I recently had the pleasure to attend the Kroger’s Wellness Your Way Festival (WYWF). I had the opportunity of interviewing Allison Warrell, bodybuilder, trainer, entrepreneur and little person with achondroplasia dwarfism who defies the odds every day to pursue the healthy life of her dreams. Standing at 3’11, Allison realized late in life that extra weight was putting undue stress on her petite frame. With proper training help, she devoted herself to becoming as fit as possible and was the shortest woman to compete in the NPC bodybuilding federation in the women’s physique division. Allison has also created a support group for Little People (H.E.L.P.- Health and Exercise for Little People) to encourage others to embrace their fitness potential, no matter the challenge, and she has had the opportunity to transform two very obese little people in a documentary series called Big & Little on TLC.
Thank you so much for joining us, Allison. This festival is about “Wellness Your Way”. What does the term “Wellness Your Way” mean to you?
This festival is providing people with an opportunity to combine their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. I think there’s a unique combination for everyone and wellness your way means finding out what that is.
Was there a story that inspired you to get involved with WYWF?
I was introduced to WYWF through another friend, also a little person that’s involved. He felt that we needed more representation so he introduced me the folks at Kroger and when they saw that I’m an amateur body builder and that I’ve devoted my life to wellness they asked me to come. I’m super excited to be here!
Can you tell me about a wellness challenge you’ve had and overcome?
I’m an amateur body builder. It’s a hobby that I’m pursuing more and more. I’d love to have my pro card one day. To date I’m the shortest person to ever compete in NPC (National Physique Committee), the biggest bodybuilding federation. As a little person I’m judged by the same criteria as the other female competitors.
Training is one of the greatest obstacles I’ve overcome because gym equipment is not made for someone my size. I’m three foot eleven. I’ve learned how to modify manipulate and execute using equipment designed for the average size person.
So for anyone with an excuse to not get fit I’d like to prove that no matter what your issue there’s a solution if you want it.
I carry a backpack to the gym with hooks for my hands to grip, resistance bands, a step stool and other gadgets that allow me to modify equipment so I can use it. If a gym doesn’t let me bring a bag in I won’t train there. I’ve also been training other little people for the past eight years and have tried many vacations to find what accommodations works best. My brain works like an engineer now. If something doesn’t work for a client or my body type because my spine us curved or my arms and legs are shorter I’ll find a way to make the exercise support my body type without hurting myself or my clients.
It’s funny to see people looking at me at the gym adding gadgets to machines and really getting into it. Sometimes they ask me for help and I’m happy too! One of my greatest accomplishments has been training morbidly obese little people on TLC. We saved their lives. Obesity is very common among little people and can be fatal. Due to our bone structure carrying extra weight can be cause for surgeries that are often preventable with the right wellness plan. I got to train with each person one the show for nine months and watch them transform. We went to their homes because we wanted to show the how to succeed in the real world and overcome the typical barriers little people face. The results were phenomenal.
Although I’m not taking on any addition training clients I continue to give back by running the biggest support group for little people on FaceBook called Health and Exercise For Little People where I show members how to modify exercise equipment and overcome their fears around getting healthy.
I help other trainers, parents of little people who are trying to navigate how their kids can play sports. It’s really inspiring and I love doing it.
What’s your current wellness mantra or life quote?
I don’t believe I have a disability because I have dwarfism. I don’t buy into the belief that because I’m a little person I can’t do certain things. Yes I have challenges to overcome but I believe that I can do anything with the right mindset. That’s my mantra.
What’s one wellness product/routine you can’t live without right now?
One product I use a lot are resistance bands because there’s some gym equipment that’s difficult for me to modify for my body. Resistance bands allow me the flexibility to work various muscle groups using my body’s own resistance and weight. They’re very effective.
I also should take out stock in Ziploc because when I travel especially when I’m training for a competition I bring a lot of food with me that I store in baggies. My suitcase looks like I’m preparing for Armageddon!
What projects are you currently working on?
In nine weeks I’m competing in a bodybuilding competition called the Masters Show. It’s my first time because I’m actually in the age bracket. It’s a pro qualifier which means that the winner for each class gets their pro card for the International Federation of Bodybuilders which is what I want. I would really love to be the shortest woman to own a pro card to prove to everyone that size doesn’t really matter.
Thank you for joining us, Allison. You’re such an inspiration!
Connect with Allison on Instagram @allieqdub