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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Frnka

My Journey To Getting Stronger

In 2014, I started participating in boot camp in our local community. I joined, of course, to lose weight and tone. The first day they asked us to do 10 pushups and I eeked out 1.5 in the time that everyone else did 10. It was by far the lowest amount of pushups I had ever done and was a terrific wake up call to how much strength I had lost in just a few years without a consistent workout routine. In that moment, I made up my mind that I would not allow myself or my body to get that out of shape again and committed to working out everyday.

For the next 18 months I would attend boot camp 4 -5 days a week and walk/run/bike ride the remaining days of the week. Within 9 months I was doing an easy 25 - 30 pushups at a time and was excited for the progress that I was making. I began looking for something more though.

In my search, I ran a half-marathon, several smaller runs, and decided a triathlon seemed fun. So, I went to try out for the lake swim and nearly drowned myself for fear of not being able to see or touch the bottom. So, alas a triathlon was not going to happen for me.

So, in October 2015, I learned about a program called Starting Strength from a colleague. He stayed on my case for days telling me “You need this program. It will change your life.” And, I continued to put it on the back burner. I didn’t want to get bulky. I didn’t want to lift weights at a gym in front of other people because “what would they think?” And, seriously “Dude, I haven’t lifted since I was a senior in high school. Do you know that was like 20 years ago?” He laughed at me and asked if he could send me an article. And, so I agreed. We started with Training Female Lifters: Neuromuscular Efficiency by Mark Rippetoe, the founder of Starting Strength.

I read the article and of course, had so many questions. Like “What’s an RM?” and “How and the heck do I even know what weight to begin with?” and “Have you lost your mind because this stuff is flying over my head?” And, he replied to each question, sometimes chiding me, sometimes with serious responses, and sometimes with “read this” which contained a link to an article that would further explain or explore the answers to my questions.

He suggested I purchase the Starting Strength Basic Barbell Training book and read it. So, I did. And, boy did my brain hurt. I spent two and half months reading, looking up terms, asking questions, and learning more and more about weight lifting until I was convinced that this was something that I could add to my boot camp regimen.

In December 2015, I asked my husband for a weight bench and a weight set for Christmas and signed up for my first coaching session with a local Starting Strength coach.

In January 2016, I would begin lifting and attending boot camp on a rotational schedule. 3 days a week Starting Strength and 3 days a week boot camp and walk/run/bike one day a week. And by March, my body was spent. And, one night while I was fast asleep, both of my calf muscles seized at the same time and I ended up flying out of my bed in the early morning, clonking the back of my head on my nightstand and severely bruising the back of my right arm as it slammed against the frame on the bottom of the bed. Ironically, I was still not sure if I should slow down and talked it over with my colleague who said “Jen, you should probably just lift for now. I think your body is probably telling you it’s time.”

And, so I did. And, the gains I experienced immediately after were fantastic. Every time I went to lift I hit a new personal record, which made it all the more exciting. By August, I was ready to compete and entered my first and only strength competition to date. I trained from August to October 2016 specifically to get ready for the competition and met some incredible people at the meet. You can watch my competition video here. My husband and one of my former students came to cheer me on. I didn’t win anything, but I took away a great sense of accomplishment, much strength and confidence.

I continued lifting through 2017 and found much strength and comfort under the bar, during that time, as I worked through so many personal battles. In December 2017 my husband sought the help of my Starting Strength coach and began lifting for 10 months before he had his 7th knee surgery in November 2018. I would attend the Starting Strength Seminar in December, of that year, with the hope of earning my Starting Strength Coaches Certification, but I learned I still have so much to learn.

2019 would remain a quiet training year. My husband would go back to lifting here and there, but not seriously and I would remain training 2 - 3 days a week. In December 2019, we decided to enlist the help of a nutritionist who asked us to stop training for over three months. Initially, I did not think I could do without lifting, but I realized that there was probably a method to the madness and willingly complied.

So, now, I am 25 lbs lighter and she has agreed to allow me to lift light weight -- no more than 80 lbs and once again, I am trusting that there is a method to the madness and willingly comply.

I started walking again 4-5 days a week and lift 65 -80 lbs 3 - 4 days a week. I won’t be in a competition anytime soon and I won’t be hitting any personal records, but I have much peace in the place that I am and look forward to getting stronger with each lift.

Five years ago, I was looking for something more, looking to get stronger, to improve my life, and be prepared for what the future would hold. I am happy to report that not only did I find something more and grew stronger, I could have never predicted the journey my life would take and the impact that strength training would have on my heart, mind, body, and soul. I am incredibly grateful to have figured out it’s place in my life and even more grateful to get to share this journey with you.

My hope is that if you are searching for something more than whatever you do and wherever you go in this beautiful journey that we call life, you will find what you are looking for to strengthen you, heart, mind, body and soul!

Ya’ll have a beautiful day!

All my Love,


To view more Get Strong with Jen! Strength Training articles click here.


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