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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.


Ep49 Transcript: Interview with Jenny Neale

January 23, 2023

Andrea Vahl: Are you a little bit competitive? Yeah. So am I. Late starter if you thought it’s too late to compete in athletic events, you need to tune into today’s episode with my friend Jenny Neale. She started competing in athletic events in her forties and winning. She’s awesome. Tune into her great tips in today’s episode.

Intro: Hello Dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration mindset and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Andrea Vahl: Late starters, it’s your host Andrea Vahl, and I am joined by the fabulous and super strong Jenny Neale. She has been a longtime friend of mine as far as like a workout buddy, and I didn’t even know that.

You were a botanist until like recently … I was like, what? ?

But Jenny’s here to talk about getting started with competitions later in life, and we’ll dive into all that, but welcome Jenny.

Jenny Neale: Thanks for having me, Andrea.

Andrea Vahl: I know. Super fun to get to do this because, we work out in the mornings together and on whatever, on weekends and now it’s fun to see you with a regular shirt on.

Jenny Neale: I know. I was like, we’re in regular, everyday clothes.

Andrea Vahl: I know!

So well. Jenny is so inspiring. We competed together at the Camp Gladiator games and that’s how I first started getting connected with Jenny is through that training and through that competition, but she is just crushing it.

She got second this year in her age group of the 40 to 49 year olds and has also competed at DECA and any other events or is it those?

Jenny Neale: No, it’s just been CG games and then DECA Fit this last year.

Andrea Vahl: DECA Fit? Yes. Yeah. So tell us a little bit about how you got started with this whole endeavor.

I know we had talked and you were, you did soccer before, but this competition type stuff, individual competitions has been new for you and.

Jenny Neale: Yeah. As you just mentioned, I am a lifelong soccer player. I grew up playing competitively. I actually played division three in college and then when I came back and was doing graduate school at CU Boulder, was playing on some fairly high-level teams for a while.

Got married, had kids, was still playing as much as I could. And it got to the point where there were fewer and fewer opportunities to play because, there were just fewer women’s teams, women’s leagues, the indoor leagues were getting further away from my house. Games are as late as 11:00 PM which makes it really hard to get up and get to work on time the next morning, and I just got to the point where I wasn’t playing very much soccer and I know myself well enough to know I needed to do something to move my body, to keep myself sane.

Really it’s sanity. And interestingly, my husband and I had coached our two daughters in their soccer and they had practiced at a local park and I’d be the one helping run all the girls to the bathroom. And when we’d be going to the bathroom at the park, I saw this camp Gladiator and I’m like, that looks like something I would like. And I’d done a like sports conditioning class at some point in grad school and really liked the diverse station kind of work where you’re doing a little bit of weights. And so a friend of ours was doing Camp Gladiator and he said to me, you know what?

I think you would really like this. Here’s a code, check it out. So I first signed up in July of 2018. And July is actually when the preliminary competition happens for CG games. So I joined as that was happening. Had no idea what it was, had no idea what was going on. Lots of people were pretty excited about it , who were competing.

And I thought, oh, that sounds intimidating and fun at the same time. And just really ended up enjoying Camp Gladiator and did it through the fall of 2018. There was actually a couple places where the park was the same place and time as my daughter’s soccer practice, that made it easy.

And then I started realizing I wanted to do it more. Like I was really enjoying it. I was loving the community. It was in November of 2018 that I realized if I want to spend more time doing this, I’m going to have to switch to the morning. I have always been an evening workout person. Having practice after school after work, whatever. So the idea of switching to a morning workout class was super intimidating, but the classes were indoor at that time of year and they’re about five minutes from my house, . And I thought, I think I can do this. And so I talked to my husband about it.

He agreed he would be willing to shift his schedule a bit as well. So honestly, that was really the only thing that made it feasible. I couldn’t go to bed 90 minutes before him and expect to make it work. So I was like, let’s give it four weeks of me trying. And I started off going to the 6:00 AM class for only a couple days and I saw all the people down at the 5:15 AM class cuz we were in two opposite ends of the same facility. And I thought, wow, those people are like really strong, they’re really fast. And that’s actually really the time I should do it in order to get to work on time, And so after a week I started going to the 5:15 AM class and some of them pretty quickly started saying Hey, have you ever heard of CG games? You seem like you might be a good athlete, maybe you should come and try that. And just brought me into the community that they had.

And so it was through that I started pairing up with them at workouts and realizing oh, this is so fun. It’s competitive, but it’s really positive and encouraging. And so they started doing some individual like extra training sessions for prelims for 2019. I’m like, sure, I’ll participate. And they were forming teams and they’re like, where are you going to compete as an individual or a team? I’m like, I guess as an individual.

