At first glance, Jennifer Thompson doesnâ€™t seem like the greased-up, body builder-type with muscles on top of muscles. Many know her as Lincoln Charterâ€™s high schoolâ€™s algebra teacher. What she does during after-school hours might surprise her colleagues.
Thompson is a power weightlifter.
She spoke with Coach Mike Byusâ€™ weight-training class at East Lincoln High School on Thursday to share her story and get them motivated for lifting. She opened by asking the boys why they were in the class. Most were working on increasing their muscle mass or were working on building strength for other sports they played.
“Power lifting has a positive effect on every aspect of your life,” Thompson said. “If you compare two athletes, one who lifts weights to one who doesnâ€™t, the one who does will be a better athlete and perform at a higher level.”
The group sat eyes wide and mouths slightly dropped as Thompson told them about her most recent competition and the weight she was able to lift.
The math teacher has worked her way up from barely being able to budge a 186-pound weight to now bench pressing 301 pounds. Thompson was the leader of the 138-pound womenâ€™s class in her most recent competition, the Raw Power Lifting Challenge at the Arnold Classic, earlier this month.
The event was considered raw, because participants couldnâ€™t use any aids in lifting weights; they all did it the natural way, Thompson said.
She took the title for her lifts in bench presses and deadlifts, as well as winning in the Wilkâ€™s category.
The Wilkâ€™s method factors the athleteâ€™s body weight by the amount he or she is able to lift. Her combined total was 530, the highest amount for both men and women in the competition.
Her goal for speaking to the high school class wasnâ€™t to convince them to all be power lifters, she said, but to introduce them to that type of weight lifting, one that focuses on three aspects of the sport — squat, bench press and deadlift.
She also stressed proper nutrition, “bulking up” on chicken, eggs and other types of protein as she broke down her daily meal plan for how she stays fit for her meets.
Thompson also spoke on how lifting weights can positively benefit other aspects of life and helps her have a more positive outlook, which she brings back with her to the classroom.
Her Lincoln Charter students were impressed to watch their teacher on a livestream on the Internet as she lifted hundreds of pounds.
“It was really cool to see her on the stream,” student Hailey Howard said. “I had no idea she was so strong.”
Along with her husband, her students are Thompsonâ€™s biggest fans. They met her with excitement and congratulations when she returned, almost bringing her to tears, she said.
The weightlifting math teacher finds ways to incorporate what she does in her competitions into her studentâ€™s curriculum, always trying to find creative ways to keep them engaged.
Thompson has been lifting weights since she started dating her husband in the early 90â€™s, who is also a weight lifter. She took a trip to Muscle Beach in Venice, Calif. and was hooked. As she watched, she whispered to her husband that she knew she could do that.
She first competed in 1999 in her hometown of Detroit and has been involved in the sport ever since.
“I was athletic in high school and ran track, but never really knew much about weight lifting,” Thompson said. “I wish I did though; I wonder how good of an athlete I could have been if I had.”
Now, Thompson and her husband Donovan, and others that show up at their work out station, their garage, train for two hours at a time. They train for two days and take the following two off as part of their 8-day routine.
The 8-day system is designed to work a different section of the body each day. After each area is done, they exercise on what they call heavy and speed weeks. During their heavy weeks, the group focuses on lifting as much as they comfortably can, but in small sets. On speed weeks, they work on how quickly and efficiently they can work out.
Though her workouts can be strenuous, rest is important and what keeps her body going, Thompson said.
Though she is making strides in the weight lifting world, with pictures and bios in magazines, she isnâ€™t quitting her day job.
Mother of two boys, seven-year math teacher at Lincoln Charter and weight lifter, Thompson wears a variety of hats in her day-to-day routines.
“I really love what I do,” Thompson said. “I literally go to work excited every day. Iâ€™m always looking for new ways to challenge myself. I have a responsibility to challenge my students; every kid is affected by what I teach them.”