A blackbelt in karate and highly successful fitness model and transformation coach, all of which makes Jenna Yvonne someone you should listen to!

Tell us a little about your family life and where you live…

I currently live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have two sisters, one younger, one older. We had an incredible childhood full of great memories, tradition and many family barbeques in the backyard. My parents were in love, happily married for nineteen years, but sadly we lost our mother to cancer when I was fourteen years old. She had a very strong faith and turned to God often for guidance and strength throughout her battle.


I am grateful for the short time I did have with her and think about her every day. My father has done his absolute best to be the glue that holds our family together. He is my best friend and I would not be who I am today without his guidance and unconditional support. Eventually my father found a new woman who he loved and they had a son together.

My brother is an amazing little human being and his mother and I have grown to become great friends. She always listens to all of my long-winded stories and has attended every single fitness event I have ever done. I am very blessed to have a great relationship with all of my family members!

Your Dad was a great influence on you, in what ways and what about the rest of your family?

I am very close to all my family members as I mentioned, but I have to say that my Dad takes the cake. He has been through so many hardships, experienced so much pain and loss, but he always stays positive and refuses to give up when life gets dim.

Were you always into sport? You began karate at just 5

Well, originally I was into ballet and actually wanted to be a ballerina and that’s about as far away from karate as you get! But my Dad owns a karate dojo (school) and he encouraged me to begin. I enjoyed it and have never grown tired of it to this date. I did have a period of time when I was not as active in the sport, it was when I moved away from home to go to university and begin my career. I took a break for a few years and now still train on occasions, for example whenever I visit my Dad in my hometown.

You’re a black belt…

I attained my first-degree black belt at age fourteen. Women’s Kata was my main focus and I competed many times, placing well both provincially and nationally. (The term ‘kata’ means a pre-set arrangement of movements depicting a battle, in case you are wondering!)

I was supposed to go to the Shotocup in Japan for the Worlds, but health concerns regarding a close family member prevented us from travelling at  that time. After that point I took a break from competing but continued to train hard just for the enjoyment, attaining my second degree black belt at the age of eighteen.

Did you just do karate training?

I have only practiced traditional Shotokan Karate since I was a child. I am a member of the Canadian Japan Karate Association and trained under my father, Sensei David McNamara. He has been trained under Sensei Saeki, who is the Chief Instructor of Ottawa JKA, CJKF Chief Technical Director, who also holds his 7th degree black belt and is also the highest ranking JKA Instructor in Canada.

You mention that you started to live a more unhealthy lifestyle in your twenties – what were the prime causes of this?

At that time my career became my number one priority and I stopped making myself a priority. I was working unrealistic hours. I found it quite challenging to do groceries or prepare my meals. Eventually I hired an assistant to help me with those tasks so that I could get on track.

At what age did you decide to turn to fitness modeling and did you/do you still maintain your karate?

On New Years Eve 2009, my friend suggested that I do a fitness competition because I looked marketable and I was a very outgoing person. I knew this was what I needed to get back on track and get my body back so I then announced to the entire room that I would do a fitness competition before 2011.

I was on a mission and in the healthiest way possible I was able to lose almost 40 pounds of unwanted fluff and compete on stage in a bikini! I placed 2nd out of 30 girls in my first competition and I am addicted to fitness and the ‘eat-clean’ lifestyle now. I do weight training consistently year-round and practice karate on occasion when I travel home.

You say that your journey to being fit and a successful fitness model has taught you a great deal about yourself, in what ways?

My journey certainly allowed me to test my mental strength. After quitting my bad habits, losing 40 pounds and competing in eight fitness events within the past two years, I definitely realised what I am capable of physically and mentally!

It takes a great amount of commitment, dedication and time management to compete while running a business. Many sacrifices needed to be made and I have learned that my mind is definitely my strongest muscle!

How do you fit everything in these days?

I focus my spare time on self improvement and mindset, which has allowed me to maintain my physique year-round. I believe I have found a healthy balance between running my business successfully, having a social life, maintaining my fitness and finding the time to eat clean!

If I have a shoot or a show coming up, I will integrate more cardio and tighten up my diet ever so slightly.

What have been your biggest fitness achievements and what are your plans for the future?

When I began coaching myself for my shows, it was a huge steppingstone in my life. It was at that point when I attained my best physique and I achieved my very first 1st place at a show. In 2011, I competed with The Ontario Physique Association (OPA) placing first at a regional event, following it up soon after with first place at the Ontario Naturals in the Bikini Short Class. I then qualified for CBBF Naturals.

Becoming a Sponsored Athlete with KHP Custom Suit Designs has also been a major highlight for me. Karen Phillips is amazing to work with! Working with internationally published photographer, Jamie Watling has also been a huge part of my success throughout my fitness modeling career. Since we began working together in June 2011, we have had our work published in numerous fitness magazines including this one!

On occasion, I work with a wonderful team hired by Fitness Depot Canada, and we produce videos for their YouTube channel. When I found out I got the role after the audition, that was a great moment for me as well!

Aside from all of those accomplishments regarding fitness modeling, what I am most proud of is when I took a risk last summer leaving my full-time career to start my own business as a transformation coach and online consultant. I am passionate about helping other people reach their goals and I am blessed to have had this much success with my business within the first year.

