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Catch Jasmine Blocker and the other Fitsugar class trainers in new episodes that drop every Sunday and Wednesday on the POPSUGAR Fitness YouTube channel.
Jasmine Blocker never thought she would be a world champion sprinter with a gold medal to her name. She never thought she would run for Team USA or that she would ever train to try her luck at the Olympics. “Winning is fun,” she tells POPSUGAR. “Managing public relations is fun. But [my success] it just happened because I was so grounded in the journey.”
This journey took her from the college route through the collegiate and professional ranks and then, in a pandemic-inspired transition, into personal training and becoming an advocate for mental health, a subject close to her heart. Now, as the newest trainer in POPSUGAR’s Class FitSugar series, Blocker is introducing a whole new audience to his accessible workouts and positive, mental health-focused take on strength training.
Blocker started an athletic path in college when she tried out for the volleyball team — and was soon cut. “I started running on the track because I couldn’t do anything else,” she laughs. “I was so uncoordinated.” It turned out to be a very happy accident. Maybe volleyball wasn’t his sport, but sprinting definitely was.
Still, as she started running in high school and on a club track team, “I never really thought I was that good,” Blocker recalled. What sets her apart is her work ethic: her willingness to take initiatives and go the extra mile. “I was always the person asking for more practice and saying, ‘What more can I do?'” she says. “After practice, I’ll be the only girl in the weight room.”
Naturally competitive and a self-proclaimed perfectionist, Blocker just wanted to get better and better. It was a motivation that sustained her even through ups and downs during her undergraduate career at Princeton, where academics took precedence over race. Blocker remembers becoming “slower and slower and slower” before taking a year off from school to deal with the death of her freshman roommate. She went back to school, but it took another year before she got back on track.
“I was always the person asking for more practice and, ‘What more can I do?'”
Returning to the sport in her senior year, Blocker went back to doing extra workouts on her own, like in high school. “I would say, like, ‘Oh, I’m working on my thesis. I can’t come to practice today,’ but I would do a harder workout on my own in the morning,” Blocker recalled. “I would also start training with weights.” When a trainer taught him Olympic-style lifting techniques, Blocker began weightlifting consistently for the first time. Immediately his race times started to improve.
When she graduated from Princeton, Blocker still had a year of NCAA eligibility due to a “red shirt of mental health,” she says, which covered the extra year she had taken off. Track. She went to Tulane to continue running while working on her MBA, “and that’s where I got good,” she says. During her competitive year at Tulane, Blocker became an All-American in indoor and outdoor track and decided to turn pro after graduation to see what she could really do.
As a professional track athlete, Blocker competed for Team USA and won a gold medal in the 4×400-meter mixed relay at the 2019 IAAF World Relays. She took last year for reasons mental health, she says, but is already preparing for next year. “I’m excited to really be back there,” she says.
“Less is more” with Fitness
Blocker basically trained for a decade, she says, so adding personal training to her resume felt like a natural move. She decided to train clients virtually during the pandemic, a decision that has helped her balance a personal training job with her own track career. “It’s great to be able to connect with people by teaching them what I love,” she says.
As a trainer, Blocker focuses on body positive and takes a less is more approach to fitness. “A 20 or 10 minute HIIT workout is kind of my favorite thing,” she says. “You should give it your all and hit hard enough when you’re at it – go all out, be focused, even if it’s only 10 minutes.” Then she encourages her clients to rest. “Your body should have time to recover.”
A mental health advocate
Athletics and physical fitness, in general, have been a saving grace for Blocker’s mental health, she says. Having dealt with anxiety and depression for much of his life, Blocker describes the workout as meditative: “It allows you to focus on one thing in order to be completely and totally present.” Blocker has been open about her mental health journey on social media, she says, because she didn’t have a mental health role model growing up, someone spreading the message that help is available if you go through a mental health challenge or if you are not feeling well. “You’re just kind of like, ‘What’s wrong with me? I’m lazy. I’m this. I’m that.’ And I think by sharing my story, it gives people something to relate to.”
Today, Blocker says his mental health is as good as it’s ever been. And it’s not that she adheres to a set, established mental health routine; Instead, Blocker says she just makes a point of checking in daily, as her mental health needs change from day to day. “For me it’s more about, OK, I’m going to sit down and take a break and not try to be so busy,” Blocker said. “A lot of people, myself included, would rather be so busy that they don’t have time to think or feel anything. So [it’s] give me time to. . . pick up a pace and see where I’m at.”
Self-compassion is key, Blocker says, and resist the urge to compare your mental health journey — and your fitness journey, for that matter — to that of others. Physical and mental health are “so intertwined,” Blocker says. “When you feel good or your mind is in a good place, you have the energy to cook yourself a better meal and go the extra mile. Your capacity is higher.”
It’s something she’s seen in her own athletic career — “when my mind gets better…times get better, everything gets better” — and one she hopes to pass on to anyone who trains with her. . When you train with Blocker, you’ll be pushed to your limits, encouraged to stay in the present, and then called back to rest when it’s all over. “Expect to come to my workouts for 20, 30, even 10 minutes and work [your] absolute ass,” she said. “And then you have nothing to do the next day. You stay in the present with me, stay with me and leave it all in this workout.”