Cause I don’t really know anybody. I didn’t know anyone when I started. Our friend was going to a different time and place and so I was like, I guess as an individual, like that sounds really scary, but. I don’t really know anyone . So prelims 2019 was the first time I really stepped into a competition as an individual.

So that was really intimidating and it was one big long course. Whereas previously it had been multiple events. And I can’t remember exactly where I finished in the state, but I qualified for finals. As did a bunch of the folks in that community and they all were in, they’re going to finals.

I’m like, Okay. I guess we’ll go to Texas and compete. Sure. And Julie had won it in 2018 as an individual in the forties, and she was part of that group. And so I could latch onto Julie and say, okay, Julie’s going, I’ll be competing with Julie. Against Julie, but with Julie. So that’d be fun.

Like she’ll take me under her way along with her. And so I signed up for finals and I’ve been hooked ever since. And so doing all the CG game stuff the last couple years. And then when DECA Fit came up we were actually supposed to do it in March of 2020. At the Broncos training center, it obviously got canceled cuz of Covid.

And it got postponed. And then last year a whole bunch of us got an email saying, Hey, because you’d signed up for 2020, we’d never gotten a refund. They said, You’re welcome to just come and do it in 2022. You don’t have to pay any registration fees, so we said okay, great. Let’s do it. So several of us went and did it, and I finished third in my age group, which shocked me cuz I was, very intimidated by what the whole thing was. And I’m like, wow, like that’s cool. And then Halloween night on social media, realized like, oh, there’s a world championships in the fall. It’s the week after CG Games finals. Like I’ll be pretty fit at that point. If I actually qualify, maybe I should go.

And and then in August I got the invite. I was 11th in my age group and I’m like, I think I want to go and a bunch of our friends , were like, we’ll come with you even if we don’t qualify. . And so I went to that and actually four of us went, three of us competed. And that was super fun.

And I finished third in my age group there. And I’m like, all right. This is pretty exciting.

Andrea Vahl: And I just want to I just want to make sure everyone understands. This is worlds, this is like third in her age group. We’re talking to like third in age group in the world, for DECA fit.

And I do get that yes, not every country is like, represented. But it is, it’s a big deal. It’s awesome. I think it’s so

Jenny Neale: Well and even with CG games, it’s huge in Texas, right? . There’s thousands of people in my age group competing. . And so I competed in 2019. Julie won it again.

I finished third. 2020. They went to a virtual. Competition. And did you do the virtual prelims?

Andrea Vahl: I didn’t, no.

Jenny Neale: Okay. So they had sent out all these virtual events and they were actually super fun. I liked those. You had to do ’em on your own and submit your times or your scores. And I qualified for finals through that, and then I won that event in 2020. Virtually competed in 2021, won that. Competed this year. And there was a new woman, I knew she was coming. . Who had just turned 40. I knew she was coming who had just turned 40 and I figure second to her this year. So.

Andrea Vahl: So super awesome. First, second, way up there on the podium. That’s so great. I just love how you train. You’re just so dedicated and focused and all that stuff, , it’s awesome. It’s cool that obviously you were athletic, but you know, you hadn’t done this type of stuff before.

This was all pretty new. And,

Jenny Neale: It was all very new. I had never really lifted weights, like high school weightlifting. As a college athlete, we did a little bit of strength training, but honestly not that much. I’ve never been great at making myself go running. I do much better when I have a community or a team around me.

So I’ve never really been a consistent runner. So yeah the whole concept of CG games where it’s running that involves sprinting and weightlifting and jumping and just lots of movements. The majority of them were very new to me. My first couple camps I had to go buy a yoga mat cuz I didn’t own one.

I had to go buy weights cuz we didn’t have any. And I bought, I started with eight pounds cuz I was like, that feels really heavy. I have no idea . And just through consistency and replication and the repetition and just the support of the trainers, I’ve gradually increased the amount of weight that I can do with dumbbells over time. .

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, I think that’s huge because I think, I think that is the scary thing. Like you’ve never done it before, but now you know you’re doing awesome. And that’s the thing is it’s just the repetition and encouragement and the group also sucks you in, I think, a little bit like

Jenny Neale: Yes.

Andrea Vahl: Like that keeps me super accountable to going into these things. I remember I was sort of similar to you with the whole like, oh, prelims. Oh, sure. I’ll give that a try, and then all of a sudden it’s woo, you’re getting swept up and going to finals and it’s fun. So I think it, that’s the big thing is that it’s fun with a group and

Jenny Neale: Yeah. And I love the fact that. It’s a community that’s very open and welcoming of everybody and it’s oh, you’ve qualified. Awesome. Come join with us. Or even before people qualify and they’re intimidated about the prelims course, like we study it. We review it. Some people in our community study it very closely.

