'It has changed my life' - How Wakefield's Jade Wolfenden overcame huge setbacks to become a professional bodybuilder

It would not be amiss to say that bodybuilding has saved Jade Wolfenden’s life.

Saturday, 28th November 2020, 7:58 am
Jade Wolfenden.

The Wakefield athlete suffers from epilepsy and seizures that have even caused her heart to stop three times.

The 26-year-old used to suffer attacks on a daily basis but since earning her International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness pro card last year, the seizures have subsided.

Her love of bodybuilding was ignited aged 17, after finding a picture of her Mum, Sharon, at a competition when cleaning her family loft.

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Jade Wolfenden.

She has a keen interest in health and fitness and runs a personal training business, AJ Health and Fitness, with her partner Adam.

“I got diagnosed with epilepsy and I have a heart condition as well,” she said.

“With bodybuilding you are supposed to be on six meals a day and I would miss meals or not eat enough.

“I would drink alcohol and have seizures all the time. At one point I was having seven a day. Three of the times my heart has stopped because of a seizure and I have had to be brought back with a defibrillator or through CPR.

Jade Wolfenden.

“I got myself a coach because I thought I needed to sort my life out. I just started eating clean, doing cardio, lifting weights and I just got healthier.

“I was going to need a pacemaker but I don’t have to have one anymore. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle thing for me now, not just a hobby.”

She added: “At one point I didn’t think I would be able to do this [bodybuilding] again. After a seizure you feel shattered and when I was having them daily, I didn’t really have a life.

“It has honestly changed my life.”

At 26, Wolfenden is one of the first Yorkshire women to hold a pro card and has spent the last year competing at events across Europe.

Earning a pro card is no easy feat. Competitors need to win their height class in amateur competition before going up against the winners of the varying height classes to earn their professional certificate.

Wolfenden competes in the bikini class where competitors are judged on overall shape and fullness and how they bring themselves across on stage - with how they look, how their makeup is done, and their bikini all considered in the judging process.

She said: “It is such a good feeling when you are on stage and know that you have achieved something.

“It is hard work, especially in the last couple of weeks before a competition.

“With my epilepsy, I have got to be careful in those last few weeks because my triggers are tiredness and stress.

“But the benefit of being healthy and being able to get on with my life again is fulfilling. When I got my pro card it was just an amazing feeling.

“I got my pro card last year in October and this year I have been doing my first pro competitions.” On the judging process, she added: “The criteria is mainly focused on glutes and hamstrings. They look for a womanly shape and for you to be lean.

“Some judges like you to be lean, some like the softer look. In the pro league, they tend to want you to be more muscular which is good for me because I can come in quite conditioned.”

Her first professional competition was in Alicante where she came 12th out of 34 competitors. In her second show in London she placed fourth in a field of 15 and recently came 10th while competing in Romania.

She was due to travel and compete in America this year but those plans were dashed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dreams of reaching the world-famous Ms Olmypia in Las Vegas are not within the realms of impossibility for Wolfenden.

Arnold Schwarzenegger won the male equivalent - Mr Olympia - eight times in the 1970s.

Owning her own gym meant that she was able to continue training throughout lockdown, leaving her ready to compete when competitions finally resumed.

“I would love to get to the Olympia. It is like the show of all shows. All the best pros get invited there,” she added.

“My aim this year was to get my name out there. It is about who you are and how you bring yourself across as well.

“I have had to step back and remember I am only starting as a new pro.

“I have done really well this year to hit top 10s in my first pro year. I would like to make sure I get into the top six or top three more next year and then try and get to the Olympia in 2022.”

Stepping up from the amateur competitions to the professional ones does bring its challenges but Wolfenden is confident she can continue to improve.

She said: “In the amateurs there are different height classes and anyone can take part but in the pro league, everyone is in the same boat. Everyone has worked hard to get there and everyone looks insane.

“This is my first year and there are girls who have been doing it for years and years. There are areas I need to improve on and it is then just getting the confidence to get on stage and showcase what you can do.

"I have been prepping for shows this year since February, you are constantly in a headspace of wanting to improve and do better.”