From Division 1 college athlete, to American Gladiator, and now the massively motivating, yet approachable, trainer on The Biggest Loser - Jen Widerstrom’s expertise on getting physically fit and mentally strong runs deep.
We caught up with her this week to get insider tips on training for a Tough Mudder, the best piece of workout advice she’s ever gotten, and her secret to being so damn good at getting people to dig deep, redefine their comfort zones, and change their lives.
We get a ton of questions about how to train for a Tough Mudder. What’s your no-fail, go-to workout when you find yourself in the gym without a plan?
I would recommend on-the-minute training. That means at the top of every minute, you execute a certain amount of work. For instance, 12 burpees every minute for 12 minutes, or 10 kettlebell swings, 10 push-ups, 5 burpees for 12 minutes. Push yourself to complete the reps then rest for the remainder of the time. What this does is creates an opportunity to push your cardiovascular system and trains it to recover quickly - which is what the course is about - steady-state cardio (recovery) with bursts of strength-based exercise (the obstacles).*Jen suggests: Beginners: 6-8 minutes Intermediate: 12-15 Advanced: 20 minutes
How does this kind of workout help someone get mentally strong?
Once your minute starts you have a choice, and you have to decide to go for it. You’re going to feel fatigued because, shocker, every minute that goes by gets harder and harder. It’s a crescendo of work. Mentally, you get stronger each minute because you realize you were able to complete the previous one.
What’s your favorite, most versatile, piece of workout equipment?
I’m a medicine ball girl - Dynamax medicine balls, hands down. The reason they’re so great is their diameter is 14” - you can do so much with them. Sit-ups, velocity training, release training, run with it, do push-ups on it, squats with it. It doesn’t even have to be that heavy, 8lbs for a woman, 10-12lbs for men.
What’s the best piece of workout advice you’ve ever gotten?
Prioritize what’s best for you. We spend a lot of time worrying about what other people are doing, and when they’re doing it, that we forget to honor our own desires and own schedules. People always talk about the best time to train: the morning, the evening, what time burns the most calories etc. But if you’re not a morning person, don’t set yourself up for failure - you’ll only feel guilty when you hit snooze and skip your workout. The best time of day to sweat is the time that works for YOU.
When someone is running a Tough Mudder, there may be a few moments when quitting crosses their mind. How do you get people to dig deep and push past pain?
You have to remind people what’s at stake. I teach people that they have the power to affect that change. People don’t realize how valuable they are or how important they are. Once you start to move the needle and realize that YOU have the capacity to have an impact on the outcome you want, that’s what keeps people moving.
What advice would you give someone who may be considering signing up for an event, but is starting their fitness journey?
What you have to realize that even completing part of the TOUGH MUDDER course is a victory. It doesn’t matter how far you go, or how long it takes, the fact that you are willing to better yourself and give it a try is a victory. ANY amount of the course attempted is farther than you would have gone had you quit before you started. You’re lightyears ahead of the people on the couch. Have pride in the fact that you’re trying something new.