Interview with an inspiration: Tammy Carter

7 Apr

I first met Tammy 2 years ago as I was training for my first fitness show.  She was training with another one of the Personal Trainers at Goodlife and was a friend of my posing coach, Aimee.  Aimee introduced us as a means for me to ask Tammy any questions about suits, posing, backstage, etc. being that she was an experienced pro!

Tammy quickly took me under her wing.  The night of the competition she helped me backstage to even out my tan, go over last-minute posing, and even bikini-bit my suit (which, for those of you who know about bikini bite, is a very personal experience!).  Since then, we’ve both changed gyms but have kept in touch.  I can never get over the fact that Tammy is a working mom, and somehow still has the body of a 20-something year old.  Her dedication to, knowledge and love of the sport of bodybuilding are apparent.  And though she may be too humble to admit it, she’s one tough competitor!

Tess:  Hi Tammy!  Thanks so much for doing this interview.  I’m really looking forward to learning more about what makes you tick 🙂  First question: When did you start competing, and why?
Tammy: My first competition was in Nov 2008 after only 18 months of weight training. I had begun training the year before with Pedja Stojnic, a trainer at Goodlife Fitness. I had sought him out in particular because he had trained a friend of mine for competition. I was fascinated by her transformation and although competition was the furthest from my mind his training and nutrition principles rang true for me. Really all I was interested in was halting the middle age spread I was experiencing at 40 years old. I had been reading a little bit about how lifting heavy was just as important for women as it is for men and had already bought into the fact that lifting would not make me bulky. Also I was becoming a little more educated about macronutrients but didn’t feel like I had enough knowledge to apply these things to myself. My initial training package was for just 3 months but saw me eating more than ever before and dropping numbers on the scale like crazy. This convinced my husband that Pedja was worth the expense and we signed on for another year’s worth of training so that I could achieve my personal goals of squatting 135 pounds and 8 chinups. I transitioned to maintenance nutrtion and as I was approaching my PR’s my husband started to mention that I was looking like the gals on the cover of fitness magazines. The seed of competing was born and I thought that as a very shy woman it would be a crazy way to do something ‘out of the box’. I placed dead last in that first show in a lineup of 15 girls but for some reason I was hooked. I learned so much and had so much fun that I felt I had more to give in this industry.
Had you been very active before then?
NO!!! Haha I am that emphatic! In my younger years I was the farthest away from an athlete that you can imagine. I was literally the last girl chosen for gym class teams. After I finished going to school for Respiratory Therapist I dabbled in gym memberships doing aerobics classes rarely venturing into the weights area. I didn’t know how to do anything there and the short orientation only showed you how to do a machine circuit that I quickly grew bored of. After the birth of my first child I lost the baby weight by taping exercise shows and doing a couple back to back and eating low fat food (the wisdom of the time). After the second child I was busy with a toddler as well as high needs foster children and working full time.
What does a typical day look like for you
When I work it is 12 hour shifts; it could be anything from days, nights, 11am to 11pm or 9am to 9 pm. Running around a 30 bed ICU is enough of a workout for me on those days! Fortunately with 12 hour shifts you have more days off and that is when I get my workouts in. When I am not working I still get up at 5 am. I leave the house at 6 to take my teenage kids to an early morning religous class. After I drop them off at school I head straight to the gym if I do not have training session with Pedja which lately has only been once a week. In the off season I am usually done by 10 or 10:30. Right now with a contest preparation underway I take a little longer for a short HIIT session of cardio, extra stretching so that I can improve my mobility for onstage poses, and posing focussing particularly on engaging my lower abs to improve the presentation of that part of my body. Afterwards is errand running usually involving replenishing groceries and then home. Afternoons are for catching up! Paying bills, tidying the house, catching up on emails, planning monthly activities for a women’s organization, planning for my next Habitat for Humanity build and if I am really stretched, squeezing in a nap!  After preparing dinner and eating with my family I often have more meal prep so that I have food prepared to bring to work. Somewhere in there I talk to my husband and kids!
So many parents tell me that they just don’t have time to exercise. As a mother and worker, what do you say to these people? Do you have any advice for them?
Now we know that we do not have to spend hours pounding the pavement or being hamsters on a treadmill to be fit.  Cardio can be done in the form of high intensity intervals in just 10 or 15 minutes. Kettlebells or  TRX take very small areas to have a great workout in your home. Many gyms have children’s programs now so that there is something for everyone. The internet and various books are wonderful resources to educate yourself in training and nutrition principles if you are careful about it. Nutrition is 80% of the game so ensure you are following clean eating principles and above all recognize that you are worth it! Someday your children will be grown and you may want to back off in your worklife so you want to be able to have the health and stamina to enjoy life. 

