About Jen: I recently turned 30 years old!!! I am just a hair over 5’2. My NEW offseason weight is 120, which may be higher depending on how close we are to the holidays. At Nationals, I weighed 114 the morning of the show, hoping to be about the same weight and 2% leaner for the next show I do. I was born in Hinsdale, Ill., a suburb about 25 min from downtown Chicago.
Let’s pick up where we left off last time by continuing a discussion with the tremendously inspiring new figure competitor Jen Moriarty. The beautiful and determined 30-year-old shares a compelling story about how fitness has significantly impacted her life, helping her overcome some devastating injuries and scary illnesses of late. She is, by far, one of the up and coming stars of the division going into this season—and a plucky girl to root for as much for her tenacious spirit as for her warm smile.
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Dean: I read that you got into competing as a way to get back in shape after suffering injuries in a car accident. Your comeback is very inspiring. What have been some of the hardest challenges, physically and emotionally, that you’ve had to overcome to get where you are?
Jen: My injuries included a spinal fracture and herniated disks, as well as nerve damage and muscular tears. I had SO much scar tissue in my muscles and connective tissue when I first started trying to get in shape, I was pretty much covered in ice packs when I wasn’t in the gym. Obviously, this was incredibly physically and emotionally challenging. I was concerned about my goal to overcome the odds—was I pushing too hard? Would I injure myself more severely?
I spent $30k on spinal rehab and was told by the best doctors I could find that I should accept that I had new limitations. That never sat well with me and I continued to stay consistent with my training and rehabilitation work (foam rolling, icing, chiropractic, etc), because I noticed even though I was in pain, my function was improving. My left tricep and rear delt were completely numb for about three years after the accident, but through working out and focusing on those muscles I started to be able to control them again. I kept going because the cleaner I ate, the more I moved, and the stronger I got, the less I needed pain killers and muscle relaxants. And now I take no medications :-)
Dean: You mentioned competing at Nationals even though you were pretty sick with the flu at the time. Yet you still managed amazingly to finish third in your class! First of all, glad you are feeling better and second, how were you able to tough-it-out and get through the show?
Jen: Thank you! Yeah, on the drive down to Atlanta I started to get achy and feverish. I did everything I could to boost my immune system. Friday, I thought I had beat it. I looked in the mirror and knew I was about to bring my best package ever to the stage the next morning. My glutes were separated, hams tight, upper body full. I woke up Saturday feeling like a train wreck. Going through my poses in the morning with my coach, we noticed my muscles were cramping and I couldn’t hold my poses; I was clammy, my upper body had shrunk and my lower body had smoothed out.
But I had truly put everything I had for 12 weeks into this package, and I wasn’t going to let a virus get in the way! Unfortunately, about 15 minutes before I got on stage, my fever spiked; my body started feeling like it had been run over by a semi and I got severe shakes. I centered myself and told myself ‘just 10 minutes, and then you can rest!’ I was diagnosed with influenza-A, bronchitis, and a sinus infection. This is the sickest I have been in my adult life. But if a broken back couldn’t keep me off stage, this certainly wasn’t going to stop me! I am so grateful that my hard work paid off at Nationals, and I am extremely thankful and pleased with my placing. I was in a TOUGH class! All the ladies looked amazing!
Dean: I see this is only your second year competing but you’ve already built quite an impressive contest resume. What do you think of your results so far and did you ever dream your competitive journey would begin like this?
Jen: I actually just completed my first year. My first show was November 5, 2011. I have taken 1st place at the three local/national qualifying shows I did, then 3rd at 2012 Jr. Nationals and Nationals. I have never really done this for trophies or placings or pro cards. I got into this as a way to show myself what my mind and body are capable of, despite the odds.
I NEVER expected to be placing the way I have been placing! But I am thrilled nonetheless. I have surprised myself with my success and surprised myself with how my success has inspired others (clients, friends, family, fans) to take charge of their lives, and I hope that my continued involvement in this sport will be an inspiration to others—not necessarily to compete, but to be the best version of themselves they can be, despite what anyone else says.
Dean: What changes to your physique have made you most proud so far and what areas are you trying to improve for next season? Have any judges spoken to you?
Jen: I am most proud of my overall fitness level. I can do things now that I have NEVER even dreamed of doing. My back development is probably the most dramatic change my physique has experienced in the last year.
