Her real name is Lisa Marie Varon, but she's known as Tara, the sexy and strong knockout for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Tara became the first woman to win the WWE and TNA Women's Championship twice. But before she was slammin' bodies, Tara was slamming the weight with enough force to compete in the IFBB as a professional fitness competitor.
How has this powerhouse mastered and excelled at two distinctly different muscle sports? And how has her training differed when pursuing them? We checked in with Tara for an interview—and scored her fitness and wrestling workouts in the process. Compare them for yourself below!
Many top female pro wrestlers have backgrounds in fitness, but few were ever IFBB pros like Tara. She learned under the tutelage of veteran training and nutrition expert John Parrillo and built an impressive resume by winning ESPN2's Fitness America Series in 1997 and the Miss Galaxy Competition in 1998. She turned pro by placing second at the NPC Team Universe in New York City in 1999.
As an IFBB pro, Tara followed a set plan and committed lots of time to the gym. "When you are preparing for a fitness competition, your life is very structured and you have a set plan that you will follow from day one to contest day," she says. This discipline, and the body that it helped forge, were instrumental when it came to transition to a decidedly more colorful career.
Wrestling fell into Tara's lap when she attended a wrestling show with her friend, Torrie Wilson. The bug bit Tara hard, and she committed to a wrestling camp in 2000.
Her ascent was rapid. She worked in different independent organizations, caught the eye of the WWE, and competed in its developmental system at Ohio Valley Wrestling before joining the main roster.
She debuted as Victoria in 2002, remained under the alias for seven years, won two WWE Women's Championships, and made several tours around the world before joining TNA in 2009. New federation, new name: she began going by "Tara."
She's now a well-known veteran in the Knockout division, but seems ageless in the ring. "Many people look at me with shock when I tell them I'm 42," Tara says. "That makes me feel good to know I still look and move like these other girls who are, well, a few years younger than me. I still feel great doing it, so I don't plan on quitting anytime soon."
These days, to stay on top, Tara must stay in exceptional shape and adapt to rigors of life on the road. Whereas her training for fitness was highly organized, change is the only real constant in wrestling. "As a pro wrestler," Tara says, "I'm on the road a lot and have commitments that get in the way of following a set training program, so I have to make the best of the time I have to get in the gym.
Joseph Thurman, Tara's trainer, plays a massive role in her athletic prowess. Based in Chicago, Thurman helps Tara design her programs and accompanies her in the weight room. He takes no mercy on her because the ring demands top performance and industry appeal.
"Lisa's program is built to enable her to add lean muscle tissue, maintain strength, shed fat, keep her backside, and work on cardiovascular and muscular endurance," Thurman says. "I add more speed and agility work toward the end of the hour to burn more fat. I also have her do more abs at the end since she is engaging them during the beginning of the workout. For the most part, we always use compensatory acceleration training—explosive positive, slow negative."