Donna McGinn - IFBB Physique Pro

An update after the Arnold Classic 2016.

1. Donna, how are you? Thanks for joining me again, now as a Pro.

Donna: Iím great! Very happy to be talking to you again.

2. SoÖ Please share experiences and feelings from the Arnold Classic.

Donna: I have to say going into a competition is always a little daunting. Not really by seeing the other competitors. Iíve learned early on that the ones you think will beat you donít always. Your thinkingÖwow, sheís big! And Iím right. They are usually too big for this category. Most try to get bigger and bigger. Thatís not what they want. They want proportionate. After that it can get sketchy.
The daunting part isÖwhere is the tanning located? Will I get there on time? Where is the competitors meeting held? Different building? How far away. Do I need a car to get there? I flew in. Then the show is held in another building? How far away is that. Will I make it in time? Itís all these things that can stress a competitor out over the actual competition.

Going into the Arnold Iím excited but calm. I usually am. Iíve selected the most calm and on the ball person to be by my side. My MUA and friend, Susie Lovaglio. She has been to the Arnold many times before working the booths so that is a plus. First thing we do is find our hotel and check in. Next we take off to the convention center by bus to look around and find the place where I am to get my spray tan later that evening. Good luck, they take me in on the spot. Was hoping that would happen. Walking around I find my posing coach Kenny Wallach and IFBB Menís Physique Pro Sadik Hadzovic. This is the first time Iíve gotten to meet him. Nice person and nice looking too.

After looking around for a bit to see where things are, we head back to our hotel to rest before the competitors meeting.

At the meeting they introduce all the officials. Arnold is not there. Lol! But Jim Manion is telling us what the lineup is going to be like and then starts calling out our numbers. We go up one by one and take a packet made for each of us with passes and our number and pamphlets. Then walk over to the official photographer to get our pics with our numbers, which they post on their websites. Everyone usually does some kind of pose when the camera flashes. When everyone is finally called we all go to the look where to stage is. They are having the mpd and wpd in a different spot then last year. Once finished we are free to go.
Thatís when Mascha Tieken and I steal away and start walking towards the bus stop. At one point we spy a fairly good sized stage down a hallway and get this fun idea. Letís practice! So we both take turns playing on the stage practicing our posing. Lots of fun till someone recognizes me and shouts, ďHey Donna! Are you competing in this Arnold?Ē. It's someone I know from home so practice stopped to go talk to them. Moment is broken. Time to get back to reality and go back to the hotel to get ready for the big day tomorrow. And wait for my posing coach to stop by for one more drill and a few progress pics for my trainer at home to check my conditioning.

One thing I noticed besides having a lot more ďofficialsĒ there at the head table at the meeting was a lot more camera guys. During the whole weekend there are official photographers taking pics everywhere, with everyone. But in the end the most pics I see posted on all the muscle sites are mainly the top 5 girls. Itís almost as if the rest of the 52 girls were not there. Shame. Itís a good thing I had someone take a few for me when I was on stage so I can have some keep sakes to go with my memories. Otherwise I only go home with a bit of debt, a numbered badge and my stage pass for me to get in and out of the building during the show.

The actual competition went smoothly. I had fun. Always liked the pre judging round. Iím in 3rd call out, out of 7 call outs. From where Iím standing Iím guessing Iím around 16th place. They only list up to 11th on the official score card. Iím pleased I made it up that far.

Donna McGinn

A few days before I tried to arrange for all the wpd to come together to meet their specific fans. We just needed a recognizable spot for people to find us. I wrote out a small advertisement that each competitor could post on their media sites or send out directly to their fans. Most of us are not usually asked to be at a booth to meet people so I thought this would be a great way for each of the girls to promote themselves or just have some fun with it.
I asked a few people I knew that have businesses, and all loved the idea but were not having a booth this year at the Arnold. But one man knew of someone. And he set us up to stand in front of a booth that seemed perfect for us. A booth for MakeitFit foundation for Autism, and it also housed several womenís fitness clothing lines. It seemed perfect! After pre judging I tried to round up some of the women and one by one they all had something else to do. So, I went by myself and guess what. I had a blast meeting fans of body building. Even if the people didnít know who I was, they came to get their pic taken with this muscle woman and talk to me about lifting and diet. I had fun and had my daughter take some pictures. At one point Arnold himself walked by and I donít know what got into me but I just walked right up to him and touched his arm and said hello and thank you. My daughter was so shocked she didnít get a picture. Dang! His body guard was shocked too by the look on his face as he turned around to see me. But, I was in my competition suit so he had to know I was a competitor. Right? Lol!

