Pure power: Stay-at-home mom finds strength on stage

Jill Joiner-Wong is a national caliber power-lifter from Auburn. - Gary Kissel/Auburn Reporter
Jill Joiner-Wong is a national caliber power-lifter from Auburn.
— image credit: Gary Kissel/Auburn Reporter

By MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter Editor

The self-described “cardio queen” ran marathons, even tried a triathlon. But this “workout rat” was looking for something more fulfilling than beating the clock and the competition in long-distance races.

After discovering free weights by her trainer three years ago at the Auburn Valley YMCA near the SuperMall, Jill Joiner-Wong gradually emerged as a national-caliber powerlifter with plenty of more muscle to flex in the months ahead.

“It’s just you and the weight,” said the 39-year-old Auburn woman, a stay-at-home mother of two children who began to compete in the intense sport two years ago. “It’s different. It’s really satisfying, certainly more gratifying.

“It’s a cool thing – kind of a high.”

Joiner-Wong might be considered a late-comer, even a late-bloomer to the drug-free strength sport, but she is determined to make the most of her opportunity to shine on the stage early and often.

In only her fifth meet, the 5-foot-4½ and 142-pound Joiner-Wong captured her division at the inaugural USA Powerlifting Columbia City Classic in Seattle on Oct. 18. She cleared 308 pounds in the squat and 319 pounds in the dead lift – both personal bests – and bench-pressed 132 pounds for a three-lift 760-pound total to take the 148-pound weight class.

In doing so, Joiner-Wong qualified for the USAPL Women’s Nationals next February in Miami.

With good health and careful training in the coming weeks, she hopes to shatter her career-best totals and lower some records.

“Jill’s best attribute is her eternal will to succeed,” said Mark Noesen, her coach and trainer who operates his own personal-training business, Homebodies, out of his Auburn studio. “It just proves you can accomplish what you set out to do, and Jill’s the most driven person I have ever met.”

Noesen informally introduced Joiner-Wong to weight lifting at the YMCA. Interested in strengthening her body, she kept coming back and following his routines, which included frequent visits to the bench press.

It was an indication to Noesen that she was devoted to her newfound craft.

“She came up to me and said, ‘I need a goal. Why am I doing this?’ “ Noesen recalled.

In little time, Joiner-Wong proved a quick study. She soon entered and excelled at her first meet, winning her class at the 2007 state meet by lifting conservatively and clearing all nine of her attempts.

She has improved with time, added about seven pounds of muscle to her frame while maintaining 15-percent body fat.

She is naturally gifted with her lifts and extremely powerful with her hips, Noesen said.

The only thing that has slowed her is a shoulder injury that has her cautiously approaching the bench press.

But a rested and ready Joiner-Wong envisions stronger days ahead, guided by her trainer and supported at home by her family – a close-knit bunch that includes husband Chee, daughter Rachel, 8, and son David, 6.

“They motivate me,” Joiner-Wong said. “I want to be a positive role model. I put a goal out there in front of me and I want to be able to reach it.”

Added Chee: “I’m not at all surprised of her accomplishments. She is very driven and goal oriented. Once she finds something worthy and sets a goal, she will work hard to meet it. She demonstarted this whether it’s volunteering for the YMCA Partner-with-Youth Campaign, working with her previous employer or helping at the Lakeland Hills Elementary School.

“She enjoys lifting, and once she discovered powerlifting, there was no going back,” Chee said. “Her passion and success are inspiring to her children, myself and to those around her.”

Joiner-Wong, who grew up in Battle Ground, graduated from Washington State University with a degree in psychology.

She dabbled with weights in high school, but never considered competing.

Until now.

At Seattle, Joiner-Wong seized the opportunity by lifting heavier amounts. She made five of her nine attempts, leaving her last dead lift on the table after safely qualifying with a personal-best total of 760 pounds.

“I’ve never been that aggressive before,” she added.

Joiner-Wong now wants to stay healthy and ready for nationals, mentally and physically. Her routine includes about six hours of lifting in the gym each week. She also practices yoga one-to-two hours weekly to enhance the training, reduce soreness and promote muscle flexibility.

Team Joiner-Wong also includes Suzan Douglass, her massage therapist, and Dr. Jeremiah Tibbitts, her chiropractor.

“Without the collaborative efforts of Suzan, Mark and Dr. Jeremiah, I would not have continued to become stronger in my training,” Joiner-Wong insisted.

As Noesen pointed out, it is all about quality not quantity when it comes to preparing and peaking at the right hour.

“We want her healthy and in line with her abilities. We want to avoid burnout and injury,” he said.

Joiner-Wong has the mental part down and will make sure the body comes ready to push and pull the heavy bar.

“It’s so individually based and it’s satisfying when you’re competing and succeeding against yourself.”

“It’s mostly mind over matter,” she said. “If you can believe you can do something, you can.”

To learn more about Jill Joiner-Wong and the sport, contact Mark Noesen at 253-332-3006 or

Auburn Reporter Editor Mark Klaas can be reached at or 253-833-0218, ext. 5050.

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