Our Story

Jess’ Story

I grew up in the suburbs of Southern Ontario with my parents, two brothers and our two dogs. No, we did not have a white picket fence to go with it.  From an early age, my parents encouraged me to play outside and get involved with sports; probably in the hopes that it would wear me out for bedtime. I’m not entirely sure that worked but it did help me develop a love for sports and the outdoors.  As the years went by I became involved in skiing, soccer, gymnastics, and cheerleading.  By the time high school rolled around I was on 3 varsity teams and training year round at least 8-10 hours per week.

To complement my active lifestyle, I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that was high on fruits and veggies and low on processed crap.  My Mom is a fantastic cook so there was never much need for take-out and fast food- that was a treat for special occasions, not the everyday.  As I grew older my Mom taught me the basics to cooking and preparing wholesome, healthy meals.  Mom’s philosophies on food has since become the foundation for my love of cooking, becoming a shared passion between the two of us that continues to this day.

Though my childhood and adolescence were for the most part a happy time in my life, it was when I got to University that things went a little bit dark and I found myself facing internal demons. Following 4+ years playing varsity sports, I made the decision to pursue academics full time rather than focus on any athletic teams. I’ll be flat out honest by saying this was stupid. For my first two years I struggled academically and personally and had to overcome many internal issues to get me back to the status quo.   I don’t mean to make it sound like I had a horrible University experience because that simply is not the case.  In the end my time at Bishop’s was a great one that introduced me to amazing experiences and lifelong friends.  I can look back on my time at Bishop’s with nothing but a big ol’ smile on my face.  I just happened to also be going through a tough time personally.

By the time third year rolled around, I was “ok” on the outside but still a bit of a mess on the inside.   Tess and I had moved in together and she quickly became a rock of support to me.  I really believe that year spent living together is the foundation for our present day relationship.  Tess is the closest thing I’ve ever had for a sister and I’m so lucky to have her in my life.    It was also during this time that I became a vegetarian and began to *slowly* take up running.

Truth be told, I used to hate the idea of running, and would only do it to keep in shape for other sports.  But then I started running on this really pretty path behind our apartment and slowly but surely I fell in love and haven’t looked back.  To date I have completed a few races in the 10k and half-marathon distances and I plan on only growing that number.  To me, there is no better escape from the everyday than heading out for a good, brisk run.

My journey to vegetarianism was a little more obvious, having never been a big meat eater.  So it was during that fateful third year of University that I decided to adopt a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, much to the chagrin of my meat-loving family.   Becoming a vegetarian was a turning point for me, a keystone towards positive changes in both my lifestyle and overall health.  I’m a firm believer there is a direct correlation between diet and mental well being and since becoming a vegetarian I’ve been in a much happier place.  When I’m not working or running, you can best believe I’ll be in my kitchen coming up with a new way to stuff portobello mushrooms or another excuse to eat carbs. Mmm carbs.

Tess’ Story

I grew up in a small town at my family’s hotel business (I have a huge family – 5 sisters, 26 aunts and uncles, and something close to 80 cousins).   My sisters and I were lucky enough to grow up in a place where we had unlimited open space to play in – lakes, fields, forests, ponds, rocky hills, and marshes; I developed a very special appreciation for nature and love of the outdoors very early on.   And because we lived at a hotel, there was never any shortage of activities to partake in.  Thus, there was never any excuse for us to be sitting inside watching tv….. not that we ever really wanted to!

My parents enlisted us in GoJu Ryu karate when I was 8, and I think that has been the foundation of all my training ever since.  Any muscle or athletic ability I gained before weight training was thanks to hours and hours of basic drills, katas, and combat.  Our minds were trained with as much rigor as our bodies were, learning to stay focused and calm, and to persevere even in the midst of external distraction and/or pain.  I earned by Black Belt at age 18.

Growing up in a big family, we didn’t have the money to be eating a lot of junk food, so we were all pretty slim kids thanks to a simple, yet effective diet of home-cooked meals ( I can count on two hands the number of times my parents took us out to restaurants or bought fast-food ).  When I went to university I was overwhelmed, as most kids are, by the number of options available to me (most of them unhealthy), and with no real knowledge of nutrition, I quickly gained the classic frosh 15.  My only protein in that first year came from bacon, eggs, and pepperoni; my only vegetables were the ones on my pizza.

I think Jess was the exact right person for me to live with at the exact right time.  After moving in with her off-campus in our third year, I finally started to appreciate the value (both financially and physically) of buying fresh produce and cooking your own meals.  Jess wasn’t a vegetarian yet, but she used tons of fresh vegetables (many of which I’d never tried before) in her cooking.  She also had a very minimalistic approach to cooking, which I have personally found to be one of the keys to easy healthful eating.   I began dabbling in the school gym, running lap(s) around the basketball court (when I first started, I could barely get through 2 laps!) and doing some light weight-lifting.  We had also gotten a dog, and I had re-discovered the simple joy of walking outdoors.  Slowly, very slowly, I started integrating more and more fresh ingredients into my cooking, and over the next couple years I began experimenting more and more with weights and workouts.

By the time I left university, cooking and exercising had become my lifestyle – more, it had become my identity!   I immediately signed up with the local gym.  I will never forget, the first day I went in I must have had a confused look on my face, because there were so many machines I had never seen before.  The gym attendant/trainer saw me and took me under his wing.  For the next few months he developed workouts for me, showed me machines, spotted me, and explained basic bodybuilding concepts to me…. all free of charge!  He just wanted to make sure I was being safe and making the best use of my efforts.  That was when I knew I wanted to be a Personal Trainer, so I could pay it forward.

Interest grew to passion.  I started working out 5x per week, playing with different programs and techniques, experimenting with diets and learning about how it all comes together.  I became certified as a Personal Trainer the following year when I moved to Ottawa.  Eventually my development began to plateau, and that, paired with the surprisingly large bodybuilding community in Ottawa, helped to inspire me to enter a fitness competition.

Which brings us to the present day!  After having done 2 shows now, I wouldn’t say I have “the bug”, but I would love to earn my Pro Card so will keep competing for now.  I’m enjoying my (short) off-season and have been having fun trying new recipes and having the extra energy (how I missed you, carbs!) to lift a little heavier in the gym these days.  My next show will be in the Spring of 2012 🙂

Our Story

One word: Fate.  Two words: Bishop’s University.  Three more words: Food, fitness, friendship (in no particular order).  We met in our second year of university in French class, and it turned out we had all the same friends, making our friendship an easy fit.  The rest has been history.  Jess now lives in Montreal and Tess in Ottawa, but we still see each other every few months for special events, sporting events, or just for fun.  John says we act like sisters, as we’re always poking fun at each other (in a friendly way), we’re mildly competitive, we share clothes, and act like kids when we’re together.  Quick example: one day we went out for what was meant to be a nice easy jog at Jess’ place after a night out.  As we progressed, we started running faster and faster, both thinking that the other was speeding up and each wanting to keep pace with the other. By the end it was a full out hard run, finishing in a sprint to the end.  John said he was surprised we didn’t start pushing and throwing elbows.

The foundation of our friendship has always been mutual support, but I think what has made it such an enduring friendship has been our common quest for health, a shared love of the outdoors, and an equal open-minded attitude towards health and fitness, each respecting that there are many different paths that lead to the same destination.  It’s just a matter of what kind of scenery you prefer!


2 Responses to “Our Story”

  1. Ed November 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Congratulation on the start of your blog. You definitely have passion for the material so I am convinced this will be a huge success.

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