Tasha Hunter, Badass Bodybuilder and Trainer Talks Female Empowerment, Form and Function
Tasha Hunter currently toggles between working as a trainer, group fitness instructor and nutrition coach, as well as serving as the director of communication and community for Brooklyn Athletic Club. Plus, she’s a bodybuilder, using her willpower and focus to garner her top spots and wins, even as a newcomer. Her Insta page, @tashahunter, explodes with direct social commentary, and a precise form-based approach to fitness.
It’s ironic then, that as a child, she felt she actually wasn’t athletic. She even vividly remembers avoiding gym class and sports because she feared she wasn’t strong, fit or coordinated enough…and didn’t want to become the brunt of any teenage bullying.
Now, it’s clear the Sydney, Australia, native is strong, capable and ambitious (and probably always was!), and she’s excelling not only in serving others with a focus on form, science and feminism, but also in moving her own wellness forward with a unique approach. Read on to hear more from the New York-based trainer.
SBS: What was your progression to your career in fitness?
Tasha Hunter: As a child, I loved to dance but wasn’t exceptionally athletic, and in my early adulthood, I went on to attend one of the most popular performing arts school in Australia for their one-year triple-threat program. I completed my master’s degree in marketing communications, and I was teaching dance on the side to support myself. It seemed a natural progression to get my fitness certifications, and I started out teaching boot camp and HIIT classes in Australia. I was teaching at a dance studio then, and I transitioned to hosting outdoor bootcamps. It was easy for me to transition, but I was not anticipating falling in love with the fitness industry so wholeheartedly.
SBS: What are your current offerings?
TH: Now, my services include strength-focused personal training, (both in-person and virtually), group zoom HIIT classes, as well as nutrition coaching. I am passionate about women lifting!
SBS: When did your bodybuilding journey begin? How did it evolve?
TH: I was inspired by a friend who was competing in 2017 and thought, I’m going to give this a go. Although I wasn’t quite aware of the need for absolute, precise compliance to programming and dieting, I knew I had the dedication, focus and resilience to pursue such a challenging ‘sport.’ So, I stuck with it.
I have had some great success in my bodybuilding career: I won first place in the bikini novice division, first place in the open bikini category, as well as being awarded my PRO card at my first competition with the International Physique League. The excitement of beginner’s luck made me really push in to see how far I could go with it.
Last year I competed with the WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) for the first time as an amateur in June, and again, I won first place, as well as a PRO card with a new federation. The WNBF WORLDS competition was held this last November and to my astonishment I placed third in the bikini division amongst some of the best natural physique athletes in the world in a super stacked class.
This sport is very demanding on your body both physically and emotionally, so it is incredibly important to work with quality coaches and give your body down time. The pandemic forced me to take some (much needed) recovery time to work on building again.
SBS: How has bodybuilding informed your teaching style for non-bodybuilding clients?
TH: This is an interesting question. Although none of my clients are ‘bodybuilders’ per se, most clients say they want to ‘tone’ and get more ‘definition.’ What does that mean? It means they want to build muscle and reduce body fat percentage, which is essentially what a bodybuilder does for a living. So, my programming and approach to coaching is founded in hypertrophy training styles and is designed to garner these exact results.
SBS: What style of teacher are you?
TH: I consider myself a student of life: always learning, adapting, changing and adjusting. I am no master. I believe that different approaches are necessary for different clients and class settings. For example, people love coming to my HIIT classes as they are loud, fun, exciting and challenging. However, when I’m coaching a strength-based or barbell focused session, the coaching method is far more stripped back of hype and far more laser focused on proper technique.
SBS: How has your COVID journey been? What were you doing before and how has it shifted, both professionally and personally?
TH: As most would say, this has been an exceptionally challenging year. The silver lining is that we have all had the opportunity to pivot, re-brand and re-prioritize what is important to us both personally and professionally.
I have shifted from coaching in person to having on-line and virtual options that clients are far more open to now.
The key takeaway is that I have far more agency, capability and capacity to carve out a digital coaching business that I was hesitant to in the past.
SBS: What do you think are a few key important practices for COVID time?
TH: One, wearing a mask.
Then, eating well: I really do hate the shaming of the ‘quarantine fifteen’ yet, I do believe that we have more responsibility now to commit to health by employing better eating habits and choices.
