Jen Widerstrom Gets Real About Workout Motivation and the Importance of Proper Nutrition

December 03, 2020

About Jen Widerstrom

Jen Widerstrom is a successful fitness model and trainer. She grew up in Chicago, and after graduating from the University of Kansas, where she was a Division I hammer thrower, she moved to LA to pursue a full-time career in fitness. In 2008 she competed on NBC’s American Gladiators, and she’s also worked as a trainer on The Biggest Loser. Currently, Widerstrom is the fitness director at Shape magazine.

Instagram: @jenwiderstrom


Q: Being someone who works hard to motivate others with health, nutrition, and their fitness journeys, how do you motivate yourself to work out even on days you don’t want to?

A: “That’s the key. Most days, I don’t want to. I’m almost 40, so I’ve been working out for, say, 35 years. I’ve been going to the gym for a long time. I think there's this misconception that I just run to the gym with butterflies flying out of my butt, and I’m just thrilled to do it.”

Jen goes on to talk about two key important things that keep her in a positive mindset for working out.

1- “I am honest with myself on what I need to get there. This means I always have a training partner, always go to a class, or sign up in advance. I need accountability. If it’s just me going to an empty gym by myself, chances are I’m not going to go. It’s just who I am. I’ve got friends like Gunnar Peterson; he gets up every day at 4 am! He’s at the gym by himself, and he crushes. The buddy system works for me, so that’s what I do.

2 - “I realize that I am a far happier person, far more interested in my days, far more patient, far more kind, far more confident when I am moving my body. What I started to realize when I wasn’t moving and getting into those dry spells of missing the workouts, I found myself just irritable, short-tempered-if I was in a relationship- not sexual, didn’t wanna get naked. Not that I was ashamed of my body, I just don’t feel like it. It just closed my world off, so working out for me opens things. That’s where it kind of becomes like motion is lotion. Motion is medicine, and that's what I started to use as my medicine.”


Q: We really liked that video you posted with the C1 bars where you talk about calories and why it’s essential to fuel your body. A C1 bar has 380 calories, and a comment we get from people is that the calorie, fat, and protein content is too high. What is your response to this?

Here's the video for those who missed it

A: “I think that like most misconceptions, there’s just not enough information that they’ve been able to get their hands on. I think that education is power, especially when it comes to health and your body.

“What you have to realize though is that most people are undereating. Most people I work with that have lots of weight to lose are restricting food all day long and then crushing like 2,000 calories in a sitting. Or they’re just restricting and living at 1200 calories a day, so calorically, they’ve gotten into this relationship with calories as bad or negative.

“A calorie is a unit of measurement, right? We measure going to and fuel, and I think when people start to understand how much fuel their body needs to be energized not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to have a physical job. You could be a nurse. You could be a doctor; you can be a teacher. You’re on your feet. You can be a mom staying at home. It’s all very physical, and you don't realize the energy you need to recover.

“Then the other component is often your body doesn’t trust you. You’re not giving your body enough fuel to burn, so it tends to hoard fat thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to self preserve here. I’ve got to take care of myself because I don’t know when Jen’s going to feed me again.'

“The short-winded answer is that you’d be shocked by how good your body feels when you give it enough food and feed it enough energy. To me, the C1 bar size I like because I eat it throughout the day. I don’t eat it in one sitting. It becomes my snack, or it becomes my actual breakfast. If you look at any lunch, dinner, breakfast, you’re looking at easily 500-600 calories, so the bar presents a little under that.”


Q: I like what you said about people who are on their feet all day because I think that one misconception about the C1 bars, like many types of fitness products, people might be intimidated, so they may think, “I’m not a bodybuilder, or I don’t do CrossFit®, so my body couldn’t benefit from that.”

A: “Totally! People say, ‘I don’t work out, so I don't need fitness products.’ It’s not like that, and that’s why I like the Condition One bars because they are there in support of life. They create stability; they create support; they create fuel, so you can do whatever the heck you need to do. Whether that’s a military mission or a mission to get your kids dressed for the day, the mission is supported the same.”

"I like the Condition One bars because they are there in support of life. They create stability; they create support; they create fuel, so you can do whatever the heck you need to do."


Q: I noticed when looking at your social media that you really advocate for a balance of work and fitness. I can tell that you’re just so busy and so dedicated, but how do you keep that balance in your life?

A: “You know, I just started to get really unhappy. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed to find different ways, so I would not wake up in full anxiety for the things I didn’t do yesterday that I still need to do today. So I kind of created a system where I have my crank days and my off days. So I have days where I just crush, and I LOVE waking up having a full day, I work out, I cook every meal, I’ve got meetings. I do the Zoom calls; I’m doing all the stuff. Then the next day, I wake up without an alarm. I wake up slow. I’m in my PJs till 11, and I might get some work done, but I allow myself to be in that different flow. And every week, it changes, so I allow myself that on and off switch and kind of take the pressure of those expectations which really created a lot of that anxiety for me in the first place.”