We hash through all the little details so that then we can bring other folks in and help them to have more confidence when they’re approaching this because it is intimidating. The first time I read any of these events, I’m like, wow that’s a lot of overhead weights or that’s really heavy.

And then you get out there and you do it once and it feels probably terrible the first time you practice. And then you just, do the repetition and it gets easier and you get more comfortable with it and you gain more confidence . And so I have found, DEC fit was super intimidating. It’s a, there’s some pretty heavy weights in there for me in particular, I’m a very petite person.

And there’s no scaling of the weights. So it’s a hundred meter farmer’s carry with a 40 pound dumbbell in each hand. And at first I was like, I don’t even know if I can pick up a 40 pound dumbbell in each hand. And then fortunately I had access to 40 pound dumbbells and could start practicing. Now I can knock out the a hundred meters in 45 seconds. I’m like practically running with them.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. It’s amazing. And for those of you who are I know a lot of people are listening on the podcast and also on YouTube. On the blog posts that we’re going to have with this, we’re going to put some really badass pictures of Jennifer cuz she is like this, she’s tiny and she is just crushes it.


Jenny Neale: Well Thank You. I appreciate those photo professional photographs and I have some from DECA Fit. I’ll share with you too.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, for sure because it just shows too that you, I think the other thing thats is different, all different body types can be up there. I feel even in our group we have a lot of different body types who are still, crushing it and doing awesome. And all that stuff.

Jenny Neale: And I think that’s one of the things about both CG games and DECA fit is you can have different strengths and still be competitive in the same event. Because they, there’s different aspects that will play to different strengths.

Right? So I might be really fast, but maybe a little bit slower on the ground to overhead burpees of the heavier weight. Whereas my direct competition might be faster on those burpees, but slower on the run. So it’s that balance. And so it’s not just a straight sprint, it’s not just you know olympic weightlifting. It’s diverse and so there’s a lot of different ways that you can be successful, which I think is also really nice.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. I love that too. In your obstacle course time. I went and looked at that. Your obstacle course time was crazy. So there’s different events in CG games like you said, The obstacle course, I think is one of the most fun things. You’re going over ropes, you’re going over walls, you’re doing all the, you’ve got the monkey bars and all kinds of fun stuff. Your time was like eight minutes and what was it?

Jenny Neale: I think I was like 9:30 and I was and I was second though, in my age group, the woman who beat me by a minute in 10 seconds, which to me, when I saw that, I was like, oh my gosh, she crushed me. And then I saw a bunch of other times and I was like, oh, I actually did really well on that. She just crushed me. But, So fun. I was actually like bummed when it was over cuz I’m like, oh, it’s over. That was so much fun.

But, four years ago if you told me I was going to be scaling a nine foot wall, going up and over a cargo net, up and over a bunch of hurdles, crawling Army crawl under another net, I would’ve been like I don’t really, I don’t know if I can do that. And then, I didn’t even hesitate just didn’t even think about.

Went and did all the things and it was awesome.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. And yeah the wall especially cuz you, you’re a little shorter and just , that wall is extra tall.

Jenny Neale: Yeah. It’s intimidating, right? You gotta and the very first time I went ever went over a nine foot wall, was at finals in 2019. Like we didn’t have an opportunity to practice and it was just like, “Okay. Here it is”. Now we’ve found a place that does some obstacle course race training, and we could go practice there, which has been fantastic. They’ve shared their knowledge with us, right.

Andrea Vahl: And let’s talk about how you prepare for these races. Obviously, there is the training and camp galdiator and gyms and things like that, but what other types of things have you done to prepare and train for these things?

Jenny Neale: I would say I’ve gotten more serious about it over time. I would say in 2019, it was just whatever the group was doing. And we do a lot of weekend training on our own, where we meet at the middle school, we go out on the turf field and set things up and enough people in our group own a lot of the equipment and some of them are just willing oh, there’s a new piece of equipment, I’ll buy that. And the trainers have been great about loaning us things. So we’ve had access to a lot of the equipment. Some of it we’ve had to be creative or modify. So just those group trainings, but then really focusing on my own strengths and weaknesses.

So trying to get stronger since I am physically smaller than a lot of my competitors. I know that for me a 33 pound Spartan Ram overhead is heavier than it’s going to be for somebody who weighs 40 pounds more than me. And that’s fine. So I just try to get in the repetition and enhance my strength.

