Category Archives: Bodybuilding 101

Things a Bodybuilder (ME) Cannot Live Without……..


1. Kitchen Gadgets – They are like accessories and travel with me at all times. These gadgets include my food scale, measuring cups and spoons, tupperware and shaker bottles. My family still gets a bit embarrassed when we go out to eat and I pull my gadgets out of my purse. Gotta stick to those macros!!

2. Peanut butter and/or Powdered Peanut Butter – WHY oh WHY does it have to taste so damn good!! I don’t dare have P28 Signature Blend in the house while I am cutting, I can usually control myself but that stuff is like crack. For safety I stick to PB2 while prepping for shows.  Otherwise I must have my P28.

3. Food Porn – I am not sure if it is a form of torture or what but I love looking at food porn! Many of us bodybuilders post pictures on Facebook, I read magazines and I surf the internet to research menus at restaurants, I guess kind of like a wish list. Diners, Drives-In and Dives is my favorite TV show.

4. Logs for Workouts and Diet – We should all have and follow a structured workout plan. We need the logs to follow the plan and track all of those gains we are making!!  I plan my menu days ahead so I know what I am eating and make sure I’ve met my macros.  Thank goodness for that calculates everything for us – what did they do back in the 80’s? I wont’ even start on 80’s workout apparel.

5. Walden Farms – Any of it but mostly the pancake syrup and caramel dip. I think the pancake syrup is the best and I use it on my egg white pancakes, chicken, sweet potatoes, oatmeal….well you get the picture, I cannot live without it. Mixing PB2 and the caramel dip is like candy.

6. Newest workout apparel – We all LOVE our shirts with cleaver slogans! My newest obsession are socks from the Sox Box, Reebok shorts and well…..really any good looking apparel.  Of course my custom made chucks are my favorite shoes, we all lift in converse shoes right!?!

7. Supplements – We look for the tastiest protein powder, BCAA’s and Creatine. That is all I need and I CAN live without all the other crap.

8. Body Work – Many people might think that massages are a luxury but I see them as a necessity to keep me injury free.  I get a massage every 4th week at the end of my deload week to ensure my body is ready to go for another 3 weeks of heavy lifting.  I also see my chiropractor every 3 weeks to make sure everything is in alignment.  We want our bodies in proper alignment to make sure all the neurons and muscles are properly firing. Ever try cupping massage? It is amazing on those super tight muscles (my IT bands and adductors).

9. Weight belts and straps – more accessories – what every girl likes.

10. Bags – We gotta bring all of our accessories into the gym and we MUST travel with a cooler bag. My cooler bag is carry on friendly for when you travel on the airlines.  Note – when traveling make sure your ice packs are frozen solid when going through security or else they will take them away!

How to Communicate with a Bodybuilder-Especially a HUNGRY ONE!


I am sharing these comments with the hopes of offering some humor and education. I am hoping to both educate the people making the comments and offer some help for those of us on the receiving end. I am really hoping to just make you giggle – life is short so why sweat the small stuff!

I try not to get upset when I receive these comments but instead look for the positive and humor in them – really! A friend shared a very valuable insight with me – she said that many people are just curious about what we do and are simply looking for information. They do not want to be mean and are simply interested in what we do because they see how we can transform our bodies. So keep this in mind if these comments ever come your way – Thanks Diana for that insight!

I am not perfect and know that I’ve said and acted in ways that I shouldn’t have especially when I am HANGRY (anger from hunger).  I try to be a positive role model, helpful and supportive of everyone regardless of their goals or fitness level. So I hope this posts makes us all think about the way we communication with others both personally and professionally. A bit more kindness and support could never hurt in all aspects of our lives.

“YOU MIGHT PLACE 2ND OR 3RD DEPENDING ON HOW THE OTHER COMPETITORS LOOK.” Yes someone actually said this to me before my very first competition. I was so shocked; I didn’t know if it was an insult or a compliment. You just need to ignore these types of comments and move on.

“OH MY GOD YOU ARE SO SKINNY – YOU ARE SKIN AND BONES.” Being a bodybuilder you do not want to hear those words – you want to look muscular. INSTEAD you could say “WOW you are looking lean and mean”. As a competitor you just have to  think WOW I must be SHREDDED. ALWAYS look for the positives in those comments!!

“WOW – YOU’VE PUT SOME WEIGHT BACK ON- HOW MUCH HAVE YOU GAINED?” We don’t need to be told when we are in our off-season. Would you say that to any other human being and if not then why is it OK to point out weight gain to a competitor. Off-season body image is difficult for many competitors and I continue to struggle with it. Just keep in mind that we cannot look show ready all the time. Your biggest hindrance to growth and making gains can be trying to have that shredded look all the time. You cannot be super-lean year round or year after year.

