Exclusive Interview with Mike Jenkins
Following in the recent footsteps of such talents as Brian Shaw, Derek Poundstone, Travis Ortmayer and a host of others, Mike Jenkins is currently one of the hottest properties in strongman. We caught up with Mike as he prepared to fly out to Australia to compete in the ‘Giants Live’ WSM qualifying event in Melbourne.
First of all, congratulations on your recent win at The Arnold Classic. It’s been quite a couple of years for you. If we can start by going back a bit further, can you give us an insight into your background prior to strongman?
Thank you! The past few years have been good to me! Before strongman I was always into sports of some kind. Growing up I played basketball, lacrosse and soccer, I was too big for American football! When I got to high school I was able to play finally, along with lacrosse and basketball. I was lucky enough to earn a scholarship to play football in college where we won the National Championship my senior year at James Madison University.
Was there anything specific that prompted you to try your hand at strongman?
I was always intrigued by it, I was strong and wanted to see how strong. I found a local contest in 2007 and never looked back.
Have you always been a fan of WSM? Who were some of your favourite competitors from past and present eras, and why these specific individuals?
I have to say guys like Kaz and Jon Pall, they competed with so much energy! You could tell they loved what they did and they loved to win even more! My favourite modern day strongman has to be Mike Jenkins!
Although you had competed against some of the biggest names in strongman prior to WSM 2011, were you apprehensive at all about your first WSM appearance?
I was not nervous, I was very anxious! WSM is a tough contest because it is such a long contest if you make it to the finals, its just as much mental as it is physical!
Your WSM debut turned out to be a memorable one, what are your thoughts on it now as you look back?
You know, I learned a lot! I learn every show I do about my body, the events and the sport but I think I learned more about myself after the fact. I obviously had a injury that ended my run in the finals but it made me stronger. Injuries are part of the game, I did not dwell on it or make excuses.
Are you philosophical about your back injury in the final, or do you find yourself thinking ‘what if?’ when you recall what happened?
You always think “what if” but if you live your life thinking “what if” you will not get anywhere. Injuries are part of all sports, I accepted it and told myself, “This will not happen again, I will be stronger and healthier come 2012!”
Given your performance at WSM (which was the heaviest ever) and your Arnold win, do you prefer a contest where there is emphasis on static strength?
Other than the deadlift I think my static strength is very good. I am trying to turn my weaknesses into strengths so 2012 will be different then 2011.
You had to make a considerable sacrifice to be present at WSM in 2011, what exactly happened regarding your previous employment? (Which leads into the next question, ‘tell us about what Catalyst Athletics is.)
I did! I was given two options, go to WSM or keep my job as a teacher at an alternative school in Harrisburg PA. They told me I could have some time to think about it, I laughed at them, said “my letter of resignation will be in your hands in 5 minutes!” and walked out of the office! I knew I would be ok, it would be tough but things that come easy are not usually worth much! I opened my own gym in conjunction with 13 Stripes Crossfit in Harrisburg PA, Catalyst Athletics.
Tell us about what Catalyst Athletics is.
Catalyst is a facility that trains high school athletes and people that are serious about fitness! I have bootcamps for normal people that incorporate everything you see us doing on WSM, keg carries, tire flips, log press, sand bag carries among other events.
What do you consider to be your strongest events?
I feel confident my best events are moving events, yoke, farmers, frame and medleys like sandbag load, keg loads or carry and drags.
Contrarily, which events do you feel that you need to improve upon? How do you plan on doing this?
I KNOW I need to work on my deadlift. I am in the process of working with a coach, I have never been coached in strongman before, to help improve this lift.
Who has been the biggest inspiration to you either in personal or sporting terms?
As cliché as it sounds my parents, brother and wife. My parents busted their butts when I was a kid to provide for me so I could play all the sports I did and have a happy childhood. Even though he is my younger brother, watching him excel at football was an inspiration, I know how hard he worked and the sacrifices he made to get where he is at. He woke up at 4am to drive 90 minutes with my dad to go to his high school. My parents sent him to a private school because they knew he would have a better chance to play in college, get more offers, playing there. Not many 13 year olds would make that sacrifice! It paid off, like me he did not have to pay a dime to go to college! My wife competes in NPC Bikini contests, watching her transform her body to get ready for a show and knowing what goes into that makes me work that much harder to be the best I can be.
What would an average day be like for you in the run-up to a major contest?
Well I have to work like everyone else and train so it’s a pretty busy day! I have athletes and bootcamps in the morning as early as 5am, sometimes I nap after that if I am tired then Ill train myself in the middle of the day. Around 3pm the athletes start rolling into the gym and I have bootcamps until 8 or 9 pm.
Do you train alone or in a group? Is there any particular reason for this?
I occasionally train in small groups but 99% of the time I fly solo. I had a training partner leading up to the Arnold in 2011 and WSM 2011 but he had to move for work so its just me again. All I know is training alone and its worked so far so I am going to stick with it.
In competition terms, what do you have mapped out for the rest of the year?
I only plan on doing 2 more shows, Americas Strongest Man in July and WSM in September.
The strongman scene in the US seems to have more strength in depth than ever at the minute, what are your thoughts on this?
Its getting better every year, it is becoming more mainstream and athletic guys are getting into the sport! I think its great!
Are you the type of person who sets himself strict long-term goals or objectives? If you are, could you share these with the WSM fans please?
I guess the main goal is to win as much as I can but I would like to win at least one more Arnold and being crowned WSM would be amazing! I am doing everything in my power to make these dreams come true!
Finally, do you have anything that you wish to add or to share with your growing number of supporters?
As a whole the competitors love the support we get, its more and more each year, we appreciate the followers and fans of strongman!