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Two Richmond students devote 16 weeks to bodybuilder training

<p>Photo courtesy of Tabby Bruck: Bruck came in second in the novice bikini class and fourth in the open bikini class earning her two medals.</p>

Photo courtesy of Tabby Bruck: Bruck came in second in the novice bikini class and fourth in the open bikini class earning her two medals.

A campus police officer inspired two Richmond females to push their bodies to their absolute limits in preparation for the 2015 Blue Ridge Classic bodybuilding competition in Charlottesville.

Senior Sara Kube and junior Tabby Bruck met Officer Dave Johnson in the gym this past summer while he was preparing for the Fairfax County Fire and Police World Games.

Kube and Bruck were both in Richmond for the summer taking a physics course and working at the gym as personal trainers.

They began working out with Johnson and, in turn, became close friends with each other as well. Bruck attended Johnson’s competition in July, solidifying her fate after she caught the bug, Johnson said. Once he had given the women the idea of competing in a contest of their own, they jumped right into their training without hesitation, Johnson said.

Both women had had an interest in fitness for years, though neither of them had ever trained for a competition quite like this one. Bruck had been an athlete all through high school, playing five sports a year including two seasons of wrestling, she said. She also was a talented runner, winning districts in track and cross country before having to give up the sports because of an injury. Kube began working with a personal trainer her sophomore year of high school and had always wanted to do some sort of fitness competition, she said. She also plays on the club volleyball team at Richmond.

A mutual friend put Kube and Bruck in contact with Body By T Fitness, LLC. in Midlothian. The women drove to the gym on a Saturday to discuss their training plan with the owner, Teresa Davis, and their new coach, Sarah Butler. There they were told to enjoy their last cheat meal Sunday and given their first diet plan to begin Monday morning. From there the girls fully devoted the next 16 weeks to prepare for the competition on Oct. 24, Kube said.

Kube and Bruck cut out all fruit, dairy, sweets and bread from their diet. They primarily ate chicken, some fish, green vegetables, sweet potatoes, nuts, oatmeal and eggs for four months, Kube said. The first four weeks, the women were allotted 1,600 calories per day, then 1,400 for the next eight weeks and finally 1,200 for the remaining four weeks before the competition. This strict diet left the women fatigued, though Kube would always make sure she ate something, even breaking the diet, if she felt her body really needed it, she said.

In the beginning of their training, they were expected to lift as much as they could bear six days a week to slowly build muscle in addition to 30 minutes of light cardio, Kube said. But it is difficult to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. So, as the competition neared, the women cut back on heavy weight-lifting and switched to 45 minutes of cardio twice a day in order to shed pounds.

This meant two to three trips to the gym a day for the women in addition to their school work, jobs and extracurricular activities, Kube said.

Peak Week

Kube and Bruck’s training only intensified the final week before the show. From Sunday through Wednesday they were told to drink two gallons of water a day to flush out their systems. On Thursday they cut their water intake down to half a gallon and from about midday on Friday through the end of the show they did not drink anything, Kube said.

As soon as they reduced their water levels, they increased their carbohydrate intakes, Kube said. Carbohydrates fill your muscles making them look fuller and more defined on stage. They kept their protein and fat intake levels the same and had their last workout on Thursday before the show.

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Kube was down to 1,200 calories the final week, making her muscles tire easily during her workouts, she said. Bruck said that she had cheated during the diet a few times, so she had kept her calorie level to about 920 per day during the final week.

The Competition

At the morning competitors meeting they were told to relax and enjoy the day, but the day proved anything but relaxing, Bruck said.

“It was like go, go, go!” Bruck said. “Everyone was like screaming, ‘Get to the stage! You’re on next!’ all this stuff. Everyone’s running around in heels. Everyone’s naked running around like, ‘Get out of my way I need to get on stage!’”

Once on stage, the competitors were lined up along the sides and then called to the center one by one for evaluation. The contestants walked to a box taped on the floor and then posed showing off their bodies to a panel of judges below. After each contestant had gone, all the women were asked to line up across the stage in a comparison line facing the judges and given instructions to turn so judges could see 360 degrees of all their figures.

After seeing Bruck from behind, the judges moved her near the center of the comparison line which suggested she may place in the top five which would earn her a medal, she said.

