Muscle & Fitness: When did you first get into training
Jennifer Widerstrom: Growing up, I did gymnastics and began lifting weights with my dad. He went to Gold’s Venice and met Arnold, Franco, and other greats, so he introduced me to bodybuilding and was a big influence in my life. I remember having [the anti-drug abuse organization] D.A.R.E. come to my school when I was little, and when they asked us who our hero was, I said Conan the Barbarian. I also told the teacher I wanted to be Ms. Olympia seven times because Arnold had won Mr. Olympia seven times. I was eight years old. My teacher had no idea what I was talking about. I was in my own world.
So, you were different from the other kids.
Somewhat. Other kids would run home after school to watch a certain TV show, and I’d run to my next practice, or home to check the results of bodybuilding shows. Seeing photos and results from the Olympia was like Christmas. I didn’t have boy band posters—I had posters of Arnold, Kevin Levrone, and Lenda Murray.
How has your training evolved over the years?
I originally trained purely for function, including when I was a hammer thrower at the University of Kansas. After college it shifted, and I trained only for physique. So when those worlds collided for me, I learned a lot. That enabled me to help a lot of different people reach their goals.
And you went on to become an American Gladiator. What's your favorite story?
One time on the rings I had the girl cornered, and I closed in and wrapped my legs around her. I’m like, “F**k yeah, I totally got her.” But she just wouldn’t let go of the rings, so I keep yanking on her with my legs, and after a point it totally looks like I’m humping her like crazy. I had no idea until Chelsea Lately did a spoof on it where they slowed the clip and set it to porn music. I won, which is great, but not before completely humiliating myself on national TV. It was all fun, though.
Now you do charity work with 100x Development Foundation.
After Gladiators it was like, “What’s next?” I realized my life’s progression wasn’t about how long the show would stay on the air, it was about living my purpose the best way I know how—and that’s living in service of others and being a mentor. I re ally believe we’re all here to help each other. The goal of 100X Development Foundation is to make sure disadvantaged youth all over the world have a stable, healthy home and education, through sponsorship and volunteer work. I’ve been wonderfully supported and mentored in my life, and I wanted to give that back. I’m also a huge advocate of supporting the troops, so I participate in goodwill military tours to help boost morale and share the nation’s gratitude. Soon I’m traveling to Kuwait to see the troops for a third time.