JJ: Quite honestly, I’ve always been active. As a toddler, I was right alongside my Mom as she was working out to her Jane Fonda workout videos! Crunching away, doing jumping jacks and leg lifts- you name it, and I was trying to mock whatever exercise she was doing. At the age of 3 I started gymnastics, and for the next 12 years I could be found in my leotard and spandex, as I focused, trained 5-6 days a week and competed in countless gymnastics meets. Once I stopped competing, I knew I needed an outlet for my energy as well as something else to aspire to achieve- all of those years and discipline spent training and preparing for my gymnastics competitions set me up for success in the gym, as once I started to weight train at the age of 16, I was hooked and intent on achieving my goals! Working out just a few days a week to “look cute” was never my goal- I wanted to be the best me that I could, both health and fitness wise as well as my physique. Upon picking up a Muscle & Fitness magazine and then Oxygen, immediately I was mesmerized by the physiques of the women pictured, namely Monica Brant (at that time she had just won the Fitness Olympia title) and it was then that I decided that I would step on stage to compete as well! It’s been over a decade since I first spotted these magazines and was inspired to compete- I’ve had my share of fitness ups and downs over these years but finally stepped on stage to compete for the first time in June 2011 and haven’t looked back since!
You are a competitive fitness athlete who is currently ranked 4th amongst the Top WBFF Pro Fitness athletes in the world. Describe all the hard work that went into this and what does it mean to be a top athlete in fitness?
JJ: I often say “I’m always a work in progress” and I believe that to be true in all aspects of life, but especially fitness. As evidenced by my transformation- mine was a bit different than most since I went from being fit with my 6 pack abs, to overweight and at an unhealthy body fat percentage, and now a competitive fitness athlete, my fitness journey and physique has always (and still is) a work in progress! I truly love working out and putting forth all of the hard work and dedication it takes to compete among top fitness athletes in the world. I never once take any of this for granted, and am constantly focused on challenging myself and taking my fitness to the next level. I train with the same intensity year-round- whether I’m preparing for a competition, a photo shoot, or just in general to stay healthy & fit, I’m constantly pushing myself to beat my last workout. I don’t compare myself to anyone but myself and always strive to be better than the person I was yesterday.
You signed with Cellucor Sports Nutrition as well as Dcore Fitness Apparel. What did a sponsorship deal mean to you?
JJ: It’s truly an honor to have signed with Cellucor Sports Nutrition! Cellucor is one of the premier brands in the supplement industry today- all of the products are top notch, high quality that deliver the results we’re all after! Working with a brand that has such innovative vision (just in the past year alone we have launched a number of new products, including Bodybuilding.com’s 2012 Fat Loss Supplement of the Year, Cellucor Super HD) as well as the ability to truly connect with its consumers is an amazing experience. Working with Cellucor has provided me with a number of other opportunities, including teaming up with Bodybuilding.com to contribute content such as articles, workouts, and even a video featuring a workout for abs! Interacting with our consumers- Cellucor Nation- is both inspiring and motivating, as they love sharing feedback and results that they have achieved through the use of our products combined with our workouts, too! I partnered up with Dcore- a fitness apparel company based out of Sweden, late last year. I have always loved clothes and was constantly in search of workout gear that provided both style and function. Dcore does an outstanding job of encompassing both of these important factors, so signing on to be a part of their official Team Dcore as they launched the brand in the United States was a no-brainer. To add to the excitement, I am going to have a couple of Jen Jewell signature items coming out later this year! I’ve already seen a preview of one of the items, and am heading off to Sweden in a couple of weeks to collaborate with the head designer on other items in the women’s line. To have this type of opportunity with a company is truly a unique experience, and I cannot wait for the release of these items. As I mentioned I’ve always loved clothing (and fashion) and to think that I am going to have a few items as part of a Jen Jewell signature line? That is truly mind-boggling to me and I am very thankful for such an amazing opportunity!
As a former competitive gymnast, describe the intense fitness regimens of gymnasts.
