Tahnee, you look to be in great shape and very healthy. What does fitness mean to you?
Personally, fitness started more as a hobby and an outlet, which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. So, trying to find a healthy way to feel better about myself daily and feel better mentally, the gym seemed like the obvious decision. Through my years of training, as I started to understand it a little bit more, I realized that this isn’t just a hobby anymore, but something I could really see myself doing. There are so many different outlets and fitness is not a “one size fits all” in any way, shape or form; I realized quickly that I felt like I couldn’t really relate to anyone at the gym. I didn’t want to just run on a treadmill, I didn’t want to just be on the elliptical for 40 minutes; I didn’t feel like I understood how to lift weights nor did I feel comfortable doing so. So it took me a little while until I started to dabble in that. Once I started to, I did get more comfortable with it and I had a lot of other females also expressing to me that that’s something they would like to do though, they have no idea how to start, where to start, and what to do. That for me is a big driving factor in why I do what I do every single day. I’m really thinking about where I started and I want to help other people be able to get there and feel their best while doing that.
What would you say to a person that wants to improve their fitness, but is unsure or intimidated to start?
I would say anything you haven’t done before is intimidating. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gym, going to a new class, or anything new, it’s going to be a little bit intimidating so you really have to just take the small steps. For example, there’s nothing wrong with bringing someone with you for the first time, someone, you feel comfortable with. Or maybe just hiring a personal trainer right off the bat, doing your due diligence first by looking into them and making sure that it is someone who is actually going to help you, but ultimately just finding that sort of support. However you start, you have to try it because you never know unless you try. Yes, it’s going to be a little intimidating but once you get in, you’ll get more comfortable, despite how easy it is to talk ourselves out of doing a lot of things.
Exercise form and structure are often complex and intimidating to most people. What is your thought on its importance and ways to tackle it?
The biomechanics of working out is key to whether you can do this long-term and stick with it. If you’ve never been to the gym, you probably won’t realize what you’re doing wrong. You might be doing a move and you think it’s working, but eventually once pain strikes, only then you realize “Wow, maybe I was doing this movement wrong.” It can really hinder your entire lifestyle and your progress. So making sure that you have those foundations from the beginning, especially those main compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts – with those multi-faceted movements you really have to make sure that you have that proper form for longevity and even for that muscle growth to properly happen.
What would you say exercise in general, including strength training, does for someone’s confidence and mental health?
A lot of times people will come to me and they will have a superficial answer, to be honest. They’ll say something like “I want to look like I did in college, in high school.” Ultimately, once they start working out and really trying to better themselves, once they start being consistent with their nutrition and activity, I almost never hear them come back to me and say, “Oh my gosh, I have the abs I wanted”. Instead, they say “I feel so much better on the inside, I can now be the parent I want to be, I can do the work I want to do, I can feel confident with my friends and even with my partner again.” That is everything, so sometimes you gotta dig a little bit deeper to find what they’re really there for, because, of course, everybody wants to look good, that is the bonus but ultimately the way you feel internally is the biggest success.
For females, legs are such an important part of your exercise routine. What are some of your favourites?
To be completely honest, it comes down to these compound lifts. If you’re really looking to build your quads and your glutes, you are going to have to lift a little bit heavier and with more intention. For instance, with squats, a common misconception is that barbell back squats are the only way to grow glutes, and that’s not true. So make sure you understand what’s going to work for you and your body, especially for the level you are at the moment. It’s going to be different for everybody! Squats are one huge one for me, once again, we have front squats, goblet squats, and back squats–there are so many variations.
The deadlift is another big one. A huge misconception is that you’re supposed to deadlift from the floor, which is just not true for about 90% of the population. It’s a big myth that I like to bust because something key for me is that we need to work out in a way that enhances us, not deteriorates us and makes us feel worse. When it comes to deadlifting, your back is a crucial area in that movement. If you’re lifting from the floor and your mobility doesn’t allow you to do that, it’s not actually going to be helping your glutes that much, so a little bit of elevation is awesome.
