The SPP Spotlight: Jenny Brogdon Survives Emotional & Physical Trials to Help Others

SPP Spotlight - Shanna Paxton PhotographyThis is The SPP Spotlight, a new feature on our blog that spotlights women who have become leaders in the community, made a positive impact on people’s lives, or is a great role model for women in some way.

Our guest is Jenny Brogdon, owner of CrossFunction Massage in DuPont.  Jenny has a varied career that includes technology, sports and personal training, sports nutrition, modeling, and being an Olympic hopeful.

Jenny, thank you for being with us.  It is such a pleasure to have you.

                Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

Absolutely. You recently started a new business, CrossFunction Massage.  Tell us about your business.

                I developed CrossFunction Massage for those people who are in pain and in athletics and those who use their body. And a lot of that is being able to move their body in their full capacity.

So, tell me a little bit about ‘full capacity.’ Does that mean standing up straight? What all does that entail?

                Well, a lot of times people come, like if they’re runners they have issues with their hips or their feet.  A lot of times if people are sitting in their chairs all day long they have issues with their lower back and shoulders.  Folks who are working out can have specific injuries.  Like if they’re in baseball a lot of times their rotator cuff has problems. So just being able to figure out what is causing them not to have full mobility and being able to fix them.

Excellent. You were a personal trainer before becoming a massage therapist.  What made you more interested in massage therapy than personal training?

                Well, personal training has its limitations. You can work with a person’s body, but if they don’t have the full movement it stunts them in their capacity to grow in their endeavor. With massage therapy you can utilize a lot of the other modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractor, physical therapy – it all goes hand-in-hand, so I just decided to take the more medical route and go in that direction.

You’ve worked at a few gyms and wellness centers before. Why start your own business?

                Freedom. Because as an individual business woman you can decide when it is you want to work, where you want to work, how you want to work, what you want your business model to be, what your vision and goals are. When you’re working in another company, you have to fit within how they want to do things, which is perfectly fine for a lot of folks.  For me, I have a take-control type of personality and I just choose to experience it all on my own.

Now, you’re a business owner and you have some other roles that we’ll get into later. But let’s start at the beginning. You’re from LaGrande, Oregon, which is a college town in Eastern Oregon – similar to Olympia, which is your current home, right?

No, DuPont.

What was it like in LaGrande?

LaGrande is a small community of about 12,000 people, mostly farmers, ranchers, teachers – just very agricultural or community-oriented. There are a lot of outdoor activities. It’s a drier, conservative area. So, it’s a lot different politically, climate, topography… it’s about a 180 from here. [laughs] It took me a lot to get used to no sun.

Right. So what made you want to get away from all of that?

                Well, I got a scholarship from the University of Oregon for track and field.  That got me over to this side of the state and I’ve always been a very goal-oriented person.  So in high school I wanted to work for a company called ESRI, which is a software company. And I called them up and asked them what it would take to get a degree. Well, the University of Oregon offered that degree, plus a scholarship for track and so I had to take that.  So, I went there and ESRI has offices across the country. I wanted to be someplace local. They had an office [near] here in Olympia, so I decided after graduation that I was going to move here and take a position.

I wanted to ask you about that, actually! You started working in that company with digital mapping, correct?

Correct.

What exactly did you do? How did that work?

                So, I was the account manager and basically handled different business accounts, helping fit the correct software for different organizations.  Then I eventually moved up into the business partner group, which was helping companies that utilize the software for their particular industry and then helping them on their business marketing and all that to make our software help their business grow.

Now, during all this time, as I understand it, you were also married.

                I was married during that time. I married my high school sweetheart.

And so he moved up with you?

                Yeah. We both graduated from the University of Oregon and moved up to Olympia to start work.

I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, so tell me if this is too personal. But it didn’t go well, correct?  I mean, not in ways that are typical, like, ‘it just didn’t work out.’

                There were no roses. [laughs] The roses died before the roses began.  [laughs]

So, why didn’t it work out?

