At SaltStick, we are proud to sponsor top athletes in the fields of triathlon, running, tennis and now, jiu jitsu. We are inspired by our athletes and admire the hard work and time they have dedicated to achieving success.
Because we hope our athletes’ performances will serve as motivation as you pursue your own fitness and life journey, we enjoy sharing their stories. This week’s blog post features Alison Stiegler, a jiu jitsu star who has earned more than 20 medals across three states and two continents. Today, she is a champion in IBJJF, UAEJJF, NAGA, NewBreed and more.
Alison’s journey into jiu jitsu
Alison grew up playing soccer in Miami, and in early adulthood, she trained as a yoga teacher, both for the mental and physical benefits. After a move to East Bay, California — a mecca of martial arts — she decided to break from her routine and shop for something new.
At first, she avoided fighting because in contrast to her yoga routines, grappling and wrestling were “violent, sweaty and too close for comfort.” But she soon found jiu jitsu provided a gentle sense of peace and a feeling unmatched by any other experience.
“My favorite thing about the sport is the beauty of the movement,” Alison says. “I feel like jiu jitsu is the closest I have gotten to the flow state.”
After jumping in, she found rapid success. In ten months, she earned her blue belt from the esteemed Eduardo Fraga and medaled in almost every competition she entered. Today, Alison is ranked #1 in North America/USA by UAEJJF and holds the Bay Area Championship Belt.
“Jiu jitsu has turned into a lifestyle,” Alison says. “Hopefully for life.”
Because striking and kicking are not allowed in jiu jitsu, athletes are able to spend time every practice session sparring, a full-body workout that requires extreme levels of mental and physical stamina. Additionally, drills and general conditioning are important to keep the body limber to maintain the necessary technique and endurance.
With a foundation built by soccer and yoga, Alison is able to train a lot, taking a break from training only every 10 to 15 days. In addition to drills and sparring, Alison’s routine includes stretching, functional mobility and yoga. Soccer is a rare occurrence these days, but every morning before breakfast, she heads out the door for a few sprints.
Coupled with sport-specific activities, Alison lifts weights and hikes a few times each month, taking advantage of the California scenery.
Though high-volume, this training is foundational to success in competition. In fact, Alison’s advice for beginners looking to improve their jiu jitsu talent is simply to “go train.”
Alison eats cleanly, following a plant-based diet that includes ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, with meat a few times a month. She is strict about avoiding sugar entirely, but she doesn’t mind a bit of sugar-free chocolate every once in a while.
When training, Alison has to be extra careful about her hydration. As noted above, jiu jitsu is a full-body sport requiring extreme feats of strength, and athletes can lose up to 10 pounds in a 90-minute training session.
“Even when I was a soccer player in Miami, I never sweated as much I do in jiu jitsu,” Alison says. “Anyone who trains can relate.”
To stay hydrated, Alison uses SaltStick to help replace electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Because SaltStick is designed to be easily absorbed by the body, consuming a few capsules per hour is an easy part of her routine.
“SaltStick Fastchews give me energy for my fights, and they taste really good,” she says. “I’m humbled and excited to share a unique, healthy option with the fighting world.”
Alison’s first championship required her to drive two hours, pay $150 and cut weight, which she says was an intense experience. Three minutes after the start, the referee ended the match early, fearing her safety because of the way her body was bending. Though simply the result of Alison’s flexibility, the match ended all the same.
Initially, the entire affair felt pointless, but after some thought, Alison realized it was only the first step in a long process. At her next tournament, she beat a more experienced competitor and found herself on the podium.
“I put my heart in it and left it all on the mat,” she says. “I didn’t realize until that day that it was my first time ever on a podium, and I had finally done something completely for myself.”
Yet to Alison, the medals are an afterthought. Approaching the sport like a journey, realizing there are highs and lows, is the the key to her motivation. That and her total love for training.
“I literally don’t ever think I’ve been in a jiu jitsu rut,” she says. “The feeling I get during and after a class is so good that I don’t need much motivation otherwise.”
Alison uses her experience in jiu jitsu to give back as well, coaching children, seniors and professional athletes under Subsidized Yoga, specializing in the underprivileged as well as people of all abilities, including blindness.
To Alison, the most challenging thing about jiu jitsu is recognizing she can’t train every day, due to the body’s need for rest. But she can’t sit totally still: On her days off, you’ll find her getting in some mobility training.