Interview with Fitness Couple Rob Youells and Tara LaValley Interviewed by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - June 2008
At every local store or gym that has a muscle and fitness magazine around, on the cover you will see fitness couple Rob Youells and Tara LaValley. Well, Critical Bench met up with them both for an exclusive interview.
CRITICAL BENCH: It's Ben Tatar from Critical Bench and I am here today with fitness couple Rob Youells and Tara LaValley. It's great to have you both here today.
Rob and Tara: Thank you.
CRITICAL BENCH: How was your muscle and Fitness shoot? Tell us about it!
Rob: We got back from LA because Rob was shooting a 3 month 3part workout for M&F. The shoot was great. It's for an upcoming three month/three part work out challenge and this was for the first month. It's always fun working with the staff at Muscle and Fitness. They are all such positive people to be around.
Editor note: At the time of the shoot, Rob was nursing some sort of respiratory infection for the last week so it was a bit of an extra challenge, but with the determination that he has, he managed to keep that from coming out in the pictures.
CRITICAL BENCH: What did your family and friends say when they saw you on the cover of Muscle and Fitness Magazine? It must have been an honor not to just be on the magazine cover, but to be on the cover as a couple!
Rob: It really was a special moment in our relationship. Our friends and family knew we were shooting it, but it's always a cover "try" so you never know what will actually end up on the cover. I think the whole issue is really special to both of us. Some people go to "Sears" to get a family portrait done. We got to go a little step further. The thing about it is it's a small piece of our relationship frozen forever on those pages. The training leading up to it, the comments, the crowd at the beach, all the memories is locked in each frame. Those pictures really do hold thousands of words.
Editor note: Tara's father bought 9 Muscle and Fitness magazine issues with the two of them on the cover!
CRITICAL BENCH: You both have accomplished the dream of many children and people all over the world! The two of you are house hold names! What's it like to be known and have people across the world see you on Muscle and Fitness? How does it feel when people approach you and treat you like icons?
Rob: Well I never really looked at it like that, but when someone comes up to me and says, "Were you in Muscle and Fitness last month?" It's strange. Since the cover it happens a lot more and I welcome it. I think it's great when people want to say hello and ask me questions. If they read the magazine, they are fellow fitness people and there is an instant common ground. People always seem to recognize my tattoos first.
Tara: It's surreal. I am so proud to be on Muscle and Fitness because I believe in everything it represents. It's modeling, but it's the fitness lifestyle that both Rob and I live, everyday.
CRITICAL BENCH: That is awesome! How did the two of you meet?
Rob: Believe it or not, we met on myspace! lol. It's true.
Rob: I saw her on a friend of a friend of a friend's page or something like that, and I noticed she had Silver Model Management as one of her agencies. Seeing that we had that in common, she responded when I wrote her. Quite a few people write her and she usually doesn't pay much attention, but she said "it wasn't like I wasn't a stranger" because of that. She is such a sweet girl.
CRITICAL BENCH: After a simple message, history in the fitness industry was made! I love it! What do the two of you enjoy doing during your free time away from training?
Rob: We like to go to the movies lately. I guess it's a welcome rest from the all the physical exertion. Tara always brings the fat free spray butter from home and you can hear her PSHHT PSHHT-ing her way through the movie! Also we LOVE to travel together. I couldn't have asked for a better travel partner. She has been just about everywhere and we both love tropical places where we can snorkel, relax, get tan and recharge.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do the two of you train together and eat the same thing?
Rob: We do some things together as far as exercise goes. She has a lot of Pilates and yoga in her background, so she is fun to stretch, do abdominals and all sorts of things like that with. She is a ballet dancer so I seriously can't keep up with her flexibility. At times I will stop by and push her a little with the weight she uses or show her a little variation to help isolate something.
As far as eating goes, we both like to cook at home. I am the breakfast enthusiast, I love making healthy omelets and waking her up with them, in bed! When we are both dieting for something, we eat very similar. Obviously, I eat a lot more then she does but we eat the same foods. Lots of eggs, chicken, lean beef, fish, oats, sweet potato, brown rice, steamed greens etc. The diet can be really tough and if it were up to me as it was before Tara and I met, it would all be the same, boring, bland every day. Tara loves to find ways to take our nutritional needs, and make them more elaborate and fun with out a nutritional mulligan. It can take a little of the sting out of the dark days of very low carb madness!
