1. Hi Jessie! Please tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana. I feel as though this gives me a special connection to both Steph and Charlene as they have lived in, and still have ties to, Great Falls as well. They “get me.” When introducing myself, I also like to point out that I was raised by my grandma. It’s important to me that she gets credit for the person I have become. I’m confident saying that I wouldn’t be here, or have had the same opportunities, if it weren’t for her.
My husband and I moved to Alaska from Washington D.C. three-and-a-half years ago. I’m a lawyer and we moved there because of a job opportunity. We lived in D.C. for three years and enjoyed our time there, but just didn’t see it as a long term option. We moved to Anchorage without any connections and really enjoy it. We’ve bought a house, now have three dogs, and have no plans to leave.
2. When did you join Figarelle’s Fitness, and what motivated you to seek us out?
I joined Figarelle’s Fitness last April 2014. I was looking for something to really challenge me and push me to another level of fitness. I’m a pretty active person in that I enjoy skiing, hiking, playing softball, etc. My fitness level and weight have fluctuated over the years, mostly staying on the not so great side of things, and I was tired of that. Plus, since moving to Alaska and getting a German Shepherd (one of our three dogs), I had become very active in a dog sport called Schutzhund. For the protection phase of the sport, you need a “helper” to “work” the dog.
For lack of a better description, the “helper” serves as the “bad guy” and there are various challenges the helper presents to the dog to test their temperament and drive. Although it’s a sport, Schutzhund is meant to serve as a breed suitability test for dogs like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinios. The dogs that are titled in this sport will often be bred and produce more sport dogs, as well as dogs that go on to be police K9s and military working dogs.
After getting started in Schutzhund, I wanted to become a helper. Although there are a lot of female handlers, the helper side of things is really male dominated. I quickly learned that I needed to be stronger, faster, and in better overall shape if I wanted to be a good helper and someone that could work dogs without hurting them or myself.
I had been looking at places online and Figarelle’s Fitness kept coming up. I read a bunch of the transformation stories on the blog and really wanted to be like one of the people on the blog. I also found this photo that called to me. It was a picture of four girls in their sports bra after a small group workout. They looked amazing. They looked happy, had abs, and tons of muscle. I finally got the courage to email Steph, went to my first boot camp, and eventually joined the same small group that had produced the picture. I now workout regularly with two of the four girls that were in that picture and they inspire me every day. It’s wonderful. In July, I will serve as one of the helpers for our club trial. I believe I will be the first female in Alaska to work dogs during an actual trial.
3. You attend both Boot Camp and Small Group Personal training. What are some of your favorite things about both of those programs?
I enjoy boot camp because it’s different every day and we never know what to expect. The group also makes it fun because people are cheer leading and encouraging each other on and it seems like somebody is accomplishing something for the first time during every session. It’s awesome to be a part of that.
I enjoy small group for similar reasons. It’s so much fun to workout with such amazing women every week. We joke, we laugh, we get serious, and we lift heavy. There are no barriers in that room. There are no stereotypes about what women can or cannot do. If you want to accomplish something, there is nobody judging you or telling you no. Instead, they are saying go for it and encouraging you every step of the way.
I also like how Steph continues to push me past points I never thought I would reach. I used to mentally question whether I could do something when she said “do you want to add 10 more pounds?” Now, I just say okay. I’m no longer afraid of failure because I know that failure is really you just getting one step closer to success. I can push myself harder in small group, when she is there to help and support me, than I can when I am at home working out by myself.
4. What progress are you most proud of making in the last 3 months?
I’m happy and comfortable with myself. I can’t say enough about Steph, Lela, and Charlene and just the Figarelle’s Fitness family in general. The change for me has been mental just as much as it has been physical. Of course there are things I would still like to change, but I see them in more of a positive than a negative light.