So, now we celebrate. That means going off my strict diet and eating whatever I want. First thing was the biggest hamburger Iíve ever seen. Of course I only ate maybe ľ of it, the rest I put in a doggy bag. Then followed by ice cream and cookies.

Unfortunately, we had to leave early the next day because my friend had to be at a meeting that evening at home. So we decided to stop and have a huge breakfast at a unique restaurant on the way home. We ordered every specialty on the menu and as the waitress started piling up our table with the plates I hear a faint, ďyou are my hero!Ē from the booth behind us. Itís a group of women having breakfast. They canít believe what we ordered and that we are actually going to eat it all. I just wanted to sample everything because I may never get to go to this place again. After talking to them for a bit they learn that Iíve just competed at the Arnold and the one women says again,Ē Now youíre really my hero! Wow!Ē I ate a lot but still ended up taking many boxes of food home for my family to try.

For me, meeting the fans and meeting Arnold were the high light of my day. In comparison, the actual competition was very short. Sampling all the foods and driving around Columbus, Ohio, site seeing the historic architecture in German town, made the whole weekend even nicer. I donít usually get to do that. I usually have to go home and get back to work then start on the next competition prep.
All in all, it was a whirl wind of activity. Short, but nonstop, as it usually is for me.

3. What does being a Pro competitor mean to you?

Donna: It means looking and acting like a professional all the time. Polished, courteous, talks to the fansÖ. The IFBB wants people to represent them in the best light. Though I feel Iím a Pro not because a few judges liked my look the day I got my Pro card. Iím a pro because I can come in shredded and show muscle in every part of my bodyÖnot just my arms or legsÖ. every single time. And I can keep that look for months if I choose to.

4. Whatís your favorite part of competing?

Donna: Winning. Lol! I like the pre judging better than doing the routine. Maybe because I havenít come up with a routine I was truly comfortable with yet.

5. How do you stay so motivated?

Donna: Seeing the new body emerge each season is motivation for me. But sometimes when it feels like the competition is so far away Iíll start to stray. Thatís when I start to use whatever I can to stay focused. Friends to workout with, I put pictures and trophies around my room and kitchen, on my computer screen, my cell phone screen. Anything! As long as what I need to do stays in the forefront of my mind, I can do it. Having my friends and fans point out changes in my body as I lean out helps too.

6. In November 2015 it was announced by the IFBB Pro league that re-focus on symmetry rather than muscular size was going to be one of the main goals for Figure, Bikini, and the divisions of Womenís and Menís Physique. Were you surprised? Have you changed your prep in order to meet the requirements?

Donna: They always looked for symmetry first over muscle. Then muscle and conditioning. I think they said they were looking for softer. Which was no surprise. They have already been doing that at a lot of shows in all divisions. But not all shows. Which makes it inconsistent and frustrating for the competitors and our prep coaches. In my First show this season they definitely went softer but symmetry was first. At the Arnold they pick shredded, symmetrical and muscular, but small muscle. I actually like who they picked as the top 2. They were nicely separated all over, had a lot of muscle, even though it wasnít huge, and their symmetry was good. Something Iím still working with as I have a wide hip girdle and small clavicles.
You know what Iíve been doing lately for the smaller shows during my last days of prep to meet this cry for a softer look? Not a thing. Iím basically eating, training and drinking the same amount of water all the way up to the time I walk on stage. Iím already known for coming in shredded looking way ahead of show date. So I just hold things steady and coast in. Now, if I do a show like the NY Pro again Iíll go the extra mile and dry out. Even though Iím not huge, Iím more muscular then most and separated. I know itís my midsection that is holding me back. I donít have a tiny waist. Never will unless I take out a rib or two. Lol! And, I still have to build up my abs because they are shallow under a rib cage that stands out.

