Some take years to master their craft, but within a year and a half of beginning the sport, Jillian Whiting is already a nationally ranked powerlifter.
Whiting, 14, competed last month at the USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals championship in Spokane, returning with a bronze medal in the Women’s Teen 1, 72kg division.
“It was very nerve-wracking, it was a lot different than the other two competitions I’ve done,” Whiting said. “But it was very exciting, I learned a lot, and I did pretty well.”
Powerlifting consists of three main lifts: squat, bench and Whiting’s personal favorite, deadlift. At nationals, Whiting set a new personal record with a 220-pound squat. Her current deadlift PR is 275 pounds and her bench is 120 pounds.
“The main takeaway for me was how to just stay calm and focus in the chaos,” she said, noting that Metallica is her favorite pre-competition music to get pumped up before a lift.
At Whiting’s first powerlifting competition — the 2018 USA Powerlifting Rookie Competition at Tacoma Strength in January — she set a state record in the deadlift for the Teen 1 division for 14- and 15-year-old girls with a 259-pound lift. She also took first place at the USA Powerlifting Northwest Regionals in July.
“I’ve definitely gotten a lot stronger,” she said about her progress since her first competition. “I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my abilities.”
The Todd Beamer freshman also balances a tedious academic course load, is on the varsity soccer team at Beamer and plays for Washington Premier Football Club — and still makes time to build her dreams at Temple Fitness in Federal Way.
“I get up earlier now since high school started,” she said. “I get up at 4:30 a.m. and come to the gym at 5 a.m.”
What originally began as a way to get stronger for soccer, turned into a passion, Whiting said.
“I just love how powerlifting makes me feel strong and confident and makes me a better person,” she said. She alternates between lift days and circuit training workouts throughout the week.
The elation of breaking personal weight records is tough to describe, she said.
“You’re excited you hit it and then you immediately start saying ‘What can I hit next?’” she said. “Basically I just want to increase my PR’s. I want to hit 300 pounds on my deadlift and for the rest, just [increase] as much as I can.”
Although nationals just wrapped up, Whiting’s focus is set on the future, she said.
“For the next six-ish months, I’m going to work more on volume,” Whiting said. “So more reps, less weight, and that should hopefully get me stronger so that I can start lifting heavier before the next nationals.”
Each early morning workout, she’s accompanied by her dad, Doug, and her mom, Traci. The family fitness affair reigns from the gym to the kitchen, as the Whiting family switched to a vegan diet more than a year ago and it’s changed their lives for the healthier,” Traci Whiting said.
“It’s fun to see Jillian get stronger … and prove that you can not eat meat and still get strong,” she said about the doubts of the diet.
Traci Whiting started powerlifting nearly two years ago and will soon compete for her first time.
“I signed up for a competition in December to impress [Jillian] just for fun,” Traci Whiting said. “And for myself.”
Although the motherly nerves always creep in while watching her daughter compete, Traci said she’s overwhelmed with pride.
The maturity, dedication and tenacity is unmatched by any other 14-year-old, Traci Whiting said.
Dan Esbenshade, who owns Temple Fitness with his wife Brynn, echoed her sentiments.
“[Jillian] is really hard working,” he said. “Powerlifting specifically is something where skill usually beats talent really really fast. One of the major differences between talent and skill is [that] talent is something you’re born with, skill is something you have to earn and work for. Jillian happens to be blessed because she’s talented and she’s extremely skilled.”
Patience is a virtue when it comes to fitness, he said.
“To show up at the gym before school at 4:45 a.m., in my opinion, is unheard of,” he said. “She’s really focused, observant and she listens really well. It’s hard to find someone who is talented and has such a work ethic.”
The mission of Temple Fitness is improving the quality of life by improving the temple of the holy spirit through powerlifting and general conditioning, said Brynn Esbenshade, through educating people how to exercise and moving their bodies in functional ways, along with teaching nutrition to promote overall wellness.
“It really is a family,” she said about Temple’s atmosphere. “And we didn’t expect that, but it’s become that to the point where people can come in, learn how to exercise well. It’s not about looking better — it’s about feeling better and being stronger and being able to do day-to-day things better.”
Temple Fitness recently moved to a new location in the beginning of October. The new spot to sweat is at 35417 21st Ave. SW, Federal Way.
For more information, visit templefitnessfw.com.