This post will also be available shortly on the Promoting Real Women Blog!

I have probably mentioned before that I’m a very goal-oriented person. I crave structure, and goals help me to have that structure when I might otherwise be living in chaos. When it comes to competing, I use goals to get me through each phase of training. Sometimes it’s hard to stay on track though, especially when the next competition might be months and months away. So, how do I stay on track when the culmination of my goals may not take place until months into the future?


Visualization is key for me in staying motivated and focused. Each phase of training brings with it another form of visualization. During the building phase, I visualize how each muscle fiber is growing and how I am getting stronger than before with each workout. I look back to a year ago, and how far I’ve come since that point. I look ahead to the future and imagine how things will be once I start cutting and the definition starts coming out. Visualization is important at this phase when things are growing and building, but since it is the building phase, I don’t feel quite a svelte as usual J. Granted, unlike a lot of competitors and coaches that I’ve talked to, I do not believe (nor does Jill) that it’s necessary to bulk way up during off-season in order to gain muscle. I aim for staying 5 pounds or so from my competition weight, give or take a couple pounds; that weight usually comes from good, complex carbs that enable me to stay pretty lean while still building muscle. This also allows me to avoid the hours upon hours of cardio that some competitors have to go through as they get closer to show time. It’s all about eating the right types of food during off-season – as Jill says, off-season doesn’t mean open season!

Sometimes I visualize so much that I will wake myself up doing some kind of exercise in my sleep! It sinks into my subconscious and is with me even when I don’t know it!

The real fun begins when the building phase ends and cutting begins. Workout changes, diet changes, etc. all lead to a different type of visualization. This is a time when exhaustion can sometimes set in. The workouts get harder, and it is sometimes a struggle to get through each rep. I remember doing a leg workout with Jill a couple weeks before the FAME show in May…I thought I was going to cry – literally. I could feel it coming on, but luckily the workout ended before the waterworks started!

Visualization is super-important during this time. As I feel my motivation start to wane, I think about how things will start looking more defined as I begin to shed subcutaneous water and my clothes start getting a little looser. I look at pictures from past competitions and visualize how I can improve. Then it’s all about the stage…how will I feel standing up there? I visualize being poised, graceful and confident as I do my individual walkout. (“Poise and grace” is usually the mantra I chant to myself before I walk out). I visualize the other competitors and how I deserve to be up there as much as them. I visualize making my trainer and family proud (although I know they are proud of me no matter what). As crazy as it sounds, I visualize my mom looking down on me from Heaven and saying “that’s my girl!” I visualize my name being called for first place. And while it isn’t always about winning, I feel it’s important to visualize it. During a particularly hard set when I want to say “forget this!”, I think about these things and it helps me power through those last few reps!

Before I know it, it’s show time. I will admit, I struggle with my visualization exercises on show day. This is where I usually psych myself out as I see all the wonderfully beautiful and strong physiques that I will share the stage with. They have all worked as hard as I have, and I feel guilty for wanting to do well against them. This can be a pretty egotistical sport, and that is just not me…I’m not an “all about me” person. I strive to be caring and confident, but not arrogant, and I think this sometimes causes me to psych myself out of doing well – like I don’t deserve it or something. So, next competition I will focus on visualizing my goals right up to and during show time. At this moment, I’m visualizing taking home a first place trophy and not feeling guilty about it J. It’s not about “beating” someone else, it’s about the culmination of the hard work and dedication I’ve put in to my training, while maintaining focus and life balance. It’s also about admiring and caring about my fellow competitors, but not feeling like I don’t deserve to win as much as they do. It’s about feeling good about myself and knowing I’ve done my absolute best. It’s about poise and grace!

Visualize your dreams and goals and make them reality!

Until next time, train hard and find happiness in every day!


Contest Wrap-Up

This post will also be available on the Promoting Real Women blog shortly – check it out!

Hi everyone! I, once again, must apologize for being MIA the past couple months. It was been a total whirlwind of activity between work travels, training, home life and competing. Just when I think it’s going to slow down, it gets even busier. But I am NOT complaining – I thrive off of staying busy and being productive. It seems I become self-destructive if I have too much time on my hands. Anyone else feel that way?