JJ: I started taking gymnastics classes at the age of 3 and was involved in the sport until I was nearly 18 years old. By the age of 6, I was at the gymnastics center 4-5 days a week, and once I started to compete that shifted to 5 days a week of training and competition meets on Saturdays. My schedule was booked- and I loved it! I enjoyed the activity, practice and competitiveness of the training- each day I’d show up, determined to perform better than the day before, or master a move or flip that had eluded me the day prior. I had triceps, lats, and quads without ever setting foot in the weight room- my body was my weight room and I was flipping it around the floor, the beam, twirling it around the bar- building a solid foundation of muscle in the process. The determination, focus, and overall discipline required to excel in the sport is tremendous- and turns out, it was this type of training and preparation that I truly believe helped me during my preparation for my first fitness competition. The discipline and mind set required for each sport is extremely similar. As a gymnast you are competing as an individual, not on a team, so all of the pressure is on you to perform better than you did the time before- no teammates are going to come to your rescue to help increase your score. This same principle applies to fitness competitions- all of the work and preparation we put into each contest is a direct reflection of our own hard work and dedication.
Many people consider gymnasts as the strongest pound for pound athletes. They also have some of the best physiques. Why is this so?
JJ: As I mentioned, I had triceps, biceps, solid quads and calves without ever setting foot in a weight room. From the age of 3 I was upside down walking on my hands, bending over backwards (literally) to perform a flip, and sprinting down the runway to hurl my weight over a vault- all while trying to execute each move with as much precision and grace as possible. The static strength moves that were mandatory in nearly all of our routines, required us to muster every ounce of strength we had- if we failed to hold each move for the minimum amount of time, we failed that round entirely and our score would be impacted heavily as a result. When an individual is propelling their physique high enough in the air to perform a double back tuck (a back flip high enough into the air that your body actually fully performs two backflips before landing on the ground) you know their strength is outstanding. For a petite girl to fling herself from a lower bar and glide gracefully to the top of the high bar, swinging through handstands on the bar with ease- you can safely bet that they have full control of the mind-muscle connection and are utilizing their strength to their greatest ability. Gymnastics is one of the only sports where you truly utilize your entire body and therefore all of your muscles, during each event- be it the floor, beam, bars, or vault- if there’s a weak link in your physique it will be glaringly obvious as you won’t be able to properly perform the entire routine.
From instructing group fitness classes to working one-on-one with clients, you have been involved in the health and fitness industry for more than a decade. “Keeping fitness fun” is a top priority for you. Why is this a priority and what do you do to keep fitness fun?
JJ: Throughout my work in the fitness industry, I have worked with an array of clients. One thing that all of my clients have had in common is that, sooner or later, they end up getting bored with the same old thing (don’t we all?). I have clients that say they “hate” cardio. Is that client going to succeed if they are forced to go to the gym and walk or run on the treadmill 5 days a week? Perhaps at first, yes, when their motivation level is soaring and they cannot imagine anything getting in the way of achieving their fitness goals. After a few weeks of mindlessly walking on the treadmill, the workout is no longer fun or new, and that’s when the interest is likely to twindle. I tell clients to look for cardio in a variety of ways- for some that could be taking their kids to the park and playing games, running around outside, etc., whereas for others they may enjoy a spinning class or taking their bike for a spin outdoors when weather permits. It could even be as simple as creating a new cardio challenge for them to perform on a piece of cardio equipment at the gym. Do they always do the elliptical? Well tell them to get the heck off and not to get on another elliptical for the next few weeks and to see how many flights of stairs they can “climb” on the step mill instead. Find a running buddy, sign up for a race- if Zumba is your thing and you want to shake it to burn those calories, as long as you’re having fun and making an effort, chances are you’ll stick to it more so than an activity that you dread! I’ve even taken trapeze classes before, simply to add in something new and take a day or so away from the gym from time to time. When it comes to weights, if I’m getting a bit bored with using dumbbells, I’ll set a new challenge for myself and do workouts for a week of just bodyweight exercises, then maybe another week of cables or TRX to spice things up. Constantly mixing up my workout so that it doesn’t fall into a “routine” and become boring and mundane has been extremely effective for me when it comes to having fun, and making sure my physique doesn’t hit a plateau. I’ll apply these same tactics with my clients, too. The more we mix it up, the more fun they have and the more likely they are to stick to their programs- which in turn only means more results!
Your clientele is diverse and you do a bunch of different kinds of training with them. What about when it comes to dieting?
JJ: When it comes to my clientele, the most important thing about all of the programs that I create is that whatever I customize for them, it is balanced, as well as realistic for their lifestyle and goals. I always ask clients for more details about their lifestyle- does their occupation require them to dine out with clients/customers on a regular basis? Do they have time to prep food each week, and if so, how much time? Are they on the go and need some quick ‘go to’ meal options when on the road? I even ask them to list food items that they would consider to be “deal breakers” because they would never ever eat them, in order to ensure that their meal programs consist of food that they actually enjoy! All of these details factor in to how I create programs for each and every one of them. If a client works 12 hour days and is constantly going to business lunches or dinners, it is not practical or realistic for me to create a meal plan requiring them to be strict and everything prepared from scratch in their own kitchens. This only increases the stress brought on by a new program and can act as another obstacle. Instead, in situations like this, I’ve created a complete guideline to eating out (including an array of ethnic cuisine, steakhouses, sushi, you name it) and listed out clear instructions of what to order when they dine out. This has helped a number of my clients tremendously! Also, making sure that all of my clients are satisfied, never hungry, and that their energy levels are up- even when “dieting” to lose weight/body fat, is especially important to me. I never want any of my clients to be miserable while they are on their fitness journey- we need proper fuel for our bodies to get through all of those booty kickin’ workouts and more, afterall!
You also do online personal training and other unique approaches to working with your clients. How has this worked out for you?
JJ: Online training has truly allowed me to reach a number of people worldwide that I otherwise would not have had the chance to interact with. Sure, one-on-one personal training is a ton of fun, interacting with the clients in-person and seeing their results up close is amazing, but through online training I’ve been able to help even MORE people with their fitness than I am simply by working only with clients here in the LA area. The programs that I create for all of my clients are extremely detailed- I simply refuse to write workouts that consist of going up and down a row of machines- talk about boring! Plus, there are so many more efficient ways to train- it just takes a little bit more time and creativity when writing the workouts in order to describe each exercise (many of them unique and some form of a combo I’ve created) with enough detail that the client will be able to read it and execute the move properly. Also, I can provide video links to the exercises as well, in case the description is still not up to par (although I have had to do this less than 5 times over the past year) and am always accessible by email or Skype for clients, too! Any time my clients have questions regarding their meals, workouts, etc., they shoot me over a quick email and I make sure to send back a thorough response. Just because I am not working with them in person on a daily basis doesn’t mean I interact with them any less during the process of helping them reach their fitness goals- if anything, the constant emails or Skype sessions allow for greater interaction than simply the one hour session a few times a week in person would!
You have an interesting story about preparing for your first fitness competition. Can you tell us this story?
JJ: Do you want the short version or the long version? Haha…well, ever since high school (and reading my first Muscle and Fitness magazine and discovering Monica Brant’s amazingly fit physique) I had wanted to compete in a fitness competition. For a variety of reasons I had always put it off (mostly because I had an overwhelming sense of self-doubt and was scared out of my mind to take a chance and put myself out there like that- to be judged based on my physique and compared to all of the other toned, taut physiques that were gracing the stage) and a full decade went by before I finally decided that it was now or never- I HAD to take a chance and compete or else I knew I’d always regret it! I selected a show, and prepared specifically for the contest for exactly 12 weeks. During this prep, I was not working in the fitness industry. In fact, I was working as a medical sales representative, operating a territory that encompassed the majority of Northern California. On any given day, Monday-Friday, I was logging an excess of 150, 250- even 400+ miles roundtrip sitting in my car driving throughout my territory from one client’s office to the next. This situation was definitely not ideal for anyone trying to stick to a solid contest prep diet and excess workouts that the training required. However, I had made up my mind and was bound and determined that this time I was going for it and was going all of the way to that competition stage. Since I was often working 12+ hours a day, this meant waking up by 4 AM (often even earlier, depending where in my territory I had to be that day) to hit the gym for my first round of cardio. Off to work I’d go, sometimes driving 3 hours (and yes, that meant packing an entire day’s worth of meals in my cooler that was kept in my backseat, too!) before reaching my first appointment. Another meal down, protein shakes on the go- if anyone’s ever eaten cold tilapia and veggies in their car they can attest that it is definitely not a delicious meal, but this was all part of the program. My lunch break (that is, if I wasn’t taking clients out for a business lunch that day) would consist of me working out at whatever the closest gym in the city I was in that day was, and then hopping back in my car to finish off the rest of the appointments that day, then heading home to complete my computer work. Oh and did I mention after all of that, round 2 of cardio? While this left me with little to no time for a social life (aside from a weekly date with my best girl friend every Sunday in order to catch up and stay in the loop at least a bit), I reminded myself that this was something I had wanted to go after for over a decade- I’m pretty sure that 12 weeks of sacrifice and extreme discipline wasn’t going to be the end of the world- in fact, it turned out to be far more rewarding than I ever could have imagined! 12 weeks of a jam-packed schedule, complete with trips cross country for work meetings (where yes, I continued on with my meal program like a champ- requesting a microwave and fridge in my room ahead of time and walking to the nearest grocery store for egg whites, oats, veggies and other clean eating essentials) along with a few other obstacles thrown my way, and suddenly it was time to travel (again) cross country for the contest! A complete nervous wreck the entire morning of the show, I calmed myself down by reminding myself that no matter what happened at the end of the day, I had already won simply by stepping on stage that day. After all, this had been a decade in the making- what did I have to lose? Turns out, I didn’t- I stepped on stage with The WBFF for my first competition and ended up being awarded my Pro card that night!
