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Interview: What It Takes to Be a Professional Bodybuilder

Becoming a professional bodybuilder is a labor of love—and a very expensive hobby! Having two bodybuilding professionals in the same family—the odds of that happening are lower than their competition body fat percentages!


Meet Tara and “Woody” Woodberry. They are a married couple with two kids, full-time jobs, and big dreams. Woody earned his International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro card in men’s physique at the North American Championships in September of 2020 and Tara earned her women’s figure International Natural Bodybuilding Federation (INBF)/ World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) pro card at the 2019 Phoenician Classic (3 days after her 40th birthday!).


We wanted to know more about what their lifestyle was like, so we asked! They’ve been married for more than 15 years and are the epitome of teamwork making the dream work. Here’s what they had to say.


Q: How Many Bodybuilding Competitions Have You Done?


Woody: 7 local and 5 national competitions.


Tara: 9 local and 2 national competitions.


Q: What Did Earning Your Pro Bodybuilding Card Mean to Each of You?


Woody:

Man, it meant a lot but it’s really hard to explain and even a month later I am still in awe. It meant that all the sacrifices paid off. I know that is kinda bland, but that is really what it was. I, like many others, have bled, sweat, and cried during the process. I literally cried during workouts just from being pushed past my limits and other stresses in life.


Tara:

I felt so proud! Not only by earning this honor but also proud of the journey and the process along the way. Bodybuilding has helped me gain self-confidence and not in physical looks, but in trusting myself. Trusting that I have follow-through, discipline, resilience, grit, and determination. It has helped me prove to myself that I am worthy and enough as I am, and I can go out and try hard new things no matter how old I am. I started when I was 37 and I proved to myself I can accomplish anything I set my mind to even if it is difficult.


Bodybuilding has been a vehicle for positive change in my life and has helped me show my kids that it’s never too late or too early to work on a goal or a dream with the right direction and belief.


Q: What Is Something About Bodybuilding You Know Now That You Wish You Knew When You Started?


Tara:

I hate to admit that despite my background in Exercise Science, I thought lifting heavy weights would make me bigger and bulky. I have always been athletic, and I shied away from heavy weight training. Once I started and decided I wanted to be a figure competitor, I knew I needed to add muscle and that’s when I realized how extremely difficult it is to get “bigger”. I also didn’t realize how much eating it would take to grow.


I would tell myself to start building muscle as early as you can. That lifting weights not only changes our body composition but improves our metabolism. Women will not get big just from lifting heavy. It takes so much more than that. If what it did for me starting at 37, I can only imagine where I would be if I had started when I was younger.


Q: What’s Your Favorite Thing About Bodybuilding?


Tara:

I honestly believe my favorite thing about bodybuilding so far is all the amazing people I have met and continue to grow friendships with and specifically the women. I came into this thinking that I would be walking into a “mean girl” scene but was surprised with quite the opposite. Most of them are very encouraging, empowering, and have become some of my dearest friendships. We encourage each other daily through social media and in-person for personal life achievements as well as bodybuilding ones.


Q: What Advice Would You Give A Novice Bodybuilder?


Tara:

I would advise a novice to really evaluate why they want to compete. For it to be deeper than a physical accomplishment. Ensure that they accept themselves and love themselves as they are now before starting. This mindset will carry them through the judgment they are asking for in the competition world. Getting their body in an extremely lean state will take a level of mental fortitude and self-awareness that most can’t handle. Also, having a plan nutritionally and training-wise for after a competition. This will help prevent rebound weight gain and ease your body back into a new level of normal.


Have patience with the process and only compare yourself with the version of you from yesterday. Each bodybuilder you are up next to is in their own journey at different time periods and results will vary. Constantly comparing yourself to someone else will take away from your personal experience.


What to learn more about how to get started and attending a bodybuilding competition as a female bodybuilder? Check out these ISSA blogs:

  • The Beginners Guide to Women's Bodybuilding

  • How to Get Started in Fitness Competitions: Women's Edition


Q: Do You Have A Bodybuilding Coach? What’s the Advantage?


Woody:

Yep and yep. My coach has been Joe since day 1, 08/2016. In the beginning, he handed my nutrition but at this point, he is more for accountability and guidance. I typically run my ideas by him and he provides me feedback. Having a coach is huge, especially in the beginning. You need have to have those extra sets of eyes to look at you and provide guidance. Having a quality coach gives you the ability to learn as you go along. I highly recommend a coach for everyone.


