We talked with Donna McGinn in January, 2020.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Donna McGinn. I am an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder, licensed massage therapist and a certified personal trainer/prep coach/posing coach, sports nutritionist — Anything to do with bodybuilding, the muscles and showcasing them on stage.
I started seriously training for shows at 48 yrs old. Got my pro card at 50 and was on the Arnold stage by 52. I am still competing today at 56.
I live and work in Maryland at several hardcore gyms. Colosseum Gym in Columbia, MD, and Anarchy Gym in Owingmills, MD.
I train and perform body work on athletes and non-athletes alike, though the majority of my clients are bodybuilders, strongmen and power lifters. I have been lucky enough to perform body work on some of the elite pros like, Victor Martinez, Jon Dela Rosa, Marco Rivera, and Kevin Levrone.
Some of the massage modalities I use are deep tissue, Swedish, myofascial, manual lymph node drainage, trigger point, Russian sport massage, Rolfing, acupressure, cranial sacral.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
I typically train Monday through Friday in my off-season. In season, I train almost every day. It depends on what needs to be done and which body parts I want to improve on.
Typically, a basic training week for me without extras is chest and tris, back and bis, delts and abs, calves, legs and glutes.
In season, I might split things up differently:
- Day 1: Chest and tris;
- Day 2: Back/lats and bis;
- Day 3: Full on delts, abs, calves;
- Day 4: Full on legs (quads, hamstrings, glutes);
- Day 5: Just Lats, and lateral delts;
- Day 6: Rest;
- Day 7: Hamstrings/ glutes, abs.
Cardio is done every day that I train and usually after I train, in my off-season. About 30 minutes on the stair mill. Steady state, moderate level. For me that’s between level seven and 10. Not killing myself.
During prep is another thing entirely. I start slowly at the beginning of my prep season with the minimum number of minutes. Eventually, I have to work my way up to what I need for that particular show.
My usual is an hour of HITT but I have had to do up to two hours before. When that happens, I’d split it up. I maybe on the treadmill early in the morning and then on the stair mill in the middle of the day.
Or I would do an hour on the stair mill and then go meet up with a friend with a bike and ride the loop around Baltimore International Airport. That made my life so much more pleasant at that time. I got to be out of the gym for a little while.
Training for me is only an hour. Get in and get out. Or most likely, get back to coaching or massaging others. Good thing I love my jobs!
I train with either my friends or advanced clients of mine. Or alone, of course. But training with others is much more fun and you can push each other to do better. Or, just push each other to keep going when you are super tired, during prep.
Last year, my friend and I managed to target shows within a few weeks of each other. So, the last few months of prep, we trained religiously together. Pushing each other.
Tried a few new techniques for those extra stubborn body parts and of course, cardio together. That’s always the worst part. But when you know your bud is dying right next to you, it always seems to make it more palatable. Especially when your taking pictures of them dying in a pool of sweat.
Speaking of which, one of the things I love to do during prep with my friends is take pics of them working out. When the body is in amazing shape, and the muscles are pumped, you can get some really cool pics at different angles that really show off their muscles and conditioning.
Everyone’s body is totally different: From the shape and length of the muscles, to the conditioning of the skin. From showy veins, to the smooth rolls of feminine muscle, to the peaks and valleys of a well-developed male’s back or bicep. Or striated glutes or quads! It’s all amazing to me.
We train at a few different gyms. It depends on what we are training that day, what kind of equipment they have and time. If time is limited, sometimes it’s best to be as close to home as possible,
Plus, moving around to the different gyms kind of gives us a break from the same surroundings over and over. It helps mentally.
Anarchy gym tends to be a favorite because the owner and his family are serious about lifting. Any kind, bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman… So, they have a lot of equipment and are always getting new stuff in to try.
In addition to that, they have a posing room for me to teach posing and have clients really see themselves from all angles. They also have a fully mirrored studio that is as big as a stage.
I use that room the most for my posing clients. This is so they can practice their routines, practice walking with grace out to the middle of the stage. I have them do mock lineups.
Since the room is stage sized, they can get a feel for how long it will take to walk out, do their quarter turns, manuals and line up on the side.
Yes, I have them practice waiting on the side lines so they don’t unconsciously slump in front of the audience while waiting to be called out.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
How I keep myself going? I try to train with other people. It makes it more fun and you can push each other. Especially when you are both tired. You just have to make sure you don’t talk each other out of doing what you are supposed to be doing.
Giving yourself a goal is another way. Big ones, like competitions, photo shoots, and small ones you can do every day. The smaller ones I use are: the scale, personal records, or reps.
To make sure I have time for my training, I always have a time I block out. For me it’s mid-day because I am not a morning person.
