When we first wrote about skating as a great fun way to workout, we had the pleasure of connecting with Jenna Downing, champion inline skater. We think Jenna is an inspiration in her confidence, drive and commitment to giving back. Welcome to The Fit List, Jenna!
Jenna is the world’s number one female inline skater and ten times British Champion. A natural competitor, Jenna has competed in rollerblading events since she was eight and became the youngest ever female to turn pro at age 12.
Since then she has represented her country across the globe in major international events, scooping the NASS title three times over, winning an X-Games silver medal in 2002 and becoming LG Action Sports World Champion in 2008. To date, she is the only European female to perform the 900-degree spin.
Growing up in a deprived area, Jenna had to work hard to get to where she is today while facing a multitude of obstacles. Jenna hopes to show young people that whatever their background or circumstances it is possible to achieve anything they choose to in life. In SFTL words, “Choose to Shine”!
1. How did you find your passion for skating?
I received my first pair of skates from my mom when I was 7 years old. I just used to love putting on my skates and finding the biggest hills near where I lived and skating as fast as I could down them! Not long after this I found out about Rehab skatepark in Wakefield, a place that I fell in love with. Here I met the Jagger brothers who took me under their wing and helped train me up on the ramps.
2. What do you love about skating?
I love how skating makes me feel. There is no better feeling than learning a new trick; when you learn a new trick you gain a real sense of achievement, nobody else did it for you (we don’t have coaches in my sport, it’s all about learning yourself and progressing at your own pace). Inline skating is also brilliant for relieving any stress or frustrations; after a tough day at work I simply put on my skates and I am immediately in a better mood! Plus, it’s fantastic for fitness!
3. You turned pro at 12. What was that like?
It was a dream come true, especially because the year before I was refused to turn pro on the basis of my age. It felt so great to finally stand on that podium as the European Champion and become the youngest ever female to become a professional in my sport!
4. What advice would you share about working to pursue your dream?
Never ever give up. If you have a dream, no matter how small or big, you really have got to go for it and above all believe in yourself.
5. Tell us a great X games story.
When I was 14 I remember being star struck after spotting Pink, the singer, in the hotel where I was staying at the Philadelphia X-Games (Pink regularly spectates at the X-Games as she dates World Class Moto X rider Carey Hart). Whilst asking her for her autograph I remember being surrounded by a group of fans wanting my autograph, not Pink’s! That was pretty cool!
6. Is it hard to make time for your friends and family?
It is difficult, especially because I moved away from my hometown of Barnsley, where my family live, a few years back to be able to focus on my sport entirely. I do miss my mom but it was a sacrifice I had to make.
7. You’re very active in breast cancer awareness. Tell us about what you’ve been doing.
I was lucky enough to be given my own signature skate – the Razors ‘Jenna Downing’ SL skate, thanks to my sponsor Razors Skates. This was a real breakthrough for all female skaters as there hasn’t been a pro skate out for women for over 15 years. As a result, I decided to donate all of my profits from the skates to Breast Cancer Care UK, a charity that I am incredibly passionate about. I am really proud to say that my skates sold out across the globe. A massive thank you goes out to all the guys and girls that bought my skates, you have supported a fantastic cause!
8. How do you make time for interests outside of skating?
Right now I am recovering from knee surgery after having my ACL reconstructed a few months back therefore I’m not skating at the moment. This is the second surgery on the same knee so I have got to be super careful with my recovery to ensure that I don’t come back too quickly and cause even more damage. Fortunately I am kept very busy with work requirements, I spend a lot of time in schools inspiring and motivating young people to achieve their potential using my stories as an elite athlete. I have also just set up my own social enterprise, Wheels Extreme CIC, which is a sports development company helping to improve the lives of young people, particularly young girls, using alternative sports and sporting role models.
9. How do you unwind?
I love nothing better than a day at the spa to relax and unwind! Or, a good book also does the trick.
10. What inspires you?
Strong, independent women that love what they do and want to make a difference.
11. Who inspires you?
My mom for bringing me up as a single parent my whole life. Her work ethic and determination is something that has always inspired me.
12. How do you start your day?
Always with a cup of green tea!
13. You do a lot of public speaking. How do you inspire others to keep them positive?
A lot of young people assume that success comes easily and generally in the UK many young people, especially in the North West where I live, have low aspirations. I aim to show young people, using the highs and lows that I’ve experienced as a World Champion Inline Skater, that you can be whoever you want to be and achieve whatever you want to achieve despite your background or individual circumstances, as long as you have got the self confidence and self belief to achieve that is all you need.
14. Favorite power meal?
Peanut butter on whole grain bread was always my go to breakfast the morning of a competition!
15. How do you define confidence? When do you feel confident? When don’t you?
I feel confident when I’m skating. Skating is what I love doing, it is what I’m passionate about. I think in life you have got to find what makes you passionate and what gets you excited. Everybody has an inner greatness/an inner sparkle, once you find that you will come alive.
16. What does Fit to Lead mean to you?