Jillian Whiting is exactly like most 15-year-old girls.
She goes to school in Federal Way, she’s thinking about what she might want to study in college, and she enjoys spending time with her mom.
But unlike many girls her age, Jillian is a powerlifting competitor.
The Todd Beamer High School sophomore started weightlifting after joining Temple Fitness on 21st Avenue in Federal Way to stay fit for the other sports she was active in, and soon fell in love with powerlifting.
“I ended up just loving the atmosphere and everything about working out in the gym,” she said. “Anybody can do it.”
Daniel Esbenshade, owner of Temple Fitness, said that while he works with a multitude of people at his gym, Jillian isn’t like most of them.
“We train a lot of people, not a whole lot of teenagers, and even out of the general [population] and regular people we train, there’s not too many people who are as dedicated as Jillian,” he said. “I do not know any teenagers who go to the gym at 5:30 in the morning, five days a week.”
Jillian’s love of powerlifting started right after she joined Temple Fitness.
A few people who also go to Temple were entering a listing competition, and it sounded fun so Jillian signed up too. She ended up falling in love with the sport, and she’s done nine competitions and brought home several medals so far.
Her first competition was in 2017, and she has no plans of stopping.
Her mother, Traci Whiting, said that while at first she was worried about the strain on her daughter’s body these competitions might cause, both she and her husband are proud and supportive of what Jillian has accomplished.
“She fell in love with it, and for her to be so disciplined and be so dedicated, I am all for that,” Whiting said. “She’s not only a good student but she’s very motivated.”
Esbenshade is very proud of the growth he’s seen in Jillian from when she first joined Temple Fitness three years ago to everything she’s accomplished.
“Over the course of the last three years … we’re really seeing the fruits of [her] labor.”
Jillian loves powerlifting because it’s a different kind of sport that allows her to be athletic, but isn’t solely focused on winning. More so, the focus of powerlifting is to improve.
Esbenshade agreed, and said, “It’s really the only sport where the person you’re competing against wants you to succeed, really badly.”
He explained that in powerlifting competitions, everyone is cheering you on to bench more, to deadlift more, because that means your competitor will have to lift more.
It’s all about improving over where you were before, not about beating everyone, Esbenshade said.
“People are excited for you, win or lose. It’s about the work ethic, not the sport,” he said.
Temple Fitness isn’t like most gyms, in that for everyone who signs up, depending on what the individual is looking for, they get their own personalized workout plan to help them reach those goals.
Jillian has a specialized powerlifting training she follows five days a week for one hour, where she focuses on working out different parts of her body. Esbenshade said her workout plan isn’t only about working on her muscle, though. Her workouts fluctuate between escalating her load and de-escalating, to ensuring her muscles aren’t overworked or strained.
In the two weeks before she has a competition, Esbenshade stops her workouts altogether, to give her body a chance to recover and to ensure she doesn’t work herself too hard and diminish her performance in meets. Jillian said it’s her least favorite rule, to the laughter of her trainers, but she understands why it’s important.
Esbenshade said that, just like with Jillian, it’s about helping people reach their fullest potential and growing with them instead of leaving them to figure out their own workouts.
Not only does Jillian see herself continuing her powerlifting competitions throughout high school, but she is also thinking about studying sports medicine in college.