Most days, you will find me working as a middle school teacher during the day, and my evenings are spent at the gym. My two passions in life stem from helping others and wanting to see them defy the odds and achieve their goals, whether that is teaching in the classroom or motivating and training individuals at the gym. ECF has become my second job and my second home for the last two years, and I have grown more than I ever would have imagined as a person and as an athlete as a result of my experiences here. When Tim and I first met, I was reluctant to shift my training to his gym, but looking back now, I couldn't be happier that I made that decision.

Over the last 4 years or so, my training has come a long way, but it has also dramatically shifted. I have always been an active person from as far back as I can remember. I was a dancer and soccer player in my youth, a cheerleader and runner in track in my adolescence, and an active gym-goer as an adult. Even as a dancer and cheerleader in my younger years, I was never "one of the girls"... I was always "one of the guys". I would be outside playing pick-up street hockey, football, catching ball with my dad, and challenging the neighborhood boys to a game of kickball. And in those moments, all I wanted to do was prove I could "hang". I wanted to prove that I could keep up with their speed, catch their hard throws, and block their shots. Anyone that knows me will agree that I am one hell of a competitive person, both with others and myself... almost to a sickening degree. It is something that I think has done a whole lot of good, but also some not so good, to me. I am my hardest critic and I am never satisfied with where I am at. It is a constant battle, but I am working on it. I think that this mentality is what makes lifting so cathartic for me. 

Although I was always active at the gym, it was about 4 years ago when I really started to focus my time and energy on building true strength. I was going to the gym almost every day of the week, mostly because it's where I felt a sense of belonging. I had been approached by a handful of people who asked if I ever considered competing. At the time, I didn't really realize what all "competing" entailed, but I was intrigued. It was just the kind of thing I yearned for... a way to make something I loved (training at the gym) into a competitive sport.

So long story short, I tried and failed to compete my first go around. For various reasons, I just wasn't where I needed to be. I had lost too much weight and lost my drive for why I decided to work toward competing in the first place. Just like anything, when you lose sight of the "why", you need to take a step back and readjust... because the "why" is what fuels everything you do (I don't care what anyone else has to say about it). So with that, I took some time off, changed my mindset, and geared up for a second go around. I met Tim shortly after this "revamp" of my mentality, which worked out well because his passion for training helped to fuel me and prepare me to compete again. I competed in two figure competitions, winning overall in my first show, and taking third place in my class at my second show last April. Bodybuilding is definitely not for everyone, but there is something so fulfilling about it for me. Although I am not setting my sights on a show anytime soon, I definitely plan on going at it again when I have the time, mindset, and energy to put in 110%, because I refuse to do anything less.

As far as where I am right now, I am starting to feel like I am truly settling into a place where I feel comfortable and confident in my ability in the gym. I have taken a different approach to training geared toward powerlifting. I yearned to better my technique and get stronger, even when I was training for bodybuilding shows. So I couldn't help but give powerlifting a try. When I trained for bodybuilding, it was all high reps and sets geared toward aesthetics. You are not training to get stronger, you are training to look good on stage. I have realized very quickly how addicting strength is through this new training style... especially once I established true PR's (personal records) and then I surpass them. It is motivating and it truly makes lifting more of a competition for myself. I think that too many people get tangled up in being better than others instead of trying to focus on the only competition that matters... themselves. This type of competition is exactly what I am looking for right now...

In the last 6 months or so I have become significantly stronger and established more stable and consistent form with all three of the major lifts (bench, squat and deadlift). Regardless of whether I have my bodybuilding hat or powerlifiting hat on, my passion and dedication to make the most of my training is still there. The end goal is still the same regardless of what path I choose to take to get there. I plan on sharing my training and some insight here moving forward, so stay tuned!

Jess