Feature Story                                                                                                  Sunday, May 31, 2015


Steeled Determination

Matt Jensen: More women lift weights for fitness than men in Chilliwack

Staff/Voice photos


Matt Jensen and Gita Van Velze, his fitness client, high five while working out in the Cheam Leisure Centre gym on Saturday.


att Jensen looks like he can tear the doors off cars. The bodybuilder lays down on a bench and calmly presses 225 lbs., and holds it there. Gita Van Velze, one of the fitness clients he trains at Cheam Leisure Centre, spots for him.


After a few of those, he grabs a pair of heavy dumbbells like they were toy props and takes the classic bodybuilding pose in front of a mirror. Thick veins etch themselves into his sculpted body. A confident smile chiseled on his face.


You see, he has to look good. Bodybuilding is all about looking good. The stage is his arena. He wants to get on it and own it.


"It's a sport based on visual presentation of the body in its peak condition, and is very artistic," explains Jensen.


Prior to competitions, athletes dress themselves up with tanning lotion and oil to make veins standout. Judges look for veins. It’s a sign of conditioning. They’re also scrutinized on muscle symmetry, size and proportion as they move through carefully choreographed posing routines.


For years, the soft-spoken Chilliwack native has quietly been racking up competition wins. Now, he's ready to go big. He's not pro yet, but he’s almost there and knows it.


Recently, he placed third in the middleweight category at the Northern Classic Championship in Prince George. His high-level marks there mean he's eligible to take enter the BC Provincials in 2016. Presently, he's preparing for the Popeye Classic taking place November 7th in Coquitlam, BC.


“I may try to sneak in another competition this August,” he told The Voice at the gym Saturday.


Despite what Joe Weider comic book ads in the 1960s said about getting sand kicked in your face at the beach, bodybuilding training isn't about kicking sand around. It's all about fitness, strength, and mental ability. Once bodybuilders master those, then they're well on the way to being great in one of the most elite sports on earth. Jensen is one of those rare athletes.


Matt Jensen warms up on a bench by pressing 225 lbs.


"I always looked at characters in comic books as inspiration, at the strength and power of what a body could do. Even when I was a nerdier kid I always wanted to be strong, so in the last couple years out of high school, I started making my way to becoming a personal trainer, which eventually led to competing."


Arnold Schwarzenegger, who many attribute to putting modern bodybuilding on the map, began his domination of the sport when he was just 20-years-old. So, at 23-years-old, Jensen is coming into his prime years.


When Jensen goes into competition mode, it's hard to pick a part of his body that isn’t in training. The sport is more difficult for younger athletes like him to compete in, because they lack the definition and "muscle maturity" that older bodybuilders get.


"Most pros are at their prime in their 30's,” he explains. “I've seen people stay pro into their 50's, so I'm going to work hard and do what I can now. But, I'm excited to see what my body looks like as I mature."


Jensen says bodybuilding champ, Gerry Lefurgy, has been his mentor for many years, teaching him how to be his own best coach.


"He gave me the confidence to do better with great tips and tools, and taught me how to believe in myself."


Jensen loves being a role model. He gets his inspiration from clients who he helps realize their own fitness goals. He says people truly admire his work ethic and dedication to the sport.


He’s also not shy to admit to soaking up the notoriety that comes with being a top competitor.


"I like the attention — good or bad," he quips.


Jensen wishes he could take part in more competitions, but also realizes his body needs to rest in order to grow. Muscle recovery is important, especially after and in-between the shows and competitions when there's less bodily stress, so it gives him a chance to “recover and be a little human again." 



Being a competitor in the sport of bodybuilding takes steely determination, long hours in the gym, and above all, being smart about your nutrition with well planned meals.


He eats like a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred. That's 7-8 scientifically balanced meals a day, packed into a cooler he brings with him to work and elsewhere so he doesn’t miss nutrition timing.


According to Jensen, nutrition is one of the biggest parts of bodybuilding.


"You can out-train a bad diet," he says.


He's not a gigantic guy. He and weighs in at less than 200 lbs. and says he can still lose weight with a little wiggle room left over for his cheesecake and “cheat meals” as he calls them.


"I eat 5-8 times a day, 3500 calories give or take. On an average day, I can eat 4-5 chicken breasts, 6-8 eggs, and a steak with the sides of salads and rice. Along with multivitamins, pre-workouts, amino acids, protein powders which help the dieting along famously," he says.


A lot of bodybuilders try to get down to about 5 per cent body fat, but Jensen recommends 10 per cent for men and 20-plus per cent for women.


"To be low body fat, for me, takes a lot of work. I love the challenge of it," he says. "Women get afraid of becoming to muscular by working out with weights, but it’s the fastest way to lose weight, and feel good about yourself, versus low calorie diets and endless cardio."


Jensen says most of his clients are women with some who train for bikini and figure competitions.


"Sure some guys can have drive, but women can put an emotion into it most men can't, and I love seeing that fire," he says. "My goal as a trainer is to show women how they can be the strongest and fittest if they are willing to put in the work."


His nutritional sponsor is the popular Supplement King in Chilliwack.


"They provide me with all the aid I need and I’m very grateful for their support," he says.



Currently, Jensen is focusing on summer. Going camping, and attending friend’s weddings as he preps for the November competition.


Jensen describes the importance of his family and the help he's gotten from them all along the way. For instance, his brother Spencer, who is a professional photographer and takes all his shots, once drove him 13 hours to Fort St. John and helped him prepare for a competition. And his mom gets the trophies.


"My family is very supportive, I couldn't do it without them," he says. "My brother makes me look awesome in his photo shoots."


For now, the Cheam Leisure Centre is his second home but eventually, he has plans to open a gym of his own in Chilliwack.


"Win or lose I will compete because I love to see what my body can develop into."


With that kind of outlook, there's no way for Jensen to go but up.


If you are interested in fitness training he can be reached at 604 791 1033. Watch for the launch of his website soon. Connect on Facebook.


See more photos below.


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