Fitness Olympia Champ Whitney Jones' Tips to Staying Fit
Ian Spanier / M+F Magazine1. Don’t Be Afraid to Try Stuff
Ask Whitney Jones to list all the injuries in her life, and you will be listening for quite a while. “I’ve broken one ankle three times,” Jones begins. “I’ve broken the other four times. I’ve torn my rotator cuff twice. Had surgery on both knees. Broken both wrists multiple times. Broken both elbows, broken some ribs. Had four back injuries, six concussions, 14 surgeries…” And just how did she manage to rack up more wounds than a Hollywood stuntman. “Being fearless, honestly,” she says. “Just trying stuff.”
Jones spent her childhood in the hot Arizona sun, trying to keep up with her two older brothers and performing any physical challenge they dared her to do. She also played sports. Like, all the sports: soccer, basketball, softball, track, swimming, diving, and volleyball. “I even tried to play football,” she says. “But my parents wouldn’t let me.” She was resourceful, too. To learn to do flips, she just placed a pool raft on the lawn and started flipping. (Note: Don’t try this at home.) “You’d eat it hard a lot of times,” Jones says. “That’s where some of the concussions came in.”
In high school, Jones was naturally—the flier on her cheerleading squad. This meant more falls. “They’d throw me up in the air and then this girl was supposed to catch me, and she didn’t always catch me,” she says. “So that’s how I broke a lot of my bones.” Later, at Arizona State University, Jones performed on the dance team. This led to, you guessed, more injuries. But Jones has no regrets about any of this activity. The falls built character, she says, and instilled grit. “I learned to be pretty tough, pretty early,” Jones says. “I learned how to fight. I learned how to handle injuries and keep on kicking.”
2. Have the Courage to Switch Careers
After college, Jones put her business communications degree from ASU to use at an advertising agency. She was making good money, but she was ultra-stressed, spending all day in an office, and not a happy camper. She was also skipping the gym, packing on weight, and feeling lazy. “I went from being active my whole life to work, work, work,” Jones says. “I decided,‘I don’t like this. I want to get back to being active.’”
After the birth of her second child, which required a torturous three-month stretch of full bed rest, Jones put a fork in her advertising career and became a full-time personal trainer. She loved it so much, she ended up partnering with a friend and opening her own gym. Today, that gym, Pro Physiques, is the largest personal training facility in Arizona, complete with 20 coaches who train everyone from teens and older folks to pro athletes and amateur fitness competitors. But it didn’t stop there. Building on the success of Pro Physiques, Jones launched three other businesses: the Pros, an online training company; the Glute Pros, a gym equipment manufacturing company; and Fearless by Whitney Jones, a fitness and apparel line.
Good move to quit the ad agency? We’d say so.
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- Don’t Make Excuses
In 2010, Jones entered a figure competition, but she was quickly enamored with another discipline: fitness. “That looked way more fun than just going onstage and doing quarter-turns,” she says. Jones quickly switched divisions and never looked back. A year later, she earned her IFBB Pro League pro card and started competing in the world’s top shows. The sport was a perfect match for her dance background and adventurous spirit, and she started posting top 10 finishes on the regular, whether it was the Vancouver Pro, the Arnold Classic Brazil, or the Olympia.
Then her neck gave out during a practice before the 2017 Arnold Classic. An MRI revealed a bulging disk and nerve damage. In the summer of 2017, Jones underwent a two-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), which fused two vertebrae in her neck and stabilized them with a surgically implanted metal cage. Everyone figured this was the end of her fitness career. Everyone, that is, except Jones.
On the morning of the surgery, she started a countdown clock of 276 days—the length of time until the 2018 Arnold Classic. When she awoke after surgery with full feeling in her right arm, it was all systems go. “That’s when I was like, game over, I’m 100 percent getting back on that stage,” recalls Jones. “Like, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
Four weeks out, Jones was right on schedule. Her arms were weak, so she had designed a routine that featured lots of lower body, break-dancing-type moves. She was on the cusp of a comeback that nobody but Jones thought was possible, and that nobody in the sport had ever pulled off.
Then, another setback: While practicing her routine, she tore her ACL and MCL. Doctors said surgery was the right move, but Jones ignored them and pushed ahead. She went back to the choreography drawing board, cooked up a one-legged routine, kept her injury a secret from the other competitors, and wore a full knee brace onstage at the Arnold. She won the division. Only afterward, when Arnold himself presented her with the trophy onstage, did she reveal that she had competed with a torn ACL.
Six months later, Jones claimed first at the Olympia, becoming the first Olympia champ ever to be known as “Mom.” The key to the double win, says Jones, was to never succumb to excuses. “You never know what you’re capable of until you truly push beyond your level of comfort,” she says.
- If You Love It, You’ll Find a Way
So how does Jones juggle a handful of thriving businesses, an international competition schedule, and being a single mom to two boys who never seem to slow down? “It requires sacrificing, there’s no question about it,” she says. “You’ve got to take some things off that aren’t necessities.” For example: a full night’s rest. Jones often rises at the crack of dawn to do her cardio, then helps her boys, Brody, 12, and Jake, 10, get ready for school. Then she heads to the gym and trains clients, then works out again, then picks up her boys from school or practice, and then does some bookkeeping or emailing late into the night.
Another key: multitasking. At Jones’ sons’ baseball games, you’ll find her running laps around the field or performing burpees in a corner of the park. Likewise, when it’s time to design choreography for a routine, Jones focus-groups it with her sons. If they think a move is cool, she leaves it in; if they’re bored, she nixes it.
“Every minute of the day I’m doing, like, two or three things at once,” says Jones. “But it doesn’t feel like work since I love it so much.”
It’s all how you look at things, she says. She chooses to view her daily tasks as privileges, not chores. And she reminds herself that she’s fortunate to be healthy, to have two able-bodied boys, and to be running companies that she’s passionate about. Her advice: Look at the tasks in your life as things you get to do, rather than things you have to do.
“I’m lucky that I get to travel the world and step onstage,” Jones says. “What if my kids weren’t healthy? What if I were injured with my arm still not functioning? If you can look at it with the right perspective, you’re able to balance it all. You really, really are.”
“This high-intensity circuit hits all the major muscle groups, gets my heart pumping, and pushes me to an extreme, which helps me burn max calories,” says Jones. Complete three total rounds, resting three to five minutes between rounds.
Treadmill Sprint Reps: 45 sec.
Pop Squat on Platform Reps: 25
Jumping Ball Slam Reps: 12
Banded Lateral Walk Reps: 20 per side
Squat Jack With Bar Reps: 25
Slide Board Reps: 50
Plyo Pushup Reps: 10
Box Jump Burpee Reps: 15