Jennifer is a true motivator and inspiration to female competitors as someone who has faced some of the darkest of times and the hardest of medical challenges and chose to make a life of happiness, strength, and positive energy. Jennifer recently competed in her first two local NPC figure competitions in Colorado in May 2015 and is now enjoying an extended building season to return to the stage with a bigger and better self in 2016! Jennifer is honest and open about her challenges and successes in hopes of supporting other women to rise above and find their personal bliss too. In the Following installment, Jennifer shares her story with you.
It Won’t Be Easy, It Will Be Worth it
On the exterior, my health growing up seemed very fortunate; Weight training is something I've enjoyed since I was in high school and so I was a seemingly healthy and active youth; However, since high school, I have also been a "cutter". Anytime anything happened that I couldn't control, I would cut. You can imagine how often that could be. Despite those challenges, I turned to fitness as a means of managing my stress and became a personal trainer. During that time, about 15 years ago, I was talked into doing a fitness competition. Competitions didn't have figure or bikini back then, so I needed to gain a considerable amount of size in order to be competitive. After putting about 20 of the 30 pounds on that they wanted me to put on, I decided that a fitness competition was not what I wanted to do at the time and just continued to weight train for the enjoyment of it all. Then my world came tumbling down: Five years into being a personal trainer and teaching Group X classes, my brother was killed in a car accident. He was my only sibling and that completely changed what the rest of my life was going to be. For two years, my son and I barely left the house and we were very content with it being just the two of us. I had been a very social person but shut down to the world after losing my brother. Over the next 6 years (8 years since he had passed) I put on about 80 pounds and I didn't really care; I let myself go physically and emotionally.
A turning point came in February 2012 when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's and learned that I had Celiac disease as well. By having to change the way I was eating, I started feeling better, mentally and physically, so I started to work out again. Every month I started seeing results, which made me want to stay consistent. In 2013, I met back up with my junior high boyfriend who ended up being my first boyfriend after being completely single for 9 years. I hadn't been on a single date for 9 years. This was a relationship that should have never happened because of how negative and toxic it was. I finally broke it off after the on and off game for over a year. The only thing that made me feel happy and sane was running. I then saw a picture on Facebook of someone who had just competed and thought, "I want to do that!!" I needed a goal after my recent setback. I needed something that I could put all of this negative energy into and turn it into a positive. I started talking about competing and was referred to mutual friends on Facebook. I started to add all of these people who I thought could keep me on the right track. In 3 months, I had this huge following of people and realized that I was inspiring people before I knew it! Working out became my "rehab" and I was happy to be able to share my story and my past struggles. It has now been two years since I last cut. I think about it all the time, but now I turn to kicking my ass in the gym in order to get through the emotional pains in life.
I started training to compete in July of 2014 and just a few months later, in February 2015, I was diagnosed with Grave's disease; another auto-immune disease affecting my thyroid. Because of the positivity I have brought into my life, I chose not to use that as an excuse to give up, but instead pushed through. I now see the doctor every 3-4 weeks to check my blood levels and maintain with medication. At that same time, I was introduced to my competition coaches. I felt comfortable with them right off the bat and felt that they truly wanted to help me succeed. They supported me into my first two back to back competitions in May 2015: The NPC Southern Colorado and the NPC Mile High.
Goals and Motivation
Now that I have experienced the highs of the stage, my short-term goals are to take the next 12 months off from competing and come back next year bigger than I was for figure. My long-term goals are be to continue to perfect my vision of how I see myself as a figure competitor. I truly believe that this is the life I'm meant to live. I hope to be able to reach people who may be struggling with their own obstacles of fitness whether it be through events or social media and help them find their happiness.
Knowing how far I've come is a huge motivation for me. The fact that people didn't think I could compete successfully motivates me. Knowing that I'm inspiring people, being an ambassador to Lady Lifters and working with MonsterzInk, is a huge motivator. I want to represent this industry the best that I can. I want people to know that this is not easy and it's hard to have the perfect diet, but that you can't give up when it gets difficult. Pushing through the hardest part of it all is how you find strength in yourself.
Overcoming the Challenges of Competition Prep
My biggest obstacle in training for a competition was the fact that life was still happening around me. I had some big issues going on during the toughest part of prepping and I didn't know if I wanted to continue. My health was a struggle and I had family issues happening and it was crashing down all at once. I don't have people that I work out with who can push me when I need to be pushed so all of this was coming from me. When I felt the best, was when I would see my coaches on the weekend during posing class time. Being able to talk to them and feel their support was a tremendous feeling. Being at a gym where so many people compete, which is where posing classes are held, brought new energy to me each week and set the tone of the next week for me. I thrive off of the energy of other people so it's meant so much to me to be able to be around those who have this in common.
Not that long ago, I was the chubby chick. Food is always going to be a struggle for me. I found that I LIKE being told what to eat, how much and when. I like having the structure of the whole competition prep. It's a schedule that works for me and I find that I'm less likely to buy the unnecessary foods when I'm on a schedule. I'm more likely to stay true to my diet and routine when I have someone to answer to. This is definitely not for everyone but this whole lifestyle is something that I thoroughly enjoy. I hope to be able to compete for many, many years to come. I'd like to find a sponsorship with someone who believes in me as much as I believe in myself; someone I can be proud to represent.
The Lady Lifters
I have been so grateful being a part of Lady Lifters. Not only did I feel so welcomed, but I was also made one of the ambassadors. This is a group that is truly uplifting by the meetings that I've attended and by the women who are a part of it. They have been so open and honest about the subjects that our meetings have discussed and when we talk outside of the meetings, they are always willing to be open and helpful in whatever you might need. I wish more women would consider competing so that they could be part of such an amazing group of women. We build each other up and are always willing to lend a helping hand wherever we can.
Jennifer’s Inspirational Advice
"Be honest with yourself about why you're doing what we do. If it's not solely for you, then take a break from it all until it is. Passion aids in motivation and happiness. When you find yourself struggling, reach out; speak up. I'm one of the best at hiding behind a smile. I may not have competed if I wasn't honest with the people around me who wanted to be there for me."