7. A study by Brigham and Womenís Hospital in Boston and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that those on a low-fat diet were two-and-a half pounds heavier after a year than those who reduced their carbohydrate intake. What do you think?

Donna: I do a low fat to no fat diet, most of the time, with high carbs. But I also use those carbs. I donít just sit around. So, yeah, by the end of the year Iím definitely heavier by that much, but its muscle. Because, if you time it right and know how much carbs to eat at each meal, then it acts just like protein does and will help to build muscle. If youíre eating too many carbs, then it will turn to fat.

8. For any ladies thinking of competing in Physique or working their way up the competition ladder, do you have tips or suggestions to share?

Donna: Get a good trainer and prep coach. One youíve heard of that has made his competitors turn Pro. Not a Pro that doesnít have any clients that have done well under them. Seems I hear a lot about competitors bouncing around from coach to coach. Do your research first before you jump in. Itíll help you save time, money and stress.

A video posted by Donna McGinn (@donnamcginnphysiqueifbb) on

9 .What is a day in the life of Donna McGinn like?

Donna: Most days I wake up before the alarm clock goes off. Iíll grab my phone and start checking all my emails, and social media. I try to answer the shorter questions or comments people have for me and I let the bigger ones go for later when I can think them though. Then if I can, Iíll take a moment to think about my day and how I want it to go. Starting the day with positive thoughts helps keep you uplifted during the day even if little road blocks get in the way.

Then I get up and take care of my animals and go weigh myself.
I weigh myself every day and record it in a journal. Sometimes Iíll weigh myself a few times if I donít like what Iím seeing. Lol! I always have a mini goal with the scale every day and week. Youíve got to have those mini goals to be able to reach those bigger goals.

Iíll make my egg whites, green tea and, if itís on my diet at the moment, oat meal with just a small amount of stevia on it. Thatís when I also start taking in as much water as I can. I drink a gallon or more of water a day. I think it leans me out a lot faster the more I can take in. I take a lot of vitamins and minerals. A multi vitamin, multi mineral, extra, D, C, B complex, calcium, Astaxanthin for my skin, rosemary for memory (it seems to do better than ginseng or turmeric) and something for my liver to clean out any toxins and Animal Flex for my joints. I make sure I take in lots of water with those.

Most times Iíll already have my gym bag and clothes ready for the day. If not, I have to quick get it all together. I have to change clothes once or twice because of the cardio I need to do for competition prep.
If I can get it all done before or after my clients, I only have to change once. If I have to squeeze it in 30 min at a time between clients, you know I donít want to put on those wet yukky clothes again to do the 2nd half. Lol! So, another wardrobe change. Amazingly enough I only do laundry once a week. Lol!

Then Iím off to the gym to train myself and my clients. Either way I have to get both done. I have 6 meals a day. They are either thrown together the night before in individual containers or, if I have a little time, the morning of. Every bit of food is measured or weighed. My diet is very exact. And it gets tweaked every week depending on how my weight goes or how Iím looking when Iím close to a competition. They are timed between or during training my clients. I time my carb intake around my training times to ensure I get the most out of them. Carbs before lifting, for energy. A meal right after for recovery and to start repairing the muscle. And, of course, I prefer doing my training first, and then whatever energy is left, Iíll do my hour of cardio. I want all my energy focused on lifting.

Iím also a massage therapist so Iíll have days I need to do that at the chiropractorís office or at my home. Then itís usually back to the gym after.

Sundays are a long day. We have free posing clinics at our gym and Iíve been helping teach that for a few years now. We start that at 7:30 am and end around 9am. My first client is at 9. Iíll have one every hour till the afternoon and then I have to work on me. Training and cardio. Then I get to go home and cook all my chicken for the next 2 weeks. I try to balance my gym time with my family and dogs but it doesnít always work out that way. But I keep trying. Since my kids are pretty much grown they are usually busy themselves when I want to do something. Lol!

