Interview with Figure Competitor Jennifer Ritchie

Worth the Weight: Jennifer Ritchie gets ready to pump up for her photoshoot at the 2010 Jr. Nationals.

Like a true personal trainer, Jennifer Ritchie reminds women that weight is just a number and it’s more about how you feel. A worthy sentiment coached by the 33-year-old figure competitor, made better by the outstanding example she sets of how great you can look and feel by following a dedicated fitness path.

Catching up with her recently for this interview, she talked about her sports history, which began early on with gymnastics and grew during school, where gym class would become one of her favorites and her natural competitiveness blossomed. By the time high school rolled around, she was playing on both the volleyball and basketball teams while also pounding her running shoes against the track circle.

With such a prolific athletic background, it’s hard to imagine Jennifer ever worrying about weight. But only human when asked about stats, Jennifer acquiesced saying she hates the scale. Ironic, since at 5-foot-7, 150 pounds off season and 135 on stage—either way looking like a beautiful brunette-haired tower of athletic curves and steely muscle—it’s more likely the scale hates her.

This year, Jennifer is pausing her figure pursuits to spend more time being a mom and inspired role model to her two children, although that’s not to suggest she’s been entirely on the inactive list. This past May, she tried her hand at obstacle course races and won the Quad City FitFest in her hometown of Moline, Illinois. “It was a very small obstacle course race, but very fun!” she said.

Just like being back in gym class.


Dean: Were you always active and fit growing up? What kind of activities or sports were you involved in when you were younger?

Jennifer: “I was active growing up, involved in gymnastics when I was really young (until I became too big) haha. In jr. high I played volleyball and basketball, and in high school I added track. I loved gym class and also loved finding some friendly competition in class, not just on the court!! I remember when we had to do the mile, I would always have a couple guys following me for my pace time. I loved showing the boys up!!”

Dean: When did you first begin working out with weights and thinking about fitness as a lifestyle?

Jennifer: “I did a little lifting in high school, but after my first baby I decided to hire a trainer and start lifting. I had always been a cardio queen, but not lifting. I remember thinking, ‘man I love this feeling, I miss this.’ That was when I was around 21.”

Dean: How did the changes feel when you started developing more strength and muscle?

Gym Rat: The personal trainer and figure competitor recently added obstacle course races to her athlete profile.

Jennifer: “It wasn’t till I was in my late 20’s that I started lifting more often and heavier weights, and changing up my nutrition to get that ‘cut’ look. The changes took time, but eventually I started to feel and look different and that felt amazing!!”

Dean: What motivated you to try competing in figure and when did you start? Did you have a role model in the industry that inspired you?

Jennifer: “What motivated me was knowing I’m a strong woman and that doing a competition was going to be a challenge and I was up for it (or so I thought). It took me four tries to get past three weeks of the diet. I thought to myself ‘omg, get yourself together and do this.’ Twelve weeks later, I was on that stage for my first show. At that time I didn’t really have a role model. I knew a couple other girls in my gym that were doing them [competitions] and I wanted to try one!”

Dean: What changes to your physique have made you most proud so far and what areas are you trying to improve?

Jennifer: “Well, my first show I had no v-taper so I’ve worked really hard on my back and shoulders. My trouble spot, which by the way every girl loves to talk about, would be my butt. Always working on that!!”

Dean: What kind of reaction have you gotten from family and friends on your healthy look and habits? Have you inspired anyone you know to begin working out?

Jennifer: “My reaction from family is friends is mixed. I think a lot of people don’t understand this sport, the physical or mental part of it! And other people are just so proud of your hard work and dedication. I think most of all I inspire my 14-year-old son to stay fit; he is beginning to lift some with me now and I want to cherish that time! But both my boys and my husband have seen the dedication it takes to do this sport!”

Dean: Could you share a memory when you surprised someone with your physique or strength?

Jennifer: “My best and funniest memory is when I was at a soccer tourney with my son and I had two weeks from a competition, so I had to go use the workout room in the hotel which was in the swimming pool area. The boys on the team had never seen Skyler’s mom working out like that (even though I did their workouts). They were, like, ‘omg your mom’s a beast.’ Don’t know about that word but at the time I’m, like, ‘yeah, I am and don’t you forget it.’”

Dean: What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows you plan to compete in?

Jennifer: “I’m taking a break right now, training a little in other areas for obstacle-type course races. But for the most part enjoying my family. Shows do take so much time away. I’ll be back at it again at some point.”

Dean: Do you have any thoughts on the new physique division?

Jennifer: “The only thought I have on the new division is I think with bikini, figure (some have model) and bodybuilding, there is already a lot of subjective judging. To put another category in and you have to try to figure out what the heck the judges are looking for, I think it can get confusing.”

Dean: What would you say are your biggest goals with working out and being involved in the fitness industry?

Jennifer on starting in figure: “What motivated me was knowing I’m a strong woman and that doing a competition was going to be a challenge and I was up for it.”

Jennifer: “My biggest goals are to workout for me and not anyone else. That took sometime for me to realize. This industry is very critical and sometimes you have to go back to ‘why did I start this in the first place?’ If something great happens for me in the industry, fine. If not, that’s ok too, because I have learned a lot about myself, and I’m healthy and get to teach my clients how to live a normal, healthy lifestyle.”

Dean: Is there anything else we can help you promote (website, sponsors, personal training business, etc.) or any special shout-outs you’d like to give?

Jennifer: “I would like to give a big shout out to my boys, Skyler and Kyden, and my husband Levi, for being as understanding as possible when I’m doing a show! I love you all!!”


~ by Dean Sucich on October 21, 2011.

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