IF YOU HAVEN’T TRAINED SIDE-BY-SIDE WITH MISS FEBRUARY 2021, YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON ONE OF THE KEY BBR EXPERIENCES! WHILE SHE GIVES EVERY STATION AN ABSOLUTE CRACK, SHE STILL HAS ENERGY TO NOTICE WHAT YOU’RE DOING WELL AND PROVIDES REGULAR ENCOURAGEMENT THAT MAKES TRAINING SO MUCH MORE FUN. JEN HOWELL HAS HAD QUITE THE JOURNEY WITH US, STARTING ONLINE IN 2018 BEFORE GIVING UP HER MEMBERSHIP TO WORK WITH THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY AND LETTING HER HUBBY HAVE A CRACK, KICKING JOHN OUT SO SHE COULD RETURN AND DOMINATE A SIX-WEEK CHALLENGE IN 2019 AND… WELL, IT’S JEN’S STORY! READ ON TO SEE WHY WE ALL ADORE JEN AND THE OUTRAGEOUSLY EXCELLENT VIBES SHE BRINGS TO US EVERY DAY IN THE GYM…
What was the state of your health and fitness prior to joining BBR?
I’ve always done some type of training or sport, beginning with basketball from childhood throughout my 20s, dabbled in triathlon from baby ones through to full ironman events, then developed a passion for the cult of Crossfit.
Whatever I have done, I have loved. And if I didn’t love it anymore, I stopped except Crossfit, which I still loved but my body, particularly my back, did not. Ultimately, after back surgery in 2014, I found the best thing for me was to spend time in a gym and I tried working with different trainers and different gyms, frustratingly starting with rehab programs then progressing to building strength. Training felt like a chore. I was bored and uninspired.
How did you find BBR and what prompted you signing up?
In 2018, through some mutual friends posting on social media (forever indebted to Talei!), BBR started popping up on my feed. I looked into it and contacted Ryan. At the time, I was about to spend several months interstate with the army (the part-time of my life), so Ryan did up a training program and meal plan for me. Back then, there was a 30-day challenge which I also signed up for. The team was different back then but still led by a superstar. I achieved results I was happy with considering the circumstances and enjoyed the training program. I did a physical education degree at uni many years ago and felt that Ryan might be one of the few trainers I had come across that knew what he was doing and was not led by the latest fad. When I got back home, my husband John, indicated he wanted to join a gym. I suggested he try BBR, and of course he loved it. I was jealous! Our budget does not stretch far enough for both of us to train here so it was all his until eventually a change in work commitments led to him suspending his membership. I jumped in for an 8-week challenge in August 2019. It was so good! Apart from the apple cider vinegar. Thank God that’s not on the plan now!
I went to Canberra for six months straight after the challenge and upon my return, COVID-19 had shut everything down. Training was limited back in Canberra as the smoke from the NSW bushfires meant gyms closed and the air quality outdoors was atrocious.
Mentally, I had lost my mojo when I got back – I felt overweight and under-motivated. Then my clothes wouldn’t fit properly, my back pain was flaring up and I progressively ate my way through all remaining stocks of junk food in Perth supermarkets. John would try and encourage me to train with him using the gear we had at home, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing so the more he asked the less inclined I was to do anything.
What was the motivation to join BBR… again?
Eventually, as gyms started to open, I joined a local Pilates studio to try and get my core firing again and protect my back. John went back to BBR for a few months, but his back started giving him grief again. At some point in August last year, John decided to suspend his membership again, so I seized the opportunity to restart mine. My main motivation was to improve strength and conditioning, knowing that BBR was the best gym I’d ever joined. Now, the motivation to stay is so much more than that. The camaraderie, the enthusiasm of the trainers, the undeniable progress because of expert programming…..I’m not giving this membership up for anything!
Above: Despite tussling over BBR memberships, Jen and John still love each other. Two well-loved faces of the BBR community right there.
What was your first impression of the gym?
Right from the start as an online client, the programming was logical and simple. Right up my alley. I don’t do complicated. And that is the impression I get from BBR generally – the exercises are not complicated. The gyms aren’t filled with machines – a lot of free weights and those damn sleds. Where tweaks need to be made to technique, the trainers are right there to help. The meal plans are simple to follow and anyone who has seen my food prep pics knows I keep to the basics! Thankfully, there are some amazing members with more imagination than me offering up inspiring ways to prepare healthy meals within the plan.
