Category Archives: My Training Updates

Training Update 2/19/2015


It has been awhile since I’ve updated information on my website – life has been busy. First, I was busy getting ready for the holidays, then my dad became ill (he is much better now) which had us traveling unexpectedly to Canada, and then I got injured.

At the completion of my competition season I set some specific goals to work towards during 2015. Unfortunately those plans have been put on hold while I recover from this injury. I had surgery on my right knee on February 11th and am recovering well. I tore a piece of my medial meniscus off and it was stuck on my lateral side. Dr. Sparks found the piece exactly where I felt it and did some extra trimming and cleaning up while he was in there. I am already walking around 80% of the time without a crutch and am able to ride the bike – yahoo!

I believe in setting goals and think it is a great motivation tool but you also always have to be prepared for life to get in the way. My mind set has changed; those lifting goals have been put on the back burner for now and my focus is to be healthy and to be able to just squat body weight. I will confess that I’ve had moments of wanting to cry but then I think about people battling cancer, mental illnesses, and other diseases and disabilities and stop feeling sorry for myself. This can be difficult for athletes but being flexible and allowing for goals to change must be expected.

I’ve made the decision to not compete in 2015. At first I felt some pressure to compete again but I need the mental and physical break. This will be a good opportunity for me to become more comfortable in the off-season. I competed 3 seasons back to back so I was always on a time-line with diet, macros, etc. Now that I am taking the entire year off I feel like I need to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and eat and live as a normal human being. I think only competitors can truly understand what that statement means. To be stage ready means being extremely lean, this is not a livable lifestyle. When I am on stage my weight is 115-120 and off season I should be at 130-135. That extra weight is necessary but it is hard to adjust to seeing and feeling.

I am on a mini-cut for the next 6 weeks. Since I am not moving and lifting as much I am need to reduce my calories. Remember, it is all about calories in vs. calories out. So even though I am not competing, it feels like I am on show prep calories but only for 6 weeks vs 6 months!!

One of my friends had a cancer scare recently. It reminded me how fast your life can change. Training is a huge part of my life but we cannot forget the other important parts like spending time with family and friends!


Training Update 12/1/2014

week 1 post season

My competition season is over and I am about 10 days into my off-season training & recovery diet.

I had a really successful competition season and I am VERY pleased with my placements. This was the toughest and largest group of competitors I’ve ever been up against and it was a true honor to be amongst them. However I am walking away with more than my wins or placements. I met many great people, spent face to face time with my coach, set new PR’s under the guidance of my trainer and had the best prep season yet. Being on stage and placing is only part of the journey. Learning how to train, eat, make this a lifestyle and participate in life outside of bodybuilding while in prep and dieting is difficult. This season I made progress in all these areas.

The quotes below help summarize it all.

“You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limit, that is real joy”. Arthur Ashe

This quote was sent to me by my good friend, Julie Christian and is a reflection of what competing means to me. It is not about competing against or beating other athletes but about being better for yourself each time. No matter what those improvements are; competing at your best level at that moment is the real joy. I believe I brought a better version of Tara to the stage this year; more mass, leaner and a better competitor by being able to enjoy it more and show more support and admiration towards other athletes.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation”. Arthur Ashe

I will admit self-doubt creeps into my thoughts before I get on stage, especially during pump up time when everyone around me is pumping up and looking amazing. I worry that I am not good enough, big enough or competitive enough. I am happy to say that these thoughts were not as prevalent this year. I felt more confident and had a different mind-set. I admired the athletes around me and was confident knowing I was as prepared as I could be thanks to the support of my coach, trainer and of course, Paul.

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”. Arthur Ashe

I’ve come to learn that bodybuilding is a journey and a year round lifestyle. When you step off the stage and competition season is over, you are still on the journey. You still have to track macros and train. It is important to find a coach who can help you make this journey livable. I am happy with how I handled this last prep-season. I was way more social and said YES to more social events compared to the last few preps. I attended weddings, parties, bbq’s, traveled a lot, ate out in restaurants and guess what, I survived. I stuck to the training plan, enjoyed time with my family and friends, had 4 great competition weekends and enjoyed every moment of it.

My goals for 2015 have been set – I want some new PR’s in the gym:

Deadlift                 345#

Back squat          285# (Anthony thinks 300 – we will see)

Front squat         230#

Bench press       175#

Overhead press   100#

Learn muscle-ups

Of course, I want MORE MASS (don’t we all) on this body and after seeing me on stage we know what needs extra attention. My team (Eric, Anthony and Paul) has devised a plan and as always I appreciate their support!!

