lunch - 5 marinated mozzarella balls and a chopped tomato with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Snack - almonds or beef jerky and an apple
Dinner - sweet and spicy honey-sriracha chicken thighs with honey-soy glazed carrots served over brown rice
Breakfast - scrambled eggs (made by my husband), Ezekiel toast, coffee
Lunch - turkey and cheddar flat sandwich from Pot Belly with all the toppings except mayo and oil
Dinner - either some form of leftovers from previous dinners, or homemade spaghetti gravy over whole wheat pasta
Describe yourself in three words.
Stubborn, dependable, feisty
(Editor’s note: Allyson is half Italian and Puerto Rican, so those three words might make better sense!)
What is your favorite food to indulge on? How often do you treat yourself?
I love cheese! I don’t think I’ve ever met a cheese that I didn’t like. I don’t eat it as often as I’d like. Maybe once a month I’ll put together a big tray of cheese and charcuterie and my husband and I will have that for dinner with a couple of glasses of wine.
What is your favorite non-cheat food?
Tomatoes. I’ve had an obsession with them the last few months.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? Who cooks it?
Homemade spaghetti gravy with handmade ravioli. We make the ravioli by hand as a family, but I make the gravy. This is what we have for Christmas dinner every year.
What are the staples in your fridge?
Just shredded chicken from Sprouts, sliced cucumbers, romaine letuce, we always have lots of veggies, Perfect Bars, Organic Valley 2% milk, Silk soy creamer, eggs.
What is your favorite body part to train? Why?
Legs, because I’ve always felt that they require the most work for me. If I’m not training them hard, then they become too skinny.
What is your least favorite body part to train? Why?
Chest, because I hate push-ups.
Do you prefer to train outdoors or indoors? Why?
Indoors, but my training studio is in my garage so I love to have the big bay door open. I get the best of both worlds that way.
Describe the atmosphere in your favorite place to train – what can you see/feel/hear etc.?
The lights are low and the rock music is loud. The vibe is strong and positive. I must have some personal space too, and be able to see outside.
Do you prefer cardio or weights? Why?
I used to be a cardio junkie. I’m not like that now though, At this point, I’d have to say that I prefer weight training. I think I burned myself out running 10 miles a day, several days a week for such a long period of time. I just don’t have it in me to do that anymore. I also discovered that I prefer the way my body looks when I’m doing more lifting and HIIT training than the way it looked when I was running so much.
Do you have a favorite book? Why this one?
‘The Outlander’ series by Diana Gabaldon, because I’m a sucker for a good romance and strong lead characters.
What is your favorite feature? Why?
My skin. I try very hard to take good care of it and keep it healthy and youthful looking. I was blessed with good genes. My mother and my grandmother both have beautiful skin. I have big shoes to fill in that regard.
Name five (5) things you can't live without.
Other than my guys (John & Evan)? Blue jeans, boots, wine, my pets, and my workouts.
Name three (3) things most people don’t know about you.
I don’t like crowds, I sang in the chorus in high school, and I love to cook.
What is on your bedside table?
Water, hand lotion, Burt’s Bees lip treatment, 2 pictures of my son as a baby, and a lamp.
What is your best beauty secret?
Eye cream! I’ve been using it since I was in my 20s. And serious sunscreen on my face.
Who inspires you? Why?
My son. He exudes a quiet, but fierce confidence that I wish I’d had at his age. Or that I wish I had even now! The intelligence and maturity that he possesses is inspiring to watch grow.
Who is your fitness and body role model? Why?
I can’t actually say that I have one. I just try to be the best version of myself that I can put out there. I spent too many years dangerously comparing myself to other people out there. I try not to do that anymore.
What do you have in store for the future? What do you want to improve on?
Looking towards the future I’ll be focusing on expanding my business model and figuring out how to do that while not falling short on the daily running my household. I want to improve upon my ability to do both.
I'm currently preparing for:
Nothing physical. I am working on building my brand professionally, while keeping my own training consistent.