By Andrew Carruthers, Editor-In-Chief.
Apart from being drop dead gorgeous, underneath all this muscle is a relentless, hard-working, beautiful soul that spends her days changing women’s lives. On route for IFBB Pro League status, Tarryn Zelow spends her days enriching the lives of others, taking care of her young son, and using whatever time is left in the day to train, eat and pursue her own dream of becoming a top level Pro athlete. One of the most well respected coaches and athletes in our game, this is Coach TZ.
Full Name: Tarryn Heather Zelow – but people know me as Coach TZ.
Work: I mainly train competitive female athletes, but I also welcome onboard anyone with a dream and goal to transform their body.
Federation: NPC Pro League
Next Show: Watch this space!
Competition weight: My weight varies between 50-55kg on stage.
Most Notable Achievement: Winning my first show back in the competing world after having my baby. That was my goal.
How did you get into the Fitness Industry and what made you start competing? I was always a ‘fitness freak’ growing up. I loved anything outdoors and sports orientated. I was obsessed with nutrition, counting calories and researching all the finite details of health. I always admired the front cover models. I mean lets be real – I think everyone does but it was in 2014 that I stepped up and stepped out and found my heart in the world of bodybuilding. The gym was mentally my safe place and my happy place. I found myself falling more and more in love with the sport, and I found my first coach online Jack Lotter who worked very closely with me. At the time I still lived in Zimbabwe and I was flying back and forth between SA and Zimbabwe, so I decided I may as well give it a shot on stage. I always say that when you get on stage for the first time, you either fall in love with it or its just not for you. In my mind I just knew God had a plan for me on the stage!
When you first burst onto the scene you used to be a lot bigger and carried way more muscle. What made you decide to change your physique?
Gosh, I would have to write a book on this one (she laughs). In December 2017, 10 weeks out of what was going to be my first international show, I shattered my arm in an arm wrestle. So for 4 months I was completely paralyzed from the bicep down to my hand. I guess after 4 years of living and breathing bodybuilding it was terrifying for me. Everyone who knows this game well, knows that when its prep season we are like bulldozers. We bash down everything in our way to reach that end goal. For me, I guess breaking my arm was my sign to slow down and reassess my situation.
In April 2018 I found out I was pregnant – my biggest blessing! I kept healthy and walked a lot throughout my pregnancy, but stayed away from the weight training obviously due to my injury still healing. In this time, I lost basically all the muscle I had built over the years and I basically had to start all over again. In this process I found myself more comfortable and in a more livable state being smaller all year round. So here I am, with new goals and a new lifestyle.
Do you miss carrying all that muscle?
Not at all.
The birth of your son brought about some incredible changes in your life. Tell us how you feel you’ve evolved both personally and physically from before to after.
Absolutely. It’s completely life changing. Bodybuilding as we all know is an incredibly time consuming and selfish sport. Having my son changed that. I learned that there was more to life and I learned to share my life, my time and my love. There is a saying which I hold close to my heart and believe it is so true. “If you don’t live a life of love, then nothing you say will matter, nothing you know will matter, nothing you believe will matter and nothing you give will matter. If you don’t live a life of love, nothing you accomplish will matter.” I believe having my baby boy has taught me this!
You’ve become a well known online coach and you have a few girls under your wing that have reaped the rewards of huge success. What do you believe is your recipe for success when girls contact you and want to start competing and become a top level SA athlete?
First and Foremost – showing them that I believe in them. I believe the mind is the most powerful tool we own. If you can train the mind to believe, the body will follow! Secondly, building relationships. I believe this is a huge role as a coach in a client’s journey. Every person has a different lifestyle, different genetics, different goals. Without knowing those foundations it’s impossible to put together plans which will work for them.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face when embarking on a diet and training plan with some of the girls that you help and what are some of the biggest mindset changes you have to make them understand?
Patience! Both myself and the client. Results don’t happen overnight. Consistency! Without consistency it’s impossible to find a remedy that works for that person. Trust! Clients have to trust their coach. Even in the most difficult of times. Effort! Nothing good comes easy.