Q: What Is It Like Bodybuilding Together as A Family?


Woody:

I believe it has been a blessing. We have been able to be real-time demonstrators of hard work, determination, and resilience. They have seen us win and fail at our intended achievements and seen us get up again. They have seen us start something new and out of our comfort zones and to go for it anyway. We have been able to show that despite your age and responsibilities it’s important to make time for your dreams even if they seem a bit crazy or out of the norm.


Q: How Is Your Family Life In-Season?


Tara:

With the kids being athletes and us competing, it feels like our family life is always in a season. We plan competitions mostly around school breaks and try to not have to miss any of their sports events. We train early so we are able to get them to their practices in the evening.


Q: How Does Training In-Season Affect Your Relationship?


Tara:

We have done several competitions over the last few years together. I feel like it has strengthened our understanding for each other. Of course, we have times where we get into “food fights.” I mean, who fights over asparagus?! Woody is the temperamental one, he is a Gemini and it shows during prep. Before COVID, we only trained together on Saturdays and that became part of our weekly dates. It was something that we had for just the two of us outside of parenting.


While in-season, the closer we get to a competition the more sensitive or volatile each of us becomes, so we need to be mindful of how we are speaking to and treating each other. Are we perfect at it? Heck no, but we know each other very well and can work it out. Our kids are good at providing comic relief in those times when we want to bite each other’s heads off.


When our prepping schedule is different than one another’s we take over being the at-home coach. This has been very beneficial and frustrating at times. Some conversations have to start with “As your husband/wife saying this, you are perfect, and as your bodybuilding critique…here is the list of things you need to work on.” You can imagine where those conversations go.


Q: What Does Your Grocery Shopping Look Like?


Tara:

Woody does 90% of the grocery shopping since he does most of the cooking. We keep it basic so we can have some variety during the week. Lots of ground meats. The kids can have tacos one day, spaghetti another, or basic protein and carb. We try to make it as easy as possible. At this point, our trips are quick. When you buy the same things all the time, it gets efficient real fast.


Nutrition is key to effective muscle growth. For the essentials on calorie intake and healthy fat as part of a healthy diet plan, check out ISSA’s blog: Bodybuilding Nutrition: What to Eat for Bulking


Q: What Is Your Favorite Non-Gym Family Activity?


Woody:

As a family, we enjoy great food. For our 15th Wedding Anniversary, we took the kids with us to Fleming’s and enjoyed a high-end dinner together as a family. Other than eating, we like going to visit museums. The kids and Tara enjoy hiking local trails when it’s cooler out.


Q: What Does a Typical Weekday Look Like Fore Each of You?


Woody:

3am

Wake, 1 hour of cardio in the garage, eat, head to the gym

5am

1-1.5 hours of lifting at the gym

7:30am

Work

4:30pm

Pack clothes and prep meals for tomorrow

6-8pm

Coach my son’s football team or family workout in the garage

8-9pm

Head to bed!


Tara:

3:30am

Wake, laundry, walk the dog

4am

30 minutes cardio training in the garage

4:30am

Breakfast

5am

1-1.5 hours of lifting at the gym

7am

Commute to work

8am

Start work (Radiology at the Phoenix VA Hospital)

4pm

Commute home

5pm

Pack clothes and meals for tomorrow

5:30pm

Help the kids with homework and cook dinner

6pm

Take the kids to sports practices

8-9pm

Head to bed!


There you have it! The lifestyle of a bodybuilder is calculated and precise, but, even with kids and work, it can be done. Sometimes it takes having a partner who understands the schedule and sometimes it takes friends or other family members cheering you on. Either way, the key to success as a competitive bodybuilder is a support system and a sense of humor no matter what division you compete in.


If you’d like to learn more about bodybuilding, training programming, and nutrition, check out the ISSA Bodybuilding Certification. You’ll feel more confident training yourself and working as the go-to personal trainer for anyone interested in competitive bodybuilding!


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This distance education course covers training, recovery, motivation, and nutritional strategies to prepare the personal trainer to work with bodybuilders. Upon completion of the ISSA’s bodybuilding course, you will have all the knowledge necessary to prepare an athlete for a high-level bodybuilding or physique competition. But many who take this course will never go down that path; for these trainers, the course will provide essential information that can help them train the “everyday” clients who want to look and feel their best. All trainers can benefit from the information in this bodybuilding course, not only individuals looking to enter the sport of bodybuilding!


Bodybuilding Specialist | ISSA (issaonline.com)

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