Jenelle Schultz – from ‘Gym-Bunny’ to Oceania’s 2018 Champion!
I used to be your typical ‘gym-bunny’ – for most of my 30’s, daily workouts consisted of bodybuilding splits (light weight; high reps only) mixed with pump classes and spin classes. Cardio, cardio and more cardio, sometimes 2 classes a day, before and after work, along with every variation of diet or eating plan I could find, all to achieve the perfect sports model look.
Like 99% of humans on the planet, that combination didn’t actually work. I didn’t look like a sports model and I was continually trying every type of new workout or exercise and/or diet I could find, looking for the magic combination.
I don’t know whether turning 40 was some kind of tipping point – I have often heard that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, so I was probably keen to stop being nuts! I also had some nagging from a good friend to try powerlifting, so early in 2018 I turned up at yet another new gym and met Graham McDonald. The brave man agreed to give me shot at being a powerlifter, I’m still not sure why! I didn’t really fit into the powerlifting community – I don’t like heavy metal or donuts, and I have no tattoos, so I’m kind of a sparkly outlier – but the whole team embraced me anyway and my powerlifting adventures started from there.
My first comp was in May 2018 up at Airlie Beach (North Queensland, Australia) – I was super nervous and so grateful to have the McDonald Strength team, along with my husband Rob there to cheer me on – I actually got a medal in my first competition, coming 3rd in the 63kg class.
From there I started to see significant changes in my body (remember, more muscle = more energy burnt!), and with some sensible nutrition I was able to go down into the 57kg class for Master’s Nationals 2018 where I won gold in my section. I have great memories of that day, and that whole trip, where I got to share a flat and some great late night chats with my team mate Libby.
The Oceania Championships in December 2018 was my absolute amazing, proudest and most devastating day in powerlifting to date, all in one. The amazing part was that I not only got to wear the green and gold and again won my section, but also came 1st overall in Master’s Women with a total of 330kg (Wilks 384.52). I also had half the crowd cheering me on as a lot of family and friends came to see me lift – one of my best friends even made me a sparkly sign! But I was devastated when I missed my last deadlift – 150kg came off the floor easy but I couldn’t lock it out. This was my first failed deadlift in a competition and I felt like I’d let everyone down very badly. I know that sounds silly when I won literally everything I was eligible to win on the day, but it’s a personal goal that I was really looking forward to nailing… more to come on that.
Oceanias was where I got to get more involved in the behind-the-scenes part of the sport too, by learning how to be involved on the technical desk, which also gave me a front row seat to the heavyweights session! I am also lined up to be a spotter & loader at an all-women competition later in the year. That’s another thing about powerlifting – everyone helps out, which adds to the community spirit of the sport.
Training is now my happy place, rather than just where I got to try and burn calories – the focus that each session requires means that the day’s problems are soon forgotten once warm ups are done. And no matter what my day has been like, I know that I’ll get to go and do something amazing when I get to training – what sort of person puts double their own body weight on their back and crouches down then stands up with it?! It really helps me put things in perspective – i.e. if I can do that, then the bad meeting I had with my boss, the slow traffic or the HR issue I have to deal with probably isn’t going to break me.
Life feels very different now that I’m a powerlifter (and yes, I identify myself like that often enough to bug people!) – I no longer pine after the sports model look, I eat carbs, I wear short shorts. Life is good. I feel like I have found my thing, and my people.
Of course I’m inspired by the superstars of powerlifting like Liz Craven and Marisa Inda – and more recently Jess Sewastenko – watching them always reminds me that any lift I attempt is actually possible. But I also love the diversity and opportunity for people of all shapes, sizes and ages to achieve. I like to think that one day I’ll be an M5 lifter, still wearing sparkly stuff and listening to techo!
For now my next goal is to defend my title at Master’s Nationals 2019 in Cairns. I also have that missed 150kg deadlift to reclaim from Oceanias – it had better be getting it’s affairs in order.
I’m so happy that my story resonates… I can’t tell you just how much finding this sport has meant to me – the sense of purpose and belonging… hard to put into words but I hope I did it some justice… thankyou again for the opportunity to do this – it means a lot xxx – Jenelle Schultz