“I REALLY ADMIRE YOU – IT MUST BE DIFFICULT TO WALK AROUND HEAVIER COMPARED TO WHEN YOU COMPETE.”  Basically this person told me that she admires me for walking around the gym looking fatter – WAY TO GO ME!! Again, I was stunned but my husband said she obviously meant that I was looking BIGGER and as in MORE MUSCLE which is my goal. Again, look for the positive!!

“YOU ARE SO LUCKY TO HAVE GOOD GENETICS.” I just LOVE this one. Good genes or not it takes a lot of hard work and hours to be stage ready. To be successful, you must dedicate 100% of yourself to your training, diet and mental approach. If you ever receive this comment simply say Thank You and know that you look good due to those good genetics – right!?! Thank your mom & dad.

“YOU MUST BE SICK OF EATING BLAND FOODS.” – ahhhhhh – I do not eat bland foods. I am actually very creative and follow the rule IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros. I can eat whatever I want as long as I stay within my given macros. Check out my recipe section for my creative and tasty recipes.

“BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME.”   Meaning next time I will place better in a show. This one is difficult for competitors to learn and understand let alone non-competitors. Eric taught me that it is not about how I place in the judges eyes it is about being better each time on stage compared to the last time. Eric keeps enforcing Tara 2014 will be better than Tara 2013. It is about being better for you each time. What matters here is that you know you presented a better version of yourself!


Tips for the NEWER Competitor

I thought I would share some funny & difficult lessons that I have learned along my journey……

SUSTAINABLE – We all love the way we look when competing but that look is not sustainable!  People tell me all the time how great I look when I am show ready but I rarely hear those words in the off-season.  Everyone wants to look like a magazine cover but does not understand what it takes to maintain that look.  Your biggest hindrance to growth can be trying to have that shredded look all the time.  You cannot be super-lean year round or year after year.

NUDITY – You need to overcome the fear of nudity.  I wore a suit during my first spray tan because I couldn’t stand the thought of being nude infront of someone.  After seeing the spray lines, I realized I needed to be nude.  I’ve become more comfortable – this is evident by the fact that I had a male spray tanner last year.  The “bend over” tanning scene was brought to a whole new level. Terrence – are you reading this??

SPRAY TANS – This one is messy!   A few tips a) as soon as you get back to your room get naked (yes again) and air dry some more.  Set your room to a cooler temperate and dry.  B) make sure you pack rag sheets or blankets to sleep on.  I purchased a large brown blanket  so I can wrap up in it when sitting and then use it for sleeping.  C) for females –  you do not want drip marks so I’ve learned peeing in a bottle or large cup and disposing in the toilet is the best way to go.  I know it sounds gross but it is so much easier.  I couldn’t figure out WHY I seem to drip only when I am spray tanned – finally figured out that stuff is sprayed everywhere – need I say more.

HAIRLESS – Get used to the fact that bodybuilders are hairless from the eyeballs down.  Take it all off!!

HANGRY – (my friends term for hungry and angry) You need to learn to control your anger (moods) when hungry.  I’ve said some doozy’s to my family and clients.  I think I am improving each time and trying to be more aware.  Lesson here is that just because you are committed to this training and diet doesn’t mean the ones you love need to suffer. I think I should start a list of some of my more memorable comments.  Example, me yelling to my family “I can hear you crunching” as they are eating in the closet because they were afraid of me.  Or me yelling at my clients during group training “don’t make me repeat myself or else you will pay for it (and they did)”.  At the end of that workout they looked like they went through a tornado.

DIETING & BEING SOCIAL – This is a hard one to learn.  Just because we are dieting does not mean that we should pass up on social events.  It can be hard at times to watch your family or friends eating and drinking but remember it is not the food and drinks that make the memories; it is being there and participating.  Life is short – embrace it!

MACROS IN THE OFF SEASON – I confess that this is the hardest lesson for me to learn and have not exactly mastered yet.  Just because you are finished with your competition season doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want and not track your food– you need to track macros year round regardless of what stage you are in with your training. The ever famous words –REVERSE DIET!

PROTEIN FARTS – This one is funny!  During the peak of my 2013 show prep my husband of 20 years slept on the coach for the FIRST time because I gave him a dutch oven.  Do not give dutch ovens when eating lots of protein and veggies.