What you see is what you get from the trainers. They are all experts in their field, genuinely wanting to get the best out of every single member. My first impression of the members was HOLY F*CK (can I say that on the blog? * Ed’s note: Yes, salty language allowed when appropriate) – some of the bods getting about at BBR and the work being produced was quite intimidating, but so admirable. There are so many of life’s high achievers at BBR and it’s great to be surrounded by so much AWESOME!
What challenged you the most in your early days?
Finding the balance between training to the standard I wanted to and not aggravating my back injury. Early on, I relied heavily on prescribed pain relief to alleviate chronic pain. I have nerve damage down my left leg which results in a strength imbalance, particularly noticeable on lower body days. This was so much worse in the early days, but a significant benefit of training at BBR is that even though it is group training, there is such an emphasis on correct technique over lifting big weights (well, there is for me anyway!) so I’ve been able to reduce the imbalance, reduce the incidence of pain flares in my back and no longer rely on prescription pain relief to get through – winning!
What is your favourite part now about BBR?
I don’t have a favourite part – BBR is one of my favourite parts of my life! I love my family; I love my work and I love BBR. I am so lucky to be able to train here. Fiona was so welcoming and partnered with me on my first session back and I am grateful anytime she is there to share the pain!
Please share your physical and mental transformation over your time at BBR including any important stats you feel comfortable sharing…
I don’t have any stats to share – I haven’t tried to change my weight, just change the distribution of fat! Physically, I am achieving that. This I know because my shorts fall down without a belt! Mentally, I am inspired by the achievements of so many at BBR, I am happy to have found somewhere I can be confident in the programming and trust the coaches. They walk the walk; they are not just talking the talk.
Your hubby was a big part of BBR and still is in a different way – what does he think about your success now at the gym?
He thinks it’s awesome! It’s done wonders for my back and it gives purpose and structure to my training. Happy wife, happy life!
How do you divide your fitness goals between each other while parenting your gorgeous son?
John gets up at 4am to follow the online program Ryan has prepared and gets home by 5:50 so I can get to BBR for 6.15 classes. Caelan goes with the flow and understands how important it is for me to get to BBR so if my shifts mean I need to go in the afternoon, but John isn’t home, he sits in the car doing homework or playing games with friends on the iPad for the hour. Bring on the days when he is old enough to be trusted not to burn the house down if we are not home!
Above: Caelan and Jen… Caelan loves BBR too because it makes his mum and dad super fit and most importantly, super happy. Happy mum, happy son!!
What’s the biggest health or fitness challenge you have ever overcome or achieved?
Overcoming chronic pain has been a welcome benefit to joining BBR. Prior to turning 35, I would have said completing an Ironman triathlon was my greatest fitness achievement. In 2014 I entered the world of chronic pain and developed a strong resting bitch face! Now, my resting bitch face game is still strong, but the chronic pain has subsided and that means everybody wins as I am less grumpy and more productive!
Tell us about any of your daily health routines that help you achieve your goals outside of the gym?
As part of the current challenge, I generally get out for an hour a day to walk with Charlie, our labrador. I’ve also started to meditate for 15 minutes a night, before bed. I use the Calm app and use the time to relax and clear my mind of anything that might be pre-occupying my thoughts. My foam roller gets a workout most days as well!
What are some of the goals you are currently working towards?
The bane of my existence has forever been the size of my backside so a ‘big’ goal this challenge has been to lose it. Whenever I try, I lose weight from everywhere else first, so by the time my arse starts to go I’ve generally lost motivation, believing I am simply destined to carry it behind me for life.
Not this time baby!! Time to buy some new shorts! Hand in hand with that is tightening up on nutrition. It’s too easy to tell myself that something (a melting moment, ice-cream, gin and tonic….) won’t hurt, which would be right if I could stop at one or two a week. Nope, once that gate is open, disaster strikes! So I set the goal to STTP and I measure to the gram – and results have followed.
Tell us something special/surprising about yourself that we wouldn’t know?!
I expected to need IVF to fall pregnant after reproductive health issues through 2000-2008 so I had 5 oocytes on ice ready to make mini-mes when the time was right. Along came the powerhouse John and our little mini-John (Caelan) was conceived naturally in 2011. Pregnancy wasn’t something I enjoyed, I topped out at over 100 kgs (stopped weighing myself after that, better not to know!) and squeezed him out in 11 minutes without any tearing – so proud!!
Fast five favourites
Fave HIIT/Strength station? All the upper body days in Strength.
Least fave? Sleds, by a long way.
Fave café and your order there? Chinta Café in North Perth – chilli crab linguine
Fave cheat meal? Grilled fish and sweet potato chips from Tankk in South Perth (can you tell I’m on a Challenge!?)
Fave holiday destination? New Zealand – so pretty, so clean, and I can catch up with family.