The hip thrust is another awesome one, but once again, there are many ways to do it: banded hip thrusts, barbell hip thrusts, and dumbbell hip thrusts. It’s really about taking it back and finding what level you’re at and figuring out where to start. Everyone sees people doing these big compound lifts and they want to get there right away, but you have to be patient with it in order to be able to progress with it. So those are my three top ones, and then I do love supplementary stuff such as band work. Band work is sometimes frowned upon but I guarantee you that if you give a bodybuilder a band they will probably cry. So once you start doing certain band work movements it really does help with that activation and that sculpting, it’s not going to get you those massive glutes but it’s really going to help with that toning.
Your core is a big buzzword these days. What do you suggest to those that want to focus on building their midsection?
Everybody wants the core, they want the abs and the definition. It is crucial to build your core but not for physique reasons. It’s because the core is the centre of your body so all the other movements we do rely on it, especially the lower body, and it protects your back. The biggest reason for one to have a strong core is because I want to keep my back safe, specifically my lower back. You will see time and time again people coming in with lower back pain and they can hardly hold a plank. So it’s pretty obvious right away where the pain point is. For your core, you don’t have to be doing crazy movements, because while they help with your definition, they don’t create it. Abs are built in the kitchen, but core strength is what’s going to help you for longevity.
What are 3 of your favourite Core exercises?
3 of my favourite core exercises are the dead bug, the bird dog, and the curl up. Plus, I do think side planks are super crucial and really support that back. It’s nothing crazy, just stabilization movements that work multi-faceted as well.
How important is nutrition?
For me, nutrition really is the core of it all. Your gut is your second brain, and many of those negatives you might be experiencing, like bloating, acne, or discomfort, are going to come down to what you’re eating. Nutrition is actually going to be 70% to 80% of the results you’re seeing in the gym. You can work out as hard as you want but if you’re not balancing that with nutrition, you’re probably going to stay at a maintenance level. Understanding what your goals are is going to help understand how your nutrition can play a role in that.
For me, being plant-based, I realized I didn’t enjoy eating animal products. I was eating things like chicken but I was eating them super seasoned, and thought “If this wasn’t covered in some barbecue sauce and some teriyaki, would I like it? No.” I’m not someone who wants to sit there and eat grilled chicken breast so I realized, I actually don’t like what I was eating. I made the switch to vegetarian because I still did enjoy my eggs and after about seven years of that, I realized OK it’s now becoming more of an ethical reason for me, and also an environmental one. That’s when I made the switch to plant-based and when I did that, I’m not going to lie, it was a little bit challenging. You do have to be very aware of the vitamins and minerals and everything that you do get daily because when you’re eating animal products it’s very easy to get those essential 9 amino acids, but when you’re on a plant-based diet, you have to make sure you are getting them from certain foods or supplementing accordingly.
That switch to plant-based really allows me to eat responsibly and just pay more attention to the things I’m putting in my body. I realize now when I go to the grocery store the main place I go is to the food that has no labels on it because it doesn’t need to tell me what’s in it – how many carbs, proteins, and fats. They are usually fruits and vegetables and I spend the most time in those aisles. I started to realize all the other foods that I get from the aisles that have those labels on them also have these other additives and preservatives to keep them fresh. That was just mind-blowing once I start to ask how is that product sitting on the shelf for three years and then I’m going to eat it. So yeah, I still do of course eat certain foods like that but ultimately making sure my food is fresher, raw, and organic is crucial.
Gut Health and one’s microbiome are becoming serious health and fitness issues. What advice can you give in this important area?
