With podium finishes in running races from 50k to 100 miles, Alex Ho may at first glance appear to be superhuman. We were lucky enough to sit down with the founder of Revision Athletics to get his thoughts on running, teaching, and what it really means to be an athlete.
What’s the first thing you ate this morning?
I had my granola with a banana. I make my own granola from a recipe I got from my aunt. It’s very simple: rolled oats, pecans or walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, and honey. And then I add cinnamon or pumpkin spice or turmeric. You bake it for an hour and then…granola! It’s simple and it’s delicious.
When it comes to food, what’s your guilty pleasure?
Mint chocolate chip ice cream. I try to stay away from it but I can’t.
What’s your favorite drink?
For alcoholic drinks, I like different types of beers. For non-alcoholic, I stick to water, which is boring. Sometimes I’ll put a squeeze of lemon in, but mostly it’s just cold water. I’ve never had a cup of coffee. Caffeine really affects me. I get super jittery if I have it, so I only use it during races and occasionally during long training runs. I’ll take gels, and then I’m wired. I do hundred milers, where you’re out there for 20+ hours, and when you’re running through the night, you need something to keep you awake and aware. But otherwise I’m not a caffeine person.
What was your path into running?
My path into running and my path into coaching were similar. I used to be in construction management. That’s what I moved to San Francisco for and got a degree in. I worked in that field for four and a half years and in the last year of it or so, I was kind of stuck in a rut. I decided to have a Yes year where I would say yes to everyothing. One day my friend found a deal for an unlimited bootcamp for $75, and I decided, why not?
I took the first class and was immediately hooked. It was hard, it was fun, it was outside – it was everything I wanted and I was sore everywhere. I went four days a week for six weeks and was loving it. I lost ten pounds and got in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I used to hate running. Five years ago getting me on a run was miserable, but during these classes running became the rest between all of the strength exercises. I realized, “Oh, running’s not bad!” Then I started noticing that I was kind of fast. There was one guy who was always ahead of me and I made it my goal to beat him. Eventually, I did.
After that I decided to get into races. I decided I would run my first 10k, half marathon, and full marathon in the same year. I signed up for each of them early in the year – this was 2011 – and ran each of them. My marathon was miserable. I finished in 3:23 which is a good time, but during the last four miles I blacked out. I was completely out of it. I had to lie on the curb for 45 minutes after and I thought it sucked. My boss at the time was an ultrarunner and she said, “Hey, you did that fast enough, you should do a 50-miler!” And I said, “I can’t move right now.” But two weeks later I signed up for the 50-miler. That was in December and on the trails, so I trained up for it and it was the most fun race I’ve ever done. I loved it and was hooked on the ultras and trail running after that.
What was your path into teaching?
That same year I got my personal training certification and started teaching classes before and after work. I was doing that for a full year and then in January 2012 I quit my construction job and started personal training and teaching classes full time. In the beginning I worked for a few different companies at the same time. I worked for a gym, but I hated it because I wanted to be teaching outdoors. Slowly I started leaving the companies I was teaching with except for one, and I was also doing my own personal training. This past year I realized I needed to break out on my own. I felt like, this is mine. I need to do this. I broke off on my own and here we are.
Of the classes you’re teaching now, which ones are your favorite?
I teach three mornings a week. Mondays are Athletic Endurance, focusing on muscular endurance, cardio endurance, and endurance overall. Tuesdays are Natural Strength, so we do more power and strength exercises working with hills and stairs. There’s a lot of body weight work. Fridays are Barefoot on the Beach, which is really fun. I have everyone take their shoes and socks off and get on the beach and get in the water a little bit. It’s not as intense but it’s still hard because sand makes any exercise three times harder.
I like Tuesdays best because I can really push people. They’re expecting it to be hard because any time you add hills, especially in San Francisco, it’s a great workout. Tuesdays are the most popular class, too. We see the most people come even though they dread it. People love it.
What is your MoveWith word and why?
Awareness. I think that’s the essence of being alive and the essence of fitness. If you’re aware, you can do almost anything. That’s not just physically aware, but also mentally aware, spiritually aware if you’re spiritual – knowing where you are and what’s going on. You have to be able to react to things and be aware of how your body is. When you’re doing something, be aware of how you’re feeling and if you’re really at your limit or if you’re giving up. If you don’t move with awareness, you’re not becoming fit; you’re not becoming an athlete. I think that’s the difference between athletes and non-athletes.
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out as a teacher?
Find a mentor. Find someone who inspires you and see if they’ll take you under their wing. Start out by trying it. If you want to be a yoga teacher or a personal trainer, don’t quit your day job yet. Try it for a few hours a day to see if you like it. Some people try it and they realize that they like working out but they can’t stand watching people work out. Teaching classes is completely different from taking classes. Make sure you like it.
Also, don’t get into it for the money. If you’re in it for the money you’re in the wrong profession. You can make money eventually, but it takes time and you have to be passionate. You have to want to learn and grow and keep trying new things.
Did you have a mentor?
My mentor was Jenn Pattee when I first started. She was the owner of Basic Training, where I used to teach. She took me under her wing and taught me a lot about how to lead classes. She also got me intro trail running. And once I got into trail running, I started meeting a lot of very cool people who are doing amazing things, not just in the fitness world, but in normal life. When you’re out there for so long you get to talk a lot and you meet some really interesting people. It’s inspiring to meet those people who are paving their own paths. San Francisco has a lot of them.
What is your spirit animal?
I think my spirit animal is a cheetah. I’ve loved cheetahs ever since I was growing up because of how fast they are. I’ve also been called a gazelle. I have long legs and I kind of bounce around when I run on the trails.
What are you most excited about this year?
It’s going to be my first full year in business which is really exciting for me. I’m looking forward to being able to try things out and fail and succeed and see what works and what doesn’t. I’m also excited to step up my game in the running community. I had a decent year in 2015 minus a lot of injuries in the second half of the year, but I have some target races this year that I want to do really well in. I have the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April up in Oregon. If I do really well in that – first or second – I would get a ticket into Western States 100, which would be a dream. I’m also doing a stage race in Colorado in August with a friend. It’s 120 miles over six days.
What would your dream vacation be?
I would go to Patagonia to go running around the mountains there. I’d love to do a hut to hut trip with running and hiking. I hear the Dolomites are amazing, too. It would be gorgeous and great to connect with nature. As far as who I would bring along…someone who could keep up!
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