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How does a teacher of over three decades start a bodybuilding career after the age of 50? The way you would start anything, just do it.
Miriam Jenkins, an Olympia High School educator, balances her 9-5 and a successful bodybuilding career all at the age of 52, with no end in sight. Having been heavily involved in fitness since her college basketball days, Jenkins now teaches her high school boy’s weightlifting team while training at the same time.
Pro in Training
Jenkins recently celebrated the phenomenal feat of earning her International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB) Pro Card, all while gaining several significant wins underneath her belt to date. The road to pro wasn’t easy, but that didn’t stop Jenkins from pushing forward towards reaching her goals. “I went to a bodybuilding competition with a friend and thought ‘I could do this,’ and that was four years ago”’ says Jenkins.
Becoming a bodybuilder wasn’t a recent revelation for Jenkins, who had the same aspiration in her twenties, but lacked discipline when it came to her diet. Two weeks after turning 50, Jenkins competed in her first show and won without being in what she believed was proper physical condition. “If I’m 50 and I can win in not that great of shape, I wonder what can happen if I seriously got into shape,” Jenkins tells me as she reminisces on her start in the bodybuilding world. Jenkins credits her own coach IFBB Pro Ty Pope with helping her take her training to the next level. She also gets cupping muscle release and physical therapy at Probody Sports with Pam and Justina.
Naturally shy, Jenkins credits her bodybuilding career to her increase in self-confidence. Although her actions are relatively the same, there is no question that her persona has evolved over the years. “I’m doing things I never imagined, specifically being on stage almost naked! The way I walk, stand and carry myself are all different” says Jenkins. Still true to herself with a little confidence boost, Jenkins knows when walking into a room that ‘I belong here.’
If Jenkins could feel this shift in her life, why not help others experience it too? She already has that covered! As someone who loves people and wants to help transform lives, Jenkins influences both her students and other women to make positive changes.
The Student and Teacher
A couple of Jenkin’s students have supported her at competitions while many have Googled her on their spare time. No stranger to social media, Jenkins records herself training to inspire others via her Instagram page @miriamjenkinsifbbpro; she even makes cameos on her students Snapchat. Her commitment has garnered her many fans and supporters. Her team’s coach often tells the other girls, “if you want to know how to get your glutes right… ask Miriam!”
Encouraging her students to live a healthy lifestyle, Jenkins teaches her students the importance of body positivity. “Everyone has a beautiful body”, says Jenkins as I mention Serena Williams and the constant criticism she has faced throughout her career due to her body image.
“People throw shade and wonder about other people’s body type because they think they can’t do it, or they’re uncomfortable with the way they look,” says Jenkins. Societies shift into more body positive imagery doesn’t come without scrutiny, and Jenkins is no stranger to said criticism. Students have come to her expressing they don’t want to look like a man, based on social standards that say the more muscular you are, the more masculine you look. Furthest from the truth, Jenkins tells her students “you can’t look like a man— because you are not a man!”
Health and Fitness Over 40
Jenkins realized her biggest obstacle was her lack of discipline with her eating habits and attributes that as most women’s stumbling block. When asked how women over 40 can begin to make changes to live a healthier life, Jenkins offered these tips:
- Look at your eating habits. What are you eating that makes you look and feel tired? Make those necessary adjustments to your diet.
- Add a workout. The combination of both a proper diet and exercise will start to build your confidence leading to better health and a better life.
What does a boost of confidence look like? You begin to dress different and put more effort into your appearance. Your makeup and hairstyles change. You start to enjoy going out with other people— you get your freedom back. Jenkins says she noticed that many women start to lose that freedom around the age of 35. “We don’t seem to care how we look. We get so caught up in family, careers, and everyday life that we don’t put ourselves first”, says Jenkins.
It’s not enough to get out and exercise, but Jenkins encourages readers to choose something you love to do. Whether it’s biking, walking, running, cycling— if you don’t enjoy it you won’t do it again. Programs like Black Girls Run and Black Girls Bike bring women of all backgrounds into a safe space to get healthy and enjoy the process together. Jenkins even suggest finding an accountability partner, and being open to meeting new people. “At 50 you can look just as good if not better than 20 and 30-year old’s, it’s possible, you just have to be willing to work a little harder.”