If you could list one thing you’ve learned about your body or health since you’ve started competing, what would it be?  
I have learned that sound nutrition and weight training is the fountain of youth! I am 46 years old and feel incredibly vital and healthy. I feel more energetic than when I was 20 and feel like physically there is nothing that I can’t accomplish if I feel like it.

What’s your favourite form of exercise? Ex. Weightlifting, bootcamp classes, dance, running, etc.
Essentially I stick with weight training. I can do it anytime and don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time to take a class. There are so many variations for weight training and often I change my focus of what I want to achieve and that keeps me motivated. For instance I wanted to do a 1 arm push up so did all kinds of extra core strengthening work and variations of pushups until I was able to do one. Last summer I trained Westside style to increase my PR’s for bench press, squats, and deadlifts. My favourite thing is kettlebells. I adore Turkish get ups and snatches. To deload I will do a bit of yoga. Running….never haha!

Diet is undoubtedly the most important part of achieving a great body. Obviously you have a very specific diet during contest prep, but I know you personally and can honestly say you look amazing year-round. What does your diet look like in the off-season?
Well the reason I began my quest to improve my nutrition and learn to train with weights is that I knew that that was what I needed to do for longevity and to look good in a t-shirt! The physique competitons were just a way to focus my determination and then I learned how much fun the process was and I adore all of the people I have met along the way. Therefore I never lose sight of the real reason to eat clean and exercise. I have peers my age with sloping shoulders and poochy bellies and physical limitations. I want to be just as active in 30 years as I am now. Off season my diet is not a whole lot different. There are more calories of course but I stick with a higher protein, higher fat, low carb approach through the week with a little more variation in types of protein sources and fats. On the weekends I allow myself a meal or two of anything that I especially want with no feelings of guilt.
What is the body part you’re most proud of, and what do you do to train it?
I have been told that my back is ‘sick’. I lean out my upper body the easiest and I can get pretty ripped back there! I love doing chin ups so do lots of those. Lat pulldowns, rows, rear flys have also been beneficial to develop my back.
It takes a lot of discipline and motivation to do what you do every day. What drives you?
As I have mentioned before, long term vitality is my primary focus. Another one is fun! I LOVE TO TRAIN! Someone said to me once that it if fun to watch me workout because I look like I am having a good time. I am not one of those people that mopes around the gym.

Do you have any mentors, or people who inspire you?
In the gym my biggest mentor of course would be Pedja. After 5 years he is more than a trainer and we have developed a friendship over that time. I appreciate his wisdom that has allowed me to be gracious with my fellow competitors and maintain balance with my family and other aspects of my life. One of the reasons why I have been able to stick with him for so long, never seeking advice from anyone else is that he is constantly pursuing knowledge and upgrading his qualifications as a trainer. I am constantly amazed at how he has fine tuned my nutrtion specifically to me and identified physical deficiencies in my body and worked with me to improve them.
     As for people that inspire me I am confronted with them every day! My kids who are navigating this crazy world and turning out to be good people and my husband who has worked so hard to help pay for all my hours in the gym and the expenses necessary for competition. As far as fitness inspiration goes I am most inspired by those who have overcome limitations and obstacles and achieved more than those around them would have believed them capable of. I think one of the reasons I continue to compete is the people I meet and the stories they tell and the camaraderie amongst everyone.

Do you practice goal setting? If so, what are some of the goals you have for yourself over the next 3 years?
I don’t really practice goal setting formally but I do maintain a ‘bucket list’ in the back of my mind. My list at the moment is to continue to be involved in the fitness industry even if I don’t compete after this year. I love to be considered a mentor to women and convey the message that is never too late to make physical improvements and improve the quality of your life. I am a little intriqued by kettlebell challenges so will pursue that after the summer season of competing. I am passionate about the organization Habitat for Humanity and I have become a team leader in their Global Village program. I plan on leading at least one team a year to build locations around the world.
Thanks again, Tammy!  I’ll be seeing you around the competition circuit this summer 🙂


4 Responses to “Interview with an inspiration: Tammy Carter”

  1. debsimms April 7, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Reblogged this on debsimms and commented:
    See the rest of Tess’s interview with Tammy by clicking on the link.

  2. getfitwithles April 9, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Incredible interview with an incredible woman by an incredible woman! Love this post! Awesome photos!!!

  3. gail April 10, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Tammy, You never cease to amaze me!!!

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