Interview by Barrett Snyder
Jessica Brown (also known as Mighty Mouse to her gym friends) is 29 years old and the mother of two beautiful bearded dragons. As a licensed minister, she has learned to use her faith to conquer obstacles and succeed in life. Although fitness has not always been her priority, major life changes quickly allowed her to find her anchor in powerlifting. In her first year of powerlifting, Jessica went on to be the first 47kg lifter to set a record for Squat, Bench, and Deadlift under the USPA Federation in New Jersey. Though quarantine has been rough for all, Jessica put her faith in God and started her own business called “Find HER Strength”. Now she uses her “dark times” to encourage others to shine their light.
When an individual first logs onto your website, they see the quote “She is clothed with strength and dignity; She can laugh at her days to come. She speaks with her wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue” Proverbs 31:25-25. This is a beautiful sentiment. Please speak to what this verse means to you. Why did you settle on this verse to be used on the opening page of your website?
Any time we present ourselves to others, we typically only care about how we are dressed, or what we may look like. If you are going to a business meeting, you would not be dressed in your pajamas. Every situation has its own attire. When I walk out of the house, I do not want people to look at what I may be physically wearing; I want people to look at how I carry myself. Strength and dignity are not physical, but often can be used to describe someone’s presence.
When you first started weight-training, you weighed 85 pounds. Since that time, what have been some of the most effective means you have used to add size and muscle mass to your frame? For individuals looking to add size and muscle mass, what path would you encourage them to follow?
Gaining weight is almost, if not harder than someone trying to lose weight. You have to train your body to accept more than it actually wants. When I first started, I made sure I always used My Fitness Pal. It certainly was not easy, as I was going from not caring about what I ate to tracking every single macro and calorie. It was an exhausting process. When I figured out just “eating more” was not going to help me reach my goals, I turned to Dymatize Super Mass Gainer. I was diligent in drinking at least three of their shakes every day, and I began weight training four days a week. Almost immediately, I began seeing a difference in my lower body. Let me be real, I had chicken legs and no curves. When I started noticing curves on my body, that is when I really got excited. I said to myself, “Okay, I can do this. It is annoying but it is working.”
These days, I find myself less concerned with “gaining” weight, but rather eating enough to complete my program. Women like Jenny Genato and Tiffany Nguyen helped me see that I can be strong and still be under 105lbs. When I was able to deadlift 245lbs at 97lb bodyweight, I decided to stop stressing so much on trying to look like or weigh as much as the women I emulated. It was not fun for me anymore. Once I stopped looking at the scale and comparing myself to others, that is when I felt it was my time to shine.
You are an incredibly admirable individual in many regards. You possess many qualities and traits that many of us should seek to emulate. For individuals who have lost loved ones, who cannot find work, who feel helpless in their current relationships, what advice would you provide them? What can these individuals do to power through these current difficulties and grow from such unfortunate experiences? How can we use the devastating times we endure, to better ourselves moving forward?
Thank you for your kind words. I believe every woman possesses a “fight” quality within them, but sometimes she has to dig deep to find that quality. What helped me the most was that I found something (powerlifting) to feed my mental, physical, and spiritual life. Sometimes difficult situations are not always just for us, they are also meant to help someone else in similar situations. It is okay to grieve with every loss, but do not stay in your grief for extended periods of time. Find your mental, physical, and spiritual strength within you, and elevate yourself to a place of contentment.
Please take us through what your training routine consists of and how has it evolved over the years? What training method do you currently employ and how has your training evolved since when you initially began lifting?
There are some people who can make up their own training routines, and there are some people who have a coach writing their program but can still adapt on their own if necessary. However, there are some people that just depend on their coach entirely, and I fall in the latter category. I trust my coach 100% and he programs everything that I do. Since he is not physically present during my training, our ability to communicate effectively is essential. Sometimes I feel as though I am oversharing, but honestly, that is not a thing when it comes to someone programming for you. I must admit, in the beginning, I was very relaxed with my training when I really should have pushed my body more. Instead of lowering the weight during sets, I now keep the same weight but lower the reps for each set. For example, currently, I am programmed for 3 sets of 7 with 110lbs. My body is just coming off from quarantine and I only get the first set but since I am programmed to complete 21 reps with 110lbs by any means necessary, I will get 21 total reps. Is this ideal? No. But does it challenge me mentally? Yes.
