Who knew that Batman and Wonder Woman were Canadian? If you’ve been following Jerad and Basma Penner on Instagram like I have, then you definitely did! I’m a huge fan of this awesome super couple and I think everyone will be after they read their story!
The Origin of Jerad and Basma
Basma, you, Jerad and I have been exchanging likes and comments on Instagram for a great portion of last year so it’s awesome to do this interview with you! Your name is of Arabic origin and Jerad’s is derived from Hebrew, I think. What are your ethnicities?
Thank you for taking the time and consideration to interview us. You are right about our names; I am Lebanese on my father’s side and he named me after a princess in Lebanon. I also take a share in the Ukrainian and Polish I get from my mom’s side. Jerad, on the other hand, does not share a background with his Hebrew name. He is a bit of a mutt. Mostly German/ Russian from his father and English/Norwegian from his mother.
Jerad, I’m especially glad that you survived the squats with a kid on the shoulders incident last year. Are you still grounded or has Basma let you out of the doghouse?
Jerad is out of the doghouse; the children and he survived. I am anxiously awaiting his next concoction of a lift that involves our innocent children. Soon he will be cleaning them or some weird thing.
You didn’t have to wait long. Look at this!
The more involved they are in our athletics. The more interested they become. I think that is sometimes a fair trade for his antics.
Barbell cleans with kids would make a pretty entertaining video! You guys always keep training fun. Tell me how long have you both been at it?
I have been at it since before Tristan was born, about 8 years now. We were at Jerad’s aunt and Uncle’s having dinner, I believe around Christmas. They had filled us in on Jerad’s aunt’s goal to complete a marathon in the coming May. Until this point I was a vacation or fad workout junky. I trained only to follow a fad or get ready to see my family typically. I thought, “Wow! I wish I could do something like that!” So I began my fitness lifestyle. Jerad has never had much appreciation for distance running but still he begrudgingly put up with my new fad.
Jerad has always been an athlete. He picked up a barbell in 10th grade and never looked back.
Talk to me about your garage gym. It’s pretty well stocked with weights and cardio equipment, what did you start it out with?
It all began 16 years ago when Jerad was unable to use the gym at school after hours because some teachers had changed their workout time. So Jerad convinced his parents to pick up the very same bench we are still using today. After high school, we used gyms for a while because we had no space. Then we used half of our basement in our first house and got a proper barbell set and power rack.
What have you added?
We slowly started adding as the training evolved. Now we have rubber flooring, an Olympic platform and blocks, bumper plates, strongman tires, chains, weight sled, adjustable dumbbells, dumbbell rack, kettle bells, box jump boxes, rowing machine, treadmill, assault bike.
My wife is always pushing for more cardio equipment in our garage gym while I’m always campaigning for new weights. Is there a tug of war between the two of you for what pieces to add to the gym? For example, Basma mentioned needing a Stairmaster in several posts. Is that at the top of your wish list for the next piece of equipment?
We have always had a tug of war over equipment purchases. I would say a Stairmaster or an assault self-propelled treadmill is at the top of my list. I am very good at adapting my workouts to suit what is available to me. Jerad because of his sport specific training not so much. So we go with what he needs to have and build from there. Luckily I’ve always had a love hate relationship with running!
You all appear to not train together too often because you’re sharing the power rack and the weights. Are you able to give each other pointers/feedback on training or would that be dangerous territory?
Jerad is always willing to help but withholds a lot because I do not want to hear it. He is excessively picky on form and the little things regarding a lift or sprint. Because of sports injuries he has to be. Also we do not share well. Since we do not have two squat racks we do not work out together. Also when we workout together it usually becomes foreplay and workouts can change really fast.
You know, many people may not realize how long you’ve been together because you are so passionate. You guys met in high school and graduated in 2004 before getting married. That’s awesome to see the passion still alive in your relationship this many years later! How do you two keep your relationship fun? Is it your fascination with seeing Jerad in leggings Basma?
Jerad believes the leggings help. And maybe they do. But a theory he holds close to his heart is our relationship continues to be great because God is at the center of our lives. And you can only fail in a relationship when you stop trying.
Incidentally, I assume that because Basma calls you her “Thickness” that she came up with @jeradthethick as an Instagram handle.
Basma: Yep! I remember we were sitting at all you can eat sushi and it just popped into my head!
Did your kids come up with @mymamalifts?
Basma: Nope! I did that one too!
People always tell me that they don’t know what to buy me for Christmas/my birthday and I’m like, “I’ve been lifting weights and buying my own workout stuff since 1995! Isn’t it obvious what I’d like?” So how did you train your Jerad’s parents to buy you work out equipment like your bench?