What do you believe should make up a majority of a woman’s diet so she could stay fit and lean?
JJ: Honestly, I think the key to staying fit and lean year-round- none of this “on season” or “off season” talk- is to always maintain a healthy, balanced approach to your nutrition. I always include plenty of protein at every meal- I aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound that I weigh, but typically get even more than that on a daily basis. I always include healthy fats, fruits, veggies, whole grains and even Quest bars (those are my favorite!). I also think that in order to stay fit and lean year-round it is imperative that we never restrict ourselves too much from specific foods, or even our favorite (indulgent) foods, either. No, I don’t mean that you should go grab that brownie ice cream sundae each and every time you’d like to, or eat pizza five times a week, but making sure to include my favorites throughout each week has been key for me to stay on point and never have to worry about that “off season” fluff that seems to run so rampant throughout the industry. I’d be in big trouble if I abided by the on/off season plan- right now The WBFF only has one Pro show a year for me to do- 10 months out of the year to be ‘off season’ would sure spell trouble!
What do you like doing in your free time?
JJ: Living here in Southern California, there is always so much to do! I love taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and being active outdoors- from the beach, to hikes, to workouts outdoors at a neighborhood park, the options are limitless, and I love it! I have a surfboard and wet suit that I need to take out for adventures on the ocean on a more regular basis and I’m scheduled to take a paddle boarding/surfing class in the next few weeks. Anything to get me outdoors! There are also a ton of museums nearby that are constantly showcasing new exhibits (I love art- in fact I almost had enough college credits in art to have earned a minor in it, too!) and a variety of cultural events. Call me an undercover bookworm, but I’ve always loved to read and thoroughly enjoyed the learning process during school. Current events, politics, business news- you name it and I’m reading up about it, too! Spending time with family, friends and loved ones is also key. I love to travel- my goal this year is to visit at least 10 new places (major cities/countries) I’ve never been before. So far I’ve knocked out 2 new spots, and in a few weeks am adding more to the list- I can’t wait!
What are your future goals both personally and professionally?
JJ: As of right now, I’ve been working back in the field of fitness full-time for a year, and I am so excited for all that is to come! Throughout this past year alone I’ve been able to work with and reach more people than I ever would have imagined, in large part to social media. I’ve been successfully operating my customized online training business and have clients in countries worldwide, and I work with anyone from former coach potatoes, people wanting to take their fitness to the next level, celebrities, athletes and fitness competitors. I am also working on a fitness project that will launch in the first few months of 2013- it’s a bit top secret for now, as it is something that has been a goal of mine since I battled with my own weight and fitness levels. I’m excited because it is my own creation and something of great importance to me- and will hopefully be able to help others welcome fitness, clean eating and more into their lives. My goal is to make fitness a reality for everyone- even those that may deem it impossible or far too much of a challenge to conquer- and this new project is one step closer to helping others achieve their own transformations! Honestly, I’m just ecstatic about working in the fitness field and being able to help others reach their goals. I’ve been on both sides of the health and fitness spectrum, so I know how much it means to my clients when they come to me, determined and with a goal. Helping others achieve their goals means the world to me, and my clients are a constant source of inspiration! Stay tuned, much more ahead! With newly heightened levels of self-motivation and determination, you never know what will happen next! Personally, I am going to make sure that I start traveling more often, like I used to. The past year or so, focusing more so on fitness and building my business (again, I started all over from working in corporate America to a full on career change now working in fitness- it’s been fun, challenging and has definitely been what I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy towards these past 1-2 years) has not allowed for me to take as much time away to travel- and this year I’m changing all of that! I already have travel plans for Sweden and Denmark on the books- and am looking to figure out what new destination in the Caribbean I’m going to check out as well! I’m also going to be putting on Fitness Jewell Training camps or seminars later in the year- any location (city, country) is up as a possible location to hold one of these events. This way I’m able to help others with fitness AND get to travel the world in the process! Definitely a win-win!
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