Is competing still the same for you these days or has your approach completely changed as opposed to when you first started competing?
It’ s much more challenging these days. Having a toddler who needs me as well as an army of women who need me and rely on me daily can be tough. Life can get exhausting, but my passion and love for the sport has actually grown more through it all. I love a good challenge.
Run us through a typical day in your life.
Oh hell no! I think people will think I’m crazy. Lets just say, mornings start off early with no less than 3 coffees, drop my son at school and do cardio. From there, its client check ins, client meetings, clients everything time. Fetch my son from school, have lunch with him. While he sleeps I do all my “to do list” things. Back to gym at 15h30. Home at 17h15 for dinner with my son and our quality time together. When he goes to bed, I’m on my laptop till all hours of the morning, changing plans, editing programs, researching, reading. Rest is for the weak – clearly. I obviously fit all my meals in as I go – even in the car like finger food, but its always on the go.
What are your future goals and ambitions both in the sport and as an online coach?
I’m sure you hear this every day, but as an athlete a pro card is my number 1 goal at the moment. The next step from there I know God will show me when we reach that point. As a coach, I think our team capacity has reached its max for the hours available in a day. I don’t think we will grow bigger than what we are now otherwise we won’t be able to offer the same level of service. With the help of my 2 assistants: Shelby Neves and Anel Coetzee, we have found a formula that works for what we have. I think we have about 140 girls with us at the moment including our current challenge we are running. I would rather keep quality service and relationships than grow the team any bigger. We are also about to launch a Coached by TZ Posing Department with live classes and seminars as well as video packages which we will launch on our website.
We also have 4 new eBooks we have been writing and are about to launch on the website.
For now that’s keeping us on our toes.
What motivates you?
Knowing how many people look up to me, trust me and follow my journey. On the days I feel I can’t do it for me, I tell myself to do it for them! If I cant do it, why should they? We have to lead by example.
And of course my son. I want him to one day be able to say “That’s my MAMMA!”
How do you stay motivated?
I just keep consistent. Even on the Meh days! I JUST KEEP GOING!
What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about training that you’ve figured out over the years?
I actually have never thought about this one.
How do you think the SA Bodybuilding and Fitness Community has changed over the years?
It’s been interesting watching people come in and out of the industry over the last 6 years. When I first started bodybuilding, people looked at me like I was a mad woman. Now it’s everywhere. It’s become much more popular especially among the girls. I have also noticed the people I once looked up to and were inspired by have disappeared. It’s like the industry floods with new faces every year and the “In” thing can become the “old” thing in the blink of an eye. I feel its much more competitive these days as a coach and as an athlete.
What do you love and dislike about the bodybuilding/fitness industry in SA?
I love that people are actually starting to help each other these days. No matter what team, who coaches you, which show you compete in – everyone seems to be a lot more open and encouraging which is amazing.
I always tell my girls that the number one rule (especially when you make it to the lime light ) is to stay humble and stay out of any form of squabble or difference of agreement going on. It happens every day, everywhere. Keep your head down, focus and mind your own business. So with regards to my dislikes, I guess I’m going to stick to my own rule on this one and leave a “no comment”
What’s your favourite cheat meal?
A good medium rare steak, chips, creamed spinach and creamy butternut. I also love Pizza and Sushi.
Give us a break down of the type of foods you like to eat when prepping for a show.
I’m the worst ever. I’m such a boring dieter and food doesn’t matter from a taste perspective. I almost go into robot mode. I eat eggs, steak, chicken. Fish will make me gag. I have eaten way too many fish meals in my lifetime. I simply can’t do fish anymore. Sweet potato is a no no – my body does not like it. Brocolli I chop into small pieces and cook with coconut oil, garlic and lemon. Tomatoes and mushrooms are a standard – I love them. Cottage cheese is a favourite and I put Jalapenos on everything (she laughs). Berries in my shakes are also a standard.
Epic last words?
“If God bought you to it, God will bring you through it!” and “I want what God wants for me”
For more on Tarryn, check her out on Instagram: @coach_tz
and Facebook: Tarryn Heather Zelow.
Also, don’t forget to check out her website: