First Published January 2022
THE POWER OF THE POSITIVE
Back at the beginning of November we featured Part 1 of our chat with as inspirational a woman as you’re ever likely to cross paths with, the force of nature that is TARA MOONEY.
Not only is the Edenderry native a fitness instructor, personal trainer, one of RINKA Ireland’s leading lights, and – in what spare time she might have left – a model and brand ambassador (FitPink Fitness and Complex Wear) she’s also making a name for herself on the Irish and international powerlifting scene. In fact, since we first spoke to Tara a few weeks back, it’s been revealed that she placed Top Twenty in the ABS Series of competitions for 2021…across no less than NINE countries.
It’s a list of reasons exactly like that, and the fact that Tara seems to be fuelled by positivity as much as by a healthy and carefully designed and prepared diet, that make her such an impressive and inspirational figure. This, let us not forget, is a lady who thought nothing of the fact that she had recovered from a broken back to eventually begin her career in the fitness industry, a fact that only came to light as an aside at the very end of our chat! This is also the lady who travelled to Berlin to take on one of Germany’s biggest fitness stars and social media influencers after only a few weeks of proper preparation…and came within a few reps of coming home victorious. That battle has been viewed almost 1.5 MILLION times on YouTube.
As magnificent as all of that is – and it is – the most admirable trait in Tara’s make-up is undoubtedly her positivity. It’s just impossible to sit and chat with her without laughter permeating the conversation, and feeling your energy levels rise simply by being in her presence. Not just the mark of a good fitness instructor or personal trainer, if you ask me, but the mark of a good soul as well. Tara is the kind of person you’d go into battle with. And definitely not someone you’d want to go into battle against!
To begin Part 2 of our chat, I asked Tara how much her training routine changes – if at all – when she has a competition coming up?
“It’s pretty much the same. If I’m doing a competition, that means I’m doing weight-training four days a week. I’ll put more effort into my cardio as well because I’ll need to drop weight for the competition, and I’ll obviously put more effort into my food. Food is major. I prep all my food. I walk around with my Tupperware when I’m in work, when I go to my parents house, everywhere. It’s the norm with me! That’s my lifestyle. I still have a meal here or there as well, I have to live as well, but I do prep my food, plan it, bring it with me, all of that. Food is probably more important than training. If you want to lose weight, it’s more important than going into the gym. Definitely.”
Tara is also the lead midland’s instructor for the company Rinka, and just like powerlifting, it’s something that she’s passionate about…
“I LOVE it! I would have loved it when I was a kid. It’s for kids who don’t fall into GAA, that don’t make the swimming team, that can’t kick the ball straight. It’s for them. Because what is there for them? There’s nothing. So, they fall off being active, they don’t enjoy sports because it’s so competitive. It’s for these kids. I do it everywhere, Athlone, Moate, different venues, sometimes birthday parties as well, schools, pre-schools, everywhere, you name it. We go in and make exercise fun. They’re in a sweat leaving! They’ve had so much fun. It’s so much craic. We’d do jumping-jacks, but for the little ones we’d get them to be like a soldier, so they have to be really serious. Or a star, and they have to have a big smile. They’re doing jumping-jacks and they don’t even realise it. Or it could be squat-jumps where they’re Peppa Pig jumping into a puddle, simple stuff like that. It’s really, really good for kids who don’t fall into competitive sports. It’s all about praise as well. If you have a child that missed nine out of the ten kicks, we focus on that one that they got and tell them how amazing it was, and how great they are. And if they can’t do something, you praise them for trying and giving it a go. They’re leaving the class after being active, and they’re feeling good about themselves.
Tara continued, “I adore it. I have kids who have nearly grown up with me, they’ve been doing it for three or four years. I get so much out of this kind of work. It’s going to be so interesting to see them as adults because they have this foundation in being active. We do mindfulness with them as well, so we talk about how if they’re feeling angry, they can calm themselves down with breathing [exercises]. We talk about healthy eating, we talk about how much water they should drink. In the space of fifty minutes, so much is packed in there, and I absolutely adore it. You can tell by me talking about it that I do [laughs]. I have a helper with me, because obviously for toilet-breaks and stuff like that to keep an eye on everyone, because we could have fourteen, fifteen kids in a class. And yeah, we do classes all over Ireland. RINKA have been on TV, on ‘Nationwide’, they’re an Irish company actually, based in Donegal. I’m the instructor for the midlands area.”