Before I get into contest wrap-ups, I just want to give a brief update on my dad’s condition. If you remember, he had been in the hospital back in March. Things were pretty bad at that point, but after a week, he started doing much better. Also at that point, the health insurance company reversed their decision to deny coverage of a drug that basically keeps his disease under control. Unfortunately, the decision came a little too late – the damage to his kidney was too great, and now we are looking at another kidney transplant. My aunt donated the kidney he has now, but it is basically dying. So, my sister and I are planning to get match-tested – and I am ready to go with donating one of mine if I am a match. Dad is doing ok – he gets tired easily, but he is holding his own. He is probably the strongest person I’ve even known…my hero for sure!

Here we go – contest wrap-ups!

Greensboro, NC
Masters Fitness Model, Masters Figure

This was my first time competing in a FAME event, and I must say, it was a total blast The vibe of FAME is completely different than NPC, INBF or FAP. FAME is more about “positivity” and the accomplishment of reaching goals and being “Body Proud” (their slogan). As such, the mood was more relaxed and fun. The girls and guys were all great, and backstage was more like a party than anything. I met some great people, and got to hang with some good friends: Emily, Jillian, Maria, Nina, Leslie, Mare, Jenn, Kelley etc. Jill did a great job coordinating everything, and the emcees, Kevin Friesen and Amy Barnes, were hilarious. We all had a fabulous time, and I will definitely be doing another FAME show at some point! I’m happy to say that I went home with 1st place in both the Masters Fitness Model and Masters Figure categories! You can see pics from the FAME Carolinas show at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2056171&id=1010882212&l=424380ab66.

Goofing around backstage - Tara, Kelley & Jillian

My friend and PT client, Maredith, and I. This was her first show!!

Getting a lift from one of the bodybuilders!

Emily, Leslie and Tara

Figure division

Fitness Model - Swimwear category

Fitness Model - Themewear category - Elvis!

Fitness Model - Themewear category - ELVIS!

Hickory, NC
40+ Figure, Open Figure Class B

After FAME was finished, I spent the next four weeks leaning out a bit more and “detailing” my legs. I had spent much of the off-season working on building my legs and trying to get those sought-after teardrop quads, and a nice hamstring-glute tie-in. Now was the time to stop building and just focus on bringing out definition and bringing them more in line with my shoulders. What a difference 3 weeks of this can make! We also made some tweaks to my one-week out diet that seemed to help the issue of my delts going flat in the two days before showtime. Thanks so much to Dar, Kevin and Jill for getting me on track with that. This is where I feel it’s important to note that no diet is good for every person. I’m a perfect example…I respond very quickly to carb depletion and dehydration, so it has been a process with each competition I do to find the right combination for me. I think we have finally found it – yay

I went into this show feeling confident, both physically and mentally. That is really the first time I felt that I really BELONGED on that stage, like I could hang. Of course, seeing how strong and beautiful the other ladies looked definitely made me very nervous, and I did feel my confidence start to wane!

The show itself was awesome – so organized and totally top notch. Dar Malecki and Kevin DeHaven of Main Stage Muscle really thought of everything. Neely Simmons once again did a great job with tanning, hair and makeup…I love all you guys! If you have the opportunity to do a Main Stage Muscle competition, I highly recommend it!

I drove down to Hickory on Friday afternoon – it’s about an hour from where I live, so I went ahead and made plans to stay in the host hotel. I got my two coats of oompa loompa tan, and then it was time for the carb-up meal – filet mignon and baked potato with real butter – woo hoo! My good friend, Jillian Teta, who was competing the same day in the Natural Atlantic Coast, ate with me – she loves Neely so much that she traveled to Hickory to get the tan for her show! It was great chilling with her, although it was sad that we wouldn’t be together on show day. BIG shout-out to her though for winning her class AND OVERALL at the Damian Fisher Natural Atlantic Coast in High Point, NC

I didn’t get too much sleep on Friday night, but awoke ready to go on Saturday. Neely did my hair and makeup and then it was off to the venue. I met up with Faizah, another Jillfit girl, and Christi Smith, a sweet girl who I had met in competitions last year. We hung together and waited to be called for pre-judging. I was really glad to have Christi and Faizah there- it’s always nice to see familiar faces! I also saw some folks from last year’s competitions – Stacey Parrish and Jaime McAlister – two total sweethearts who I will enjoy keeping in touch with.

