With Hustle & Heart
This month we’re collaborating with good human, amazing mom, and fitness icon Jessie Hilgenberg. When we approached her and asked if she’d be interesting in teaming up with us to support a nonprofit cause that positively impacts humans, she was ALL IN.
We asked her what nonprofit cause meant the world to her and she immediately chose a nonprofit in the heart health space and filled us in on why this cause matters so much to her. In February for American Heart Month Jessie and Only Human are joining forces to do whatever we can to bring awareness to heart health, all benefitting the American Heart Association.
What about your story made you want to work with us to bring awareness to heart health?
While I was training for that first competition, my dad – a healthy, fit, handsome, vibrant 55-year old – died suddenly of cardiac arrest while he was bench pressing in the gym.
It stopped my entire life – my entire world in its tracks. My dad was my everything. And he was so proud seeing me and Alex working out and lifting weights. But in my eyes, being fit and healthy – eating right and lifting – didn’t matter. How could a young man so healthy with a passion for fitness die mid-workout? I never wanted to look at another piece of workout equipment again for the rest of my life. Had my dad not worked out, he’d still be here with me. We learned that he had an undetected enlarged heart, what is commonly called “athlete’s heart.” The enlarged and thickened walls of his heart disrupted his heart’s electric system, leading to arrhythmias during his workout, causing his sudden cardiac death. Had he been in a more public space, with an AED (automated external defibrillator), his life may have been saved. He was alone, in his home gym.
After about a year, my perspective slowly (VERY SLOWLY) shifted from hating the gym to realizing that perhaps my dad died doing one of his greatest passions, and he’d be so disappointed if I didn’t follow that same dream because of what happened to him. So workout by workout, I built up the emotional strength to try again. It wasn’t easy, I left many gyms mid-workout crying, sat in many gym parking lots crying without ever going in, fought a lot with Alex (my husband), but mostly – I GREW. I mean emotionally when I say that – but I guess I was growing physically, too. Lifting weights can do amazing things for your physical, emotional and mental state.
What does it mean to you to have Hustle & Heart?
What does “Only Human” mean to you?
What makes collaborating with Only Human a good fit for who you are?
What kind of impact do you hope the “Hustle & Heart” Campaign has on humans who support the cause or sport the apparel?
Anything else you wanna share about your story?
Fitness has always been a part of my life indirectly. I grew up in a fit family—my dad ran marathons, we had a home gym, and my parents always had gym memberships. Still, I never really caught the fitness bug. When I was 19, I was a typical college kid. I smoked cigarettes, partied A LOT, and didn’t give fitness a second thought. It was a phase in my life where I ate ramen noodles, drank, skipped class, and partied.
After college, I moved back to my home town and knew it was time for a change. Shortly after, I met my husband, Alex. Alex was competing as a NPC (National Physique Committee) heavyweight bodybuilder when we started dating. I was an artist and graphic designer, and was ALWAYS embarrassed by my muscular physique. I truly didn’t know what to do with my body and wished hard that I could just be skinny and not have these muscly legs and arms. I was always hiding them.
I wanted to impress Alex, though, so I would follow him around the gym making him tell me what to do, how many reps, which weight to use, etc. I would have an anxiety attack if he left my side. It drove me crazy that I didn’t feel like it was something I could do on my own, so in my typical stubborn fashion – I hit the textbooks and began staying up all night onBodybuilding.comresearching how to lift, eat and take supplements. After several notebooks full, I felt so powerful. I wanted to apply everything I was learning. So, I started studying for a personal training certificate and signed up for my first figure competition. As I always do, I took something that was hard for me – went nuts self-teaching and then go all the way and then some trying to master it – haha!
With HUSTLE AND HEART, I went on after my dad passed away to make the gym my stomping ground. I won figure competitions, earned my IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding) professional status as a Figure Pro, became a fitness model and graced the cover of multiple fitness magazines, earned sponsorships from top companies in the world like Bodybuilding.com (who’s website remember I used to stay up all night on researching “how to lift weights”) and started my business, Jessie’s Girls. What started as a hobby to impress my boyfriend turned into a women’s fitness empire with over 2 million dollars in sales, e-books, events, public speaking, travel, an app, and over 26,000 women’s lives changed all over the world. And I almost quit. But with some hustle and a lot of heart, amazing things happen.
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