Tara's diet and supplement plan—
A typical day (if I am not doing low/no-carb for training) would be egg white omelet with fat-free cheese and turkey/meat in the morning and a 1/2 cup of oatmeal. Protein shakes before training. Lunch is a salad with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette. Choice of Hard boiled egg whites, almonds or peanut butter on a rice cake as a snack. Dinner is lean meat or fish with steamed veggies. Possibly a sweet potato if I am eating carbs, otherwise just veggies. My favorite is sautéed spinach (Rob loves mine:) If I do a second workout, another protein shake. I try to eat as clean as I can, because it's less work taking it off! lol. I try to stay in the zone even if I am not as strict, like buying turkey bacon, or kashi waffles, spray butter, rice cakes, wheat bread--(with NO high fructose corn syrup--I swear almost every bread has it in there) But, like everyone else I have my indulgences.
For supplements, I take a multi-vitamin, CLA and Cissus regularly. I have taken HotRox to prepare for the shoot, but I was careful that there weren't any diuretics in it. I have to be extremely careful because my kidney is now scarred. To drop the water, I just cycle it out instead of taking diuretics.
CRITICAL BENCH: Give us your routines!
Rob: Well that's a little bit like telling you my grandmothers Dutch butter cookie recipe isn't it?
I'm kidding. Well, sort of. Anyways, one training principle we both subscribe to, is that we don't do the same things all the time. We change our routine constantly. If my shoulder hurts, I change the range of motion or try different exercises. I listen to my body a lot. Of course your training varies depending on what you are training for. I will let you in on one of my favorite tricks. When it's crunch time and I'm really trying to lean out as much as I can, as quick as I can, I do cardio first thing in the morning before I eat. I will have about ten grams of whey to try to spare some muscle and that's it. I will stay on the treadmill at a steep incline for about an hour. It works extremely well.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do the two of you train together?
Rob: We both have a lot of fun in the gym together. There are times when we actually train together, spotting each other etc. (Now that I think of it, I find myself staring at her in awe quite frequently, she is like the energizer bunny in hot work out clothes! lol.) More often then not, she walks by and kisses me between sets, I sneak up and grab her while she's resting between sets. She is amazing because she comes up with suggestions sometimes that I would never think of due to her Pilates, yoga and dance background. I help her with certain weight training things when I can as well. It's really a great give and take.
CRITICAL BENCH: Hahaha, sounds like fun! Tara, what kind of suggestions do you give Rob?
Tara: I give him suggestions on plyometrics, ways to incorporate Pilates into his ab workout, tips on getting your heart rate up in between sets and stretching (yoga, dancing). I always find ways to vary an exercise using core muscles. So, I try to take him outside the lifting box and show him new things!
I also show him different kinds of plyometric exercises. It is a lot of HIIT-I love the squat on top of a bosu ball flipped over (so you are standing on the flat part working your core), the key is the order you do the exercises. After squats, go to sprints, then sit up (pilates on a decline bench) then squat thrusts, followed by tae-bo kicks, followed by push ups, into a yoga side plank, jumping jacks/high jumps etc...
Rob: One time, I was doing crunches on a fairly steep incline and she came by and told me to try an exercise where you move your body clockwise.
CRITICAL BENCH: Okay, let's talk to Tara for a minute and then I will put you back on Rob. Tara, what are the worst things you have seen others do in the gym?
Tara: The WORST is when you see someone do dips or push ups and only go down about 1/4 of the way and they do them fast! UGH. We actually saw some older guy doing that on muscle beach when we were at the shoot. He did about twenty, fast half dips...I also worry about peoples' necks. They look all over the place instead of looking forward when they are lifting. Injury! Also, knees over 90 degrees. That is wrong!
CRITICAL BENCH: Tara, what was the best and worst advice you were ever told?
Tara: Best is in yoga. They tell you to be present and to do what feels good for your body TODAY. Don't try to over do it, or go beyond what you are comfortable with. Some days your body will be stronger than others, more flexible, work with it instead of forcing it. Worst? All I can say is to not listen to everyone if they sound like they know what they're talking about. Too many times people don't care if they are giving out bad advice to feed their ego. I have run into my share of people that I've trusted, only to wish I had researched it on my own- it could have prevented my hospital visit.
CRITICAL BENCH: Thanks for the smart tips. Rob, list an achievement you have made in the fitness industry that you are very proud of!
Rob: As far as body building is concerned I think qualifying and competing in the NPC Nationals in Dallas 2004 was a big achievement for me.
The NPC is very tough. At the national level it's sort like the farm team for the IFBB. Just sick competition. The thing I really liked about competing in general is that you are up there with "X" amount of guys in your weight class, all of them bringing the best they have to offer. The culmination or every morsel of food, every rep, every second on the treadmill, every hour of rehearsed poses, all the inherited genetics, standing there lined up in one proud moment. Then you add 10 coats protan and a bottle Pam cooking spray. LOL. Seriously though, it's quite triumphant even if you don't win. In a way you are really competing with yourself anyway. Trying to be the best you can possibly be. Then you just hope your best is better then everyone else's.