Pre-judging went very smoothly, although I did get hit with some pretty bad muscle cramps in my feet and calves. I had forgotten to take my magnesium and mineral complex, so totally my fault! Some of the guys from my gym were there cheering very loudly for me, and that really helped lighten the mood! Thanks to Josh, Robert and all the F2k gang for being there…you guys rock

After the morning show, I came away not knowing at all how I did…both of my classes were tough and everyone looked great…this is where nerves, anxiety and insecurity set it…but you have to look inward and know that you did the very best you could. And I can honestly say that I was happy with how I came in and how I performed.

Finals started at 6pm, and from then on, it’s kind of a blur! I was happy that Nick, and his nephew, Grant, drove down for the show – Nick has been dealing with some things with his own dad, who is in the final stages of melanoma. So, it was unsure whether Nick would even be able to come. I was so glad he was there And hopefully Grant had fun watching his first bodybuilding show.

Masters went first; I thought for sure I would be last, but when they didn’t call me for fourth place, or third place…I was thinking, “what???”…top two, really, no way!??? I ended up with second, which was a total shock. Lee Lance took first, and what an honor it was for me to be on stage to such a wonderful person! I had the opportunity to chat with her afterward, and she is another one I’m excited about keeping in touch with.

Open went well too – super tough class, and I was thrilled to get 4th place…I don’t think that would have happened just a few short months ago

Afterward, it was time to celebrate After relaxing with a nice glass of wine, Grant, Nick and I headed out for dinner. I couldn’t really decide what I wanted, but settled on a nice cheeseburger and fries! And some more wine J. Nick and Grant headed home, and I met up with Dar, Denise, Neely and Jason for a short while…it was great hanging and talking with them. I am so happy to have met and gotten to know all of them! By this time, it was going on midnight or so, and I went to SLEEP…relishing in the fact that I could sleep late on Sunday It was pure bliss!

All in all, this was a wonderful experience. I had a great time, I felt good with my performance and how I came in, and I got to reconnect with some old friends, and make some new ones…that’s what it’s all about…feeling good about reaching a goal and enjoying the experience! It’s not necessarily always about “winning”

Next up is Musclemania Carolinas in August and then the Mid-Atlantic Classic in October…I am more motivated than ever; I can’t wait to work even harder these next few months. Areas of focus will be delts and back – my favorite areas to work!

You can see some pics from Victory in the Valley here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2058830&id=1010882212&l=ce2d0707b5


Finals - finally feeling comfortable on stage!

This is what goes on backstage - pumping up, oiling up, tan touch-ups and getting bikini bite in place (basically superglue that keeps you from getting a wedgie!).

Waiting for Masters 40+ results!


2nd place - yay! The lady in blue to my right won - Lee Lance - she is awesome; I love her!!

4th place Open - very thrilled with my placing here - looking forward to doing even better at the next one!

After getting 2nd place in Masters 40+ division

Hanging backstage with fellow Jillfit girl, Faizah!

Christi and I!

 Until next time, train hard and find happiness in every day! 🙂

This post will also be available on Jason Adams’ Promoting Women blog: http://promotingwomen.blogspot.com


Well, here we are 4 WEEKS OUT from the first-ever FAME Carolinas competition, and I must say that nerves are starting to set in a bit! These next few weeks are going to be so busy – not only with training, dieting, posing practice, etc…but with work and life in general. I’m beginning to feel a wee bit stressed, but am really trying to keep my focus and positive attitude. This gets difficult sometimes, especially when there are sometimes negative forces around that can weigh you down. I’m also feeling just a little insecure about this competition, since it will be totally different than the last three I’ve done.

I would venture to guess that I’m not alone in these feelings. I am sure many competitors, new and seasoned, go through this…so all I can do is just go with it and accept that this is part of the process. I’m also determined not to let these feelings overwhelm me, as I know there are much, much more important things to worry about. That is not to say that I don’t want to do well; I definitely do, but I refuse to let it consume my every waking moment.