So how did Tara become involved with RINKA?
“I saw it advertised, and I was like, ‘Kids Fitness Instructor? Oh my God, I’d love this!’ [Laughs]. I’m nuts, I’m so on the level of kids [laughs]. We had a training day with RINKA, and they were just like, you’re perfect for it! I’m one of the kids, like!”
Although Tara herself isn’t the kind of person to even think of herself as being a role-model in a bigger-picture sense, for anybody on the outside looking in at her life and her achievements, there’s just no doubt that a role-model is exactly what she is. Through her work with RINKA, as well as being a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor, and most importantly of all, of course, being a mum, Tara is more than well aware of the importance and the power of a positive example. But does it ever cross her mind how much of a role-model, whether she likes it or not, that she actually is for so many people?
“I don’t really. I would like to think that I’m more relatable to people. I wouldn’t like somebody to look at me and say, ‘Wow, well I could never do that.’ I want the opposite of that. I want somebody to think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it!’ That’s what I want. I want to be relatable in that way. And that’s what it is. I mean, I WAS somebody who was never able to do a push-up. Or a pull-up! I always wanted to be able to do a pull-up! I always wanted to be able to do that. So that’s how I’d like to be seen, as someone who went out and proved she could, ya know. I’d never want to put myself on a pedestal. I’d be so embarrassed if I thought that! And I think on my Instagram as well, I think you can see that I don’t really put myself out there and… ‘sell’…this image that I’m whatever, glamorous, or amazing, or anything like that. I want to be very relatable. Because I am. I’m a normal person. I always encourage people to ask me questions. I’ve been from A to…, well, I don’t think I’m at Z yet! [Laughs]. I think I have more still to achieve [laughs]. But I’ve been every step of the way. I mean, when I started, I couldn’t run, so I was walking. I know how hard it is to get there, and how it has to be step-by-step. So people can come and ask me anything. It’s the same with my PT clients. Goals are very achievable things once you have the knowledge, and once you’re accepting of the fact that it won’t be a perfect and straight road as well.”
Does Tara remember the moment when she knew or decided that she wanted to get into fitness as a career?
“I was actually working on reception here [in the Bridge House Hotel, where she now works in the Leisure Club], and I was powerlifting at that time, into fitness, and I was always training down in the gym. Damien, the gym manager at the time, would always be coming over to me at reception and joking, ‘You’re wasted here, wasted here!’ [laughs]. I had no gym qualifications at the time, but everybody knew how into fitness I was, so eventually we were able to arrange for me to make that switch over. And when I went over there, that’s when I went and got my qualifications so that I could teach as well. That was it. And I’ve never left! I’m like the furniture down there [laughs].”
Who are the heroes or inspirations in Tara’s life?
“There’s loads! I look up to all the girls on the ABS Powerlifting team. It’s a club with 150 members. And my God, if you think I’m strong, you need to see these girls! They’re incredible, unbelievable. When you train with them, man, they keep you on top of your game. They’re crazy strong. They’re travelling all over the world. When you train with them, they’re inspiring. ABS stands for Advanced Barbell Systems. It’s the biggest powerlifting club in Ireland. The guy that owns it is the Irish coach, he’s my coach when I’m powerlifting. The strongest people in Ireland are in that club. One of the guys there is squatting 430 kilos, that’s a LOT! It’s crazy! We actually had him down in the gym here for an open day. He might sound intimidating, but he’s really good craic, so he was entertaining. And my kids, of course! Daniel and Georgia. I always want to inspire them, and make them believe as they get older that they can achieve anything. And anything they want to be, that they can do it. And my partner, Carlos, he’s incredible. He’s bodybuilding at the moment, he’s very inspiring in his own right as well. What he’s going through [in his training], I wouldn’t have the self-discipline for. He’s from Spain, and we actually met through powerlifting. He’s extremely focused, way more than me, WAY more than me [laughs]. It’s inspiring to live with somebody like that because they can keep you on track. I’m a very boring person, because it’s all fitness orientated. So to be with someone who has the same interests, that’s great.”