CRITICAL BENCH: Rob tell us about some of your recent accomplishments in competitive bodybuilding?
Rob: I won the overall novice and placed second in the open heavy weight which qualified me for the nationals. The guy who took first was a friend I trained with. We went to the NY Met show a week later and there were 18 guys in our weight class, he took first and I took second... again. I told him he was lucky we weren't competing the following week, because I would have planned a Nancy Kerrigan type deal for him. lol.
After the show, I would eat of course. It's hard to limit your diet so much for so long so it feels good to be able have some much earned junk food.
Muscle and fitness cover in Spain was great, albeit out of left field.
The US cover in Dec 2007, together, was a very special honor.
CRITICAL BENCH: What about you Tara?
Tara: I have competed in everything, my entire life. Dancing is a constant audition, so the competitive gene was given to me at a very early age. I have competed in cheerleading (I actually won a toe-touch competition! lol)
I have not competed in fitness yet. I am considering it, but I am not sure which category I fit into yet (figure/fitness/bikini) so we'll see what the future holds.
CRITICAL BENCH: Awesome achievements! Rob, you were on Saturday Night Live. Tell us about that!
Rob: I was featured in a couple Saturday Night Live episodes called "Gays in Space". That so much fun. The people on that show don't work. They basically have fun for a living.
CRITICAL BENCH: How did you get connections for Saturday Night Live? Wow!
Rob: My agent submitted me for it and they liked me so BLAM I was on. The first episode was with Jason Bateman as the captain and he was absolutely hilarious. The second episode was with Ashton Kutcher and I have no comment about him. =)
CRITICAL BENCH: Okay, we are in dream land here as you are living our dreams. Hahaha. However, Rob, you started somewhere. So, tell us, how did you go from an average joe to a magazine muscle and fitness icon? How did the media start entering your life?
Rob: When I first went to the gym it was with my boss at the time. I was doing roofing and he was a pretty big guy to me (at the time). He had no one to "work out" with, so he made a deal with me. If I would promise to go with him everyday after work, (roofing in the hot sun keep in mind) he would pay for my membership. It was a crappy little place in the basement of a bar or something. I noticed right away how quickly I gained weight. It was not just me, my boss noticed it too. It went from him being much bigger and way stronger then me at first, to both of us noticing I was using the same weight as him. One day I noticed my arms had gotten a lot bigger. I swear in the first two months it's ridiculous the gains I had made. That is really when I got hooked. A few years later I met a guy who was getting ready to compete and he wanted me to come down and meet the guy who was "dieting" him. I had NO interest in competing at the time. I knew nothing about it aside from the skimpy draws you had to wear. Either way my friend talked me into going and meet Maz Ali. Maz took me into his office and asked to take a look at me. So I reluctantly took my shirt off (I would soon get over that reluctance) and he told me he wanted me to do a show. I told him I wasn't interested in competing. When he asked me why, I muttered something about skimpy draws and he laughed. "It's not like you wearing posing trunks at the Wal-Mart down the street, you will be at an event, with fans of the sport, trust me if you listen to me and everything goes well I promise you, the day of the show the last thing you will be worried about will be your trunks."
He was right instantly
That was my first year and I placed second in the novice light heavy weight, in both shows I competed in. It was the following year that I went to the NPC nationals, which is where I met Adam Silver who is my manager and very good friend. He gave me his card and told me to go back home, gain a little weight back so I didn't look like skeletor and call him. lol. He teases me because my face gets very drawn when I'm really lean. I would like to go on record as saying Tara tells me she likes it! She says I look chiseled! (cue raspberry)
I suppose I get a certain amount of professional satisfaction every time I get a call for a shoot, and they only give me a matter of a week or two to get ready and I manage to kick my training into over drive and get myself ready in time.
CRITICAL BENCH: What a story! Is it hard for you to diet all the time? What are your favorite cheat foods and how often do you cheat? Do you eat a lot?
Rob: I love ice cream. Specifically Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby- if you must know. I'm also a big cookie fan. My sister Lisa has three kids and there are always the best cookies in her house. So, when I'm dieting, I really try not to look in the direction of the cookie jar. I stay reasonably lean. I eat a lot of food but I try to make sure it's a lot of the right food at the right time. I like Sunday as a cheat day if I have the option. It's my leg day usually and it's a long intense session so I feel like my body needs the extra calories anyway.
CRITICAL BENCH: Thanks Rob. Question for Tara. Tara, have you ever been approached by any outrageous dudes at the gym before?
Tara: YES YES YES. I must say, this is BY FAR the most annoying thing! Guys, (and I can't count how many do this exact thing) approach me when I am either in FULL sprint on the treadmill, headphones on...or in the middle of a set, again with headphones on and they just stand there until you stop what you are doing. So by the time I stop running, catch my breath and take out my headphones...they reach out a hand and tell me their name. You think they would realize this will make girls remember them for all the wrong reasons!