My recovery diet is going well – slowly increasing the carbs and fat depending on how the scale reacts and how my body looks. Cardio will slowly decrease and Eric thinks by Christmas will be ZERO!!!!!

I am looking forward to 2015 and to see where this journey takes me next.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments”. Cesare Pavese





Post Season ACTION Plan

team mantra 2013

When I was running marathons, I learned the importance of having a post-marathon action plan in place. Anyone could feel a bit lost after following a training program for 6 months, completing the race and then having NO plan to follow. The SAME applies to bodybuilding, fitness or figure competitions. We need to have a post-season action plan in place. My competitions are quickly approaching so I want to put my post-season action plan in writing. I hope my plan offers some help or ideas to fellow athletes.

Tara’s December 2014 – December 2015 Post-Season Action Plan

1st congratulate myself on completing another competition season (my 3rd). NO matter what the results will be I am proud of my accomplishments. I think I handled the prep much better both mentally and physically. You have to enjoy the journey and learn from it – not hate it, be miserable and make others uncomfortable or pay for the price for what we have chosen.   I know that I am bringing a better version of me to the stage this season. I’ve worked hard on my legs and can see the improvements. You should NOT be competing to win against fellow competitors; you should be competing against yourself to see the improvements in YOU. This is a hard lesson to learn.

2nd start my REVERSE DIET – of course this will really start a day or two after my last show. A girl needs a few cheat meals. I do not want to be an unstoppable eating machine but want to do a proper reverse diet so that I can heal my metabolism and not put on too much fat too quickly. This goal is going to be the hardest for me but I can do it. My goal weight is 130-135 for the off-season. During this prep season I liked how my body looked and felt at this weight. Funny thing…..back when I ran marathons if I weighed 130-135, it would have looked like fat on me. I weighed around 122 during my marathon days. Now at 135 I look lean (still 6-pack abs). So LADIES –what does this tell us? The numbers on the scale really don’t mean a lot and that to really transform your body you need to lift heavy weights! Below is an article from my coach, Eric Helms, on the topic of the dreaded REVERSE DIET. THANKS ERIC!!

3rd no competing for 2015 – I need to take the entire year off to make the changes I want in my body and I need a mental break from the prep diet. I am planning on competing fall 2016. However, this doesn’t mean a break from training; I can train even harder because I can fuel my body. I’ve been competing for the last 3 years and wasn’t ready for an extended break. Eric kept trying to talk me into it – I am now ready! I believe this is another hard action plan for many competitors. They do not take the time off to make the gains; they just keep competing year after year with the same package.

4th strength goals:

Deadlift                 345#

Back squat          285# (Anthony thinks 300 – we will see)

Front squat         230#

Bench press       175#

Overhead press  100#

Learn muscle-ups

Work on my form for cleans, snatches and overhead squats

CrossFit competition

Thinking of a power lifting competition

The off-season is a time to make improvements to your physique. Use this time as productively as you can!

Training Update 9/13/2014

sept 14 front bicep

As of today, 9/13/14, I am 7 weeks out from my first show (DFAC World Finals in Miami) and I must say this past week has been the toughest week for me. I knew it was coming; I was feeling so great for so long and now the prep feels real. You all know what I am talking about; lack of energy, workouts feel heavier, can’t sleep, want to cry for no reason and increased hunger.   On the flip side some positive points are that I am looking leaner, I am not losing too much strength and it’s only 7 MORE WEEKS till I get to be on stage. Getting to meet and spend time with fellow competitors, be on stage and see the progress you’ve made is what makes it all worthwhile.  I am excited about the progress I’ve made on my legs. As a former marathon runner my legs were the smallest part of me. I’ve spent a lot of time under a barbell this year doing lots and lots of squats! I think today’s picture shows progress in my quads.

Sometimes the weight scale does not give an accurate account of what is happening during prep so I send Eric weekly progress pictures. Listed below are other indicators that tell me I am getting close to show time…….

Armpits – they are so concaved that they are impossible to shave so it is time to let them grow a bit to get waxed – ouch! Do MALE competitors experience the same armpit situation?

Buttocks – it hurts to sit on wooden chairs or the floor – no more cushioning left on the cheeks.

Sleep – it is hard to sleep through the night due to hunger. I go to bed early in hopes of sleeping right through the night and have a day of food ahead of me. However, I open my eyes within an hour or two with much disappointment.

Compliments – are increasing from family, friends, clients and fellow RVC members. The positive words help at this point as I need all the reinforcement I can get so thank you.

CardioUGH is all I have to say – I vow to not do any cardio machines during 2015!!!

Food Porn – is increasing and my meal is already picked out for after my show on November 1st – yes sad as that sounds I’ve already researched the restaurant in Miami and know what I am having – Joe’s Crab Stone watch out.