One thing in particular that has me just a little off-kilter today is that I leave for Florida tomorrow for a week – work trip. Being out of my routine so close to showtime really isn’t ideal, but I can’t stop living and ignore responsibilities because of competition. I know it will all be fine – it just throws a little curve ball into my week, but it’s not anything I can’t handle. As I pack and prepare meals for the road, I have been thinking about how everyone has their “stuff” to deal with. Your “stuff” might seem bigger to you than my “stuff”, and vice versa, but it’s still our respective “stuff”, and neither of us should downplay the other’s. My “stuff” that I’m dealing with currently is managing the IT operations for a 100+ user law firm that just so happens to be located almost 500 miles away, as well as building my own personal training business, managing the Group Exercise program at my gym, and doing IT consulting for a small local law firm…not to mention the “stuff” that has recently gone on with my dad. The lawyers I work with don’t understand or really care that I’m a little carb-depleted, need to get my workouts in, order my suit, practice posing, etc. They care that they are able to access their data quickly and efficiently, no matter what. This means that I am accessible to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Let me make one thing clear though, I am NOT complaining. This is my “stuff”, and I have learned to deal with it. Do I get stressed? Of course! But that is part of making the decision to compete. Unless you are independently wealthy, are a Pro with major sponsorship, or otherwise have someone supporting you financially, you have to realize and accept that you have to become a queen at project and time management. Sometimes this may mean getting up at 3:30am or 4am to get your workouts in before your day starts (yes, I do this on some days), or it may mean you have to miss a workout because of a work deadline. Making the decision to compete is one that will change your life, in many ways. I believe it has helped me become better at my job – I’ve learned how to juggle multiple tasks better, and I’ve become more self-assured and confident. So, yes, it is a huge sacrifice sometimes, but I feel that it has helped me deal with my “stuff” a little better than I have in the past.

Switching gears now to training, diet, etc.

I have been on my new cutting diet for two weeks now. It is no secret that the hypertrophy diet was tough for me. This is another area where my “stuff” may be different than yours, but it’s still mine and no less important. Yes, it may seem like I have it easier than others who are in contest prep mode because I got to be on a somewhat looser, yet still very clean, hypertrophy diet up until 6 weeks out. But, as Jill says, “off-season doesn’t mean open season.” Meaning it wasn’t like I was eating doughnuts, etc. whenever I wanted. It was very clean, but just more than what I’m used to eating. But, in order for me to build good, lean muscle, I needed it. It was challenging though to eat when I just didn’t want to. I struggled daily with knowing that I needed the extra calories to help build my physique, but also with getting every bite in when I really didn’t want it. Nick tells me I’m weird that way – not wired like most people. J Now I’m eating just as many times per day, but less quantity, and of course, fewer carbs. After feeling a little weird the first few days, I feel great now. But now the hope is that I’m able to hold onto the muscle that Jill and I have spent these last few months building. I won’t lie, I love getting lean and seeing definition come out – but I really want to hold on to what I’ve gained as far as muscle is concerned. So, we will see if I can sustain as much as possible through July, which will be the last competition before taking a break until the Fall. We’ll see how it goes Of course, the insecurities do come in to play and I wonder if 6 weeks will be enough time – if I will be lean enough and stage-ready. So, my feelings go both ways: will I lose too much muscle, or will I not be lean enough…argh! Again, I just have to trust the process though and not let the feelings overwhelm me.

In an effort to hold on to as much muscle as possible, Jill has opted to keep my cardio sessions still pretty low…five days/week, no more than 40 minutes at a time. And only one day a week on the treadmill for a short 20 minutes worth of incline interval work. My weight-training is pretty much the same, with the addition of some shoulder-work with my back/biceps workout on Mondays. If nothing else, I know that I am stronger than ever before

I’m attaching a couple of progress pics from 4/30/10 (4 weeks out) – again, just candids taken in workout gear after shoulders/chest/triceps. It was a really good workout, thanks in large part to Nick helping me push through some of the heaviest sets I’ve done to date. Jill was out of town, and I was happy Nick agreed to work out with me, a mere “girl” J
‼ Maybe I impressed him just a little bit? Probably not – LOL!

In my next post, I’ll let you all know how being on the road and out of my routine went down, as well as what goes into planning/prep for the few weeks and days prior to competition. Until then, train hard and find happiness in every day, even when you have your “stuff” to deal with! J


Age Is But a Number

A couple weeks ago, I was looking at the registration forms for a couple of upcoming competitions. As my gaze travelled down toward the divisions, I almost dropped my pen when I noticed that I have changed Masters divisions. I am now in the “40+” division. I don’t know why this shocked me, but it did. Since I turned 40 back in October, I haven’t really thought about it too much. But seeing this, I thought, “wow, I really AM 40…how in the world did that happen, and what the heck am I doing competing at this age????” As my doubts and insecurities started creeping in, I had to stop and remind myself that the wonderful thing about this sport is that I can compete until I’m 90 if I so choose! I have never let age stop me from doing anything before, and I’m not going to let it stop me now either, just because I’ve hit the big 4-0. Heck, one of my clients is doing her first figure competition this summer, and she is 57! All around me, I am surrounded and inspired by beautiful, strong women who are my age and older. I look at them, and at myself, and think, “yes, age really IS just a number.”

