Tamara is a very experienced and knowledgeable personal trainer from Victoria BC. Before becoming a trainer, she was an actress in Los Angeles. She is very passionate about fitness as well as acting.
Between the time that I interviewed Tamara and actually got around to posting this informative interview, she has filmed a TV pilot about fitness, as well as competed in the first annual Fitlife Fall Fitness & Figure Show placing Second in her category. Well done, Tamara! I hope to see the TV pilot soon :)
Above: Here is Tamara looking absolutely stunning in her bathing suit on stage at the fitness show.
She is a great inspiration to many women because she knows how to live a balanced lifestyle and achieve goals.
I am thrilled to have been able to interview Tamara for this post because she is dedicated to and knowledgeable about fitness and loves what she does. This is one of my longer interviews that I have posted here, but I promise you that you will learn A LOT by reading it. I know I learned a lot, so I am excited to share this with you.
Above: Just looking at photos of Tamara motivates me to work out more. She sets a great example.
AVIVA: How long have you been a trainer?
TAMARA HAMBLY: I've been a trainer for 6 years in October, so about 5 and a half I guess now.
AVIVA: Have you always wanted to be a trainer or did you have something else that you wanted to do before?
TH: No, I didn't discover training, at least working out, until I was 30 years old. Before that, I was an actor. So, my passion before fitness was acting, so now I have two passions, fitness and acting.
AVIVA: Now that we are on the subject, what could you say to aspiring actors who would like to try to "make it"?
TH: Well, acting is liberating, it's fun, challenging, you grow tons when you step out of your own skin and put somebody else's on, but it's hard, and if you are trying to make it in Hollywood, which most people consider the only success to be Hollywood, it's very hard not to crack. If you are in it for the love of acting, theater is the way to go in my opinion, and that's where my background is, theater, not TV as much.
So if you want to be an actor,start acting. Get into acting classes, join you local theater in high school or in your community, learn how to take direction, learn the basics in your community and go from there. If you find that you still have a passion after putting up sets, tearing down sets, after spending hours in rehearsal on your feet and all of those things. If you still want to, then head up to Vancouver or LA.
AVIVA: What inspired you to become a personal trainer?
TH: I was trying to make it as an actress, I had had my 3rd kid, and I was being told that I was too heavy for TV. The truth of the matter was that I wasn't. I didn't know it then, but I was told that I was. So I had a friend who had a gym membership, so she added me to her membership, and I started going to LA Fitness. I didn't know what I was doing, I did not get a trainer, although I loved what I was doing. I didn't know that some of the things I was doing were wrong, so that's how I got started. I had never been into fitness, I've never cared about what I ate, I'm not a sports-oriented person, so I'm not into team sports, and I was a couch potato until I found fitness.
Then, I hit 30, and had my 3rd kid, and grey hair, so I had my midlife crisis a little earlier than most people and I hit the gym. I loved it; it became my "T-Time", where I got out of the house, away from the kids, de-stressed, and I saw results pretty quickly. If you want to see a change in your physique, it's not just hitting the gym and pushing the weights around-you have to conquer your nutrition, and that's where we started first. We cut out bad fats, aspartame, MSGs, etc.
AVIVA: What are your thoughts on coffee?
TH: (taking a sip of coffee) There are people out there who are hard core nutritionists and who are very very stringent in their nutrition. I don't take that approach to nutrition. I don't take that approach to many things at all except the things that are really, really bad for you. I believe in moderation. I believe in knowing what's good for you and what's bad for you and leaving the bad stuff alone, period.
Like I said, aspartame, MSGs, and things like that are really, really bad for your body, leave then alone, and read your labels so you don't buy anything that contains them. But, if you like to have chocolate, my favorite is chocolate and peanut butter...I'll take a chocolate bar and a peanut butter jar, and I'll go at it. So I don't believe in depriving yourself of anything, except the really bad things that you should never eat in the first place. If you have chocolate, know that 3 squares is enough, and don't eat the whole 12-square bar. Have what you like, and have it in moderation, so you never feel deprived.
People only binge, in my experience, when they've deprived themselves of something that they really enjoy or their body really needs for a long time. It's like oxygen, you can't hold your breath forever; eventually, your body is going to burst and have air, it's going to take a breath. Same with things you crave, and things that your body really needs.
