THE 355
Athleisure Mag|December 2020
FROM THE STUDIO THAT BROUGHT YOU JASON BOURNE

We've all had many stories to share about this year and looking into next year which is par for the course when it comes to this time of year. Of course with what we have gone through this year as a global community, stepping into 2021 in the most optimized way is definitely something that we're looking to do around the office of Athleisure Mag! That entails a series of efforts that combine mind, body and soul.

We caught up with one of our favorites Jen Widerstrom Celebrity Fitness Trainer, TV Personality, Best Selling Author, Entrepreneur and Fitness Expert who we have enjoyed since seeing her as Phoenix on NBC's American Gladiators, the undefeated trainer on NBC's The Biggest Loser, as a bestselling author and having the ability to take classes led by her in years past. Her approach to motivating people and joining her clients journey in their transformation is no surprise to us!

We're looking forward to taking her 60 day challenge with Transformation Protein beginning Jan 5th - Mar 5th to hit our goals and prepare to be our best selves in 2021. We talk with Jen about how she got into the industry, how she navigated the landscape, the importance of mentorship and being inspired and giving back to others.

ATHLEISURE MAG: We know that you love being able to engage and help people. Can you tell us how you found your way into the fitness industry?

JEN WIDERSTROM: You know, it was such an accident girl! I was always involved in sports growing up and we always had a set of weights in the basement. We still do! Movement was a part of my life and my parents who are in their 70’s have their own garden plot. They grow their own vegetables. Being physical was always present early on but fitness was different. I was working out for performance in a sport or to look good for TV for American Gladiators and stuff like that. What really happened was that I came to LA after American Gladiators in 2008, I said, I've made it. I am famous, this is great. I was 24 and I was in the greenest pasture right now. The show went off the air and I didn’t have any money to stay. I started teaching classes at this local little fitness studio called Pulse Fitness Studio that’s here in Sherman Oaks. They’re still rocking and rolling. It was great because I could have a free gym membership as I couldn’t afford one in LA and I had no money. I needed to pay my bills and I needed a gym membership.

That was it. I started out of reasons for necessity – financial. Then, I just realized that it wasn’t just about the weight loss but the pride in being able to see the changes and the person that came along with movement. I saw them just being able to open up and just starting to see what a beautiful motivator this was right? The ability to accomplish and to do. Waistlines will always change as that’s a side effect of the real work and when I saw that, I never looked back. I thought, “oh my gosh, there’s an impact here that’s far greater then I have ever given credit for.” Doing the group classes in the valley, turned into doing DVD’s for Men’s and Women’s Health to being a MSN Health person to being on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. I’ve been very lucky and honestly, that’s just where it started.

AM: We remember when you were Phoenix on American Gladiator! How was it to be on such a physical show?

JW: Headline – dream come true! You have to realize that I was born in 1982. I mean we’re talking about Zap, Jazz – these fit strong women and then you’ve got Gemini and Nitro – who’s better than Nitro – Dan Clark was great! I was just obsessed and I always wanted to be a contestant – always wanted to be on the show. I think that I have been a Gladiator 3 times for Halloween. When I actually got to do the show, I really felt that I had made it, I could literally die happy and that I got to do everything that I wanted to be able to do. It was a blast and it was special for a number of reasons. I met some incredible people. Very few times does a cast and production meld so well together. Dave Hurwitz was our producer and he had been doing MTV’s Fear Factor and he was such a class act. All of the people like former MMA fighter Gina Carano, known as Crush (Deadpool, Fast & Furious 6, The Mandalorian) and Beth Horn known as Venom, Valerie Waugaman known as Siren – all the women were just wonderful people. They were great in the industry and everybody was somebody. Hollywood Yates known as Wolf, was a professional rodeo clown. We had stunt people and then there was me. I was like, “I’m a bartender in Chicago.” I had no idea how I got this job and I was excited.

But it was good and there was a lot of pressure! These were live tapings and youdidn’t get redo’s. So you’re out there and you’re in the rings with contestants. If they get by you, you look dumb! There was real pressure and there was no faking it. We really got after it so it was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of intense competition – no doubt!

AM: Obviously on the Biggest Loser, why did you like being on this show? Once again, it was great watching you on this show as the amount of care that you gave and the fact that you were an undefeated trainer is mind blogging.

JW: It’s funny because it was a scary show. There was no other biggest show in our field. What I loved about it was the people – my contestants and also those that were on the other teams as well. I realized very quickly that I wasn’t here to fill Jillian Michael’s shoes, to replicate what Bob Harper has done – I had to do me. I mean talk about a formula for life – do you and that’s scary you know. Will you like me, will I be invited to the birthday party? Am I accepted for who I am and what I have shared? I was really scared because I had not been on TV in that way and I had never been in that scenario. The one thing that I knew was that if I put my people first, if they were my focus it would be right. If you ask anyone that I have trained in the decades that I have worked, ask anyone and they would tell you the same that my contestants would – they were my focus and I just knew that the rest would take care of itself. People were able to see my care and my heart and that came across the screen so clearly. I said, do whatever you want with the cameras. I still talk to them every day. I have group threads with all of my teams and we’ll do little challenges like Team Jen versus Team Jen. Colby and Hope Wright (Biggest Loser Season 17), they were contestants on the show and they were struggling to get pregnant before their show and they just had their first child. I love being involved in their lives and when I have had hard days, I can call them and they are truly family to me. That really comes down to the favorite part – the relationships that I made were real and now they’re in their own lives and the effects continue to ripple in their own communities of wellness and being able to inspire others.

AM: How would you define your approach or methodologies that you use when it comes to training your clients whether it’s in person or virtually?

JW: I think that for me, I don’t know when this happened, but at some point health and weight loss got hard and confusing. That happens in media because it’s sales and marketing and people want you to be able to buy their stuff and my approach is, take away the mystery, take away the fear and just really show people, base line health. It’s not very hard to take care of yourself and people get very nervous about failure and I just take the judgement away. There’s no judgment, there’s nothing to be afraid of and I really teach people to be students of the experience and of themselves. I start there because the rest takes care of itself.

Think about a kid learning to do a cartwheel. How many times do they do a cartwheel before they actually get it? They may never get it, but they never stop trying. They’re not judging themselves and I thought that we had to bring that back. The ability to say, “hey, I’m not a failure, I’m learning and I’m trying.” The way that I actually equate it which really helped me is that I used to be really fluent in Spanish and of course, I forgot everything. When

I started to teach myself again, I was feeling stupid because my pronunciation was off or I wasn’t conjugating correctly or I said “la” when it should have been “el” – the fear of trying and looking foolish with the language became a light bulb for me with health and weight loss. They’re afraid of looking foolish and afraid to tell their friends that they are doing to do this now – going to the gym. People aren’t looking for you to fail but we get it in our heads sometimes that we are going to look dumb and that the failure is something that we can’t take it – why? Treat it like a kid during cartwheels. Keep trying. I always tell people that the great thing about the wagon is that I always let you back on it! Always! I think my approach is really putting a curiosity, the minds of the students in front to remove the judgment and just keep showing up. We all get stuck. I’m trying to normalize some of those bumps in the road. That’s what gives people the chance to learn. It’s all mental – it’s all behavior.

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