NPA Success for Tara

Would you like a body that is toned to perfection? Would you like to see muscle instead of bingo wings and thighs with not so much as an inch of cellulite? Do you believe it is impossible to have total tone after forty? If so, read about Tara and think again.

Tara Leyden, our resident fitness coach and body-building expert, achieved an amazing second place at the NPA British Finals in Brighton earlier this month. The Natural Physique Association (NPA) is a completely natural bodybuilding association based in the UK and are currently in their 13th year. Each year they have five qualifying competitions throughout the UK which then lead to the British Championships in October.

Tara competes with the NPA because she likes what they stand for... the NPA drug test and polygraph at all their shows, and in their words, "they will do all they can to keep the sport clean, healthy, and Lifetime Natural."

Here, Tara tells us how she prepared for the competition, both physically and mentally, and we hope that her experience may inspire some of our Sassistas to take up this sport.

What got you started with bodybuilding?

I've always loved to have a muscular toned look but I spent years prioritising and enjoying the cardio side of training. I entered races and fitness challenges and wasn't so focused on building muscle. Then, back in 2011, a friend encouraged me to train for a bodybuilding show. That’s when I concentrated my efforts more seriously on weight training and did a lot less cardio so that I could gain some size to enter the NPA show in 2012.


How long did it take you to get in shape for the NPA show?

It took me about six months to prepare for the NPA Midlands qualifying show in August 2016. I wanted to reduce my body fat very slowly so there was minimal muscle loss, and also, by doing it slowly, it wasn't such a shock to the system!


What was your inspiration?

This may sound cliché but my inspiration was, and still is, to be an inspiration to others. I have listened to many people tell me that now they have hit 40 they have put on weight and have less energy. I wanted to prove that age doesn't have to be a barrier. Yes, the body goes through changes as we age, but the important thing to remember is, you can change your mind-set too. If you believe you can change your body the chances are you will!


What challenges did you face?

The most challenging part of the process for me was the posing practice. I had to really discipline myself by setting an allotted time each day to practice. It's actually quite exhausting and as my body fat dropped lower it was becoming more so. However, when I applied fake tan all over my body a couple of days before the show, I could see the muscle definition more clearly and this increased my motivation for posing. So next time I compete I have an excuse to go away on holiday for a week or two beforehand and get a nice tan! (Ha ha)!


What did you do to keep focused?

Staying focused wasn't hard for me because when I set my mind on something I'm usually determined to see it through. If anything, I found that it was nice to take my mind off the competition occasionally as it can become all consuming. I would keep myself busy in the garden, which is a big love of mine, or I would have some quiet time where I would just sit peacefully without thinking too much about anything. This helped to reset my mind and energy levels which, in turn, kept me focused on the goal. 


You are in you mid-forties. How do you feel when up against younger contestants?

This question had me giggling because the first and third place competitors were in their 50's... just shows there is no age limit! There were younger girls there too but the age thing was no concern, although I do joke that maybe if it was a beauty contest I would have felt different! 


What do you have to give up in order to get your body in such great shape?

The main thing I find I give up when prepping for a show is the social aspect of eating out. It's not quite the same going out for a meal when I have to be picky about what I'm ordering. I don’t eat out a lot so when I do it’s a treat for me. I don't feel inspired to sit in a restaurant with all the beautiful smells of food around me eating something like a chicken salad with no sauce! Although I enjoy and feel good for eating healthy 90% of the time, the remaining 10% of the time I want what I want, and if it is a big fat curry served with a peshwari naan and a glass of red wine then that's what I'm going to have. Actually two days after the British Championships that's exactly what I did have.


What were you looking forward to eating the most after the championship?

Cake and all sorts of it! I had a friend who baked me a lemon drizzle cake which was delicious. Then the day after the show it was like an episode of, 'The Great British Bake Off' in my kitchen... I really couldn’t wait to get baking. I planned an evening for my son and I to have all our food fantasies, and oh boy did we did love it... starting with chocolate fudge brownies... yum yum!


You came second in the NPA British Championship. Well done! Will you be entering again next time?

 I will enter again but not until 2018. I feel it is important to leave enough time to build up some good quality muscle especially after a total of eight months of dieting this year. I also have other dreams I'd like to pursue in 2017 but watch this space for more on that!


What would you say to anyone who is thinking of taking up bodybuilding, especially to our older Sassistas?

It doesn't matter how old you are because bodybuilding is a sport that can be taken up at any point in life. It's one sure way of changing your body aesthetically and when you start to notice the changes it motivates you to keep going. Many people don't realise how good it is from a cardiovascular point of view too. I can be totally out of breath, especially after a few sets of squats. 


Final word – the physique of a female body-builder may be a step too far for you in terms of both look and discipline. But what if you were just to work on the tone? And who knows, you might get the bug and in a couple of years’ time Sassistas, some of you may be on that stage with Tara having a pose down together!


Tara at the show          Tara's everyday beauty

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