                …It was a very difficult situation.  It was an environment that became very toxic and it wasn’t a… when a person doesn’t feel valued or… there’s a lot of things that go wrong with relationships and it goes on both sides… but it was a challenge. It was really hard to open up with people and let them know what was going on.  I had to keep it to myself a lot, because I would just want to make the marriage work so bad.  It got to a point where I needed to make a decision. And I value marriage very strongly, I hold steadfast to it. So it was probably one of the most difficult decisions I had to make in my life, because it was breaking my understanding of what marriage was designed to be. It was hard for me and it alienated me from a lot of people. I had to get a new friend group. I pretty much had to start from scratch in a new city. At that time, I was training for the Olympics. [laughs] So I was working with ESRI 40 hours a week and training for the Olympics and in a marriage that was crumbling in front of me and I couldn’t do anything about it. It was a really rough year. Once I told my coach about what was going on in that household, he said, “Yeah, it’s time to leave.” I decided that was the right decision.

 Was your self-esteem and confidence affected because of the marriage?

                Absolutely! Absolutely. You did not feel valued at all.  That’s actually why I got into modeling, because I’d been told for so many years what I wasn’t and what I should be versus who I was. I was told by people that I couldn’t do it.  And I got signed by the first modeling company I went to!

Was that while you were married?

                No, no. That took a couple years before I could get to that point. I was so beaten down in my marriage that my self-esteem was nowhere near –

But you had this outlet where you decided to compete for the 2012 Olympics. Was that just an outlet for you? I would think that’d be a confidence-booster, as well, to achieve and be so ambitious. Tell me a little bit about how that correlated.

                I’ve been doing high-jump for 23 years. I started at the age of 10. My dad was a track coach and said, “You’re tall and you can jump. You should be a high-jumper.” I thought, “That looks cool!” That’s how I got Oregon 4A State Champion twice in a row on my Junior and Senior years. I was number 8 in my Sophomore year. So I went to University of Oregon and got a full-ride scholarship. I was number 6 for their All-Time list. So, I had it in me. I just knew I hadn’t reached my potential. After I graduated college, I was a coach for a while and I was just missing it. I reached out everywhere I could and suddenly, from out of nowhere, this guy named Bryan Hoddle reached out to me and said, “Hey, Jenny, I’m an Olympic coach and I’ve seen what you’ve done. How high do you think you can go?” And I told him how high I thought I could jump, which was 6’3. And he said, “I agree with you.” Because I could hold on to the [basketball] rim by that point.  So that’s how that came about and I had never thought about it, but he told me that 6’0 would get me into the trials and 6’3 would qualify you for a spot in the Olympics. I knew physically that I was able to do it and I knew that I had the drive, the determination, tenacity, the perseverance those are traits of mine. I knew I’d be okay with it. It was just the mental hurdles to get over.

Which were a lot because of your marriage at the time. So you had this dichotomy between the man you were married to and this coach who was trying to inspire you.

Yeah. And it made it difficult, because there were days where my practices would be awesome and there were a lot of days where they’d be horrible. And my performance was SO catawampus because of it. And I didn’t believe in myself. So the bar would go up and my brain would think, “Oh, I can’t do this.” And then the underlying fear is if I do this something bad is going to happen to me. So, you’ve got that fear of failure and fear of success and you’re sandwiched in-between them. And it’s a conundrum that I see now as a coach that a lot of my athletes have. It’s good that I’ve gone through these situations, because now I’m able to help others and that makes the world so much more rich and inspiring. If I went through these trials and tribulations to help someone else with theirs it’s worth it.

So, what kind of change did you notice after your divorce? Mentally and emotionally, did you notice a change in yourself, in your focus, in your ambition after your divorce?

Absolutely. It took a couple years of intense counseling, both on the sport side of it and on the emotional side of it just to be able to break free and branch past that. It took a few years. And it always will when you’re in a traumatic situation. It takes a while for your mind and your body and your emotions to heal. Unfortunately, I was doing all of that while in the middle of training and of working full time, because I had to support myself. I didn’t have any other income.

Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that, because I don’t think a lot of people realize this. At some point, you left ESRI, which probably paid fairly well and you committed more time to training for the Olympics. Can you talk a little bit about what life is like while training for the Olympics?

Yes. Absolutely. That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to juggle, because I was not stable. I did not have a relationship with someone. My marriage had ended. I’m working on the emotional aspect. I’m working hardcore on the Olympics and I made the decision that this is an all or nothing deal.  At that time I had just two years left [before the Olympics\]when I left ESRI.  In a lifespan of a person’s life, two years is nothing. So, what am I going to do in those two years? Can I look back in twenty years and say I gave it everything I had? So I made that decision that I can’t sit at a desk and have all these distractions while trying to make this one goal that’d pass me up in two years.  So I made that financial jump and it was the scariest thing I’ve done in my life. I know a lot of people question why I did it, but I don’t know how many people really give 100% in everything.  It’s really interesting.  Do you really give 100% in everything you do? In work, in home, in your hobby, in whatever?  I think it was good for me to experience what 100% was.

What did your day-to-day life look like during this time?

                Well, I was still personal training. I did some personal training, because I was pretty much in the gym anyway. So why not make money while doing that? But I would basically have Two-a-Days and workout in the morning for about an hour, hour and a half getting cardio in. Then I’d work with a couple of clients. And in the afternoon, my coach would basically kick my butt on the track. And it was hard. I can’t even describe to you how physically hard it was. To be dragging off the track with your muscles twitching and you’re sweating and you’re tired. For these entire five years I trained with nobody; it was just me alone on that track. I think if I had done it over again I’d have joined a team or something because you go through these cycles of getting good at a particular thing, your mindset is good, and then you go through troughs, mental uncertainties. I didn’t have anybody to share that with. I didn’t have any teammates to carry me through, so I was alone in the gym, working in the gym, going to the track, getting beat up there with workouts, sprinting, plyos, jumping, and swimming and that’d be my cross-training. That was a daily thing, six days a week. No vacations. I’m a big, avid outdoor person. No hikes, because you could twist an ankle, you could do something stupid and that’d just ruin all this that you tried so hard for. My nutrition was to a tee. I ate completely organic, green, healthy. You’re talking about a Dorito’s junkie here, so it was a whole new lifestyle. [laughs] So, I put as much dedication as I could into every aspect of that life. People say, “Jenny you know a little bit about a lot of things.” Yeah, because I had to in order to be the best I could be. You have to put in time for that.

That’s pretty intense. Meanwhile, you have to earn an income, right?  Do you get paid somehow to go to all the competitions and travel to the Olympics?

                Yeah, it cost about $20,000 per year for me. People don’t really care in the U.S. about Olympic hopefuls until they get a medal around their neck or they’re in contention for a medal around their neck. So, if you’re in the top tier – and I had made 6’0, which is the Olympic trials mark – people have been like, “Oh, she’s Olympic trial qualified. She can do this. We’re going to have faith in her. We will invest in her”. I just couldn’t get my mind to the ability to jump 6’0 to get that investment from other people. So, there were a lot of closed doors, financially.  By the end it was a challenge.  I’ve been digging myself out of that one for a while.

But no one pays you to go to all these competitions –

                You have to do everything yourself. You have to pay. I spent $1,000 per year on shoes, because the amount of pressure you put when you do jumping, bounding, sprinting on a pair of tennis shoes will wear them out in one month. And I’m talking about a good $100 pair of shoes. I’ve tested all different brands. So, that’s just in shoes. Now, you’ve got supplements, because if you’re going to put your body through all those stressors you have got to put more supplements in your body, because you can’t eat that much food to get all those nutrients. You just can’t. So, you’ve got about $200 per month in supplements. You’ve got your coaching. When you go to meets – I tried to go to meets without my coach and it did not work. He would look at video and go, “Oh, you just needed to move six inches back.” I just spent all this money going to this meet for six inches I needed to move back. I didn’t know, because I didn’t bring my coach. And the weather here sucks. It rains. So, you have not good weather conditions. My coach is here. I have to train here. I couldn’t just move to California and have my coach up north. It doesn’t work.  So, you pay for plane tickets and hotel rooms and for transportation and for meet fees and all the gear you wear during your competitions and your supplements and your shoes. It adds up.