I can’t imagine embarking on this journey before my late 30’s. I went through so many changes in my 20’s and early to mid 30’s, and finally feel like I’ve grown into my skin! With age comes maturity, wisdom, confidence and the ability to keep things in perspective…qualities that I believe can only help me as I get further into this sport.

So, I am rejoicing in my 40’s as a time of new and exciting challenges; a time of renewed vigor and strong confidence; and most importantly, a time of staying true to myself. To those of you who say, “I’m too old to do that,” I say, AGE IS BUT A NUMBER!

On to training…

Things have gone really well these past couple weeks training-wise. I have reached new heights that I never really thought possible (take THAT 40), and really feel stronger than ever. I really owe so much of it to Jill, as she sometimes knows better than I what I can do! Just yesterday, she handed me a set of weights to do push-press, and I looked at her like she was crazy. I remember just a few short months ago barely being able to get 1 rep out with this weight, and yesterday I did four sets of 10. I totally surprised myself. Thanks so much to Jill for helping me realize my potential Sometimes it takes a little push, and that’s exactly what she does each week – pushes me a little harder and further than I think I can go. Regardless of how I do in the upcoming competitions, I know that I am at my personal best, and that feels great One of the greatest things about it is how I feel physically. Just over a year ago, I was killing myself with tons of cardio, teaching crazy numbers of “toning” and cycle classes, as well as training for marathons. My body was tired all the time, and literally ached constantly. We’re talking deep down bone and joint pain. While the training I do now is the toughest I have ever done, it is also the most forgiving. Gone are those deep down aches and pains, not to mention stress fractures and other less serious but pesky injuries. While I do get a tendon flare-up every once in awhile, it is nothing like before. Because I feel so much better physically, it really helps the mental outlook as well. Funny how that works, huh?

So, I am feeling good about things…I start my new 6 week out diet and cardio program this weekend, and I am super-excited about that. Yes, I am one of the crazy ones who actually likes the diet (with the exception of the last week J ). Since this is my first full off-season of hypertrophy, I am really interested to see what happens these next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m including a couple of pics taken at the gym a couple weeks ago (8 weeks out from FAME NC). Please excuse the nasty appearance J.

Before I close, I wanted to give a brief update on my dad. Thanks so much to all of you who have asked about him and have been saying prayers for him. I know it has helped He is doing better and is recuperating at home. He is still weak, and it will take some time to build his strength back up, but he has a physical therapist coming in twice a week. Hopefully in another few weeks, he will be well on his way to being back to normal.

I hope everyone has a great week

Until next time, train hard and find happiness in every day!

Tara J


Keeping It Real

In this post, I had planned to discuss the importance of rest days and the part they play in training. But I’m going to save that for another time, as the events of the last couple weeks have made me realize I need to write about something I believe is equally important when training to compete…keeping it real.

Anyone training for a figure, fitness or bodybuilding competition will tell you that the process can be extremely stressful – the sometimes two a day cardio sessions, the hard-core strength workouts, the strict diet, the planning and preparation…all of these things can turn the calmest, nicest person into a hot mess, especially as showtime approaches. It can be all-consuming, and any of you who have been through it know what I mean. When I was training for my last fall contest last year, I remember preparing one my not-so-tasty dry ground turkey meals; Nick (as he often does) reached over to take a bite, and I basically went Ninja on him – this from an otherwise cool, calm and collected person! But that’s what carb deprivation and dehydration can do to a girl!