I no longer call myself fat, slow or ugly. Instead, I am happy with what I see in the mirror looking back at me. What I want to change is I want more muscle. I want to be stronger. I want to lift more. I’m not trying to change something that I see negatively, but I’m trying to turn positive into even more positive. It’s kinda amazing as I don’t think there has been a time in my life where I have felt this comfortable in my own skin.
5. You were one of our Winter Transformation winners during the holidays. What were your 3 goals for that challenge, and did you accomplish them?
My goals were to: (1) lose 4% body fat; (2) complete one pull-up; and (3) run a 5K. I accomplished all three of my goals! At the end of the challenge, I ended up losing 5.9% body fat and remember being really surprised by that. Although I had been logging my food and really trying to stay within my nutritional plan, I hadn’t been losing weight as fast as I thought I should. I was a little disappointed by that and thought I wouldn’t even get to my 4% goal. When Steph showed me the 5.9% number I was so happy and then a light bulb went off. I finally realized that the number on the scale isn’t all that important. Now I pay a lot more attention to progress photos and the way my clothes fit then what the scale tells me.
6. How has your diet changed since joining FF? Do you have any nutrition tips for those who may be struggling to get their diet in order?
The biggest thing is I have a far better understanding of how much and what I should be eating. Prior to joining Figarelle’s I had counted calories, and at one point I had even joined Weight Watchers. Although I had some success with those things, I had no idea what I needed to be eating to either sustain the program or reach my goals. I didn’t pay attention to my macros, and I am certain I wasn’t getting as much protein as I needed.
Now I log what I eat every day and I pay attention to the macros. Even if I’m a little off on my fat or carbs, I make sure that I hit my protein goal every day. Like Steph says, I need to feed my muscles! I also cook a lot more, and I’m actually starting to like it. (If my grandma were still alive, she would love this. She always wanted to teach me about cooking, and I used to hate it). I’ve found that I can have a lot of foods that I like, but I just need to either cook it myself or cook it slightly different so that I can fit it into my meal plan. I’ve discovered things like cauliflower and spaghetti squash, food that never even entered my grocery cart, but are now regulars in my diet. And they are delicious!
For those that are struggling, I would give a plug for Myfitnesspal. Start there, and log everything you eat. It’s so educational as far as teaching you where your macros are coming from. Then read and become informed. Figure out what your calorie intake should be as well as your macros, and do your best to meet those “goals” every day. If you are dedicated to your plan, you will see progress.
7. What are some of your favorite exercises? How about favorite body parts to work?
Oh my gosh, there are so many. First, I’ve discovered that I love lifting weights, and I love to lift heavy. So right now, I am really digging the trap bar deadlift as well as the incline barbell bench press. I’ve made some substantial gains in those the last couple of weeks—reaching new PRs—and it just pushes me to work even harder. I also like the stiff leg deadlift. It’s tough, it gets my heart rate up, and I can really feel it working my core as well.
As far as favorite body part to work, I’m going to go with biceps. The reason being is that I love the pump that comes from really working hard and pushing yourself. Sometimes my arms feel like they are going to explode. I know I’ve had a good workout then. Plus, it’s fun to flex in the mirror when your arms look huge.
Some of my favorite bootcamp exercises are the rope climb and burpees. Although I may grumble sometimes when a session of burpees comes up, I know deep down that this is one of the best exercises you can do and will just make the workout better. Gains don’t come from easy exercises; they come from the challenging ones.
8. Pull-ups have become one of your favorite exercises to do. What advice do you have for anyone who wants to do their first pull-up or increase their reps?
Yes! I heart the pull-up! As I mentioned before, one of my goals during the winter challenge was to complete ONE pull-up. I had never done one before, EVER. It was actually a little embarrassing for me, and I had given up. I just thought that it was one of those exercises that I was never going to be able to do. That’s totally BS. Anyone can do a pull-up; you just have to want it bad enough.
My advice is to practice. I bought a pull-up bar with some rubber bands that I could use for doing assisted pull-ups. At least five times a week I would do some negatives followed by some assisted pull-ups with my bands. I have three bands so I would do as many as I could do with one band, two bands, and then all three. When I first started working this, I needed all three to do even one assisted pull-up.
