On any street, you might just walk by a normal looking Filipina girl who’s short, with a tomboyish t-shirt and shorts and is always found wearing her favorite baseball cap. But how many girls can turn up the heat once she takes off her cap and shirt like Bikini Athlete, Zara Pineda-Boorder? On and off stage, her body burns with such sleek curves you’ll be sweating as you watch!

Zara is a National Level Physique Athlete (with the IFBB) who recently made the switch from being a Figure Competitor, to being a competitor in the new Bikini Fitness division. She returned to the stage in 2009, after taking a 2-year break from competing. Within those 12 months of her comeback, she competed in and won 1st and 2nd placings in 6 Bikini competitions and re-established herself in the sport she loves.

After her impressive 2nd place finish at the IFBB National Natural Physique Championships in Quebec in April of this year, she is now qualified and preparing to showcase her body at the 2010 CBBF Bikini Nationals in Toronto in August and a week after that, she will compete at the IFBB North Americans in Cleveland, Ohio.

Zara on returning to the stage…

“It’s been something that I’ve done for so long since I’ve started (8 years ago) When I first got into competitions, I really enjoyed it. It’s very different living the competition lifestyle and I wanted to feel that again.

Your body craves it just like when you work out and stop for a little while. I think it’s from being competitive all my life in sports throughout high school and also doing beauty pageants when I was in my teen years. I always have a competitive attitude about me so when it’s not there, I feel like challenging myself again.”

Zara on switching from Figure to Bikini…

“I switched over mainly for more stage time because I love being on stage. I’ve done beauty pageants before and combined that with other sports where you train your body differently, so it’s kind of like showing off your athletic body. I can walk in heels, be athletic and train and diet so it all melded together and I like to show that side of myself a little bit more; instead of just going through set poses (in Figure). I like being more creative and flirty with posing and just showing off the body in a different way that’s less restrictive.”

Zara’s workout philosophy during the off-season…

“I always try to incorporate cardio weekly, if it’s not five times a week in the off-season, it’s seven times a week, and just lowering the minutes. It all depends. As a bikini competitor, I do higher reps. I’m not trying to build more muscle.

As soon as bikini came into the sport, I felt I could be a little bit too muscular so I wanted to streamline that down a little bit; keep my reps high and my cardio in there and of course keeping my diet relatively 85% on, even during the off-season is key to success for staying in shape for all of the upcoming shows.”

While at the Gym and on the beach, Zara can often be found covered up with sporty, workout clothes that while hugged every curve of her petite feminine body, hid any trace of skin and appearance of muscularity. Even her wavy flowing black hair was kept under wraps from within her baseball cap. Those who see her could only imagine how she might look like once she heats it up on stage.

“Yeah, it’s true, I like wearing hats when I train. I like to cover up until at least the last couple of weeks before the show or even until the last three days before the show. I keep the goods to myself and even when I get to registration, my big thing is to be as “un-kept” as possible. I don’t want to give away anything. *laughs*”

Zara on just being Zara on the street and on stage…

“On the streets I’m usually sportier.. I’m in workout clothes so it’s still form fitting and hugging, but I don’t like to bear a lot of skin unless I’m on stage. I feel comfortable. I’m in running shoes all day. I don’t have to go to the office, I work in my gym and I just feel more comfortable.

But then the girly-girly side of me likes to come out and play when I’m on-stage. I do a lot of practicing posing in my heels to have that stage presence and to have that flirtatiousness of the Bikini girl. I leave it for the stage and put it out there (rather then on the streets) That’s where I make my mark.”

In a show last year, Zara wowed the crowed with a red exotic bikini; two thick streams of fabric laid on top of her soft toned upper body connected on a ring at navel level over a tight waist. It was connected to the bottom of her suit that tightly hugged her glutes and exposed her well-muscled back. Her shoulder length dark brown hair flowed softly as she turned on stage and smiled at the audience. To her, she presented what she thought was the total package of a Bikini body.

“You cannot really tell from pictures alone sometimes because when it comes to bikini, what’s more important is the interpretation of moving around the stage well, and having a big enough presence to make an impact on the audience and the judges. So for me, what I’m focusing more on now, is coaching girls in Bikini and coaching girls in the Fitness sport, in their presentation skills and walking and posing.

I concentrate a lot on poise and grace on stage. Practice! Practice in the mirror everyday leading up to a competition (even 12 weeks out from a show) and see how you’re presenting yourself. On stage, what you show should complement what your physique is like. Every little thing helps. Having the suit cut in a way that will fit your best assets, choosing the right color, hair and makeup, etc.

I like to go with something bold or something a little different. The whole package needs to be put together in a way where your suit and overall look, doesn’t overpower your physique and presence that you have in your suit. I tell my girls to always be themselves in their suit, to their maximum! Everyone is different and unique in their own special way and I do my best to make sure each girl shows HER best on stage and not just a copy of someone else’s.

Photos by Hubert. interview by Kaleem Maxwell.