Getting the loved ones in our lives to buy fit gifts for us was never a hard thing. Jerad’s family believes in spoiling you when they can. They have always worked off lists of wants written out and delivered to Mom. Then she and the rest of the family work off the list. So Jerad and I just put the fit stuff on the list.
Training for a Purpose
Jerad you compete in bobsled, I believe? When does your season start and how long is it?
I do compete in bobsled. As much as I can or will be allowed to with business and Family life. The actual season starts in October, running till end of February/March depending on races/travel. In house training in the ice house starts in July.
You’re not competing this year due to scheduling conflicts; how do you stay motivated to train knowing that you’re not going to be competing?
My motivation comes from a deep seated desire to be the best, most explosive athlete I can be. It was not until Bobsleigh, subsequently Olympic lifting, sprinting, power lifting, jumping, that I really discovered my athletic calling. For those 5 seconds approximately; at the top pushing the sled, I feel more fulfilled than at any other sport and that is why I train.
How has your training at home made you a better athlete?
My training at home has adapted because of the sport. So has our equipment. I would say the ease of access to what I need has made it convenient. Since I am all self-taught with the exception of shared information from coaches and fellow athletes. It actually may hinder or become an obstacle training at home alone.
Well, you seem to be jumping higher and getting faster every day. That’s usually partly due to good training and partly a side effect of adequate rest. How do you structure your weight room time to make sure you’re fresh enough when you hit the track?
When we start to get faster and more explosive it is a sign we are finding the formula for our bodies. As races approach you increase rest days. Usually a day out from the race you do nothing but hydrate and maybe light stretching. And the week before a meet or race you dial down volume but keep weights the same and keep intensity of each sprint the same.
Basma, you’re fairly lean despite the pictures of baked goodies I see you post.
I bake for the love of baking. I give most of it away to friends and neighbors. Despite my lean physique I do enjoy eating the baking a bit too. Usually while I am doing the baking!
But Jerad has to maintain his weight so the team doesn’t go over the weight limit doesn’t he? Do you have to cut back when Jerad is competing so he can stay within his regulation weight? Or do you just tell the pilot he’s going to have to cut back because Basma’s baking again and you don’t want to miss out?
Jerad’s weight is not a factor. He needs to be heavy enough to compete anyways. So he and his pilot enjoy my baking but as athletes fuel themselves for a purpose. They both seem to do fine. But someone once told me there is a science behind athletes and food vices. So I figure it gives us more in common with those elite athletes.
Basma, because you have a pretty awesome physique and you seem really athletic have you ever thought about competing in physique or maybe a performance event like OCR or CrossFit?
Thank you for the compliment! I have always been fascinated by physique. But after taking in The Arnold expo, seeing some of the competition there and knowing some people in my own circle who compete, I do not believe I would want to. The OCR circuit is something I have dabbled in a bit with the Spartan Races. I have completed a full trifecta. And I do enjoy them, but the anxiety of racing gets to me so I am taking this year off. Crossfit is practically a four letter word in our house, Jerad did a strict Crossfit program for a year and a half and after my disc herniated three years ago it is not something we are very supportive of. It’s also due to all the inexperienced people pushing themselves or being pushed by inexperienced coaches to do very complex things.
Fitness Motivation and Healthy Kids
Basma you’re a huge fan of Wonder Woman. Have you already seen her solo movie?
Yes! Wonder Woman is on the list of things to see ASAP! Jerad is the comic nerd but I do look forward to it.
Jerad, I know you enjoy dressing up as Batman. He, Captain America, Luke Cage and Black Panther are my favorites. Mostly because they all had to overcome adversity. Is Batman’s drive to develop himself to peak perfection why you like him so much?
Sort of yeah. Also the fact that he’s not super. He uses his abilities beyond what he should be able to do.
I mean, you didn’t dress up as a Canadian superhero like one of the members of Alpha Flight or the most famous Canadian superhero: Wolverine!
Yeah, I do love Wolverine, but so does everyone else now that he’s on the big screen. Everybody loves Batman too but he’s the most believable superhero.
We could have an entire conversation about comics outside of this interview! But let’s end with this question: As a father with daughters, I like that Princess Diana intimidates men who are unworthy of her and truth is both her defense and her greatest weapon. What qualities about Wonder Woman do you try to emulate and/or pass on to your daughter?
I believe it is more what she stands for truth and good over all else. I try to pass on that strong sense of self; never let people who do not deserve you, take advantage of and destroy you. The only one with that power is God.