Moving: My number one tip to battle insomnia (which can come alongside a sedentary lifestyle/low grade depression/working from home) is moving. Whether it be committing to a daily walk, a daily strength-based workout or even higher intensity cardio-based workouts, I make sure to MOVE, even on rest days.
Digital Detox: Early in the year I wanted to be as informed as possible and stuck to my phone for news, headlines and updates. That was probably my emotional/mental health undoing. I have had to ensure that there are hours and days where I decline from any digital exposure and take down time to recalibrate.
SBS: What's your own practice? How has it changed?
TH: I used to love circuit style HIIT training: the most challenging classes that would leave me breathless and drenched in sweat.
Now, because I have specific building goals important to a bodybuilding aesthetic, my workout regime is 4-5 days of lifting in the gym, with some daily cardio, some weekly conditioning, a very well deserved rest day and mobility work. I love the powerlifting approach, and sometimes I get to dabble in it, but my programming phases are always well periodized and planned from a macrocycle perspective by my coach.
SBS: What’s one key lesson you’ve learned in NYC?
TH: I had to learn this quickly in NYC after tremendous burnout. I hate the ‘no days off’ and ‘hustle hard’ mentality. We are not robots. We are humans. We need to play hard and we need to rest hard. We need stimulation and we need down time. This approach is important for my sanity and emotional well-being.
SBS: What tips/advice would you give to clients doing strength training for the first time via virtual gatherings?
TH: People are often overwhelmed when starting out a strength-based program. I like to reassure clients that we are essentially only doing a handful of movement patterns. What makes it confusing is that we add load, variation, volume, and intensity. But at any level you only need to focus on quality movement patterns (and then eventually progressive overload) to be successful.
My number one tip is to focus on nailing your bodyweight squat, hip hinge, push, pull, plank as a foundation. This is easy to do, and a good coach should always prioritize this first and foremost when coaching you virtually and before introducing load.
SBS: What’s your approach to nutrition?
TH: I was going to say that I could write a novel, but the flip side to that is to keep it simple. I once was very strict in my approach with cutting out entire food groups and swearing off sugar entirely. I went through a phase of cutting out dairy, then it was gluten, then I adopted a paleo style of eating, then it was keto... the list goes on. But as I said, I am a student of life, and without trying different approaches to nutrition, it’s hard to know what’s best for your body.
As a bodybuilder, it is important to be 100% compliant to your nutrition plan to ensure the best result. So when I’m in competition prep mode I eat very simply, yet I ensure I get adequate protein to build muscle. When I’m in off season, my nutrition is far more relaxed, but I am still focused on hitting my daily macros.
As a nutrition coach, (I studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) I now coach clients on how to find the best approach for their goals. I educate around the theories of calories in/calories out, how to calculate the right macros for them and how to focus on varied, fresh whole foods rather than dieting or restricting.
The best, zaniest part of being Tasha: I have a tendency to take hard turns in life because I love change, newness and have a true addiction to hope. I moved to NYC sight unseen, I enrolled in a master’s degree program, I became a dog mum, I decided to become a bodybuilder…all on a whim. I’m 35, but I have plenty of life to life and far more drastic life decisions to make. Let’s see!
Tasha’s SBS Mantra: Be Bold: I’ve often felt I’ve needed to shrink myself, be quiet, be observant, be the fly on the wall, be respectful of the men in the room, uphold structures that don’t celebrate women etc. After moving to New York sight unseen, trying to contribute to a heavily saturated fitness industry and taking part in a male-dominated sport, I am learning every day how to be bolder, how to be heard, how to ideate, how to dismantle long-standing negative ideologies, and essentially, how to take up more space.
Tasha’s NYC Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Westville: I love going here for ‘treat night’ when I'm in competition prep.
Splurge Restaurant: Five Leaves: I need that grass-fed burger and truffle fries in my belly.
Nightlife Spot: JJ’s Hideaway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Intimate, local, fun, glow-up dance floor like the 80’s. What more could you want?
Fitness Studio: Brooklyn Athletic Club
Fun Activity: virtual dance class with my fave choreographer, Shirlene Quigley
Calming Activity: Piping hot shower and "pink noise" meditation…perhaps in that order.
Online Resources: IG accounts I love: @you.look.like.a.man @syattfitness @squat_university @femaleafstrongaf
Books: Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad: This year has highlighted the much needed and unending work required in the area of active anti-racism.
The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey: I have been obsessed with MC since I was seven.
Connect With Tasha: Instagram: @tashahunter
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