I wondered if Tara had a life-motto, or any piece of advice that she was ever given that has always stayed with her?
“You get judged for being a woman and weight-lifting. You definitely get judged. But there’s a saying I love that goes, ‘To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.’ So women, don’t be afraid of weights. There’s a big misconception that you’re going to get bulky. Or a lot of people who I would have for PTs, they’d look at my upper body and be like, ‘I don’t want my upper body to get too big’, and I’m like, don’t worry, it took me a LOT of work to get this big. You won’t get that big. So don’t be afraid of lifting weights. It’s not gonna make you look like a man [laughs]. If anything, it’s very flattering, it’s a flattering look. When you go into the gym, don’t be afraid of lifting weights in front of guys, thinking they’re going to be judging you or anything like that. They should be in their own heads, and if they’re not, it means they’re not working hard enough [laughs]. That’s all important to realise. Things are changing now, strong women are seen as feminine.”
Anyone who follows Tara on Instagram will notice that she rarely posts a gym selfie or video minus her headphones. So what does she listen to to fire-up her work-outs?
“You don’t want to know the stuff I listen to! [Laughs]. It’s f*&ed up! [Laughs]. It’s pretty heavy stuff. Depends on my mood. There’s a band called Neffex that I really love. The last competition that I had, they asked me which song did I want on my video, and I picked their song ‘Fight Back.’ I love that song, it’s very inspirational. I was training for something recently and I listened to the audio-book of ‘Relentless‘, it’s about a coach called Tim Grover who worked with Michael Jordan, and he talks about different athletes and their mentality, and how to be relentless. Some of the things in it are a bit too much, because you can’t just give up on family life, you need a balance to things. But it’s very interesting in terms of the mentality that the likes of Michael Jordan had, and how zoned-in they were on being successful. They’d win a whole tournament, and straight away be like, I want the next one! ‘Relentless’, excellent book!”
So for somebody thinking about trying to get fit but they’re worried about it, nervous about it, or they just don’t know where to start, what would Tara advise them to do?
“If you’re a complete beginner, definitely get a coach or an instructor. That’s what they’re there for. And they’ll definitely be 100% on your team. Because it is, it’s scary at the start. A lot of women say to me that they’re intimidated going into the weights-room in a gym, but I’m like, girl, they don’t know what they’re doing either! [Laughs]. But if you have somebody with you who shows you the ropes, so you can have the confidence to know you have the correct form and everything, that’s important. So to start off anyway, and that’s not saying that you’ll need one all the time. And take it step-by-step. A lot of people, when they’re dieting, they’ll start where they’re eating whatever they want, but then they go to 1,600 calories, and for me that’s insane. You want to be losing weight on as much food as possible. I would always say start high and work your way down slowly, because you will plateau. And if you start plateauing at 1,600 calories, where do you go from there? If you go to 1,400, it’s just not gonna happen, you’ll fall off track. Then you’ll just beat yourself up about it. Slow and steady wins the race.”
Do different diets – vegan or vegetarian, for example – affect how people can train?
“No, I don’t think so. Once they’re getting enough protein in other ways, I don’t think it would affect things, definitely not. But Keto, and things like that, I don’t really agree with cutting back on carbs, especially if you’re training. Not a good idea! The girl that I went up against in Berlin, she was a vegan. And she was strong! [Laughs].”
And what about advice for someone who might be really struggling with their motivation, either to get back to training or to stay training? What words of wisdom would Tara offer in those circumstances?
“I would say that 80% is better than 0%. A lot of people go in and go hell for leather, 100%. But if you have one day of sitting on your ass and not eating chicken and rice, that’s ok. But people have this mentality where it has to be all or nothing. There needs to be a bit of consistency. If you put 80% in, that’s so much better than nothing. 20% is nothing. It’s like an overweight person eating one healthy meal and expecting to lose weight. If you’re keeping on track and you have one bad meal, you’re not going to put on weight. Just be fair on yourself. It doesn’t have to be 100% [all the time]. Don’t rely on motivation. Be disciplined. Have your structure. It will be difficult in the beginning, but eventually you will completely rely on it, and you’ll actually enjoy that structure.
~ You can find, follow, and contact Tara on Instagram at @tinypowermum