I have not spoken with the judges regarding my Nationals package, but after Junior Nationals, I was told to sharpen my V-Taper, bring up my arms, and firm up my glutes. I have been contacted by a few local judges telling me how impressed they were with the changes I made and ‘there’s only one thing missing from your package—and you already know what it is’ (they mean my legs—getting them lean has been my challenge since day one). Those have been my target since June, and after looking at the comparison pictures from Nationals, I will continue to work on that as well as my overall muscle development and maturity. The biggest change I will be making is staying close to competition-lean year round. I have usually slacked on my diet between shows, which I think has prevented me from being as tight as I could be on stage.
Dean: I know it’s early, but have you thought about what competitions you might try in 2013? Considering you finished only one spot away from a pro card in your last show, you must be excited about the possibilities?
Jen: I am a Chicago girl, so my next show will be 2013 Junior Nationals. I’m REALLY excited to see what I can bring! I have been able to make so many dramatic improvements in the last year, and I spent most of that year guessing about what would work. In the last six weeks of prep for Nationals, my coach and I really figured out my body and what makes it want to stay lean and strong. So being able to implement that for the next five months is exciting!
Dean: Shifting to your athletic and strength background. Were you always active growing up? What sports did you play when you were younger and throughout high school and college?
Jen: Mostly I have been a gym rat since about 8th grade. I dabbled in sports, track, wrestling, martial arts. But training my body without competition in mind has always been my passion. As a kid, my little brother and I spent a lot of time outside (climbing trees, chopping wood for fun, etc), so I believe part of my physical abilities come from early years of activity.
Dean: Could you share a memory when you surprised someone with your physique or strength, like at the gym, while playing sports or maybe arm wrestling?
Jen: Just one memory? Lol… Here’s one of the funnier ones. I was using a 120lb dumbbell for plié squats (when I weighed 118), picking it up from the ground and putting it back on the rack pretty easily, when a guy came up to me and said, “Do you mind not using such heavy weights? You’re making the rest of us look bad,” waving his arm to include all the rest of the men in the free-weight area. I looked around at everyone, they had all stopped to listen to us. I smiled and replied, “You’re right, I am making you look bad. You guys need to start working harder!”
Dean: Being a new competitor, which fellow competitors in the sport have inspired you the most or do you look up to as role models?
Jen: I have only loosely followed anyone, just to get new training ideas. But now that I found a program that works for me, I identify most with Erin Stern’s training and diet approach—crazy insane workouts, heavy weights, lots of compound and power moves and a diet that is considered ‘high carb’ in the figure world. Basically I admire any athlete who works their a$$ off, diets for health purposes, and doesn’t use any quick fixes, fancy techniques, or magic pills to achieve fitness. Mentally, Erin Stern and Dana Linn Bailey are probably most inspiring because they are athletes and warriors, which is how I like to think of myself.
Dean: How do you feel about the fitness style photo shoots? Is the flexing and posing to show off your hard work and athletic curves for the camera kind of empowering?
Jen: The most empowering thing for me is being in the gym, and lifting more weight than the guy next to me while keeping my body all natural and in better and better health. As for the photo shoots, mostly they are fun for me. And I suppose it is empowering to be sought after because I am ‘strong and beautiful.’ I have only done fashion style flexing shoots so far, but Lou and I were talking about doing a shoot in a gym—which would be AWESOME!
Dean: Jen, thanks so much for doing this interview! Is there anything else you’d like to promote (website, sponsors, personal training business) or any special shout-outs you’d like to give?
Jen: I am co-owner/trainer of Forever Fitness in Aurora, Ill. http://www.foreverfitness2.com, look us up if you are in the area!!!
I would like to thank my brother and coach, Steve Moriarty, for being the most adaptable, knowledgeable and open-minded coach I could ever ask for. He already has one IFBB Pro on his team and many more to come! Definitely look him up on Facebook if you want to take your competition and fitness to the next level!
Thanks to Krivs Studio for the photo shoot and marketing opportunity!!!!
Also want to shout out to my boyfriend and business parter for being so supportive of my goals, my mom for being SO cool about all the crazy things this life needs, and God for giving me the luck, the grace, and the will to get through some really tough things and use it as fuel to keep on rolling! :-)