My other piece of advice is to practice perfect form. Now I am able to do pull-ups from a complete dead hang and that is because that is the only way I allowed myself to do it from the beginning. I know nothing different. I never started off from a chair or anything like that. I grab the bar, hang, and then pull.
Since the challenge I have worked up to being able to do five consecutive pull-ups by pretty much doing the same thing. And I have to say that I still get a little thrill of accomplishment every time I do just one. I practice pull-ups after every workout, and I also work sets of pull-ups into my routine, usually when I’m doing back stuff and we also do it during small group. I’ll do four sets of ten, doing as many unassisted as I can and then I’ll either use the bands or do negatives.
9. Do you workout on your own at home? What do you typically do for a workout on your own?
Yes. I have some equipment at home, including a barbell, bench, weights, kettle bells, and a treadmill that I use to come up with my own workouts. I typically develop workouts based on what I have learned in small group and boot camp, and I will base my home workouts on what my boot camp and small group schedule is for that week. Steph has also worked with me on developing some ideas for home workouts and I do those as well.
I work legs twice a week. If we are doing it in small group that week, I will plan one leg workout on my own and possibly incorporate exercises we didn’t do in small group. So, for example, if small group consisted of back barbell squats, bulgarian split squats, calf raises, and leg curls, my home workout may include front barbell squats, stiff leg deadlifts, leg extensions, overhead barbell squats, and alternating leg lunges.
Right now I am also creating workouts that focus more on areas, which will allow me to lift more days during the week and still have enough recovery time between workouts. So one day I may focus on shoulders, which could consist of shoulder presses, ITYs, lateral raises, dumbbell incline press, and the next day I may focus on biceps and triceps with curls, dips, skullcrushers, etc.
I typically use boot camp for my cardio sessions during the week, but because we are heading into the summer months, and I am dog training more, my boot camp schedule is a little off. If I can’t make my normal three boot camps per week, I’m trying to work a little more cardio into my home routine by doing some sprints on the treadmill or doing an accountability or white board exercise I got from boot camp.
10. What tips, or advice would you give to someone who wants to get in shape but doesn’t know where to begin? What has worked best for you in starting, and sticking with your fitness routine?
This is a tough question because, for me, I think it was a combination of things. Even after joining Figarelle’s there was about a 4-5 month period where I was making small progress, but I wasn’t yet fully committed. My nutrition and food plan were still off, and I wasn’t yet incorporating in my home workouts. We had a transformation challenge during the summer that I completed, but barely. Still, despite this, I was getting to know people that I really liked and admired. I saw the progress that they were making.
Steph, Lela, and Charlene continued to push me. This shift started to happen, and I wanted to commit myself fully to the Figarelle’s Fitness mentality and program. I wanted to contribute something to the awesomeness of Figarelle’s and be a member that they were proud of.
So, for the winter Transformation Challenge, I went all in. I came up with my three goals, developed a plan, logged my food into Myfitnesspal every day, attended boot camp and small group regularly, and even started working out on my own. I wanted to win this challenge. Sure enough, as I accumulated my weekly points during the challenge, I was also making progress both physically and mentality. People started to notice and comment on the change they were seeing and my confidence went up. Gains led to me wanting even more gains.
What worked for me is finding this amazing group of people that provide a supportive and fun environment. I have also found something that I really like to do and that is fun: lifting weights. Before, I used to think that the only way I could lose weight or get in shape was to get on the treadmill and run for a long long time. Eventually I would get bored of that, hate working out, stop, and get fat again. I don’t run on the treadmill for long periods of time anymore, and I have no problem motivating myself to go to boot camp, small group, or to get up at 5 am so I can fit in a workout on my own. I love the process, and I love how it makes me feel. I think the combination of these things have helped me find a routine that I can stick with and maintain.