What is the most underutilized exercise in the gym that you think should be a “must” for any powerlifting/strength program and why? What exercise doesn’t get the love it deserves.
The most underutilized exercise in the gym that should be a “must” are dead bugs. I recently read the interview you did with Dr. Marcia Darbouze, in which she spoke about bracing. She discussed how to utilize dead bugs in order to engage your core properly. The sport of powerlifting is about who can lift the most weight and we use our core for every lift. At the moment, I am relearning what I should have utilized in the beginning, that dead bugs should be incorporated into every powerlifting/strength program.
On meet day, take us through your mental checkpoint? For lifters who struggle with anxiety, self-doubt, or other mental components of the sport, what advice would you give them?
My mental preparation for a meet will begin weeks before the actual day of the meet. I will spend any free time I have mediating and envisioning each step of the day. I envision weigh-ins, warmups, each lift, and everything in between. From someone who suffers from anxiety in large crowds, it is very important that I mentally prepare myself for anything that may happen. What would I do if I forgot my wraps? What would I do if my handler could not make it? Envision EVERYTHING!
To those that may deal with self-doubt or anxiety, my advice is to find your anchor. I do not do well in large crowds and unfamiliar places. My handler is usually someone that understands my mentality and can easily read my body language. My handler is someone I trust wholeheartedly and someone I feel safe being with. This allows me the opportunity to feel protected in my feelings. My handler knows when I am becoming overwhelmed when I am overthinking a lift, and when I just need space. I encourage everyone to bring a handler that can read you without words. Someone that holds you down, your anchor.
When it comes to the big three (squat, deadlift and bench-press), which of these three movements do you feel you are most technically sound in performing? What has made the biggest difference for you when it came to perfecting this movement? Take us through your mental cues, your accessory movements, the best coaching tips you have received and overall how you managed to master this specific lift as much as you have?
I am most technically sound in performing deadlifts. It used to be the bench-press, but deadlifts have stolen my heart. When I first started powerlifting, I would also pull sumo. I did that simply because that is what I saw everyone else doing. Although it worked for me in the beginning, by the time I finished my second meet, I was officially done with pulling sumo. When I pulled sumo, I would leave the gym with my hips hurting or not having completed all my sets. I was about four to five weeks out from my second meet when I texted my coach. I expressed that I was extremely frustrated that I could not finish my sets without limping and knew a decision had to be made. I sent my coach a text and said, “I want to switch to conventional.” I would have loved to have seen his face when he read that text, but he was very supportive and he made me a deal, “If you finish your sets pulling conventional, then we will switch.” Come meet day, my 3rd attempt was 209 and it looked like my first attempt. My coach went with me to the back, put 225lbs on the bar, and told me to lift it. That 225lbs was probably one of my proudest moments. Technically it did not count towards my total, but it counted in my confidence.
I try not to think too much when it comes to my deadlifts. If I begin to “overthink,” then I start to second guess myself and then I find myself nearly giving up before the weight is even off the floor. The best advice I ever received was to “lift like Jess.” We often find ourselves watching other women and trying to emulate what they are doing and how they are lifting. While it is great to LEARN from someone else but they can certainly teach you different cues or tricks you may not have seen before, at the end of the day you must lift like YOU. My sweet spot is what I search for every time I go into a lift.
Your favorite scripture reads, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose words I praise-in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalms 56:3-4. How has this particular scripture allowed you to move forward in life, even during the bleakest and tragic of times? What is it about this particular scripture that speaks to you? That plays so heavily on your heart.
This scripture reminds me that God is always in control. There is only so much a person can do physically before we have to just “let go and let God.” This scripture is my favorite because it helps me deal with my anxiety. When something would not go the way I originally planned, I used to get really worked up and out of control. Now I take a breath, try to see all sides of finding a solution, and then adapt to the situation. I pride myself on being in control of my emotions at all times. I am a firm believer in the notion that making decisions out of emotions is a bad decision. The best way to think and respond is with wisdom.
There are so many things out of our control that can have a HUGE impact on our lives. Instead of getting angry or acting irrationally, I tell myself that it is happening for a reason and now I need to adapt to the situation at hand. It took me a long time to get to this point in my life; I was not this calm 3 years ago. God decides my destiny, not people.
When your time on this earth comes to an end. How do you want others to remember you?
I want others to remember me as a spitfire, determined, reserved, but never broken woman of God.
Get to know Jess a bit better on Instagram!
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