Before “Alicia” (Calaway) appeared on the second and eighth editions of CBS’s Survivor, dental hygienist Jennifer Stumpe competed against her in a body building contest. Although Stumpe has not appeared on the popular television show, she has filled out an application and plans to send it in. “I would have a ball if I was able to join the show,” Stumpe said.
This intrepid hygienist’s motto should be “Never say never.”
In the early 1990s, Stumpe began lifting weights at a gym. Someone told her she should try body building, and she became hooked.
Body building is similar to body sculpting in that it involves developing and building muscle mass and definition. Stumpe competed in “natural body building competitions,” which require proof that no steroids have been used. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many natural competitions left and they’re getting hard to find,” Stumpe said. “Fitness pageants are more popular because that’s what the public wants to see - female contestants in high heels.”
She speculates that most, if not all, of the competitors in the Ms. Olympia contest have taken drugs to achieve their muscle mass. “I think that a naturally achieved physique is much more appealing. The goal of body building is to build the biggest muscles you can on your physique and then show it off,” she said. Stumpe models her physique during a 2.5 minute musical routine. Contestants are evaluated on muscle mass and symmetry during the “pose down,” where judges ask for a double bicep or abdominal muscle flex or tricep pose.
The most difficult part of competition for Stumpe is the routine because she feels self-conscious when everyone stares at her as she struts, poses, and isolates her muscles.
What she enjoys is training, which is not for the faint of heart. To prepare for a competition she spends two hours a day, six days a week at the gym. She adheres to a strict diet that is high in protein, has some vegetable carbs, and a little fat. “Everything is about what goes in your mouth, and working out; it consumes your life,” she said.
She works primarily with free weights during a varying routine because, “The same routine will not only become boring, but the muscles will stop developing.” One of her typical routines is divided into body parts, for example the back and biceps. She does two sets using the heaviest weight she can manage, usually the 30 to 35 pound dumb bell if she’s developing her biceps, and lifts it five times to “failure,” meaning the muscle is exhausted. This leads to muscle growth.
Stumpe entered dental hygiene recently after earning an associate’s degree in physical education from Mitchell College in New London, Conn. She needs five courses to earn her bachelor’s degree in human performance. She has always been physically active, playing field hockey, basketball, and softball in high school, and playing softball in college and currently.
While working as a gym manager she realized that the physical education and human performance fields are saturated. She met a dentist at the gym who hired her as a dental assistant. Even though her sister is a hygienist, it wasn’t until she accepted the dental assistant job that it occurred to Stumpe that both fields help people improve their health. She entered the Fones School of Dental Hygiene and began practicing in 2004.
She had to set aside body building because the dental hygiene program demanded every waking minute. For all of the dedication and sacrifice required to sculpt a highly defined muscular body, the results quickly disappeared.
Stumpe said, “It took three months to look like I do in the picture. Within a month I still looked defined but I didn’t look ‘shredded’ or ‘ripped,’ which is the desired look. When I’m training, most carbs are depleted. This isn’t healthy over time and it is difficult to maintain. Even professionals don’t look sculpted during the off-season.”
The way she has trained herself to create the desired physique epitomizes this take-charge woman’s attitude toward life. She recently moved from Connecticut to North Carolina, where she plans to get a dental hygiene license. Not only will her home in North Carolina be her first, but Stumpe is building it herself. She has taken a break from body building competitions.Jennifer Stumpe can be reached at [email protected].