As the parents of a young girl, how do you teach her to focus on being healthy and loving the fact that God made her the way she is instead of conforming to society’s notion of how women should look?
That is easier for Jerad than for me. He gives zero stalk to other people’s opinions and encourages our children’s individuality. We focus on not changing her natural desires for things like clothes, toys, colors, movies etc. At the age of four we haven’t seen the ugly head of peer pressure yet. But when we get to that bridge we will cross it. We focus on the more important issues: being a loving person, loving God above all, and understanding who she is and who she can become if she desires and it is in God’s plan. Like eating habits, we never discuss fat or skinny or attractive based on physical appearance. We let her, and Tristan for that matter, eat whatever they would like that is in the house. In moderation of course, but we believe restriction will ultimately create rebellion in certain areas. And if our children decide the fitness lifestyle is for them then we will help to keep them on track.
Brushing Off Haters
You two have a history of dealing with negativity related to body image. Jerad, Basma said that you were attracted to her rear end when you met in high school but she was always self-conscious about it.
Yes, her rear end is truly my Achilles heel when it comes to her physical attributes. Funny enough, I was never attracted to the female physique or bodybuilder types as a young man. Even a bit turned off by them. Basma has now effectively ruined non-athletic physiques for me. I only have eyes for her wonderful athletic curves. So much so that when we are watching a romantic scene during a movie I am usually critical and repulsed by the skinny folks on screen. Hahaha! Amazing how things change.
Well, now she has to defend her feminine but muscular physique from critics. How do you as her husband build her up when society seems determined to tear her down?
I may be her greatest Devil’s Advocate! I never talk down about her physique! (She does that enough.) But I challenge her all the time with her diet and her approach to training. As far as defending her, both of us realize that beauty is truly in the one doing the looking. So we do not spend a lot of time on it. We talk it out; rationalize where the comments or questions are coming from. And respond accordingly. Usually by talking up this wonderful woman and the culture she is a part of.
Basma, do you think that you intimidate other people because you’re probably stronger than them, or do you think their comments are because you are actually accomplishing your goals while they are afraid to go after their own?
Men seem to be more intimidated than women. Women are usually jealous of my success and afraid of me until they see my personality overflow. Some just do not understand. But then I do not understand some of their lifestyle choices.
You also had to deal with people pretending that your photos were of them so they could create fake profiles.
Of course Jerad wanted bloodshed or some other medieval outcome. Instagram and/or Facebook whoever makes that decision did nothing.
But you have to make sure that stuff doesn’t affect your marriage. A lot of women in your situation would have deleted their accounts or made them private. You chose to remain public and continue to represent our faith and be a healthy female role model to people who find you online. What gave you the strength to do that?
I did not want to lose my progress; the people I have reached, the friends I have made online. Jerad understands that they are on a different continent and therefore keeping my account up and running should not be an issue. Plus their content is not discriminatory or suggestive. So we keep an eye on it through a friend of ours as we have been blocked.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Is there anything either of you did when you started training that you would change if you could go back or do it differently?
Basma: Probably visit a physiotherapist to find out what I should watch for in my form. Maybe I would be able to avoid the herniated disc. Or even slow down on the running to begin with since that only added to my physique woes.
Jerad: Definitely not do CrossFit! Spend some time being coached through Olympic lifting and power lifting. Definitely find bobsled earlier in life and have already been in an Olympics.
Jerad, you don’t like CrossFit but if the Grid League called you to compete would you do it?
We might have to consider it.
In the meantime, what are your training goals for this year?
Basma: Leaner, more muscle and maybe a bit more shape in my lower half.
Jerad: Break 3.5 seconds in the 30 meter sprint. Jump 60 inches. Crack 5.2 seconds in a Bob push. Power clean 325 lbs. Deadlift over 600 lbs. Squat 500 lbs.
Do you have anyone you’d like to thank?
Both: We thank God, first and foremost. All things are possible through Him.
Jerad: My parents for the opportunities they gave me. All the athletes that share their lives and training on social media, that help us with benchmarks and goals for ourselves. Also a little thanks to pages like Garage Gym Life that give credit and recognition to every day, extraordinary people out there that deserve some moments to enjoy the light.
Basma: My sisters and my mom for showing me how strong of a woman I can be. And all the loved ones I found through social media; creating a healthy place where encouragement and criticism can be found.
Where can people follow your training or ask your advice?
People can follow or find us on Instagram
Basma : @mymamalifts
Jerad : @jeradthethick