If you are someone who is really enjoying your coffee, and you cut it out completely, you are more likely to go back and go back even more so than if you were to just have one cup of coffee a day or one every other day, or whatever you consider to be "in moderation" for you.
I want people to know that I have issues with my coffee intake and that I want to get better. By telling people about it, I feel accountable to them. I believe in doing the right thing forever, because fitness is forever, and it shouldn't be something you do until you get to your target and then go back to what you were doing before. Fitness is a lifestyle, it's part of who you are, and it shouldn't be something you do just for a few months to hit the beach and then stop doing it and then repeat the cycle again next spring.
AVIVA: I notice that many women work out to lose those 10 lbs, and then go back to the way they were. Then, they gain the weight back, and lose everything that they've achieved and worked for.
TH: Yes, that goes back to nutrition. When people work out, they don't always adjust their nutrition accordingly. They will continue eating what they ate before, and then work out. When you are working out, you burn more calories, so if you are not eating too horribly before and then start to work out, you are going to lose some weight and get muscle definition. But, if you continue eating the way you were without working out, you are going to continue to go back and forth with the weight. Weight gain, weight loss, weight gain, weight loss, and that's horrible for your heart.
Above: Tamara's arms are amazing.
AVIVA: Do you believe that we actually have a set point, when it comes to weight? Or do you believe that we can lower or increase our set point depending on our goals?
TH: I believe everyone has a balance point. I believe you can balance out how much you take in and how much you spend-that's basically all it is. It's how many calories you take in and how many calories you burn. I believe everyone can find a balance because I have. My weight does not fluctuate more than two or 3 lbs.
Can you go beyond what your normal is? Yes, and you can see that with people who train for certain competitions, bodybuilding, weightlifting, those sorts of things. They are probably beyond their balance point to a much more leaner place. Their body wouldn't rest there normally because it's unhealthy. I believe every body will have its balance point, where if you know what you are eating and you know what you are spending, you just stay within your weight range. That takes time to find, it takes experimentation, and education. You need to know what you are taking in, and what you are doing. For some, that may mean counting calories, and for some it's just a natural way of living.
For me, I don't eat the same amount of calories on my rest day than I do on days when I work out/engage in other physical activities. Basically, your body is an engine, and food if fuel. So if you're not going to go 100 miles, you don't need all that fuel, so you will have all that extra fuel just stored. Same with our bodies, if you put more fuel (ie. calories) in than you are going to spend, they are going to get stored in your fat cells.
AVIVA: Now with the fat cells, what do they do? Do they multiply or do they just increase in size?
TH: No, they don't multiply. They increase in size. You are born with a set number of fat cells and that is genetically determined. Where they are placed on your body is also genetically determined, and which ones will fill up faster is also genetically determined. So that's why some people have more fat in the stomach or the legs, or butt, or thighs. How many cells you have never changes as far as fat cells go.
Now what happens is each little fat cell is like a balloon, and that balloon can get huge, and that's what overweight is. Each little fat cell is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, but they don't multiply. So eating more does not multiply the number of fat cells you have, it just makes each one bigger. The only way to get rid of fat cells is to have them sucked out through liposuction, which I don't recommend.
AVIVA: So if somebody is trying to lose weight, what do you believe they should be going for per week? Two pounds?
TH: The safe maintainable average weight loss is 1 to 2.5 lbs per week depending on who you are. Some people shed body weight faster and some hold on to it, and again that's going to be a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and other factors.
AVIVA: What do you feel is the most exciting part of your job?
TH: The fact that I'm still a kid in it is great. I've only been in it for a few years, so I feel like I'm a toddler running around with all these new toys to play with, and discover and to introduce my clients to all these new fun things. That is honestly the best part, which is educating my clients and empowering them to their own personal health and fitness. I don't want clients that are ball and chained to me. I don't want an email saying "what should I eat today".
I want to educate them, so that they can be in charge of their own life. That they know enough to plan out what they are going to do for themselves. That's freedom, power, liberty, and peace because they don't have to worry and ask because they already know. So educating my clients is definitely the most important part of my training. Having fun, finding out what clients enjoy doing and then having them do that so that they enjoy their workout, but really, education is the key to longevity in fitness.