So, you already have all the stresses of training for a competition. Now throw in a dose of real life, and the curveballs it can throw at you when you least expect it, and you have what could be a recipe for disaster. How do you handle it? Do you completely wig out, get angry at everyone and everything, or do you just suck it up and deal with it? This is where it’s extremely important to remember that we made the decision to compete; we made the choice to endure the grueling hours of training and to eat dry chicken and asparagus when our friends are eating things we can’t have. No one forced us to do this. It is our choice. I have learned the hard way over the past couple weeks that real life takes priority over all else. It has to. And when real life throws curveballs, then you just deal…and you know what, most of the time your world stays intact, no matter how much you think it’s going to fall apart. As difficult as it gets, especially when you feel like no one gets what you’re doing, take a step outside your stress and remember the things that matter most in your life: love, family, friends, health, happiness…it is these things that will be around long after your big moment on stage.

I’m saying these things as much for me as for you. If you’ve read my prior posts, then you know that my dad has been struggling with a rare blood disease called Amyloidosis. A little over a week ago, Dad was rushed to the hospital. I’m really not sure if he would have made it through the night if he had not gone. His blood pressure was down to 70/40, he was totally incoherent and unable to even sit up on his own. After a barrage of tests, it was found that his one good kidney was basically non-functional. My sister, stepmom and I pulled several all-nighters, and even when we did get sleep, it was fitful. Luckily, the wonderful team of doctors at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center were able to get Dad stabilized, but it took several days. In the meantime, he developed shingles (very painful) due to his suppressed immune system. Over the past two months or so, Dad wasn’t able to eat a whole lot; anything he did eat went right through. As a result, he was severely dehydrated and down 40 lbs.

Remember those curveballs I spoke of? So how do you think I dealt with this situation? Did I stress because I was missing my incline treadmill HIIT workout? Or because I missed a meal and didn’t get my gallon of water in? Was I angry that this had to happen NOW right when I’m in my training groove?? NO! ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NOT. I have said it before and I will say it again – my dad and his health take priority over all else. Granted, I’m still 9 weeks out from showtime, but it would have been the same had I been one week or one day out. Keeping it real…sucking it up when real life takes over…being there for my dad when he needs me. THAT’S what it’s all about. There will always be another competition; I only have one dad.

Dad is doing better. He came home from the hospital a couple days ago after a week-long stay. He is still fuzzy, and we still have a lot to deal with, but hopefully we are on the right path. One wonderful thing that happened this week: the insurance company overturned their decision to deny coverage of the medication Dad needs to keep his disease under control. It took some heavy-hitting legal scare tactics to accomplish this, but they relented! Yeah He will start back on this medication as soon as he is a bit stronger.

I’ll get back to training talk in the next post. J

Until next time, train hard, find happiness in every day, and above all else, KEEP IT REAL.


This post can also been seen on Jason Adams’ “Promoting Real Women” blog: promotingwomen.blogspot.com

Before I discuss the above subject line, I wanted to give a quick update on my Dad’s condition, and our continuing battle with his insurance company to reinstate coverage for a medication that is critical to his survival. Last week (due in large part to Jason’s blog), we found out that a new treatment Dad is on is having great success in clinical trials at Boston University Medical Center. Dad has had two treatments so far, and it is kicking his butt. He has been really sick the past few days, but we are hopeful that this will subside once his system adjusts. I wish so much that I could wave a magic wand and he would be back to normal!

On the legal front, the attorneys are moving forward with their appeal to the insurance company. Whether or not this new medication helps, it is still THEIR fault that his symptoms have gotten as bad as they have. If he had been able to continue taking the medication that was PROVEN to work for him, then we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Watch out, Big Insurance Company, we are coming for you! I would absolutely love to expose (in a big way) this company’s horrendous behavior in this, and I’m sure many other, matters. They look at Dad as a number, not a person. If they would take five minutes and review the facts, they would see that their decision is totally and completely WRONG. I am usually a very laid-back person; not too much gets to me, and many have called me “grace under pressure.” Mess with my family though, and that’s another story!

Yes, I get pretty worked up over this…so I will move on…


We have all heard that phrase, right? What I’m referring to, however, is our society’s “quick fix” mentality, especially as it relates to getting fit, losing weight, etc. It seems everyone wants a “great body”, but they really aren’t willing to do the work to get that body. Instead, they fall prey to the latest fad diet, pill or exercise contraption advertised on late-night tv that promises “your best body ever in just 60 seconds a day”. I am here to tell you folks, THERE IS NO QUICK FIX! It takes hard work to make change happen, especially if being active and eating clean are not part of your current lifestyle. I overheard someone say the other day, “I really want to lose weight and get in shape, but I’m afraid I’ll be sore if I exercise.” Yes, I’m telling the truth, and herein lies the problem with a lot of people in our society. They want the body, but aren’t willing to do the work to get it.