If you could just do three exercises what would they be?

Pushups, Walking Lunges, and the Plank (there are so many variations for these 3 moves!)

What’s the hardest part of remaining in the shape that you are?

Saying no to the dessert when I am out for dinner with friends or family!

Do you set your own training programmes and/or work with a personal trainer?

I have worked with a few different trainers and coaches and each had completely different approaches. Through my experience I have learned what works best for me and also how to listen to my body. I feel quite confident on my own, currently train myself and design all of my own programmes.

When did you become a fitness professional and what inspired you to share your knowledge with others?

After competing several times and sharing my 40lb weight-loss success story, I received numerous inquiries from women asking me for my help. Eventually it got to a point where I did not have time to reply to all of my inquiries.

I decided I needed to reach out to others on a larger scale and that is when I decided to try to be active in fitness publications and start my own consulting business as a transformation coach, helping others achieve their goals.

Do you have particular specialisms?

I would say that my ‘specialisms’ are Goalsetting and Mindset Coaching. I also like to consider myself quite a whiz in the kitchen and I’ve found ways to make the ‘dieting’ part more fun. I feel this is reflected in my own success as well as my client transformations!

If you had to give advice to a woman (or man) wanting to make significant changes to their life in terms of getting fit, what would you say to them?

1. Write down your goals both short-term and long-term, then break them down into baby goals and daily challenges so that they are more attainable. Post the goals on your fridge or somewhere you will see them every day.

2. Determine the setbacks you may face along the way and how you will overcome them.

3. Surround yourself with positive people.

4. Do not be afraid of failure. So many times I see people give up before they even really get started.

5. Be consistent with your nutrition! Ensure that you are not only eating clean but that you are eating the right portions at the right time of day (proteins, complex carbs, & healthy fats) based on your needs. Nutrition really is 80% of the ‘getting fit’ part!

Note: Once all of these things come easily for you – you will find it much easier to follow any fitness programme because your mindset will be on track, you will have the focus, support and the energy needed to perform the workouts with ease!

Always be prepared for success!

Jenna Yvonne Q & A _2

Jenna Yvonne training schedule

I train 1-2 body parts per day and do several exercises for each body part, always trying to work it from several angles. If I want to tighten up I do higher reps, more supersets/circuit based training. I also lower my carb intake slightly and increase my cardio. If I want to grow more, I will slow down the pace with training, lift heavy, do regular sets, but still keep rep range similar and I always train until failure.

Drop sets rock. My nutrition will be slightly higher protein and higher carb on those days. You have to eat to grow!

Here is an example of one of my own programmes:

Day 1: light chest & Heavy Shoulders

Supersets: 12-15 reps x 4-5 sets

– Incline Bench Dumbbell Press

– Decline Pushups (feet on stability ball)

– Seated Dumbbell Arnold Shoulder Presses

– Upright Rows using short bar on cable or barbell

– Cable Rope Pulls (set at eye level with pull toward ears)

– Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises (higher reps lighter weight, drop sets)

Day 2: Quads, Hamstrings, calves

Supersets: 12-15 reps x 3-4 sets

– Leg Extensions (hold/squeeze at top, down slow)

– Single-legged Hamstring Curls

– Walking Close-Stepped Lunges (holding dumbbells)

– Stiff-Legged Dead Lifts with barbell, toes up

– Abduction Machine (outer thigh) ‘squeeze and pulse’

–  Calves Tri-set consisting of 15 in, 15 centre, 15 out

Day 3: cardio Activity Something fun such as rollerblading or Swimming!

Day 4: Back & Abs

Giant set 1 = 12-15 reps x 3-4 sets

– Wide Grip Assisted Pull-ups or Wide Grip Pull-downs

– Seated Row Machine

– Dumbbell Bent Over Rows

– Back Extensions (do not add any weight)

Giant set 2 = 15-20 reps x 3-4 sets

– Roman Chair Leg Raises

– Roman Chair Knee Tucks

– Sit-ups with Medicine Ball Twist, feet elevated

– Plank Triset (60sec centre, 30sec left, 30sec right)

Day 5: Glutes & Hamstrings

Regular sets, 10-12 reps x 3-4 sets

– 5 minutes warm-up on Stepper

– Step-ups with knee-drive (holding dumbbells)

– Squats (I normally use a Smith Machine – wide stance, toes turned out slightly)

– Leg Press (feet high, toes turned out, push through the heels)

– Dead Lifts with barbell (placed toes on top of 2 plates to full more in glutes)

– Long Step Lunges

– Butt Blaster Machine or Cable Kickbacks

Day 6: Arms, calves

Regular Sets: 12-15 reps x 3-4 sets

– Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

– Assisted Triceps Dip Machine

– Triceps Pushdowns (Cable with short Bar)

– Standing Alternating Dumbbell Hammer Curls

– Preacher Curls with Dumbbell or Barbbell

– Calves Tri-set comprising of 15 in, 15 centre, 15 out

Day 7: rest day & meal Prep!

Cardio: The amount and the intensity vary throughout the year based on whether I am doing a show or photoshoot and the overall look I want to achieve.

Read more from Expert Guy Holland

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