Personal Trainer Jen Brown talks about believing in yourself and kicking some fitness goals!
Jen Brown began her working career as a lawyer but on the climb to the base camp of Mt Everest on a holiday she had a light bulb moment and realised she was on the wrong path in life. She returned from her trip re-energised and soon made the bold step to hop back to studying for a new career in personal training. Jen now coaches runners and triathletes, living by her motto “life is too short to live a less-than-extraordinary existence”.
Jen competes in triathlons and trail runs along with training others to kick their fitness goals. She is passionate about spreading her knowledge and inspiring women to challenge themselves. She has written many articles and recently launched a new project, Sparta Chicks, which is an online community for women where she focuses on how the mind effects sporting performance, hoping to empower women who struggle with self-doubt and confidence.
Below we pick her brains on her fitness and wellness tips for everyday life along with ideas on how you can set yourself a fitness challenge and make it happen! We promise you that just a few minutes reading will inspire you to make a change and set some goals.
Share your journey with us. In a former life, you were a lawyer – it’s quite a jump to become a personal trainer. What inspired you to do this?
Oh that’s a good question with a long answer! Basically it was my growing dissatisfaction with life as a lawyer combined with a growing interest in how the way I was training for my running goals was actually causing my injuries, not preventing them! And I could see my friends making the same mistakes. I distinctly remember sitting on the bed at the physio’s office trying not to cry after yet another injury and thinking to myself, I had to do something to prevent others from experiencing the same frustration and injuries. Then in April 2007 I went to Nepal to fulfil my life-long goal of visiting Mt Everest Base Camp. It was during that trip I realised how unhappy I was and that I needed to make significant changes in my life.
You’re passionate about helping busy everyday people fit training into their daily lives – but what are some of the other things that you love to do?
From a fitness perspective, trail running is my great love. It grounds me and it’s a great (fun) way to practice mindfulness. You have to concentrate on what you’re doing otherwise you’re likely to trip or fall. I always come back from a trail run feeling refreshed mentally.
Otherwise I’m a home body and book worm. So you’ll find me at home on the couch with a book or watching a crime show (I’m addicted to Criminal Minds!).
What are some of your top fitness and wellness tips you follow?
To choose a goal event or race. If I don’t have a goal race on my calendar, I struggle to get out of bed in the morning and exercise. Setting a goal to lose weight before Christmas or a friend’s wedding rarely works for most people. Let’s face it – you’ll still celebrate Christmas or go to the wedding even if you haven’t lost the weight. You can always move the deadline with a goal like that. But you can’t with events; you need to be ready on the day otherwise you’re in for a long and painful day!
I also (try to) go to bed as early as I can. I’ll be the first to admit – I really struggle with this as I’m a night owl naturally. But I know sleep is one of the most important things I can do to improve my health – not to mention my concentration and mood!
To train in the morning. Once upon a time I preferred training in the afternoons. But I find it really easy to talk myself out of it over the course of the day. So now I aim to get my training done first thing in the morning.
And finally I (try to) drink lots of water. Again this is something I struggle with as I don’t like the taste of it. But I always feels better (and my skin looks better) when I’m hydrated. I’m a coffee addict but I know to reach for water if I hit the wall at 3pm. Unless I’ve had very little sleep the night before, I know it’s due to dehydration and more water – rather than coffee or chocolate – is the answer.
You’ve started a group called “Sparta Chicks” to inspire women to set goals and get involved in long course racing – can you tell us a little bit about it?
Sparta Chicks is an online community for women interested in endurance sports like triathlon and trail running with a twist. There’ll be very little training advice (that’s shared over on my other site, Sparta PT. Instead, I want to have real conversations about all the topics we rarely discuss in a health and fitness setting. I want to talk openly about our fears and doubts, the way women often sabotage themselves (intentionally and sometimes unintentionally). To uncover the stories we tell ourselves about what we are, or aren’t, capable of. I want to bring light to the language we use (I can’t, I’m not, I’ll never) and the way it undermines our goals and shapes our lives. And I want to have these open, honest conversations in a practical way – with strategies, techniques and tools women can use in the moment they need it most – when doubt threatens to derail them.
It came about because one day I realised I was having the exact same conversations with my clients (over their fears, doubts and stories) that I’ve had with my mentors over the years. It’s not the training – the physical ability to achieve a goal – that holds the majority of women back. It’s mindset and a lack of self-belief. So SpartaChicks is my attempt to empower women all around the world to build their confidence, back themselves and move towards their goals in spite of their fears.
Many of the people you train are looking to tick off their bucket list some serious fitness challenges like an Ironman triathlon or long course adventure race – what tips can you give someone who has never attempted something like this. Where do they start?
Start small and start wherever you are. If it’s been a while since you went for a run, lace up your shoes and head out for a walk (yes, a walk!). The biggest mistake many people make is to do too much too soon and they can quickly find themselves injured! So for the first few weeks, just head out for a walk. This will help to strengthen your muscles and prepare your body.
Riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike! It might take you a few rides until you’re feeling comfortable again, but know that with practice you’ll feel as comfortable on your bike as you did when you were a kid. And if you’ve never ridden a bike – don’t worry! It’s not too late. I know plenty of people who only learnt to ride in their 40s and 50s. So even if you need to borrow a mountain bike from a friend that’s been gathering dust in a shed, just get on and start practising.
Swimming is one of the hardest sports to learn because it’s highly technical in nature. So if your goal requires swimming, it’s best to look into some swim coaching. Even if it’s just a few lessons, it will give you some basics and help you to feel comfortable and relaxed in the water (which is one of the most important yet challenging parts to it!)
Whatever your goal, work out what it requires and where you currently are. And ask yourself – what’s the smallest thing I can do today to take one step closer to that goal? And do that!
For the rest of us who don’t have these types of fitness goals but we want to improve our fitness and health overall – what are some of your tips on how we can make changes in our daily life?
I think the reason many people struggle to introduce changes into their daily life is because they try to change too many things at the same time. They try to eat healthy and drink more water and get more sleep and exercise daily and it’s all too much!
So this week just pick one thing you can start doing – even if it’s something small like drinking 1 litre of water every day, getting 8 hours sleep 3 night this week or perhaps to simply exercise 3 days this week. And add that one healthy habit to your routine this week. And then next week, add another one. Small changes introduced consistently are far more likely to stick than a mass overhaul of your life!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You’ll always land on your feet so back yourself, trust yourself and don’t hold back!
What’s next in store for you on your life journey?
Personally 2016 will see a big focus on trail running for me. I’m doing the Ultra-Trail 50km race through the Blue Mountains in May so the next 6 months are primarily focused on that.
For SpartaChicks, I’m really excited about the plans I have to help women build their confidence and achieve their goals. An online program, a book and a training camp / retreat are all in the pipeline!