When I first started training, I always told myself I was going “to work. I made it like an appointment. It was my job. I had to be there or else. Then eventually, it really became my job.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I’m still working out every week. I train at least four times a week. Even when I don’t compete. I competed this past season after being away for three yrs. I may compete again this year. But most of the time, I am concentrating on my businesses and making other people’s dreams of competing or just being in better shape come true.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I try to get as much rest as I can. I don’t get eight hours of sleep. I’m lucky if I get a broken five or six. I try to make sure I get a full day off from work every week. I can’t always do this. Especially in season.
For me, when I’m in prep, I tend to get more energy especially towards the end of prep. I’m usually in a pretty good mood unless someone is trying to screw with me. But that’s when you have to block them out.
Just do your own thing and put blinders on. You can see me on the stair mill most of the time, probably quietly jamming out to something in my headphones with a puddle of sweat around me.
To avoid injuries, especially in prep mode, I will push myself when I lift but I try not to do any ego lifting. I do want to see what I can do once in a while, but I don’t have too.
Towards the end of prep where we are more susceptible to ripping a muscle or straining something, we have to be careful. That’s when we usually do slightly lighter weight and higher reps.
Occasionally, I’ll still hit a PR during the last few weeks of prep but you know I was feeling pretty good that day.
I try to get a massage from someone I trust when I really need one. I see the chiropractor at least once during my prep. I have to make sure I can twist and keep my body looking even for posing on stage.
Being a massage therapist myself I know how to do a lot of self-care for overly tight muscles, trigger points and facia stretching. I even try to give myself better muscle separation.
As for supplements, I rarely take anything. Occasionally some BCAA’s. Definitely Isopure protein powder in water for recovery after I train.
I religiously take a multivitamin and multi-mineral every day and usually extra C, D, Calcium. Just because my diet is super strict. No pre-work outs. Don’t usually need stuff like that.
Since I want to work out, I usually have the energy for it. And the few times I’ve taken it, I almost felt like I was having a heart attack. Not a good feeling. So, why bother.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
My diet is almost always the same. During the winter, I can vary off and enjoy myself a little more. You need more calories to make muscle and during off-season is the time to make as much muscle as you can. So the amounts go up and the cardio comes down. But never off. Have to keep some conditioning. Meaning – energy. Hate to feel sluggish.
My main stay is eggs, chicken breast, super lean beef and non-oily fish. Carbs are usually sweet potatoes, flavored rice cakes, occasionally bananas, pasta, rice, and fats are usually low.
I’ll do some peanut butter on my rice cakes for breakfast. You can get fats from the meat and occasion treats so I don’t usually worry about having enough.
I make a bulk of food once every week and a half so I am ready for anything during the week or a trip. I have a small cooler bag I put all my meals every morning and carry around with me all day so I always have my food with me, all the time. And there is no excuse to cheat.
I messed up a few times when I was first learning from my old trainer. And he yelled at me and told me one thing that stuck: “You are an athlete now….act like one!” I never really thought of myself as one until then.
So, if you want to do this, you always have to be prepared because in the end, it all falls on you. This is what YOU want. Not your mom, sister, boyfriend… They didn’t ask you to do this.
Cravings, we all end up having one. What do you do? A few things. Drink more water. Wait it out. Go out and do something to keep your mind off it. But in the end, IF you have the will power, take a taste. Then enjoy it and let it go. Throw it out, or give it to your dogs, like I do.
Usually it’s something sweet for me so I’ll have a piece of dark chocolate or flavored gum. I carry a lot of different flavored gums during my prep season.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
I usually tend to get myself going. I don’t really have people I aspire to be on social media. I don’t usually like copying others to be like them. I’ve always striven to be original. I got that from my mother.
As a trainer, I may see some type of exercise that I think may target a muscle better than something I had been doing before. I will try it and see if I like it well enough to add to my routine once in a while.
The one gym I go to, Anarchy, shows some of the best male bodybuilders in the world, working out on the TVs above the dumbbells. Now those are immediate inspiration because tey make me lift more intensely. Gotta keep up with the big guys! Keeps my form tight.
And that’s my thing. I like training with others as good or better than myself, to keep my intensity up and want to lift better.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
If we are talking about non-athletes, who just want to lose a little weight, get stronger, just feel better in general. Well, we all know what to do. Most just don’t want to do it. It’s a will power thing.
One thing about learning how to train in the gym, under a good trainer is, you will learn how to develop better will power, which you will use in every aspect of your life.
The more you develop your will power; you find you can do almost anything you set your mind to. It takes a little time and practice but it is do-able. It is one of the many things I teach as a coach.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I’m always willing to take on more clients. I prefer in house training over online coaching. The results are always better because I can be on top of things and see the results and tweak things instantly.
If someone is cheating on their diet or something is off, I can usually see it before they tell me.
I will always try to give my all. The rest is up to you. If you really want it, you can be sure you will see results if we are both working on it together.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
My website: DonnaMcGinn.com
Facebook: Donna Mcginn