Jenni Brenner, a trainer a Pro Fitness in Manhattan, won in two divisions at the St. Louis Gateway Naturals bodybuilding competition on Oct. 13. Brenner, who has been competing for about six years, won her second and third “pro cards” at the competition.
The Gateway Naturals is what’s known as a pro qualifier. Bodybuilders can earn professional status, or a pro card, if they win.
“I’m still kind of in shock,” Brenner said.
Woman’s competitions feature bikini, figure and bodybuilding categories. Brenner described the figure category as bodybuilding plus Miss America, while the bodybuilding category is more straightforward. Brenner finished first in the 18 and over open and the 35 and over masters divisions.
Brenner was able to take first twice, despite not having her own music for one of her routines. Her music wouldn’t play so she had to perform to house music, making a routine up on the fly including the required poses for judges to assess.
Brenner said she wasn’t expecting to win the 18 and over open. A competitor next to her had a similar name sounding name, Julie Beirman, so she wasn’t exactly sure if her name had been called or not.
“I was waiting to call my name for second place,” Brenner said. “It took me a while to step forward because I was still trying to process it.”
After it did process, Brenner was overcome with emotion and collapsed on stage.
“I fell to my knees and started crying in front of everyone,” Brenner said.
Since then, she has received numerous messages from people congratulating her and letting her know how humbling it was to see that display of emotion.
The Gateway Naturals are one of several competitions Brenner competes in during a given year. Brenner, a mother of four and trainer, said the amount of times she competes depends on how close the competitions are and her family. However, she made a special effort to get to the Gateway Naturals because of John and Becky Arnold, who run it. Brenner said they’re good friends and support drug-free, natural athletes.
When Brenner started she was a aerobics instructor, who never thought she would have three pro cards. She just enjoyed the results she was seeing from weight lifting and exercise regiments. Then she saw a picture on the back of a bodybuilding and physique magazine.
“I thought they were strong beautiful women, and it’s something I wanted to promote,” Brenner said.
That’s the message she wants to give to girls—that you don’t have to be extraordinarily skinny to be beautiful. She said people often thinking of woman’s bodybuilding as a “manly look.” But she believes that’s a bygone era filled with steroids. Brenner said in natural bodybuilding, the look is strong yet feminine.
For now, Brenner is just trying to enjoy win, even is she doesn’t quite believe it really happened yet.
“I’m waiting for someone to call and say ‘we messed up you got second,’” Brenner said.