If you don't know what you like to do, and that the only thing that you think is out there to do is to hit a gym and you hate gyms, well then you're probably never going to find fitness. So, know what you like. If you are someone who likes team sports, then join a softball team or a soccer team. If you're someone who likes machines and things like I do, since I'm a machine person and a gym person; I'm not into team sports, not a runner, I don't work out at home, I need a gym membership. I know that about myself, and I accept that about myself.
Do I push gym memberships on others? No, I do not, because not everyone has the same road to fitness as I do, but that's why you educate people. You're not trying to make clones of yourself, you are empowering people to be their own version of "fit and healthy", however they want to do it. They can become a runner, a cyclist, join softball teams, and even just play sports with their kids on the weekend. As long as you're enjoying what you're doing and getting sweaty, you're going to find difference.
AVIVA: Do you have a favorite workout routine for yourself?
TH: No. I don't do the same thing twice. I prefer different types of training. I love plyometrics, I love multi-joint exercises, but I don't have routines that I do. I'm not that type of person and I find that I get bored very easily, so I don't plan out my workouts and I don't stick to one training style. One day I will do lots of skipping rope and the next day I will do machines, and then the next day I will do plyometrics. Then I will do a cardio interval workout with body weight, like push ups and lunges and squats. I love kettlebells! One of my new favorite things are kettlebells, great for cardio and strength at the same time.
Then, there are people who need routine and they should have a plan, so again it goes back to knowing the type of person you are and how you work best. I'm a very "in the moment" kind of person, and not one to extensively plan my workouts. I'm more of an "improv" kind of exerciser. But, I also have clients, who, if it's not planned out, then they won't do anything.
So, know yourself, and know what you do. If you need a plan, make one or have someone make one for you. If you're brand new to the idea of fitness and health, go to a gym and get a trainer. Trainers are phenomenal tools for health and fitness. They want to educate you, and keep you safe if you're a beginner and they will challenge you if you're experienced in the gym or on the field. They are going to be someone who can maximize what you're doing and how you're doing it. So getting a trainer could be one of the best things that you can personally do as a first step towards your health and fitness.
AVIVA: Isn't even one session with a trainer good for some people?
TH: For some people. One session is very short and you can't do a lot in one session, so if you've got someone who is already fit and just wants a new program-one session is fine. But for new people coming into the gym or into a new sports field, you'll want more than one session.
AVIVA: It can be very scary being new at a gym.
TH: Yeah, and you can hurt yourself. I did a few years ago. When I first started hitting the gym, I didn't know any better. I'm sure a lot of people do this too. I walked into the gym, and I saw a girl, and I thought, "She's really nice; I like her arms; I like her legs." So I would watch her do the exercise, and whatever she did, I would copy, not knowing that chances are I'm not learning good form and who's to say that it's a good exercise for anyone. That's how I hurt myself. I hurt my shoulders when I first hit the gym because I didn't know any better.
AVIVA: What piece of advice could you offer to women who would like to get rid of belly fat? (this one comes up very often)
TH: Depends on if it's from childbirth or just a little bit of genetic stuff. If your skin is stretched from childbirth, there is really nothing you can do, and I can speak from experience after having 3 kids. You can tone the muscle underneath but you are not ever going to put elasticity back into the skin fibre ever again. So if it's stretched because of excess weight, that skin is always going to be that way.
But if it's just a little bit of a pooch, or a little bit of body fat, cardio and nutrition will take care of that. Also, remember that you can't spot train for body fat. It's an overall thing, and you should be working your body inside out. Nutrition goes inside, and it works its' way to the outside. So if you want to change on the outside, you have to change on the inside. If you are soft in places on the outside, then that means that you are putting something inside that is helping to create that and you are not doing enough to burn those calories off.
AVIVA: What do you feel people should be looking for when they are choosing a trainer?
TH: You want to know what you want to do and then ask around. You can ask your friends if they have trained with anyone they liked. You want a trainer that is experienced in the type of thing that you want to learn. So if you are a gentleman and you want to put on 40 lbs of pure muscle, you shouldn't go to an aerobics instructor. Find a trainer that specializes in what you want to do. If it's general overall health and wellness, if you are a young lady wanting to get into the fitness industry and the modeling aspect of it, then you want a trainer who has experience training that way. If you are post-natal (you've just had a baby), you want a trainer who knows how to train for that.