That’s a lot of physical and emotional strain. You, unfortunately, failed to qualify, I think, if I’m not mistaken, it was by 1/4 of an inch.

One inch.

One inch. Okay. What was that moment like when you saw the results?

                I jumped 1.78 and I did not get 1.81 – and I’m talking meters, because we do everything in meters in track and field. That was heart-wrenching.  I even have this piece of wood – I had all these little inspiration things on my mirrors – and I had this little piece of wood that showed me how much I had to qualify. I’m holding my fingers up with just a little over an inch that I worked that hard just to not get that little piece of wood. [laughs] It’s awful.  So, I went into, like, a huge… I wouldn’t call it a depression in the clinical sense, but, you know, when you work so hard for something and you fall short you feel defeated. To be honest with you, I went on 15 hikes that summer. [laughs]

What lessons did you take from your experience training?

                Oh, well, I would not be in the career that I am today if it weren’t for the Olympics. I would not have the confidence and the assurance in ability and what God’s given me if it had not been for the Olympics.  I’d still be in this abusive relationship if it weren’t for the Olympics. So, there were a lot of take-aways.  Okay, so I didn’t get that little inch of wood that I still have. But I found myself. It helped create a path in which I’m healthy, happy, and I have more solid relationships and met more people had it not been for this experience. I think a lot of times, when it comes to goal-setting, everybody sets a goal and set little increments to get to that goal. But they don’t realize that the goal is the final outcome. It’s along that journey the things you find out about yourself and how you transform that is even more valuable and helps everyone else out in the long-run than actually getting that final piece. That’s what I’ve found.

Since then you did transition from personal training to massage and trained at the Alexandar School of Natural Therapeutics, which you mention somewhere as quite a prestigious institute.

                Yeah, Bill Thompson is the guy who runs that and his wife, Alicia Alexandar. Alicia helped get massage into the state of Washington, helped it to get licensed, helped it to being pronounced within this community. Bill has trained under some of the best kenisiologists and other body workers in the world. So, they’re very adept at what they do and they taught us well.

You learned Zen Body Therapy while studying there. Can you tell us a bit about that, because it sounds very peaceful, but it’s actually NOT.

                It sucks. [laughs] I’ll just be honest. [laughs] I don’t know why they thought up that name; they’re crazy. [laughs] It’s just a technique.  So, there’s a lot of different techniques within the medical world.  Within massage therapy, you guys have probably heard of myofacial relief or P&F stretching or trigger points. These are just names off my head. This one – each one has a different way of looking at the body – and in Zen Body Therapy, they call it ‘Zen’ because you can see the way the muscle is where it should be or is actually at.  But then the body therapy part is putting it back where it should be. So, it’s a pretty painful experience.  But it’s a sequence of events that gets your body back to a normal state.

So, you’re literally able to look at somebody and immediately identify what is off?

                Yeah, and I’m able to do that through two ways.  One, just intuition.  God gave me the ability to see how people move and see what’s wrong.  I can just look at them and see if their shoulder is off, because their hip is off, because their knee is off or whatever. But a lot of that is through my training. When I was training for the Olympics, I worked with a bunch of pro teams the CFL, NHL, the NBA, NFL… let’s see if I can get all of these acronyms. Anyway, working with these individual athletes to make them faster, because that first step in anything you do – basketball, football, hockey, whatever – that first step matters. That’s where your speed and power comes from. So, if you can work on getting their twitch faster or noticing their body mechanics change just slightly they will become a better athlete. For professional athletes it’s longevity. So, I’ve been watching people and working with people for five years with one of the best coaches in the country for that. He was my mentor.