When it comes to gut health, I’ve honestly had my own struggles with it, I was on antibiotics for about two years and it completely messed up my gut microbiome. I actually had to take pills to put bacteria back into my stomach; it’s been about 5 years since then and I still do struggle with it. So, making sure that your gut has the proper bacteria and that you’re feeding it properly can make a night and day change in how you feel. Those changes happen in your joints, in your fatigue levels, in your skin, and in every single aspect. So make sure you find out what type of foods you’re eating, are they more processed or are they rawer, are easily digestible? You want your body to be able to reset and re-feed itself, and the solution ultimately would be to make slight changes. If you’re someone who eats takeout three meals a day, which happens so much in today’s busy society, what I like to say is OK, what one meal can you now make at home that’s a little more fresh? Say it’s breakfast – sure, let’s start with that. Just start with breakfast, you can still get lunch and dinner out. Then, over the next month or so, do you think we can now start making lunch at home? So make little changes because if you start with an all-or-nothing attitude you are likely going to see that crash and burn and repeat, that kind of rollercoaster. But gut health comes down to what you’re putting in your body.
We all know nutrition is fundamental when it comes to improving your health and fitness. Please, share with us any secrets you follow to keep your nutrition on track.
It really falls back on your priorities. If you’re coming to me and your main priority is “I want to feel better.” I start by just listening to what you are doing, maybe you’re eating a lot of these quick faster meals, no judgments, I just want to know what you’re doing. So in order to feel better, even if you’re busy, can you maybe meal prep on a Sunday if you have that time? What that could look like is just prepping some fruits, vegetables and just a little bit quicker meals that you can eat on the go?
Most of the time people can find that time, and if they can’t, we revisit those priorities we started with. If you can’t focus an hour of your time on preparing something that’s going to be more nutrient-dense and keep you fuller longer, then this isn’t your main priority. It’s really about figuring out those little spots in your week where you’re just scrolling on your phone, doing things that aren’t benefiting you or your goals, and instead of doing something else like meal-prep that does.
It helps to make a list and realize that your health isn’t at the bottom of your priority list, but somehow it’s down their day-to-day. Once you see it written out, you see your physical and mental health are really high on that list, but you’re prioritizing all these other things instead of what matters.
Your fitness journey has been a process for many years. How has it shaped you as a person?
For me, I always try to stay very realistic, and very humble and when it comes to fitness, I remember where I started. I always remember being the person who didn’t exactly know what to do and then exactly know how to feel so I always take it back to that because that’s how other people feel too, and I can’t forget that struggle. Now I have more routine, I’ve been very consistent for years, but it’s easy for someone on the outside to look at another person and think “well, just work out”, but no one started there. My biggest thing now is still portraying that realness with the lifestyle I live. Promoting being athletic, even just going on daily walks – I like to post those on my Instagram and I get a lot of interaction from people saying, “Wow that really helped me just get outside for the day!” I continue to stay humble and real so that people can relate to that and then I can further help them in their fitness journeys. I’m also currently in a nutrition course so I want to be able to understand both realms a little bit. I don’t just want to help the people right in front of me, my goal is to be able to help as many people as I can and be able to support them in whatever ways needed. That’s the reason I do what I do.
You constantly give energy every day to others to help improve people’s lives. What is your Why?
When you see positive changes in people, it’s actually very emotional. To have helped this person and seen them change. I always tell people to take their “before” photos, because you will always see a difference in their confidence level in their “after” photos; their heads are a little higher and their smiles are a little brighter. Knowing that I have been able to help someone take that control back in their life, take the confidence back that somewhere along the line they lost, is so rewarding. At the end of the day, it’s not about me: they did the work, I just help them see that they could do it.
You are a very motivating person. Getting in shape is hard for me. Motivate me in 10 seconds.
Every single thing is hard. What hard do you want? Do you want the hard that sitting on the couch, feeling like absolute **** or do you want to be trying to better yourself by going outside, doing that walk, or going to the gym? No matter what it is, both sides are hard, but what hard do you want?
You motivated me in 8 seconds, with 2 seconds to spare. Thank you.
Connect with Tahnee: IG
Photos By: David Ford