“It was so cool being on stage because you’re like staring at the judges, and you’re trying to move your body like maybe if I move my shoulder a little they’ll look at me a little more,” Bruck said. “Tryin’ to like smize and flirt with the judges like, ‘Look at me!’”

In addition to needing a toned, lean figure, confidence plays another role in the competition. It is important to smile and look confident in addition to stepping in front of the other women to demonstrate dominance, Bruck said.

“I killed that,” Bruck said. “I was going to knock a girl out… she was not stepping in front of me.”

Even if a competitor’s body is not as tight as others, her sass and confidence on stage can propel her to a higher placing, Bruck said. Judges are more likely to look at contestants who know what they are doing and shine on the stage.

Bruck ended up placing second and fourth in her classes. Kube did not place.

Kube said she was not as happy with her results, though she felt comfortable onstage. She was only self-conscious when the judges kept her on the end of the comparison line as that indicated a lower placing, she said.

“I’m ready to move up to figure,” Kube said. “I’m just ready to be bulkier and eat and not feel so lean and skinny I guess.”

Both women said they wanted to do another show. Bruck wants to do another small show in the spring and then look for a larger show in the summer, she said. Kube wants to start bulking and work toward gaining muscle back to compete in a figure class in April or May, she said.

In the mean time, both women will start reverse-dieting to get their calories back up. They will begin eating around 1,200 calories for a week or two, then increasing to 1,400 and then to 1,600 so they do not shock their metabolism and gain all their weight back, Bruck said.

Their stories


In middle school Bruck was watching an episode of MTV’s show “Made,” a show where people are selected who request to be made into something else. In this particular episode the woman wanted to become a bikini girl. After watching the episode, Bruck got online and started the application to ask “Made” to make her into a bikini girl as well, though she said she never finished the application. Still, this idea stuck with her for years and resurfaced when she met Johnson, she said.

She suffered from an eating disorder in high school, a near death experience that she recovered from because of athletics. She realized she could be fit instead of just thin, she said. Since then she uses fitness as a release for everything going on in her life and tries to share that passion with others through her work at the gym where she holds four jobs.

With such a major time commitment, Bruck said her social life took a toll.

“This competition is my life,” Bruck said. “And then I have school, and I have friends, and I have work, but this competition has been my life. Everything revolves around working out and eating.”

She turned 21 during her training and went downtown just to use her ID to get into a bar, she said. But she refused to drink while on her diet, even turning down free drinks from people who offered to buy them for her birthday.

As far as the strict dieting, Bruck said she thought it was healthy if done correctly. Though eating 920 calories a day is unhealthy, she said one or two weeks should not affect any metabolic processes long-term. But she never thought she would restrict her diet to that extent again after her eating disorder, she said.

Ultimately, she was grateful to have Kube with her through the whole process whether to complain to about the diet restrictions and being tired all the time or to have a friend backstage during the competition itself, she said.


Kube had always wanted to do some sort of fitness competition, but it was not until she met Johnson that she seriously considered a bikini competition, she said.

A month into the diet she lost 10 pounds without even needing to workout that strenuously. She lost 25 pounds in total, several inches around her waist and legs to the point where her body feels transformed, she said.

Despite the time commitment, her grades actually improved, she said. She started thinking more clearly during training, but she was unsure whether this was due to her healthy diet without processed foods or alcohol, or the fact that she mostly focused on school and working out, she said.

She managed to stay active on the club volleyball team and in clubs and organizations on campus, she said. But she has missed out on plenty of senior activities such as Cellar Wednesdays and Senior Cheers. She attended the Senior Toga Social, but not being able to eat pizza there or drink at all was tough. Though she had fun, she opted to try and avoid those kinds of difficult social situations, she said.

This affected her relationships with friends and family, especially since her family lives in Richmond. When her family went out to eat, she often chose to stay home rather than potentially over-indulge or just be miserable watching everyone else enjoying themselves, she said. She even skipped going apple picking knowing she would be too tempted to eat an apple and break her diet.

With such a low-calorie diet, her emotions were definitely affected, she said. Her friends sometimes had difficulty understanding why she sometimes was not the upbeat, bubbly person that she usually was.

But Kube said she did not regret giving any of that up, though she might seem like an abnormal college kid to the rest of the world, especially being a senior.

“I think it’s worth it,” she said. “It’s just a different interest that I have. I am an irregular college kid I guess. I’ll take it.

“I love this life, and I would love for people to know more about it.”

Contact reporter Ellie Potter at

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