LOSING WITH GRACE –  Before you compete you need to figure out WHY you are competing.  You need to learn that you cannot or should not ever compare yourself to anyone else.  You need to compete to be your own personal best each time and cannot stress about the judges results.  The focus needs to be making your own personal improvements each time and enjoying the brief time on stage as it goes fast. I’ve been that sore loser that said the judges were wrong – my ego was wrong! Go out there and be supportive and have fun being YOUR best.

OVER-TRAINING – Remember you grow while you are resting.  If you don’t provide enough rest and recovery time, you will never grow.  I de-load train every 4th week and listen to my body when it feels tired and REST.  I’ve also learned that you do not have to do EVERY exercise in the books!  Example, I was nervous because my coach, Eric, didn’t have rear delt flys in my program.  His answer  was “you do dumbbell rows, that hits the rear delt enough”.   I do not use leg presses, hack squats or any of  those leg machines, I just squat. Think your program through!

SUPPORT  SYSTEM – You do not have to do this on your own.  Hire a coach that knows what they are doing – I use Eric Helms with 3DMJ.  Hire a trainer to keep you honest and give you that extra push,  I have Anthony Vorachak.   I am also lucky to have my family, friends and some fellow competitors that I can reach out to.  Surround yourself with good support systems and use them.    The best part is having someone to celebrate with you!!

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Paul & I celebrating after I won                                My roadies – Nancy Tsongalis &

my DFAC pro card                                                           Julie Christian



Got Water – Part 2 – Water & Peak Week

Water and Peak Weak – that statement is the most misunderstood and confused concept amongst bodybuilders.

Before I go any further let’s think about what bodybuilders are doing at a competition. We are showing off our physique, flexing our shredded muscles to display our mass and symmetry.  Now let’s think about water and the human body.  According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.

So now we know that muscles contain water  – hold onto that thought!!

I am going to share with you what I have learned and what works for ME.  I don’t want to start a debate but want to share my experiences in the hopes of helping new athletes that are preparing for their first competitions.

For my first competition I followed the no water rule for 24 hours prior to going on stage.  I also followed the no carb rule and I remember looking at competitors with confusion when I saw them drinking gallons of water and one female competitor eating pasta.  I was thinking man are they messing up (now knowing that I was the one really messing up).  I had no idea what I was doing; I was just following along with what many competitors believe to be the only way to become stage presentable.  I was told I would wake up in the morning amazed with how completely different I would look due to my lack of water and carbs.  I woke up in the morning a bit disappointed – there was no WOW moment – but thought I looked OK.  However,  looking back at pictures I was flat and had no vascularity.  WHY – because I was dehydrated!!

If you read my bio, you know that after my 1st competition I found my coach Eric Helms with 3DMUSCLEJOURNEY (3DMJ).  Today he continues to teach me so many new concepts.  Amongst those teachings were his methods on peak week and water consumption.  I quickly learned that miracles do not happen during peak week and water dehydration is a thing of the past.  I learned that I need to be show ready 3 weeks out so we can re-introduce carbs and drink plenty of water. More carbs sounds amazing after months of dieting – right!!!  Following Eric’s program my peak week is now very different – my carbs are much higher then my show prep macros and vary from day to day.   Under Eric’s guidance can you guess how my physique looks come show day? Full, hard, vascular, and stage ready!!  Not only did I look better but my energy levels were higher and my mental state was better, more upbeat and confident.  Since working with Eric I’ve earned two pro cards. I trust Eric and know that he wants me to do well and but also wants me to be healthy.

This picture of my back is 3 days before a show; full of water and carbs!!


This is such a complicated topic and I am not a scientist or expert so I’ve called upon the experts to help back me up.  I’ve included two great articles for you to read.  One by 3DMJ and the other by Cliff Wilson.

Common Contest Prep Mistakes

by Natural Pro Bodybuilder – Alberto Nunez

Rapid Backload Peaking: The Cliff Wilson Approach To Pre-Contest Dieting

Get absolutely shredded for your upcoming contest by following this peaking approach designed by top natural bodybuilder and trainer Cliff Wilson.

Rapid Backload Peaking: CARBS, WATER, and SODIUM


People often ask me WHY? WHY am I a bodybuilder?? You can read my BIO for the full story but in short a) I love the training, b) I love the challenge of trying to get bigger & better  each season and c) I love being on stage and performing or posing as it is called in bodybuilding.

I looked up the definition of posing and these two were my favorites:

1)    To assume a particular attitude or stance, especially with the hope of impressing others.

2)    To assume a particular attitude or position in order to be photographed, painted or drawn – or in the case of bodybuilding – judged.

Being on stage is the best part of the entire process and it is over in minutes so you better make it count!  You train hard & track your macros year round, practice posing, order expensive suits, etc.  and it all comes down to just minutes on the stage.  You have to make those muscles POP and capture the judge’s eyes and attention. Posing ability can often be the difference between winning or losing a closely fought battle.

