Interview with Jen Proulx

Another interview from my other blog as I continue merging the content. This interview is with Jen Proulx and one I really enjoyed doing 🙂 Since this interview,Jen is still lifting and being awesome – Facebook gossip has it that she’s been kicking ass in some CrossFit and Olympic lifting lately too!! Jen continues to be a huge inspiration for me, especially in regard to being able to manage a successful lifting career after having kids.

squat

Jen was recommended to be my next interviewee by Vanessa Gale and I couldn’t be happier with her choice — I absolutely LOVE Jen’s answers! And what a MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR motivation for people thinking of setting some New Years Resolutions for the upcoming year!

Stats

Sport: Powerlifting

Competing Weight Class: 165lbs/181lbs

Max Squat: 365lbs
Max Bench: 215lbs
Max Deadlift: 455lbs
Max Total: 1035lbs

Records:

  • Ranked #6 (2007 to present) for 181lb raw class on PowerliftingWatch
  • CPF All-Canadian Raw Full Power 75kg (squat, bench, deadlift and total)
  • CPF All-Canadian Raw Push/Pull 75kg (bench, deadlift and total)
  • Current APA Raw Nationals Best Female Lifter (April 2012)
  • Current Clash for Cash Best Pro Female Lifter (Sept 2012)
When and how did you first get involved with lifting?

I used to compete in track & field so I am no stranger to a gym – so this is more how I got re-involved in lifting.  To make a decade-long story short, after 7 knee surgeries, a couple of kids and a divorce, I found that I had neglected myself for far too long and it was time to get back in shape.  I hate to say it now – but I am one of those January New Years resolution gym people – but I’m one who was still there in February.  10 months later I had lost 110lbs and 14 dress sizes. The heavier I lifted, the stronger and healthier I felt – and the more fat I lost.  The time for myself made me a better mom, friend and employee.  I had found myself  again after all those years.

weightloss
How did you transition from ‘random chick in the gym’ to competitive lifter?

I had worked with a personal trainer through the bulk of my weight loss.  I knew I needed structure to continue on my journey.  I loved powerlifting most of all the different strength training styles I had tried out.  I did a little research and bought a copy of Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1.  It’s a great plan in its simplicity, and effectiveness.  I mapped out a plan for myself and set out on my own to get stronger.  While training on my own a few people asked when I was going to compete.  I did a little research, gained some perspective that was I was lifting was pretty heavy – and picked a day to compete.  This got moved up when I met Shane Church – who really accelerated my progression, and I competed earlier than expected.  I lifted at the CPF Pro/Am in June of 2011.  I was hooked and haven’t looked back since!

What was the biggest struggle you’ve faced while pushing toward becoming a better lifter?

Unfortunately, injury.  I had some great momentum going through the Summer/Fall of 2011 and then in January of 2012 I tore my quad and my meniscus in the bottom of a squat.  My left knee has never been 100% – it can’t be totally repaired through surgery – but this was a major setback.  Fortunately, the competition I had my eye on was raw with knee wraps, so I decided to go regardless of what I could squat.  10 weeks out I couldn’t squat the bar to depth. At 6 weeks out, I squatted a plate to a box.  Every few days I was getting a little more weight on the bar.  Through some excellent knee wrapping skills (thank you Jon Grove), and some serious stubbornness on my part – I squatted 358lbs in that meet – and won my first best lifter award.

440celebration
What is your happiest/proudest lifting related moment? 

Funny, this one isn’t my heaviest lift – or my most successful competition – but everyone in the room at Clash for Cash 2011 can tell you that my 440lb deadlift that day was my proudest moment.  This is the moment that I discovered what adrenaline could do.  I had opened at 375lbs with a plan to creep up to maybe 410lb for a 3rd attempt.  The way my first came off the floor, the meet director Jake Impastato convinced me to take 410lbs on my 2nd.  Again, it flew.  I was in a position where I had secured 2nd place in my class already – and the win was out of reach, so I took the 200kg hail mary 3rd attempt.  When I got the down command and white lights, I was in total shock.  I ran off the platform and surprised a friend with a jump into his arms.  I think this is when I realized that the only limits I have are those I set for myself.

Coincidently, my other proudest moment came at the same competition a year later – it was my first time going 9 for 9 – and all PRs.  Now THAT is an amazing feeling!  Watching the video from the final lift though, I’m not sure who was more excited, myself… or Vanessa.

Jen1

How is lifting going for you now? What are your current challenges?

Lifting is going great!  I moved this past Spring and started working with a new coach, Paul Vaillancourt.  It’s wonderful to be at Ultimate Fitness now where there are other powerlifters to train with.  Currently I am working at dropping back down to the 75kg – and after that the 72kg weight class.  I have a goal of maintaining my strength while doing so.  So far so good… we’ll see how this goal pans out on the platform at Raw Unity in February.

Do you do this primarily on your own or do you have a network of people who help you along the way? 

I have trained alone, alone with a coach, and in a group.  Right now I train in a group some days and on my own with Paul other days – depending on the lift.  I still like to train my squat alone.  My programming can vary a lot depending on how my knee feels that day.

I have been honoured to have met a network of truly amazing people in this sport.  For the most part, we compete against ourselves, so I find fellow lifters all too willing to share knowledge, tips, feedback – and to be there to support one another.  I am especially blessed to be part of a sisterhood of PrettyStrong chicks – who I consider to be close friends – though we only see each other a few times a year.

bench
What does your normal programming look like? Does it change much as you approach a competition?

I train 4-5x/wk – with a day devoted to each of the competition lifts – and a 4th devoted to overhead work and more bench.  During the off season, I add a 5th day for volume squats and some unilateral leg work to increase the strength in my left leg.  There’s a pretty big difference in strength between my two legs but I’m working on it.  As I approach a meet that hypertrophy work drops off in favour of an extra recovery day as the training is more intense on the other days.

What does your diet look like normally? Does it change as you approach a competition?

I carb cycle.  I have high, medium and low carb days, depending on what I am training.  Right now I am working on dropping a weight class so my diet is a little stricter than normal (more medium and low days than high and a few less calories) – but I always eat clean – with occasional cheats of course.  I feel pretty awful when I don’t.  It doesn’t change as competition approaches – it’s what is best for my training as well as managing my arthritis.

What do you do to help manage your stress and emotions during periods of heavy training?

Training heavy IS my outlet to deal with the stresses of everyday life!

What advice do you have for women who are just getting started in competitive lifting?

3 things come immediately to mind…

  • Choose a competition, and compete!  I have met a lot of strong women with great potential as lifters who decide they will compete when they can lift X amount or total at least X.  You learn things about yourself as a lifter in competition that you can’t learn in training.
  • Take an active role in your own training.  Don’t just show up and lift things.  I am fortunate to have had two of the best coaches around – but I have been more successful because I have educated myself on training techniques, nutrition, mobility, etc…
  • Perfect segue to one last piece of advice – mobility and proper recovery time are as important as how you train.  I learned this one the hard way… you have been warned!
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