When Tara Graff got pregnant two years ago, she assumed she'd either be the type to gain a minimal amount of weight or simply watch the pounds fall off after giving birth. After all, she ran 5Ks and half-marathons and stayed thin. But after eating a Blizzard a day during the hot summer she was pregnant, she had gained 52 pounds by the time she gave birth to her son (now 1). This time, a 10K wasn't enough to motivate her. She needed a new challenge. After reading about physique shows in a magazine, she called a trainer who specializes in competition prep. (Think of bodybuilding turned down a notch, with an emphasis on muscle tone over muscle size.) She started training last March and competed in her first show a month ago.

ABS? ABSOLUTELY "I walked on stage at my first show at 125 pounds -- substantially less than I had ever been before and 47 pounds less than the day I gave birth. Even though I had a C-section, I have abs again. I look and feel better than I ever have."

WORKING IN WORKOUTS "It's very challenging to find time having a baby. So I get up at 5 a.m. to work out, and then typically I do something at night where I can bring him -- a run or walk [in the stroller] for extra cardio. During a typical week I do six days of cardio and four days of lifting, [plus] yoga or an easy walk on my rest day. Sometimes I'll do a class for variety; my neighbor has gotten me into kettlebells, but typically it's just a lot of hitting the weights."

DIET MAKEOVER "I started eating five to six small meals with lean protein -- a lot of chicken breast, fish, tons of ground turkey, egg whites -- and fewer carbs. A lot of the [foods] I eliminated I don't miss. I had pizza the night of the show, and my body rejected it. I don't miss cheese or bread. Ice cream's a hard one for me. If I cheat on anything, it's ice cream."

SHOWTIME "The shows have a pageant-y element -- you wear false eyelashes and spray tan, and big sparkly heels and fancy shiny bikinis. One of my friends who came to watch said she felt like she was in an alien world. I think my mom thought it was going to be the equivalent of a wet T-shirt contest, but she was really impressed and thought it was interesting. I had to compete in the open category with a lot of beautiful 22-year-olds. I came in second-to-last, but I was so excited. I had so much fun and met so many amazing people; I decided to do another one in the spring. Now that the weight's off, I'd love to take it to the next level and be competitive. I think the shows will be a part of my life for at least the next few years."

MOMMY TIME "I try to work out in the morning before my son wakes up, but he likes to come into our workout room with me and mimic my movements; I'll do pushups and he'll get down on all fours and shake his butt a little."