Just over one year ago, Coach Jen added CrossFit coach to her list of accomplishments. She is a strong momma of two, wife of Brian, a piano instructor and music coach/accompanist. CrossFit and classical music are two of Coach Jen’s favorites, but not together. If you catch her lifting double her body weight during open gym, she’s most likely listening to something loud and angry! When she’s not crushing it in the gym, you can catch her at the opera or at a Philadelphia orchestra  performance. 

Tell us about yourself. I started CrossFit about 2.5 years ago, and have been coaching for a little over 1 year. I love Bellum because I felt welcome from the minute I walked in, and I love it still because I feel like these people have become my family. I’ve made some incredible friendships within these walls, and gained confidence in my abilities that I never knew was possible. I love the empowering feeling of moving lots of weight and being able to do hard things.

What is your favorite CrossFit movement or workout?: I like to do things that require a lot of strength. Push-ups, heavy weighted barbell lunges, pull-ups, peg board climbs, heavy goblet squats, and especially strongman stuff like sandbag carries, tire flips, and sandbag ground to over shoulders.

I like partner workouts too, because I like resting. One of my favorite WODs we’ve done recently was Open 20.4 – it was a combination of box jumps/step-ups and clean and jerks which got heavier each round, and eventually switched from box jumps to pistols. It was the first time I’d ever gotten full pistols in a workout, and I really enjoyed the combination of keeping a steady moving pace, and fighting to maintain control and focus enough to nail those increasingly difficult clean and jerks. I’m eager to retest this now that my shoulder has rehabilitated enough for me to get back to my overhead lifts!

What is your favorite out-of-the-gym activity?: I like reading, playing the piano, playing video games, and spending time with friends. I love laughing, so game nights are always a favorite for me.

What’s it like being a woman and coaching men?: Intimidating. Ha! But seriously, that’s just my internal monologue. I’ve never gotten a bad vibe from anyone at Bellum, man or woman. I had to get confident in my knowledge base in my first months of coaching, because almost every class I’d feel like a substitute teacher, knowing just enough to scrape by but not enough to be an expert on the subject. But as time went by and I started to have more and more moments of effective skill transfer, my confidence in my ability to instruct really grew a lot. 

Do you feel pressure to be able to master every CrossFit movement because you’re a coach?: This is a very good question. I will say that I have never felt a negative pressure from anyone at Bellum to change who I am or what I do, in order to fit in. That’s one of the things I love most about this place. When I first started coaching, I felt a lot of personal (internal) pressure to look a certain way or know everything about the sport. Which…is impossible, to be perfect at something. And once I got comfortable with that, and just started being open to learning as I go, things got a lot less stressful.

I also recognize now that, when I eat well, I perform better, I feel better, I look better. So although you’ll never see me pass up birthday cake, my perspective on what I eat, how I look and how I perform has changed drastically since I first started at Bellum.

Do you have siblings?: One older, 2 younger, all sisters.

Which Bellum member is your favorite?: You’re all my favorite! (………)

Do the coaches ever feel bad about what they put us through? Or do they see an up-coming workout and laugh about how much we will hate it?: I’m going to say… yes, sometimes I do kind of chuckle at the reaction we might get back regarding certain workouts, but I’m almost always with you because if I coach them, 99% of the time I do them too so I know your pain!

Where would you travel if you had no budget?: This is very difficult to answer succinctly, but I’ll say probably either a European tour or Fiji/Tahiti.

Which would you prefer, to ski or swim?: Skiing, though I literally never get to go, ha. I love the beach but don’t love swimming.

Which would you pick, steak or seafood?: Don’t make me choose!

What is your favorite sport after CrossFit?: European football. I’m a Man United fan!

What is your spirit animal?: I like to think it’s a mountain goat because they love climbing stuff, but another gym member and I decided it’s a dung beetle (did you know that certain species can lift and carry 1000x their body weight?).

What’s your favorite part about coaching?: The same thing I loved about teaching music – the “aha” moments. When someone finally gets the hang of a particular movement, or achieves something they never thought they could, and knowing that I was a part of that!

What was the happiest/proudest moment of your own personal CrossFit (or weight lifting) career?: Open workout 18.2a. I had been a CrossFitter for about 6 months at this point and PR’d my power clean by a pretty good amount, fueled by adrenaline and lots of encouragement from other people. It was in this moment that I started to gain confidence in my athletic abilities, a newfound trait for me!

What was the most disappointing/frustrating moment?: Probably letting my ego get the better of me on a barbell lift attempt, which resulted in an injury that required several months of rehabilitation and movement modification. I was, however, proud of how careful I was in the rehab process, and I’m feeling better than ever!

Do you ever need a break from CrossFit and/or everything CrossFit related?: I think I’d say I don’t need a break from the sport, but rather from the “all or nothing” mentality that I often put on myself as a naturally competitive person. It’s important to recognize that your body and mind need breaks from time to time. I’ve been trying to be very conscious of this in the last few months especially.

What is your biggest personal CrossFit accomplishment?: It’s tough to narrow down, but I’m going to have to say getting my first strict pull-up. The strength and skill required to do one transfers over to several other movements, so getting it helped get me started on the path to accomplishing other great gymnastic skills.

Why CrossFit? What brought you to this and why coaching it?: I started at Bellum 2.5 years ago because of my sister, Alissa. She’d been following the sport for some time as a spectator, and was ready to make some big lifestyle changes to help her achieve health goals. I was 1 year post-partum with my second child, and just felt very weak and helpless in trying to find myself as a mom of two littles. After her first strong start with Coach Jenai, Alissa signed me up (even though I felt certain I would not be able to do any of the movements).

I got hooked after my first back squat and I’ve never looked back. My goal from the beginning wasn’t necessarily to lose weight or be skinny, but just to be strong and confident. After about a year at Bellum, Jenai and Ann approached and asked if I’d consider coming on as a coach, and I was very surprised. I had a pretty extensive background as a music teacher, but very little athletic or health background. Through a several months long internship process, Jenai, Ann, Kelly and Erin helped guide me through the process of transitioning to a coach. Now, I regularly read and watch videos to make sure I am able to keep up with all you guys, and give you the best experience possible.

I have to say, I LOVE coaching, not just for the sport (though I really love CrossFit!), but because of our members. It’s really empowering to be able to be a part of such a wonderful community, full of all different types of people who are working to become better versions of themselves.

What would your superhero name be?: I have absolutely no idea, but I would LOVE to be compared to Lara Croft, my hero.

If you could go back to when you started CrossFit with what you know now, what is one piece of advice you’d give yourself?: Don’t rush the process. Learn the technique, THEN add the weight. This is so important!

You only get ONE food indulgence for the rest of your life. What is it?: This is extremely difficult. I’m going to work the system and say….dessert.

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