Lift Heavy, Play Pretty: A Q&A With Tiffany Angulo of The Pretty Little Lifters

Tiffany Angulo is the founder of The Pretty Little Lifters, a blog created to empower women and fitness enthusiasts. On a mission to promote a healthy lifestyle, Angulo regularly works with some of the world’s top athletes and fitness brands as she spreads the message that women can be both strong and feminine.

You were born and raised in Southern California, a region many of us associate with a quest for healthy living and a constant search for the hottest new health food/fitness trends. How did your childhood in California shape your personal relationship with health and beauty?

I will say that I am very fortunate to grow up where I did. I love Southern California and I was always exposed to fitness and sports from a young age. We have fabulous weather here and people are active, which I love! I was used to people playing seasonal sports, going for walks, running, riding bikes, playing outdoors, dance classes, hiking, home exercise videos, and gyms. My parents always had fresh food available and my mom always cooked real food for us, which definitely helped keep us healthy.

Being not far from Hollywood or the beach though, there was an awareness of how beauty and body aesthetics were praised. You saw muscles, enhanced parts, tans, fashionable clothing … It was definitely noticeable and created a look that you may have felt pressured to attain. You’d also hear about the new fad diets that people you knew would try.

In my teens, I definitely felt a little pressure to maintain a certain look, but happy I did so in a healthy way.

You grew up playing sports and enjoying an active lifestyle. What drew you to CrossFit and how have you grown with the sport?

When I moved to Hollywood, I signed up for a local gym, but wasn’t feeling challenged enough and became unmotivated. I came across Brick Los Angeles (my CrossFit gym for 4 years now!) and saw so many amazing things happening in this space that I was completely drawn to it! I saw strong women lifting barbells and doing muscle ups and it was amazing! I was ready to push myself to learn something new and to see fitness like a sport again.

I have grown SO much with the sport! You go through waves when you do CrossFit. You’re like a sponge when you first start and you want to learn EVERTHING at once. You make a lot of progress and PRs (personal records) the first 1-2 years because you’re learning and gaining new skills and strength. I started doing local CrossFit competitions to push myself and test my strength, gymnastics, and endurance. Today I’m enjoying working on more advanced skills, but now training without the competition aspect, which was stressful at times. I’m having fun moving and balancing strength, endurance, and gymnastics training. It truly has made me a well rounded athlete and confident to try any type of workout.

What advice do you have to those who are intimidated by CrossFit programing?

I was TOTALLY intimidated when I first walked into my CrossFit gym! I remember the first time I walked in and saw men and women doing handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, and barbell movements, and I said to myself, “Whoa, I can’t do that!” After a minute of watching them, I signed up for a membership because I wanted to learn how to do all that!

One thing I say to people is that everything can be scaled, so don’t let that stop you from trying it out. You do not have to lift the heaviest weight and do all the movements in the workout as prescribed. That’s the beauty of CrossFit…there are modifications for everyone to build your skills, strength, and endurance! Also, it’s such a supportive community, so everyone wants you to grow as an athlete and improve at your pace.

Aside from coaching fitness classes, training clients, and leading online courses in health/nutrition, you’re a full-time teacher! What techniques do you use for balancing such a demanding schedule?

It’s all about planning! Every Sunday, I look at my schedule for the week and I make sure there is a balance of teaching, coaching, my personal fitness, and social life. It’s so easy to give so much of your time to other people, which can take all of your energy. I make sure I have time for ME throughout the week so I don’t get too burnt out and have some recharge time. If I start to feel overworked, I cut back on coaching hours, social events, or gym time so I have more me time to recover. I’ve also gotten really good at saying no to certain things that I don’t have time for or that I don’t want to do. Your time is so valuable that you need to be deliberate about what you spend your time on! So don’t feel bad saying no to that ladies night out if you truly need time to work on your business or have a quiet night in to yourself.

You’re also a kettlebell trainer and have worked with members of the NFL. What’s your approach to working with some of the world’s greatest athletes?

The athletes are motivated because their fitness is their livelihood! I think challenging them to movements that support their sport, but also challenging them in a way they’re not used to, is so fun! I would come up with dynamic movements and different types of strength workouts that would support their strength/agility/endurance, but less typical from what they’re used to doing with the team. It was challenging and they liked it!

You’re also a fitness model and occasionally work as an art director/on-set trainer for fitness photo shoots. What brands have you worked with, and on what sort of campaigns? What do you look for when it comes to fostering brand partnerships?

I’ve had the privilege of working with Nike, Reebok, and Carbon 38. I love brands that promote strength and beauty in women. Total girl power! When working with brands, I always try to keep true to myself and make sure I feel represented in some way by them. Whether by them showing women lifting barbells, doing strength movements, or knowing they choose real athletes makes me more willing to work with them.

I’ve had fun being in some of Reebok’s CrossFit online and print campaigns. The shoots are usually a group of CrossFitters actually going through a workout and really sweating…right up my alley!

I do a lot with Nike Los Angeles too, because their team is always putting on public events and great events for trainers as well. It’s always great meeting other likeminded individuals who are creative and passionate about health, fitness, and style. I recently got to work with Nike’s global team as their on set trainer and help with the shoot for their new collection campaign coming out in November…It was nice getting to be creative behind the scenes for this one!

Carbon38 was one of the first fitness apparel companies to introduce me to “athleisure” wear and how workout clothes can transition to street wear…thank goodness! I’m always on the go, and being able to coach and then go straight to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert in the same clothes is pretty awesome.

It is always a challenge balancing fitness and nutrition. What is your general rule of thumb when you are fuelling your body?

Eat. Real. Food. I try to stay away from processed food as much as I can, because real food should have a shelf life. I eat to fuel my body for training and to get me through the day. I meal prep every week and I try to only eat out 1-4 times a week. It makes a HUGE difference in how I feel, perform, and look. In my 20s I gave up sweets for 30 days and since then I don’t crave sugar very much, which is awesome. My “treat meals” are now a burger or sushi once a week. I would rather eat super clean and leave extra calories for wine than sweet desserts! [laughs]

Here’s a yummy breakfast recipe that you can make at home!

You began PLL to encourage women, to show that they can be strong but also feminine. Who were your own female role models, and why do you feel that this message is important to share?

In the past, my female role models were Victoria’s Secret models or certain actresses. I thought they were beautiful and skinny…what I should aspire to be. Then things changed! My role models became strong, powerful, inspiring women who were CrossFit athletes (Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Lauren Fisher, Julie Foucher, Katrin Davidsdottir, Samantha Briggs, Annie Thorisdottir). I started to see women could be strong AND beautiful. I saw women lifting heavy weights, doing amazing skill work, and giving the men a push! These women cared more about what they could do with their bodies than what they looked like (but who could totally rock booty shorts better than anyone!). This message is so important to share because women need to stop trying to be smaller and not be afraid of having some muscle, being strong, and building confidence. What can that amazing body of yours do and how can you challenge it?!

What is the next adventure for you?

I have so many plans! I’m launching a YouTube channel for The Pretty Little Lifters…a lot of people have been asking me to do one so I’m finally making it happen! I’m also getting my PE credential so I can start looking for physical education teaching positions, which is how I would most like to work with kids. It’s been a work in progress, but I’m also soon launching some more services that include meal makeovers, and workout and food challenges. I’m excited! Also, looking forward to collaborating with more fitness professionals and brands to keep empowering women to be strong!