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Q&A with Hunger Games' Stuntwoman Tara Macken

What type of workouts do you do to get in stunt-worthy shape?

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I always change my workouts around so my body can be consistently challenged and to work on different job-specific skills. Typically, I train stunts three times a week for two and a half hours, and for the rest of the week I do cardiovascular activities that help maintain my level of fitness (yoga, running, climbing).

What do you during a typical stunt-training session?

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When I'm at the stunt gym, I start with a 15-minute warm-up, which consists of a combination of dance and gymnastic stretches with light core strengthening activities. Then I hit the king-size trampoline for 10 minutes. The trampoline is a full-body workout, and it's good for your spacial awareness.

Next, I do three, five-minute rounds of focus mitts (boxing) to get my coordination and fight training cleaned. After boxing I go through all my kicks, five of each kick on each leg, with a kicking paddle or just in front of a mirror to watch my form. After all my kicking and punching, I go to the gymnastics floor, where I start drilling basic gymnastics and air kicks.

Once I'm completely warmed up and I've gotten through all my forms, I start doing kick/flip/punch combos. Or if I'm having an off day with my fights and I want to practice something new, I go and train parkour over obstacles at the gym, or I train various weapons.

After all of this, I end with a cool-down of stretching and more core conditioning (crunches, v-ups, v-sits, planks). I do not lift weights, AT ALL. The only weight I lift is myself in the form of handstands.

Photo credit: Chad Alan Photography,

Tell us about your character and the stunt work you did for The Hunger Games!

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I play the tribute from District 4, the fishing district. Much like most of the characters, I get chosen to compete in the Hunger Games. As there can only be one victor, my fate is doomed. For this character I got to do my own action/stunts. This mainly involved fighting with weapons, hand to hand combat, and arena training.

Photo credit: Pete Bohler

How did you get involved in stunt work?

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I've always been an athlete. I started with gymnastics, and then I got into dance (ballet, jazz, modern), and rock climbing. I've competed in all of these activities and with them had the opportunity to travel around Asia with my school team. When I discovered martial arts, I realized the beauty in it, and how similar it was to dance and gymnastics, so I got into that too! With my combat training, I've fallen in love with boxing, tae kwon do, tricking, and parkour.

It was a pretty natural progression to stunt work from my athletic background. I will say though, I spent a long time learning how to "react" to punches and kicks, and how to "fall" properly to make it look like it hurts without actually hurting myself.

Photo credit: Pete Bohler

What about diet? What do you eat to stay in top shape?

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I'm a huge foodie and a big advocate of eating and enjoying life. I love food, and I do not believe in the word "diet.” When people want to slim down in order to look or to perform a certain way, I view it as an athlete would—by changing the concept of "dieting" to "making weight.” Think of it as a practical method to attain a certain image or goal and not as a psychological problem that affects various areas of your life.

I believe in eating every three hours with proportionally sized mini-meals. As soon as you wake up, eat a breakfast high in fiber, have your next meal three hours later, and so on. I do enjoy protein shakes in between my main meals of the day, and I do not eat three hours before I go to sleep.

As for what I typically eat, I actually do not enjoy unhealthy food. I eat mostly Asian food, plenty of noodles, rice, meat dishes (with just a little sauce), and soups. I don't enjoy fast food, deep fried food, or soda…no thank you!

Photo credit: Tim Tadder

Any advice for other fabulous females who want to kick butt with their workouts?

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Challenge yourself in each workout to go a little bit farther. Know that the world is full of surprises, and the best one is when you surprise yourself with a skill that you thought was impossible. It's empowering and beautiful. If you love to run for example, each time you go for a jog, sprint your heart out for the last 20 seconds as if your life depended on it. Your heart may skip a beat, but it reminds you that you are alive and present.
People are more resilient than you think. Know that you are stronger than your insecurities and what people say or think of you, you may not be broken so easily, and that falling down or hitting rock bottom is a fantastic opportunity to learn. Don't be afraid to yell or scream or kick or punch or fail. Just move. Your body is meant for movement.

May the odds be ever in your favor! Check out Ms. Macken in Hunger Games out now, visit her official website, and follow her on Twitter.

Photo credit: Pete Bohler