Feel free to interview trainers and ask them questions. Also, look into their credentials and read their testimonials. Most trainers will have testimonials from their clients, and if they don't, well..."why not?". I am not saying that you should necessarily go with the most experienced trainer, since everyone has to start somewhere, but you want to click with personality, you want them to be able to motivate you, so shop around. It's just like a car, because you want a good fit, and chances are you are going to be investing some time and money into a personal trainer.
Feel free to fire your trainer. Although I haven't been fired, I believe that if I am not giving a client what they are looking for then they should have a right to fire me. It's not about the trainer, it's about the client, and what their goals are and it's the trainer's job to help them attain those goals. However, if your trainer is good, and you are not seeing results, then you are not doing the nutritional background well.
Find a trainer that you are comfortable with, that you enjoy spending time with, because you are going to spend some time with them, and feel free to tell them what you want. I think a lot of people feel intimidated by their trainer so they say "oh, whatever you want I will do", but that's not what training is about, it's about what you want. Don't be afraid to tell a trainer that you are not completely satisfied with a workout and ask to try something else. You should be able to ask them questions, pick their brain for nutrition, and they should be there for you because it is about you-the client.
AVIVA: If there is anything that you would like to change about the fitness industry, what would that be?
TH: No, not at all really. But,the one thing that I would like to change is the lack of education. I think that here in Canada it should be pushed more through the health industry. People who want to get trainers and gym memberships should be allowed to count that off their taxes. I believe that if you are a healthy employee, your employer is going to get more out of you. The employer should be willing to compensate, or have the government compensate, them for their employees health and wellness. Why not have the government be able to give us tax breaks on gym memberships and personal training sessions? I believe if the government wants a healthy society, and employers want healthy employees, then it would make sense for them to give people tax breaks for training and gyms.
AVIVA: So it's like taking a preventative measure as opposed to after the fact.
TH: Exactly. You get your car tuned up every 3000 miles, as a preventative measure, so why not get our bodies tuned up similar to the way the cars get tuned up. Given that employers are always having to cover people's shifts due to sickness, should see that people who work out get sick less. It's a proven fact. Exercise improves your immune system, so if you get sick, you are sick for less time, the duration is shorter, and chances are you don't even get sick as often as those people who don't work out. It's a win-win situation, you have healthier employees who get to work when everyone else is sick.
I would make it so that people could make tax deductions using their health and fitness costs. It has been proven that employees who are physically fit take fewer sick days.
AVIVA: Yeah, it's like I haven't taken a sick day off school for a long time. I was a competitive runner so I know what physical fitness can do for you.
TH: Well there you go, being healthy pays off. It just does. It pays off in all aspects of your life. People always ask me what I think fitness is. I may have a more liberal view of what fitness is than most people, because I don't care really how you look or what your shape is. You could have a skinny person who is unhealthy. You may be able to be lean, but skinny is not healthy.
My idea of fitness is know what you want to do in life and having the endurance, stamina, and strength to do it. So if you like to climb Mount Finlayson every other weekend, then you need to have enough health, and, and fitness to be able to do that. If you want to go and play hockey 3 or 4 times a week, then you want your health, wellness, and fitness to be able to support that.
Very few of us want to sit on the couch in front of the TV 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Very few people want that, and if you have that mentality, well then I guess you just stay there. For me, being healthy, being active, is just being able to have and lead the lifestyle you want to lead for as long as you want to lead it.
AVIVA: Do you have any advice for people who just want to get into their bikini shape for when they go on vacation?
TH: Look at where your calories are coming from, especially the empty calories. I don't believe in dieting, and I don't believe in starvation things and all these fad diets that are out there, such as Atkins. I don't like them, because you have to deprive yourself of something and anything you deprive yourself of you're going to want more of eventually. I would say: back off on the alcoholic calories that we take in. Chances are, many of us are consuming way too many calories in our alcohol. One drink will have between 250-500 calories. So be careful of where your calories are coming from. Make a list of "no-no's": white flour, white salt, white sugar, and white rice. Cut things out that you know are going to be bad for you, and then replace them with good options.
