Simply put, bodybuilding gave Jessica MacMillan her life back.
About 10 years ago, MacMillan was involved in a minor car accident, which left her with chronic pain in her neck and back for the next six years. After exhausting every type of therapy, including chiropractic and other alternative therapies, MacMillan turned to weight training as a last resort.
“It was the only thing that really helped me,” she said. “Since I was able to strengthen the muscles in my neck, I’ve really had a virtually pain-free life. I feel it gave me my life back.”
With her pain subsided, MacMillan’s focus on weight training quickly evolved to passion, not only to improve her own fitness, but to push and inspire others to achieve a better quality of life as well.
“I got my personal trainer (certification) in 2008 once I became so passionate about fitness and knowing what it had done for me,” she said.
In 2009, MacMillan decided to take her training to the next level and competed in her first official Ontario Physique Association (OPA) sanctioned figure competition in Sudbury, where she took first place in the short category.
After taking a few years off from the sport, MacMillan jumped back in with both feet this year and her success has continued full force. Earlier this year, she earned the top spot in her category at both the Henderson Thorne Bodybuilding Championships and then the Ontario Provincial All Natural Championships, including the overall title at both competitions.
As the province’s all-natural figure champion for 2012, MacMillan can now take her sport to the national level and has the opportunity to earn professional athlete status. In the coming year, she will compete at the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation (CBBF) Nationals, the CBBF Natural Nationals and the International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) North Americans.
“I went in without expectations,” she said. “When I won my first show in 2009, (winning) was the last thing I expected. I went on stage for the experience just to have a goal to work for. It really did catch me by surprise.”
Likewise for the nationals, MacMillan said she is heading in with no expectations of winning.
“I’m just really excited to be able to compete on the national stage and bringing the best package that I possibly can,” she said.
Dedicate yourself and never give up because if you put the effort in, eventually the results will come.
MacMillan emphasized the sport is really a competition against one’s self.
“It’s a subjective sport. As long as I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, that’s what really matters. A pro card would just be a bonus.”
Macmillan, who is the head trainer at Snap Fitness, the newly opened gym in the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre, said she owes a lot to the sport.
“I’m really grateful to the sport because of what it’s done for me. I’m living the life that I never thought I could. As I’m able to do things I never was able to do before, it motivates me ... and I just want to see how far I’m able to go.”
She said it’s that ongoing challenge that keeps her coming back for more.
“I like to challenge myself and take it to the next level, and I like to inspire my clients that way, just to show them what hard work can do.”
She said she loves promoting health, especially all natural health, and particularly when it comes to setting the example for her 11-year-old daughter.
“She’s super excited, and every day, she’s showing me her muscles,” MacMillan said with a laugh.
MacMillan said her support system is key to her success.
“My husband has been my biggest support and I probably couldn’t be doing what I do without him,” she said. “It does take a lot of dedication and it can be exhausting at times.
“When you’re getting closer to a show and you’re depleting, that can be exhausting emotionally, mentally and physically. That’s when you really need your support team in place to keep you going through the ups and downs.”
She’s also had coaching from Aleisha Hart, Sudbury’s IBBF figure pro and owner of aleishafitness.com, as well as help and advice from a variety of other individuals and athletes.
As for those looking to get into the sport or who are just seeking a better quality of life, MacMillan said to “educate yourself and find out what works best for you.”
“Dedicate yourself and never give up because if you put the effort in, eventually the results will come,” she said. “There’s so many different ways to go about things, it really is a lot of trial and error. Just work on bringing the best package that you can.”