I am still new to the sport and have a lot to learn; however, I’ve come a long way in my posing. I have worked hard at it, under the guidance of my coach, Eric Helms.  So, I thought I would share a few pointers in hopes of helping some first time competitors.

1)    PRACTICE – when I am in-season I practice every day! I pick one day week that I hold each pose for time, usually 1 minute.  This really helps with conditioning and you will be thankful if you are on a big line come competition day.  My line was on stage for 40 minutes at the 2013 Yorton Cup.  HOLD those poses and get there fast.  I’ve seen competitors working, playing or fooling around to get into their poses and the judges are already calling the next one.  Also, practice EVERY pose.  I’ve seen competitors looking at the next person to see how or what to do – really – KNOW THEM ALL!! Keep posing in the off-season too.  I usually pose 1 or 2 days a week in the off-season.

2)    PICTURES – ask a friend to take pictures and study your poses. I take weekly pictures in the same location, same lighting and same clothes so you can compare week to week.  Start with pictures immediately and see what parts of the body might need extra attention.

3)    MIRRORS – mirrors are great for self-feedback.  You need to work in front of one to make sure you are hitting those poses but remember there are NO mirrors on stage. When I have my pictures taken it is always away from the mirror. When in front of the mirror, I close my eyes, hit the pose and then look in mirror.  Find techniques that work for you and your body, feel it, make a mental list of what you are doing it to hit that pose good and fast.

4)    RESEARCH – attend shows & watch others – look on-line.

5)    FACE – don’t forget about your face – it should look easy – it can be painful to watch someone up there shaking and making faces. Smile and look at the judges and audience.

6)    HOLD BACK – you don’t need to give 110% on each pose.  If you tried, you wouldn’t make it through the entire judging.  If you can hit the poses right and effectively you can save a bit in the tank to finish strong.

7)    CONFIDENCE – look confident up there and have FUN.  This comes with practicing your poses and knowing them all.

8)    COACH – if you don’t have one you could hire one for a session or two to brush up on your technique – I get weekly tips and suggestions from my coach, Eric Helms. He can find something for me to work on or correct EVERY week for 6 months straight – YES there is that much to it!! Eric looks at weekly pictures but I’ve also done Skype sessions with Jeff Alberts.

In June 2013 I traveled to California for some one-on-one posing with the coaches of 3DMuscleJourney. Below are a few pictures from my sessions – it was so worth the trip!  I learned some great tricks – they really are the best!

3D1 3D2 3D3 3D4 3d5 3d7

List of poses you MUST know:

Front relaxed pose (looking for symmetry and muscularity)

Front double biceps                                         Front Lat Spread

Abdominal & thigh                                           Most muscular – hands on hip

Most muscular – crab                                      Side relaxed (right and left)

Side triceps (right and left)                           Side chest (right and left)

Serratus or Intercostal (right and left)     Rear relaxed

Rear double biceps                                          Rear lat spread

Calf                                                                          Hamstring

Favorite pose – pick a favorite with flare and own it! Stick to front or side poses so that the judges can see your face.

Winners pose – yes this sounds funny but my first winning pose was horrible.  I wasn’t going to share that picture but thought I should so you can see what I mean.   My 2nd winning pose was MUCH better – so see – looking at your pictures can help!

1st Pose                                                                                 2nd & Improved Pose

OCB091413VAb_0752 OCB101213MAb_0974

Pose down – practice it and have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to move around and pose next to each of your fellow competitors.  The best pose down I had was in Miami November 2013 at the DFAC World Finals – we left the stage and ran around the audience posing – it was a blast.

Below are two of my favorite poses.  I listed the steps that I follow mentally to get into the pose – if you are interested in suggestions on other poses please feel free to contact me.

Side chest:

august 3 side chest

Squeeze the knees together to make those hamstrings pop

Stick out that glute and squeeze it

Good twist at the waist – get that back shoulder forward

Pull back on the front back arm with the hand that is on wrist – squeeze bicep

Stay lifted through the chest

Don’t forget about the oblique/abs – tight

Rear double bicep:

august 3 rear bicep

Keep the posed or back leg angled out to give the illusion of width

Don’t forget to flex the calves, hamstrings and glutes

Arch the lower back – stick the butt out and lean back towards the judges

Make sure arms (elbows) are level across and tilt hands back over shoulders to make back POP

Spread the lats – don’t squeeze shoulder blades together – keep the width

Lastly, make sure you  really enjoy the time on stage and soak up the experience.  You’ve worked hard to get to that point so have fun and show your stuff!