In the evening Iíll work on my online and in-house clientís weekly check-ins to see how they are doing. Iíll give them feedback and tweak their diets, cardio or workout splits if they need it. Then I check my media profiles again, Facebook, IG, email, LinkedIn, webpage,, for comments or questions people have for me. I always try to respond. Especially if itís a good question. They really seem to appreciate that I do respond in some way. Iíll then prep my food and re pack my gym bag for the next day. Look over my schedule and line up all my clientís folders in order Iíll need for that day. I have to make sure Iíve written down everything or I tend to forget. What day it is. What body part we are working on, what session it is for them and if they need a reminder to resign.

Then and only then, I gather up my pups. Give them a dog biscuit and go to bedÖand not sleep. Just lay there awake, thinking of everything I did, or need to do, what direction I need to go in and how to go about it. Did I remember to get back to someone? No? Then I pull out my phone and pull up the ďto doĒ list and add to it. If Iím lucky Iíll be able to take some off. At some point I finally crash. Lol! Yes, I donít sleep much. The mind is always going. Trainer thinks Iím not listening to him, thatís because he has competition with all the thoughts going around in my head. Lol!

10. What are your interests outside of the bodybuilding world?

Donna: I used to do all kinds of things till I got into this. Not a lot of time anymore. But I do try to balance this body building world with trying to spend time with my family, dogs and friends in that order. But when I do have time and the day is nice Iíll go to a park and hike with my dogs. It centers me and I get some good ideas when Iím alone out there in the quiet and no one pulling at me. Other things are the movies with my kids. A rarity anymore, but I used to love going out on the town and go dancing with friends. Love to experience new places and when I can eat, try new foods. Love seeing different kinds of people doing their thing. The spice of life.

Some of the cool things Iíve done in my life: I used to teach pole dance for fitness for many years before it became an everyday word. Iíve worked at the National Zoo for over a year. Love animals. I used to work in construction. Iíve actually refurbished a few homes with my ex too. One was a historic Victorian on the water in Chincoteague Va. We made it into a painted lady with 7 different colors on the outside of that house. It was beautiful. I use to go fishing a lot. Coolest things Iíve ever caught were a few sharks in one day. One was a hammer head. The cutest was a seahorse. Iíve gone spelunking and repelling inside the cave. 20 ft drop. Iíve flown an airplane. Iíve gone sky diving in a wind tunnel a couple of times. Too chicken to jump out of a plane. Lol! Learned how to dance Latin, salsa, merengue, bachata, Hawaiian, Tahitian, belly dancing. My mother was belly dancer for many years to help pay bills. Tried to learn country line dancing but that, I just canít seem to do. Lol! I learned to play pool and helped create a small league for about a year with my friends. I tried my hand at hang gliding on the sand dunes in Kitty Hawk. Thought the sand would be a softer landing if I crashed. Lol! I learned to sail when I was in high school with my sister, and when I moved to Annapolis for a few years during my divorce, I got to be on a team once in a while to race sail boats. Always fun. And last one I can think of that Iíve done lately, is shooting at a gun range. Iíve tried all different kinds of guns but I really enjoyed shooting the Black Powder guns. So powerful and cool with the sparks and smoke. Big kick back on those.

11. Future plans?

Donna: There are just so many things Iíd like to try, just to see if I enjoy it. But Iíve managed to do a lot so far. Wanted to try modeling. I did. And with the right photographer, it can be fun and very creative. Would like to try being in a movie someday. I am in a documentary about to come out this spring called, ďToo Big for the World.Ē About how the public reacts to women with muscle. Iím honored to have my name in the credits with legends like Lenda Murray, Kai Greene, David Pulumbo, Arnold Schwarzenegger and more.

I want to compete in the Olympia someday soon too. I want to travel around the world meeting people through my craft and learning about their culture. Iím going to start having workshops with a few independently strong women teaching other women how to be stronger, mentally and physically.
But firstÖI want to compete in the Alaska Pro. Itís coming up in June this year. First time they are having a Pro competition there. Iíve always wanted to go to Alaska and Australia since I was young. I am not sponsored so I need to get the money up first. That means, more clients, more work, less sleep. Itíll be worth it in the end.

Ps my daughter thinks itís really cool that she can find me on google.

Where you can find me:
RX Muscle: Spotlight On NPC Womens Physique Competitor: Donna McGinn

Competition Prep e-Books

Donna McGinn

Donna McGinn

Donna's 1st feature on Models Observer (November 2013)