This last summer was the first year I actually did join a gym in addition to doing CG in order to do more specific weight lifting in order to get stronger. CG is very oriented towards just dumbbells and then if your trainer brings equipment. . Which is great. And I have increased the weight of my dumbbells over time.

. But I found I think I want to be a little bit stronger. I want to put on some more muscle mass in order to make sure that I’m as strong as I can be going into that. . Cause I know that’s going to be really taxing on my body. So this year was the first year that I put in that extra time.

In the gym specifically. And I feel like that actually really helped. .

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. So that’s awesome. And I think, like you said, you don’t have to start, at this high level you can, you’ve obviously, grown into it and decided you wanted to do more of it, so that’s cool.

Jenny Neale: Yeah, I think it’s been interesting cuz I never thought that I’m a very competitive person. Anyone who’s ever played soccer with me would tell you that . But I didn’t necessarily ever have an outlet to compete as an individual before. So that’s been really interesting to see for myself okay, when I’m the only one here, I’m the only one responsible for the outcome of what’s going to happen here and my performance today.

Like, how does that feel? And it definitely feels different. It’s intimidating at some level. I think that I should probably still have more confidence in myself. Like I feel like I’ve been gaining confidence, but I also feel, I still have lots of doubts since this whole it’s only me and people are me, whereas I’m so used to being part of a team environment that’s been really new for me.

Andrea Vahl: .Yeah. And what, it’s funny, it’s interesting that you say you’ve got doubts cuz you’re, from the start you were on the podium, finishing early, so it’s, but it’s, refreshing for people who, you know, feel like they’ve got doubts and , maybe that stops them. But what have been some of the other challenges or obstacles that you’ve had?

I know you’ve got a family, you’ve obviously got a great career at the Denver Botanical Gardens as a botanist that I just found out about. But what have been other challenges? I don’t think you’ve had a lot of injuries, but have there been other challenges with this whole thing?

Jenny Neale: To be honest, I’ve been really lucky that I haven’t had a lot of challenges. I would say initially it was the time and the commitment in order to put the time in for myself was a little bit of a challenge, and so that’s why I made that wholesale shift from working out in the evening to then working out in the morning. And once I made that shift and had the support of my family in doing that it’s mostly been prioritizing. That’s why I go so early in the morning, right?

I work out at 5:00 AM and when we go on the weekends and we get together, we sometimes meet at 6:30 on a Saturday or a Sunday morning so that we can still get our fill of what we need before we then go spend the day with our family doing our other obligations. Time is probably my scarcest resource as it is for most people. I do commute from Lafayette down to Denver, so it’s 25 miles each way, and I do come in almost every day. So I do spend quite a bit of time in the car, but then I’ve found myself listening to podcasts about health and nutrition and exercise and, among other things I’ve been listening to your podcast and so I, I feel like otherwise I haven’t had a lot of obstacles, which has actually been really nice and I have not knocked on wood, had any major injuries either.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, cuz that is, that definitely is a challenge in training and things like that yeah.

Yeah. Yeah.  Do you think that starting later in life, do you think that’s given you some advantages to doing this? You were also competing before

Jenny Neale: I think so. In terms of, I feel like in my forties I’ve been really exploring what is it that makes me happy and what fills my bucket.

And as you mentioned, I have two kids, they’re both teenagers, so one’s in high school, one’s in middle school. And part of it is, you pour into your kids so much and so much time and energy and we were coaching their soccer and it was sort of, we were fitting in our things as we could.

This is really one of the first times I’ve been prioritizing myself. I’ve been doing that intentionally at times of day that make it easier to prioritize myself. At this point, my family just rolled their eyes at me when I’m like, I’m going to go work out at such and such time and place. They’re like, Ugh, whatever.

Okay, have fun . And yeah, I feel like coming to competing as an individual and prioritizing myself where I am in my life now. A is new to me over the last four years, and B has really helped me grow as an individual just in terms of like really thinking about what is it that I want and what makes me happy and what makes me tick, and making better choices that are going to keep me happy longer term. Rather than just going with the flow and what other people are doing. I’m an introvert. I like my space, I like my time, and I’m like, okay. Like this has helped me prioritize that a little bit more than I think I may have otherwise done.

Andrea Vahl: I love that.

I love that because, yeah, we do, as parents, as moms we put a lot of time and attention into our kids and it’s, I think it’s so important to have something that is for us because it makes us better. Better parents. Better people.

Jenny Neale: And, I just, I have more energy. I sleep better. I feel better.