Get sweaty. Nutrition is going to be 70-80% of the battle for any person who is trying to slim down, so you really have to focus on eating square meals that consist of fat, carbs, and proteins, 5 times a day. You want to be eating all the time actually, so that you never eat too much. You should never feel hungry and you should never feel thirsty. If you want to lose a few pounds to get into your bathing suit, cut out sweets, cokes, sugars, and those sorts of things...start limiting empty calories. Then, find something that makes you sweaty that you enjoy doing, such as running, hiking, get a gym membership, or get a couple of friends together and dance for a few hours. Say "no" to seconds on deserts.
AVIVA: Do you have any favorite fitness magazines that you like to read? Why or why not?
TH: Well, I am not a magazine buyer, so I don't read magazine articles and I don't have a favorite magazine. I would rather go online, because number one, it's free. I research articles and exercises online. But, magazines such as Oxygen, or Fitness are good tools and they will have good articles. However, just because it's in a magazine, doesn't mean that it's a good thing for you personally.
AVIVA: I guess if you buy 5 of those magazines, the total could cost as much as would a personal training session. If you are exercising by yourself using routines from magazines, you would possibly benefit more by hiring a trainer who knows how to do a variety of exercises and can tailor the workout to you.
TH: Exactly. The truth of the matter is, a picture is never going to replace a person. So if there is an exercise in these magazines that you have never seen or tried, I don't think that having a picture of it is educational enough for you to do it properly. Some people who follow magazine workouts end up getting hurt because there is no education behind the picture. At least on some exercise websites, they give you instructions. You can see how they are moving and they tell you what they are doing. You can't see the range of motion very well in magazines.
AVIVA: Do you have any additional comments?
TH: Yeah. Be brave. Have fun, and don't be afraid to experiment with things. I never knew that I liked plyometrics until I tried it once. I never knew that I could do so many things with a kettlebell, until I tried. Try something new, and if you don't like it, then go try something else. Do something different than what you are used to doing. That's how I live my life. I like to do something different than I did before. Don't stop trying until you do find something that you enjoy doing.
There are so many things out there, especially where we are. We live in Victoria, BC and it is a gorgeous city, has great trails for walking and running, fantastic biking trails, mountains to climb all over the place, paths to walk/hike, so there is no reason why you shouldn't be active. You don't have to be stuck in a gym all the time. I am a gym rat and I love gyms, but that's what I like. The trick is to find what you like. Don't be lazy. We weren't created to be still; we were created to be active and mobile. When we became more modernized, we started to get more unhealthy because we get to sit down longer, cook faster, and we don't have to grow our own food anymore.
We became less and less active because more and more things are being done for us. Most of us will park right in front of the door and walk 50 feet, instead of going to the end of the parking lot and walking a little bit more. We have been rewired to think that it should all be short and sweet, and that you should be able to get fit in a week. People believe that fitness should happen faster than it does, and people will give up before seeing the external results that they expect to see first. The way we are though, is we change on the inside before we change on the outside.
The first three months of a fitness regime are very important. It's important to be disciplined, and strict with yourself, because you will create new neurological pathways, and you are rewiring everything on the inside. It took longer than three weeks to get you overweight, so it will take longer than that to get you back into shape. There is no miracle pill, no quick fix, and no diet that will give you what you want in a short amount of time. It's going to take discipline, determination, and sweat. People waste far too much money on quick fixes, fad diets, and pills that don't do anything but make other people (the producers/distributors) rich.
AVIVA: Ever heard of Hydroxycut? What do you think of it?
TH: Yes, I have. I would not take it. I know that it used to have ephedrine in it, but now it doesn't, so it's supposed to be safer, but I still would not take it. I am not one to take excessive amounts of supplements, and I don't encourage my clients to either. The average person doesn't need that much supplementation. Hydroxycut and other similar things are trying to fit into the mentality of the people wanting a quick fix. Often times people are willing to have that quick fix at the expense of their health, so instead of getting healthier they will end up getting sicker. Quick fixes just never work, except in surgery, but then you got scars. There is always going to be a give and take. If you want to be healthy the right way, it will take time. If you want a quick fix, then it will either be temporary or there will be scars involved, or something. There is no easy way.
Fitness should be fun and enjoyable, but not something that you can do just by sitting on your butt and taking a pill.
Check out Tamara's YouTube Channel to see great exercise videos as well as videos from her most recent fitness competition. She inspires me, and I am sure she will inspire you too.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. :)