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Health Warrior: Tammy Messina

This lady is not only strong and a top competitor in NPC Bikini Competitions, she is also sweet as can be! I met Tammy Messina at the gym in Hawaii. Though we didn't get as much time together as I would have liked, we did connect fast over our mutual love for fitness and have kept in contact since Nathaniel and I left the island. Her transformation from active student athlete, through overeating and feeling unhealthy in culinary school, to finally a truly healthy lifestyle is one that will inspire you. She's had setbacks along her journey, but has clearly utilized the tools she shares with us below to stay consistent and positive!

Use her advice like tools in your belt to get on the path to a healthier you! Pull out out your list of New Year's resolutions and take notes. Here is my interview with Tammy...

1. Tammy, we are so excited to learn more about what goes on in the life of a committed, working fitness enthusiast like you! Let’s start from the beginning: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in health and fitness?

I was always an athlete. In school I played softball, I was a cheerleader, a tumbler, and really just kept active. I didn’t realize at the time that I was already kind of ‘in the industry.’ Staying active was a hobby. Well, I dropped all the activities after graduating. Then I went to culinary school and gained weight. It took a while to really notice a difference, but I started to feel really off… I noticed I felt sluggish, a decrease in my energy, and winded going up and down stairs. I didn’t recognize my body and felt really unhealthy. I wasn’t educated on why yet though. I thought it was just because I stopped doing sports and lost the energy involved with that.  not just because I stopped being active and taking care of myself.

Then I met Zak, my now husband. He showed me how to really live a healthy lifestyle. He was programmed to be at the gym EVERY morning. I thought he was crazy at first. Then one day I went with him and I realized going to the gym wasn’t so hard. Then I started researching about fitness. And as I kept going to the gym and learning more, I really began to enjoy my time! Everything grew from there. I eventually decided, “hey I want to do a competition!” I loved pushing myself to achieve that goal.

2. When did you start competing and how has that impacted your life? How does your training vary with seasonal competing?

I started bikini competitions almost four years ago. I’ve competed in one every year, and this is the first year I did two. It totally changed my life. I never thought I’d be able to do something like that. It steered my in the direction, toward what I am now most passionate about in the health and fitness industry. I started hearing from a lot more from women.. questions about what I was doing, how I was so fit, and learning that I was really inspiring them! 

My training is pretty much the same whether I’m in season or not. It usually consists of an upper body/lower body split. So upper body one day, lower body the next, then upper body the day after that and lower body on a fourth day. Then I take off three days, typically. That schedule is pretty consistent year round. Except, in the off season I don’t even have cardio scheduled. The exercises change within the workouts and my calories change, but that’s about it. My calories gradually decrease during competition prep and gradually increase in the off season, depending on my goals. 

Would you be willing to share with us what a typical workout might look like for you?

Sure! I’ll take you through a typical lower body day: 

I always do dynamic exercises to start, using full range of motion (ROM) movements to fully warm up. 

Then start the resistance training with more of a compound exercise like leg press. 

Next, I’ll usually hit hip thrusters, glute kickbacks (donkey or another kind), leg extensions and laying hamstring curls.

Most of my exercises are really slow and concentrated. I go hard enough to where the last two reps are pretty challenging for me. 

To finish, maybe I’ll hit a little core (1-2 times/week). I don’t focus on them too much. They do not need to be worked out every day. You’ve likely heard: “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

So, all in all, these 4-5 exercises probably take a total of about an hour. 

3. What do you believe is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle? How do you recommend people keep a positive mindset for doing that part and prioritizing health on a regular basis?

The most important part of a healthy lifestyle is making healthy choices a habit, keeping consistent with eating well and exercising in moderation. I usually stay active at least four days a week, but someone just starting my only go twice each week. It really is just turning staying active into a lifestyle. Staying consistent and making sure our bodies are taken care of.

How to do this on a regular basis… I think the key is to just keep going. Start somewhere and don’t stop. If you feel discouraged in the beginning, just trust the process and I guarantee that in time it wont feel like time wasted. Endorphins will get high and you’ll start to feel so much better!

Struggling with consistency happens to me too. Especially in my “off” season. My metabolism has to kick in again after slowing down so much for competitions, and my energy has to normalize again. So, it’s not always easy to get started again. It usually takes my body about three weeks to adjust and then I start to feel amazing again.

4. What is one non-negotiable part of your health routine each week? Something you protect or put in place to take care of yourself.

Consistency is the key here again. I would say that I make sure that I at least get 3-4 days of exercise in during the week. I don’t drop it, because once I do it’s hard to get back in. I also find it helpful to follow a flexible diet plan, so I count macros but can eat foods as long as they fit in my daily macros. That makes it easy for me to maintain, bulk, cut, do anything to the best of my ability. I love not feeling restricted by my diet. I don’t fear food. You know, I used to fear food when I was so uneducated about it… but now I feel great about how I eat and how I try to stay active!

5. Can you let us into one of your personal health hurdles and how you’ve adapted to overcome it?

My biggest health hurdle has to do with having had reconstructive surgery on my shoulder. I’m limited on a lot of exercises because of it. It’s been hard for me because I didn’t have this restriction before and it’s tough for me to know that I can’t do exercises I think I could be really good at. For example, I can’t squat really heavy or do explosive movements with weight on my shoulders. So, I’ve adapted. I have to find alternatives to these exercises, like doing bodyweight squats and hip thrusts to work my glutes instead of heavy squats. And even though my hurdle as an athlete is to not be able to do some of these things, I do my best and find alternatives that help me keep a positive mindset!

6. How do you set health and fitness goals for yourself? What are some goals you are currently working on?

For the most part my goals are based around competitions. I always try to set a goal for those. Right now my goal is not to compete again until November, at the Shaun Ray Classic. I like to go in front the same judges because I can use the feedback they’ve given me to set goals for the next time. I’ll work on my weak points and hopefully come in with a brand new package. So, the other part of my goal right now is to have a really good off season. I can really take advantage of my long off season to grow. I also really get to enjoy life more having my goals that far out. I love that I can be a little bit more lenient with my health choices, especially during the Holidays!

7. What’s the best advice you could give someone just beginning his or her own health journey? A key takeaway you could share with us?

Knowledge. DO your research. Maybe hire a coach or a personal trainer. I think there are too many people without the right knowledge, who don’t know the difference between what is and isn’t healthy. Learn how to follow proper form, eat right, and take care of yourself. And, of course, stay consistent.

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