I can do all the things I want to do. And that’s actually, I would say an unexpected benefit in a lot of ways is that, I’ve always been a fit person and eaten reasonably healthy, et cetera. But I now am at a point where I am fit and strong and have zero thoughts or worries about, Ooh, can I do that?

Am I physically fit enough? Am I going to be too tired? Can I walk that far? I just, we go on vacation and I just do whatever.

My parents live nearby and we still spend a lot of time with them. My parents are also both very active in their seventies, skiing with them and my dad loves to hike when we go skiing let’s hike to the top of blah, blah, blah, , and I will now carry my mom’s skis for her because it’s easier for me to carry two sets of skis and for her to just walk and she still wants to come, but it’s hard for her to carry her skis.

S he’s in her seventies. I’m like, I got it . And it’s great that I can do that now and just feel confident about that and just be like, yep, I can do all these things now that previously I would’ve been like, Ooh, I’m not quite strong enough to carry my skis and my mom’s skis, so then my mom’s not going to come with us.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. And I think, I think being, especially lifting weights and getting that extra strength training at this time of life is like so important. It’s so important.

Jenny Neale: Yes. Yeah. It’s all about bone density and longevity. Your podcast is The Late Starters Club, and I was listening to the one about redefining midlife.

I like you. I’m thinking I hope that I’m only halfway through my life, right? So, I gotta take care of this body. Like I don’t want to be having a bum knee or not having the physical energy to walk up two flights of stairs. When I’m in my forties, if I’m hoping I’m going to live into my nineties, like I got a lot of life ahead of me, so I gotta make sure I can do all these things. . So that’s actually a really big motivator too, just that looking towards the future and wanting to be healthy in my future. And like whenever I retire, I want to be able to go and do lots of stuff, and so I want to be physically fit when I get to that point.

So , I’m starting now. I’m continuing now, so that I can still be there when I get to that point years down the road.

Andrea Vahl: Right, right. And it’s inspiring even just doing this all in a group, cuz you do see the people who, like Mary, who won in her sixties and she just flies by me.

Jenny Neale: She’s amazing.

Andrea Vahl: So amazing.

Jenny Neale: Yes. I know. She tells me she wants to be like me when she grows up and I’m like, Mary, I want to be like you. You were crushing it in your sixties.

Andrea Vahl: I know, exactly, exactly. So that’s, I agree. So great. That’s so great.

This has been so awesome. I’d love to hear you said you’ve got two quotes or two, things that inspire you.

And I’d love to hear those things.

Jenny Neale: As you mentioned, I am a pretty diligent person when it comes to training. I am very focused and I have a quote that I think I picked up somewhere in college that’s a little bit more of a stick kind of quote where it’s “Somewhere out there your competition is training harder than you and longer than you. And when you meet them head to head, you will lose.”

And I’m like, I want to make the percentage that I’m going to actually meet that person as minimal as possible. Like I want to be that person to my competition. So I always believe in practicing harder than I play. So I put in tons of work. I do heavier sets, I do extra reps, I do longer distances in practice so that when it comes to the competition, that’s easy.

Then you just have all your nerves and adrenaline and all that to deal with. Which is scary enough that I want to feel confident in my body and like the challenge that’s physically ahead of me when I get there.

The other thing is “Act as if it’s impossible to fail.” And I can’t remember who said that.

But last year before DECA Fit, before I competed our friend Erin was not able to be there that day. She was out of town. And she gave each of us a little quote on a card, and that was the one that she gave me. And I had heard that before. And just receiving that from her and then reading it like on our way to the competition, act as if it’s impossible to fail, was like, yeah. Like no matter how I do, no matter where I finish, I will not be failing because I’m here, I’m going to do it. But it’s just like a nice inspirational, yeah. Just go forth and do it and have confidence. And no matter what the outcome is, it will be impossible to fail because you’re going to do it.

Andrea Vahl: Because you’re already winning.

Jenny Neale: Yeah. Yeah.

Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. Jenny, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to inspire people, and there’ll be links here in the show notes for DECA Fit, CG games, the things we’ve talked about here, as well as some Badass pictures of Jenny .

Jenny Neale: Thank you.

Andrea Vahl: Get a look at those guns, man. They’re so good.

Jenny Neale: Thank you.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, thanks again and just get out there and do it people.

Jenny Neale: Yeah. Just, no matter where you have to start, just start, even if it’s with your yoga mat and your eight pound weights, just show up. Yeah.

Andrea Vahl: Awesome. Alright.

Jenny Neale: Thanks Andrea for having me. I appreciate it.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, thank you. Bye everyone.

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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.

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