I know that the next 7 weeks will be the toughest but I am looking forward to the challenge! Some moments will feel great and other moments will be tough and I will question “WHY”. I have to remind myself during those weak moments that I really do love the training, love the dedication it takes to both nutrition and training and the results are satisfying. I can already see that I am bringing a better version of Tara to the stage in 2014!!


I am 16 weeks out from my first competition and things are starting to get FUN.

SHOWS: My competition schedule has changed and I am very excited with what Eric and I have planned. I am doing 4 shows in a row – should be interesting with food prep, travel, peak week, etc. but I like the plan. Last year I competed from August through November and it was way too long and I lost a lot of muscle. This year I will bang them out four in a row:

11/1 DFAC World Finals in Miami

11/8 WNBF Pro Natural Masters in Marlborough, MA

11/15 WNBF Pro World Championship in Boston, MA

11/21 Musclemania World & Fitness America Las Vegas, NV

SUIT: I had a meeting with Maggie Keaveny, IFBB Pro (Maggie Suits) on July 10th and we came up with a crazy new suit. She was very professional, knowledgeable and creative. I cannot wait to see how this new suit looks under the lights and should be perfect for the big World stages this year.

SONG: I always take time to find a song that relates (lyrics) to what we are doing up on stage and one that can hopefully be enjoyed by all audience members. Last year I used ‘Remember the Name’ by Fort Minor. You will have to wait to see what I selected this year.

SHREDDED: This is when all of my hard work pays off. I am slowly shredding the fat away and seeing the new muscle mass that has been added to my body. Eric cut my carbs again to make sure I reach my goal and most importantly get those shredded glutes. My current macros are as follows:

As of March 30th:

6 days of:      150g protein, 150g carbs & 30g fat

1 refeed day:   150g protein, 250g carbs & 30g fat

As of April 25th:

6 days of:       150g protein, 135g carbs & 30g fat

1 refeed day:   150g protein, 250g carbs & 30g fat

As of July 8th:

5 days of:        150g protein, 115g carbs & 30g fat

1 refeed day:   150g protein, 250g carbs & 30g fat

1 refeed day:  150g protein, 150g carbs & 30g fat

The attached videos are from today (7/11/14).  I am still maintaining and hitting new PR’s with my strength work and my conditioning is improving.  Even with the cut in carbs I am making gains!! Thanks for pushing me Anthony!!!



Training Update 5/17/14 & WORKOUT CHALLENGE


This week concluded another deload week for me which means a week of CrossFit. I really enjoy this week because I get a break from the heavy lifting and volume and am able to try completely different exercises from my usual training. It is a great break mentally and excellent conditioning!

I feel like I had a successful week.  I am most excited to say that  I have FINALLY mastered the kipping pull-ups. If you read my training update from 1/20/2014 you will see that they’ve been a challenge for me and they were on my list of things to accomplish. I also mastered the rope climb to the top (first time getting to the top and quickly), improved my technique on cleans, handled 30# wall balls and I completed a modified version of a CrossFit Regional Event. My trainer, Anthony Vorachak, qualified for the Regionals CrossFit Games by placing 13th in the Northeast and 127th worldwide! I was nervous he was going to put me through one of the workouts and I was right to be worried. However he modified the workout for me knowing I am ‘deloading’.

This workout was the probably the most challenging part of the week. So much so that I thought I would share with it and challenge you to give it a try. Have fun!!

GOAL: complete in 21 minutes. The actual workout is 50 reps. Anthony modified to 30 reps for me. Another modification was that I did ring push-ups vs ring dips. It is just cruel to go from wall balls to dips and then right back to wall balls.

Modified Regional Event/Workout:

30 calorie row

30 box jump overs

30 deadlifts (125#)

30 wall balls (14#)

30 ring push ups

30 wall balls

30 deadlifts

30 box jump overs

30 calorie row

I wanted to take some videos but we forgot – promise to take videos of me suffering (I am mean working) during my next deload week!!

Training Update 5/3/2014


My first month (33 days) of show prep has been successfully completed.

Workouts: So far things are going GREAT; I am maintaining my strength and still making some gains by hitting new PR’s. The goal for me is to at least maintain my strength but to keep gaining strength while cutting would be even better. I’ve really started to like power cleans and handstand pushups!! These are some fun exercises we do to keep me entertained in between all the squats, deadlifts and pressing I have to complete.