That’s Bryan Hoddle –

                Bryan Hoddle. And we’d been working with an acupuncturist, Bob Greczanik up in Bellevue with these athletes for a while. That’s where I got my eye for watching people walk or run. So, apologies if I notice that if you invert your foot your knee is going to have issues. [laughs] Apologies in advance. Zen Body Therapy people help realign that.

In addition to all of that, you also do some modeling, as you mentioned before.  How long have you been modeling and what specific type of modeling are you doing?

                That’s a good question.  So, I actually just finished my contract with Global One last month.  But I did athletic modeling, mostly, so athletic gear. Think REI and outdoor stuff or catalogues for Runners World, that type of thing that was the market I was trying to get into. I didn’t end up getting a lot of gigs from it, but what that did for me was confidence.  Being able to get in front of a camera, being able to talk and be authentic or if they ask you to be a certain way, be able to become that character and be what they’re looking for. So it was a really good growth experience there.

You said your contract with Global One just ended. Does that mean you’re not still looking for modeling? Are you still modeling?

                If someone needs a model and I’m there I’m more than happy to do it.

Particularly for athletics or other types of modeling?

                I can go with anything. I’ve done runway before. I’ve done a couple runway shoots. But, yeah, I did a hair one once. They chopped all my hair off; that was fun. [laughs] In front of everybody! Took before & after pictures, you know, one of those magazines. But if anybody approaches me for that, I’ll look into what kind of company they are, but I’d still be willing to do that. It’s just an artistic expression.

Jenny, who are some women who’ve inspired you over the years and today?

                Ah, that is a great question… I had a PE teacher, Mrs. Young, when I was in high school. She had gone through a couple major surgeries and she overcame adversity. At a time when people will just turn over and think, ‘Yeah, I can’t do anything anymore.’ She stepped up and did it. She didn’t care. If it hurt she still did it just because she wanted to keep living her life. Even as a high-schooler at that time I saw the determination and character trait that I wanted to have. So, she was a big inspiration to me. I wouldn’t say I have a lot of idols as far as sports. There’s always Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the big ones that make you go, ‘Wow, that’s pretty phenomenal! No one can reach the sun like that girl!’ She was a track and field decathlete who broke a lot of records. But more of my inspiration that’s on the female side would be Joyce Meyer for inspirational and spiritual and motivational. She’s my number one.

Joyce Meyer… remind us, for those who might not be familiar with who she is.

                She’s a public speaker, author, and minister. She does a lot of different conferences across the country. She’s written a lot books. I didn’t love myself and her deal is teaching you – it’s the Battlefield of the Mind – so it teaches you how to rethink your thought process to change who you are so you can shine and be a light to others. She’s my girl. [laughs]

So, Jenny, you’ve come so far over the past several years from being in an unhealthy marriage to being one of the nation’s top athletes and now a business owner.  What’s next for Jenny?  Where do you hope to be in the next 5 years?

                I’m also a head coach right now at Evergreen State College.

That’s right, yes! We haven’t even touched on that!

                So, right now, I’m coaching and massaging and doing all sorts of stuff. But ideally, my main focus is to make people optimal, whether that be health, mind, body, or spirit. So, I would love to be a motivational speaker [for] some types of organizations. But I would love to be the best doggone massage therapist in this field that I possibly can. I think that if you choose a subject, choose a direction and get really good at that direction… There a motivational author named John C. Maxwell whose one of my favorites. He says don’t put a little bit of eggs in a lot of baskets, put them all in one. It makes you more effective and more communicative. So, that’s what I’d like to do. I want to figure out how to make this career and how to be the best therapist – and coaching is a part of that, because it’s still working with the body and the mind. So, if I could be a motivational speaker, a massage therapist, and keep coaching on the side, life is groovy. [laughs]

Jenny Brogdon, I want to thank you for being with us.

                Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thank you for having me on board.

You can find Jenny online at jennybrogdon.net, crossfunctionmassage.com, and on Facebook by searching for her name.  You can find her business, CrossFunction Massage, in DuPont.

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