CRITICAL BENCH: Hahaha, there are a lot of silly people out there! Tara, what advice would you give to up and coming models that want to get started in the biz?
Tara: Get comps; Get an agent, because without those tools, it's hard to get anywhere. Also, because fitness can be taxing on your body, don't overextend yourself to injury. Let it be a journey you can enjoy.
CRITICAL BENCH: Very wise. Tara, who has been influential in your career?
Tara: Well, it has changed. Growing up as a dancer, it was Madonna and JLO- who have created empires for themselves. But I admire Jennifer Nicole Lee and Jamie Eason in the fitness world. I think they are beautiful! Today, it is my partner Rob. I always get a little emotional when I watch Rob-his body is truly perfect and it's amazing to watch his strength, dedication and effort he puts into training.
CRITICAL BENCH: What's the best and worst thing about being a fitness model?
Tara: The best is living this lifestyle. It feels so good to take care of yourself. The worst thing is picking out areas you want to improve (especially in pictures! :)
CRITICAL BENCH: Tara, what is your favorite body part on yourself and what is your favorite thing about yourself?
Tara: It varies with me, depending on how my training is going. I am pleased with myself when I work at it. I try to stay lean and graceful looking, because as a dancer, I find it more attractive on myself.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tara, do people treat you differently because you're attractive?
Tara: I don't really know how to answer that. Everyone seems nice- to my face! lol:)
CRITICAL BENCH: Tara, if you weren't fitness modeling what do you think you would be doing?
Tara: I'd still be moving my body- whether it was dance, yoga, gymnastics or just running...because it's the only way I feel whole. Other than having Rob ;)
CRITICAL BENCH: Tara, what are your fears? What makes you happy? And if you could be any kind of animal what kind of animal would you be?
Tara: It makes me happy to be around loved ones. I love cooking for people (healthy of course:) It makes me happy to travel and relax with Rob. I fear that sometimes I push myself too hard to achieve my goals and I may miss out on life's simple pleasures. I think I would be a cat. In fact, I was told it's my totem spirit.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tara, give us 3 inside secrets about u:
Tara: Well, most people probably think it's easy for me to maintain a certain figure, but it takes work. I am not as blessed with genetics as Rob! With my genes, I gain weight easily even if I am not eating garbage. I really have to work out hard, regularly.
Also, my body responds better and faster to yoga, dancing and tae-bo. As funny as that sounds, I could lift and run all I want, but if I start doing the others, my body will transform faster. A lot of what I've learned about nutrition and training actually comes from the magazines. M&F has so many great articles as well as Fitness Rx- they are my favorites
CRITICAL BENCH: Back to Rob. Rob, you're a funny guy! Do you have any funny stories you'd like to share? Give us all a good laugh!
Rob: Well, this may be the funniest thing I have ever seen in a gym in my life. When I'm getting ready for a contest or shoot, I spend a lot of time on a treadmill. This puts me in a unique position to people watch. One time, I was walking on the treadmill and I watched a gentleman walk over with dumbbell in each hand and sit on the edge of a regular flat bench. Nothing notable about that. Then another gentleman near the opposite end of the same bench squats down and picks up two dumbbells finding himself in a standing position. Gentleman #1 lays back with the dumbbells in position to do some flat presses when almost at the same time, gentleman #2 sits down right on his face.... did I mention gentleman #2 was wearing spandex biker shorts? There was a surprisingly feminine shriek, chaos ensued and I almost wiped out on the treadmill I was laughing so hard!
CRITICAL BENCH: Hahaha, that is funny!! Hahaha, so funny I need another! Rob, give us another story!
Rob: There was a guy at my gym in Paterson who was doing side lateral raises, in sweat pants and it was a lot of weight so he was clacking the dumbbells together at the bottom of the rep. One of those reps he must have leaned back a little bit and when the weight came down and clacked together a certain part of his anatomy got in the way and absorbed the kinetic energy of two 75lb dumbbells. I wasn't actually there at the time, but from what I'm told it would definitely qualify as both hardcore and emotional.
I've actually seen more then one person doing dumbbells chest press, heavy and go to throw the weight down at the end of a set and smash their fingers on the dumbbells left under the bench from the last guy. Broken fingers. Seriously. Today's lesson: Move unused weight out of the way before you start your set. That is definitely one I'm glad I didn't learn the hard way.
CRITICAL BENCH: Hahahaha, Wow, that is INTENSE! So, where are the two of you going to go next on vacation for all of your recent accomplishments to celebrate all of this!!!
Rob and Tara: Mexico and the Caribbean. We are going to snorkel. Swim, be in the sun and we might even scuba dive!