Nutrition: Eric cut my carbs just a bit to give weight loss a nudge. Weight loss (fat) has started; slow and steady wins the race. I am happy (hunger is manageable) with these macros and can get a lot of food with these numbers.  My current macros are as follows:

March 30th:       

6 days of:      150g protein, 150g carbs & 30g fat

1 refeed day:   150g protein, 250g carbs & 30g fat

NEW as of April 25th:           

6 days of:      150g protein, 135g carbs & 30g fat

1 refeed day:   150g protein, 250g carbs & 30g fat

SPONSOR: I received some very exciting news last week; I’ve been sponsored by   Further details will follow soon!

All in all it’s been a productive month – moving onto the next……..

Day 1 of SHOW PREP – 3/31/2014

Today marked DAY 1 of my 2014 Show PREP!!  I am really excited to get into my ZONE and get SHREDDED.  I’ve worked really hard and am eager to see the results. I think I must have done 1,200 squats (at least) since November so these legs better show it.  I am thinking back to the sets of 20 reps at 185#, 10 reps on the minute for 10 minutes of back squats, then front squats, heavy singles, heavy doubles, etc.  Lots of squats! Plus lots of pressing, pulling and deadlifts.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, my training does not change.  We try to maintain strength and volume.  What does change is my nutrition.  So I thought I would share how my first day of food looked. For now my macros are as follows:

6 days of:  150g protein  150g carbs  30g fat

1 refeed day: 150g protein  250g carbs  30g fat

image  image  image   image

image image

Meal 1:   2 egg whites, 2 oz low sodium turkey breast, 1 cup veggies, 1 slice cabot 50% reduced fat cheese, 130g Japanese sweet potatoes, 1 toasted Josephs Pita

Meal 2:   Chocolate protein shake

Meal 3:   4 oz of broiled chicken made into a panini with a Joseph’s flatbread & 125g of apple dipped in Walden Farms chocolate sauce

Meal 4:   2 spelt cakes with 1 tbsp of low sodium Better’n Peanut Butter on each

Meal 5:    4 oz of broiled chicken breast with 1 cup of mushrooms, zuchinni, 5 asparagus spears and 1/2 cup of red pepper

Meal 6:   40 grams of my custom made oatmeal; peanut butter, coconut, banana bread flavor

Training Update 3/14/14

cover 4cover 14

My off-season is quickly coming to an end as my official show prep begins April 1st, 2014.

What does this mean in regards to my training?  NOTHING – I still lift as heavy as possible during each workout session.  I mentally and physically work towards improving strength and increasing muscle mass.  My trainer, Anthony Vorachak, has taught me to be more mentally aggressive going into lifts.  I cannot start a lift thinking OH MY GOD THIS IS HEAVY ARE YOU SURE I CAN DO THIS.  Physically the work does become harder as my calories and body fat decreases but Anthony helps push me through it.  I’ve become a lot stronger during this off-season and am working on becoming a better overall athlete.  Anthony has incorporated some Olympic lifting into my program and CrossFit.  I train at the River Valley Club and they post a RVC Record Board.  During this off-season I’ve taken the records for bench press, back squats, deadlifts, cleans and bench press for reps (75# x 33 reps).  I am most proud of my deadlift record.  I wanted to get 300# for so long and finally got 305!!

What does this mean for my nutrition? EVERYTHING – I track my macros and am 100% SPOT on with nutrition.  EVERYTHING that enters my mouth is weighed, measured and accounted for. The goal here is strip away the fat that I put on my body which was needed to build muscle.  I am feeling eager to peel away the layer and see what has been created.  I know I worked harder and lifted heavier this off-season so I am very excited to see the results.

What lesson did I learn this off-season?  SEVERAL  – I learned the off-season  transition is the hardest part of bodybuilding for me.  YES – that sounds a bit backwards – but it is true!  I love the training/lifting, during  show prep I am in the zone,  focused and determined.  I would never think to waiver from my given macros.  During the off-season I remain that driven with my training but my nutrition is not always perfect. My coach, Eric Helms, and I are already strategizing for a better off-season transition in November 2014.  Let me share what Eric has taught me in hopes of helping newer competitors.  Tracking your macros and sticking to them is just as important in the off-season.  This lets your body (metabolism) heal and ensures you don’t put on too much body fat.  Reverse dieting is absolutely necessary, slowing increasing your calories back up (check out the link below, it’s another great article by Cliff Wilson). However, you can enjoy a more relaxed approach allowing yourself a little extra here and there as long as you track it.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be so black and white and I can enjoy  treats and have a drink or two with my family and friends.   Bodybuilding is a lifestyle, year round,  regardless of what training stage you are in or what season.  I think I’ve finally found the happy balance but hope the next transition is easier.    As Eric stated “Competitions are won in the off-season”.