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To look at her today, you’d never know that Tiffany Lee Gaston was once a sickly 85 pounds, but like many teenage girls, she suffered from an eating disorder. “I was a gymnast growing up and naturally carried more muscle than my friends,” she says. “At sleepovers we would weigh ourselves, and I always weighed more. That number on the scale freaked me out, and I developed anorexia.”
Fortunately, her mother recognized the signs of the disease and intervened before things got out of control. Gaston reversed her thinking, decided to learn everything there was to know about eating and picked up a copy of Oxygen.
“I immediately fell in love with the idea that my muscular body was beautiful,” she says. “Those women were built like me, and it was OK, and they were incredible.” Gaston learned how to fuel her body properly and began to exercise for health and wellness rather than extreme weight loss.
Taking It To The Next Level
Inspired by the Fitness America pageants on television at the time, Gaston dabbled in competitions for several years, but it wasn’t until 2013 she decided to get serious and give it her undivided focus. She joined Team Bombshell, and coach and IFBB pro Gennifer Strobo helped her move toward her goal: a pro card. Gaston buckled down and did five shows that year, placing top five in all of them; she was on the fast track for her card — every competitor’s dream — but something was missing in the big picture: her family.
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“I have three kids and a husband, and I decided that it was more important for me to be present as a parent and a wife and less important for me to travel and eat out of a plastic bag,” she says. “I didn’t compete in 2014 so I could be there for them. I will never say I won’t go back [to competition], because the whole reason I did it was because I enjoyed the sport. But in my mind, I already earned my pro card. I don’t need someone to tell me I earned it.”
But just because she is cooling her plastic heels for the moment does not mean Gaston is slacking on her physique: She still maintains a solid workout schedule and trains when her kids are in school “to alleviate the mommy guilt,” she says with a laugh.
She follows the workout protocol she learned while with Team Bombshell: an old-school approach that focuses on bodypart training, symmetry and balance. Her workouts previously had been more Crossfit style — fast and furious and intense — but Gaston liked her results so much that she stuck with Strobo’s style and still does it today, and she embellishes it with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio five days a week. “HIIT allows me to keep my cardio to 15 to 20 minutes four to five times a week, but my strength workouts are probably an hour long,” she says. “I start lifting, and I don’t want to stop sometimes! It’s a good stress release.”
Barbell Push Press
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell in the front rack position — resting across your front delts and clavicle with your elbows flipped underneath and your hands wrapped loosely around the barbell in an underhand shoulder-width grip.
Move: Bend your knees into a half-squat, then extend them quickly and explosively, simultaneously extending your arms to press the barbell straight up overhead. Slowly lower to the start and repeat.
Tip: Make sure the barbell is straight overhead and not too far forward or backward, which may put your shoulders at risk. Start with a lighter weight and work up from there.
Front Plate Raise
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a plate with both hands in front of you, arms extended down.
Move: Slowly raise the plate up in a smooth arc, lifting until your hands come level with your shoulders or slightly above. Pause a moment, then lower slowly to the start.
Tip: Try switching the place where you grip the plate to change the move — with both hands on top, with both hands on the side or both hands underneath.
Barbell Upright Row
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell with your hands close together in an overhand grip. Draw your shoulders back and tighten your abs.
Move: Slowly lift the barbell up along your front, keeping it close to your body while driving your elbows upward. When it comes underneath your chin, pause a moment, then lower to the start under control.
Tip: Your elbows should be higher than your wrists throughout the move.
One-Arm Lateral Raise
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in one hand, arm extended along your side. Place your other hand on your hip and draw your shoulders back.
Move: Slowly raise the weight up and to the side, keeping a slight bend in your elbow. Lift the weight up until your arm comes to shoulder height, pause, then lower slowly to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Hold on to something stable such as a bench or railing as you do the move to prevent swinging or momentum.
Rear Delt Plate Raise
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a set of plates at your sides. With a straight back, fold forward from the waist until your torso is about 45 degrees to the floor and your arms are hanging straight down, perpendicular to the ground. Bend your elbows slightly and tighten your abs.
Move: Raise the plates up and out to the sides, keeping your hands in your peripheral vision at all times. When they come level with your shoulders, pause and squeeze your shoulder blades together before lowering slowly to the start.
Tip: Keep your hands in your peripheral vision at all times to make sure you’re targeting your rear delts and not your back and traps.
Are You a Paleo Fan?
Then check out Tiffany Lee Gaston’s website: She is offering a sneak peek of her book to come, Painlessly Paleo, and is offering readers a number of recipes that are simple to make and that taste fantastic — for free! tiffanyleegaston.com