Am I talking about spending hours upon hours in the gym or eating celery sticks for every meal? No way. A lot of you know that I USED to spend hours in the gym. Now my workouts are shorter, but more intense. I work HARD and make every minute of my shorter workouts count. When I’m finished with a workout, I am truly finished – meaning I can absolutely do no more. As far as diet goes, eating clean does NOT mean depriving or starving yourself…just the opposite, in fact!

I think another issue is that a lot of people honestly don’t know how to exercise or eat clean. I was raised in the South, so that means meals growing up consisted of fried chicken, collard greens cooked with fatback (does anyone really know what fatback is?? I don’t, and I’m not sure I want to know!), mashed potatoes (my mom made the BEST) and Coca-cola. Somewhere along the line though, I realized that I couldn’t eat like that long-term. Unfortunately, most people who have eaten like this most of their lives simply continue on with the status quo because it’s all they have known, and either they don’t know how to change, or don’t want to change. For me, I saw what was happening around me, and I made the decision to make eating clean and working out part of my LIFESTYLE. It is as much a part of me as breathing. Do I indulge every once in awhile? Absolutely. Would I ever go back to the Deep South Diet every day? Absolutely NOT! Why not? Because being healthy and eating clean is my lifestyle. I not only look better when I maintain my lifestyle, but I FEEL better. Everything clicks into place.

So…..if you are serious about changing your body, then make the decision and go for it! Realize that is a lifestyle change, not merely a habit. If you don’t know where to start, enlist the help of a trainer, nutritionist and/or research online. A good place to start is http://metaboliceffect.wordpress.com. This site contains a wealth of information on fat loss, exercise and eating clean.

If you want change, you must work for it. It doesn’t happen overnight; but it does happen, and it is so rewarding when it does! I see it every day in my personal training clients…they inspire ME

On to training and diet for the week. I’m still on my hypertrophy diet, and will be for another 4 or 5 weeks. A short note regarding diets: a lot of people request that I post my diet online. There are a few reasons why I won’t do this, the main one being that my diet is customized for ME. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter figure or bodybuilding diet. Yes, there are similar components, but the way I respond to certain foods may be different than everyone else. Also, my goals may be different than others’ and my diet will reflect that. It’s not about being secretive or anything! If you want a diet customized for YOU, contact me – I can help you. J

Workouts for the week went as follows:

AM: 30 minutes incline treadmill sprints; Abs
PM: Back/Biceps with Jill

45 minute 15% incline treadmill walk intervals

AM:30 minutes Stepmill HIIT/Sprints
PM: Legs with Jill


PM: Shoulders/Chest/Triceps with Jill

15 min Stepmill HIIT
15 min running stairs at the gym-two at a time, then alternating two at a time, with one at a time.
Heavy Legs** / Heavy Abs


**I continue on the EDT path for lying leg curls and leg extensions. This week, I increased my leg extension reps by 20%, which means it’s time to increase the weight for that this Saturday

As always, if you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to email me at tsballard@gmail.com. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time – train hard, and find happiness in every day!


Also available at http://promotingwomen.blogspot.com – promoting the women of Figure, Fitness, Bodybuilding and Bikini

Hi everyone!  I hope this finds you all happy and healthy!  As I posted on Facebook a couple days ago, “this week has been fraught with ups, downs and in-betweens.  Wheels are in motion though, and giving up or giving in is NOT an option!”

I am mainly referring to a topic a discussed in my last post: my dad’s battle with Amyloidosis, and our battle with his health insurance company to reinstate coverage of the medication he needs to keep his symptoms under control.  I have good news to report on this front, and this good news is in large part due being able to get the word out on this blog. 

I mentioned in my last post that we are pursuing legal action against the insurance company; given the fact that they covered the medication Dad needs for several years, it is just wrong that they play with his life, and deny coverage now.   In addition to getting the legal ball rolling, my goal was and is to explore any and all options for dad’s treatment; hence last week’s post…I figured the more I can get the word out, the better.   So with legal wheels in motion, it seemed like we were in  “hurry up and wait” mode…hurry to get all details to the wonderful attorneys I work with, but wait for response and resolution from the insurance company.  In the meantime, the alternative treatment Dad’s doctor started a couple weeks ago really wasn’t working.  On Wednesday of last week, the doctor told Dad of a new treatment that Boston University has been having success with. BU is a forerunner in research and treatment for Amyloidosis, and is where Dad went for the clinical trial in 1996, which saved his life.  He began this new treatment on Thursday.  I don’t want to say I’m skeptical by nature, but it’s more a case of wanting all the facts.  Dad didn’t know that name of the new treatment, which means I couldn’t research it to know what kind of success it is having…but then, a wonderful thing happened!