Q: How has that type of routine for you changed with Covid and quarantines?

A: “For me, I’ve had a great quarantine. Now, I will say that I don’t have children, I don’t have a partner I live with, or roommate, or a dog. I am in a position where I have a lot less variables interfering with my needs, likes, and dislikes.

“I honestly found that I was overworking. I was like 6 am to 9 pm, and the days I wasn’t working late, I was drinking early, and I was like ‘ahhh I need a break!’ I really had to hone in my start and stop times. I set alarms, like at 10 am and 3 pm I’m checking my email- that’s it, or I would give myself one time of day where I would go to Instagram and post, so I created a structure within that vast space, and it gave me benchmarks to hit throughout the day, and list, list, list! I have water written down. A little structure goes miles when you’re in that zone where you’re home all day, and you’ve got the time.”


Q: Obviously with gym closures and whatnot, how we train people has changed, so how has it changed for you?

A: “It’s been hard for me to be honest. I love being in person. I love coaching big groups and one on one, so trying to find this digital connection, I mean, the connection is there because it’s who I am, but trying to watch someone do a clean and jerk on a video through a small screen, has been tough, but I am finding my way.

“I think what I did was simplify a lot of movements, took away some complications of layers in the compound movements, and kept everything more straightforward because this communication part has been so much more complicated. I streamlined the workouts, and that’s what allowed me to keep going with the people I was training. I’ve got a couple of hundred people on my app, which means I have 200 people reaching out every day. I also enlisted a big community format where people can chime in, so if someone asks a question and I’m not there to answer right away, somebody else jumps. I really made it a shared mission within my group, and my team on my app that allows for a lot of support and forward progress with everything we’re doing together.”


Q: Jumping back to C1, as someone who I’m sure has tried a lot of protein and nutrition bars, why would you say that C1 is one of the best?

A: “When I first met your founder, Matt, I loved how it was the order, bake, and ship process. Every bar I’ve ever come into contact with has been sitting on a shelf for god knows how long, and then it changes texture, taste. You start to wonder what is in that bar that makes it sit for so long, and I really believe in one ingredient foods, and everything that is in these bars, I recognize. What’s in the bar, and what it’s made of is such accessible energy for my body.

“I see so many people on-the-go and really putting low-quality products into their bodies, and they don’t really realize why they’re not dropping the fat they want or why they’re so low on energy. There are all these issues, and they think it’s them, and it's because what they’re eating doesn’t support their goals, but the Condition One bars do because it provides that energy, provides that support, and really helps me feel good about myself.”

Q: What’s your favorite flavor?

A: “I thought Lemon Poppy Seed forever, and then the Blueberry Ginger came, and everything changed. I’ll take it, break it up, put a little almond milk in there, and microwave it for 30-60 seconds, and OMG.”

Note From Editor: She’s right! You have to try it!

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Note From Editor: She’s right! You have to try it! ↓

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Q: As far as fitness or just life in general, what are some of your current goals?

A: “You know, I broke my foot about nine weeks ago, and I’m coming out of the weeds. I’m finally out of the boot and off the crutches. It’s really slow to heal, the bones it’s not really reforming- it’s not laying down new bone very well, essentially, and it really started to wear on me.

“The initial goal was I wanted to remain strong, and I don’t want to lose mass. So goal one was keeping my legs strong when I couldn’t use my foot, so that’s been really important, and getting creative and finding weight training where I can really work my legs with safety and keep muscle on my body and eat enough, so I’m really feeling sustained because strength is number one for me. You lose strength; you lose life.

“Number two has really been, and I know it sounds a little emotional, but to really accept my body because as it is, I’ve kept muscle on, and I’m feeling really strong, which was goal number one, but I’ve gained weight, and I’m not as lean as I was. My pants still fit, and I’m okay, but it’s really giving my body grace as I’m healing and knowing that my body is going to be in a different place and accepting where my body’s at today and loving it where it’s at because I was definitely getting hard on myself from an apparent standpoint, and I thought ‘Who gives a shit?’ I’m stronger; I’m getting healthy. I’m fine. The moment I’m released into the wild, so to speak, with the foot being healed, any extra fat that I’m not in love with will come off, but I realize even that fat that is there has been really beautiful because I’m really healthy and I’m strong. But that is number two: self-acceptance for where my body is right now.”


Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: “What I want people to focus on is look at the things or moments in your day that are tough or the turning points where you can make a good decision or a not so good decision for yourself. Then, find the things that help you support those good decisions, and I know for me Condition One bars are there especially when my day gets too long, I’m short on my macros, and it's right there in my pocket at all times to support me because I get hangry! I am like Roseanne Barr in those Snickers commercials, so I just know that it stabilizes my blood sugar, gives me energy, helps me have mental focus, and really gets me through those tough spots in my day where I’d make a bad decision or good decision, and that is what I encourage people to do: use this to help support your good decisions, and you’ll find you won’t go a day without the Condition One bar.”

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