A Fitness Gladiator for Beginners: Meet Openfit Trainer Jen Widerstrom
Who would you choose to help you kickstart your workout routine: A fitness influencer? A trainer from The Biggest Loser? An American Gladiator? You don’t have to choose because Openfit’s newest trainer, Jen Widerstrom, is all of these!
What started as an obsession with legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger lead to a college hammer-throwing career, a roster spot on American Gladiators, a role as a body coach on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, and 300,000 Instagram followers.
Throughout her powerhouse career, Widerstrom’s passion has always been training beginners and proving that fitness can be simple. Now, Openfit users can spend four weeks with her, learning basic, low-impact moves that torch calories while sculpting their bodies.
Widerstrom sat down with us to talk about her evolving approach to fitness and her passion for helping people start their fitness journeys.
Openfit: What’s your favorite part of training beginners?
Jen Widerstrom: When I get to work with beginners, I get to set a tone for our relationship going forward, and I think that sets people off on a better, more secure foot. It lets them be in a more exciting place without worry, doubt, and fear.
Think about junior high at lunchtime. You’ve got your tray, and you don’t know where to sit. I want to create that table for beginners where people accept you without judgment and allow you to learn at your pace. It’s not about being cool, having the perfect gear, or lifting the heaviest weights. I want people to feel like they belong here. I’ve never stopped being a beginner. I’m always learning something. So, I’m just bringing that back around.
Do you remember what it was like when you first started working out?
I’d always used movement as a way of performance. I did college hammer throw, so I worked out to throw farther. I did American Gladiators, so I worked out to be leaner and win the events. It was never about health. It was about winning.
Then, when I transitioned to coaching, it was like something in me cracked open, and I realized that fitness was about so much more than the waistline. It changed people from the inside.
Sometimes it was in small ways. You’d see better eye contact from a person, or they came to class wearing brighter colors. Then you start to see the decisions they make in their lives and the realizations they’re having. That’s the great thing. I’m helping guide them to those realizations through workouts.
How did you get into Instagram?
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I didn’t want to be on Instagram. What started as something I did because The Biggest Loser asked me to has grown into a way to connect with people. I can receive comments and messages and respond to them. The real people behind those avatars want support and feel impacted by what I say and what I offer. It makes me feel very purposeful.
When I say I don’t love Instagram, it’s because it’s just so limiting to the way I love to coach and care about people. If you like what you see there, step into the ecosystem of Jen. It’ll knock your socks off.
What keeps you motivated/focused on hard days?
I realize that I’ve been chosen for these experiences, and I feel lucky. I feel in my bones that every time there’s a hardship, or I’m being stretched, I know there’s learning in it. I’m chosen to see something, take it on, and use it in my tomorrow with someone else. It’s that pebble-in-the-pond effect, and if I can be that pebble in your pond through a hard day I’ve had, I’ll take all the hard days you want.
What are your favorite and least favorite exercises?
Any boring, long cardio piece where you have to sit on a bike for an hour. I would rather eat raw broccoli. I have no interest. I just get bored. I hate steady, boring, long cardio.
The opposite is true for my favorite. I love dynamic lifting: any Olympic lifts like the snatch or the clean and jerk that take just seconds. They’re violent movements. They show a person’s power and precision, and they make me feel like Wonder Woman.
How have your personal fitness goals changed over the years?
For the first time in my life, I’ve actually let my body have a say in my fitness goals. In my early 20s, it was more about lifting for performance and getting bigger, getting heavier, getting stronger to throw farther. For Gladiators, it was about staying muscular and getting lean, lean, lean.
Then I had this weird, unhealthy time doing a lot of television that was extremely hard on my body. I was worried that my muscles were too big and that I wouldn’t be lean enough. A photographer on a shoot said, “Can you suck in your stomach more?” I wouldn’t eat for a week. I was coaching on The Biggest Loser, and here I am, trying to teach a healthy psyche and relationship with food.
So now, as I’m approaching 40, my body’s finally a part of the conversation. I listen to my body. In my programs, the only person you should listen to in class over me is your body. It will always talk to you. I call it “body talk.” If you’re feeling sluggish, don’t do crazy HIIT training. Do stretching, or walking, or yoga. If you’re energized, yes, go lift. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, sleep.
What current fitness goals, if any, are you trying to achieve?
Listening to my body is number one. I feel great. My skin is softer. I feel more feminine. My hair grows better. Everything about the experience with my body has just improved. Strength forever is number two. I want to be able to help my friends move when I’m 80.
What do you wish all people knew before starting with fitness?
If there was one thing I wish you knew before starting fitness, it’s that it’s so much easier than you think. It’s not this big mountain. It is not going to be as hard as you think it is. We paint a different picture. Trust me. It’s not that hard, and it doesn’t take as much effort as you think.
If you’re not sure about what weight to use, start with fives, start with threes, and you’ll start to find that cadence in your body. There’s a feeling of confidence that comes with weight training or any kind of movement, but it only comes through competency. And that competency comes through reps.