The president of the Amyloidosis Foundation (www.amyloidosis.org) , Mary O’Donnell, contacted me via email.  It seems she has search alerts set up in Google and Yahoo which alert her when a site mentions certain terms (like Amyloidosis).  She was a bit baffled and surprised when she received an alert that sent her to a blog promoting women in Figure, Fitness and Bodybuilding J ; but she found my post from last week and emailed me.  We spoke Thursday night, and she let me know that there has been a lot of research in the past several years, and that there are better options now than Intron-A (the medication Dad was on previously).  I told her of the new treatment plan Dad’s doctor started, but at that point, I wasn’t sure of the name.  I knew that it is a type of chemo, but that’s it.  She told me that if the drug is Velcade, then that is a good thing, as they are seeing very good results with this drug in the treatment of Amyloidosis.  I was later able to verify that it is indeed Velcade that Dad is being treated with now!  Also, if his insurance doesn’t cover this drug, the pharmaceutical company will help with coverage.  Had Mary not seen my post on this blog, I would not have this information‼‼  From Mary, I have now been able to obtain the information I need to research Dad’s treatment options and know that he is getting the best option possible‼!  Very cool‼!  So, a HUGE shout-out to Jason for making this blog possible!! 

As I said last week, I know this has nothing to do with contest prep per se, but life events such as this can definitely affect training, diet, stress levels, sleep patterns, etc.  It is a huge priority in my life at the moment, and as such, a part of what affects my contest prep. 

As far as training goes this week, it was good.  The great thing about getting a good workout is the feeling afterward.  I am usually so much more focused and energized afterward, which enabled me this week to read/research for Dad.  The only bad thing is it is hard for me to turn my mind off at night, so sleep did not come easily these past few days.  Lots of late nights and early mornings, which made for a pretty exhausted Tara by Saturday‼  I slept for about 12 hours last night though, and boy did it feel great!  If only sleep worked like AT&T rollover minutes!  If I need 8 hours sleep per night, wouldn’t it be great to be able to rollover  those extra 4 hours for use next week? J If only it worked like that!

Workouts for the week went as follows:  

AM: 30 minutes incline treadmill sprints; Abs
PM: Back/Biceps with Jill; taught 60 min Cycle class

Bikram Yoga

AM:30 minutes Stepmill HIIT/Sprints
Heavy Abs
PM: Legs with Jill

AM: Taught 60 min Cycle class

AM:45 minute incline treadmill walking intervals
PM: Shoulders/Chest/Triceps with Jill

30 min Stepmill HIIT
Heavy Legs** / Heavy Abs


Yikes – lots of cardio this week…that snuck up on me, mainly due to the addition of teaching two cycle classes.  That won’t happen this week!

**On Saturdays, I have started adding some EDT (escalating density training) to my leg workouts.  EDT is supposed to be great for lagging body parts; for me, quads and hamstrings have always been hard to build, probably due to being a runner for so long.

Here is how it works:  pick two antagonist or bilateral body parts (chest/back , right/left leg, etc.), and pick one exercise for each part, using a 10 rep max as a guide.  Set a timer for 15 minutes, and do up to 5 reps of each exercise.  Record the number of reps done in each round; if you chose the right amount of weight, your reps should go down as you go along.  Add up the reps done for each exercise at the end of the 15 minutes, then try to beat that number the next time, using the same amount of weight.  When your reps increase by 20%, increase the weight. 

I have been doing this with leg extensions and lying leg curls.  The first week I did it, I underestimated my 10 rep max, so it took awhile for my reps to start going down.  This week was much better – and boy, am I feeling my hams and quads today…a wonderful thing!  We’ll see what happens next week!

If you have any questions on EDT or anything else, please feel free to email me at tsballard@gmail.com.  I would love to hear from you!

Until next time – train hard, and find happiness in every day!