Hege Jenssen, vegan kettlebell athlete

Hege Jenssen is a pro level kettlebell competitor who has competed in her native Norway as well as in international competition.  She’s done particularly well in snatch, and on her debut in the professional class took 5th at the World Championships, and she’s also taken the bronze medal at the European Championships.

Kettlebell competition has existed for over a hundred years,
growing in popularity over recent decades across the globe.

Hege’s first notable success was in the amateur class at the 2017 World Championships where she took first in the snatch.  In 2018 she took second at the Norwegian nationals in snatch, and 5th at the World Championships – in Pro class.  In 2019 she took two national wins – in snatch and biathlon, and returned to the World Championships to take 4th in biathlon.  She also took bronze at the European Championships, in snatch.

“Winning amateur class in ‘snatch’ at WC 2017 was totally unexpected and such an awesome feeling!! I did 216 reps with 16 kilo kettlebell – always only one handswitch, that’s the challenging part. Grip strength and technique plays a huge role in snatch.” 

“My favourite achievement is at the World Championship 2018, where I had my debut in professional class. After dropping 14kilos for making weight class (-68) I did a personal best in ‘Snatch’ –  109 repetitions  (24k kettlebell) and placing 5th.  But the greatest achievement is getting on the podium in the European Championship 2019, and receiving my first medal in pro class. I got bronze! It’s an awesome feeling to get to stand on the podium!”

Vegan

All of these achievements have been without animal products.

“I went vegan January 1st 2010 after not eating meat for about 8 years before that” Hege explains.    “I did eat fish during those eight years, but slowly cut out more and more animal products from my diet.”

Hege was motivated as she became more aware of the cruelty in the animal agriculture industries.

“It was something I worked towards a couple of years before, and I got the final push and motivation for going all in from fellow animal rights activists and finally the famous speech from Gary Yourofsky.”

“I didn’t start training until after I turned vegan, so all my power is built by plants – I think that’s pretty awesome !” 

Now she faces challenges when travelling to events, but
nothing she can’t overcome.

“I eat only vegan, and I’ve become a master of packing foods with me wherever I go. Coming from a small place in Northern Norway I’m used to scarce vegan food options, so going other places abroad almost always means more options for me. I did have a challenging time in South-Korea though.   Let’s say I ate a lot of only noodles and protein shakes! I usually prefer staying at an airbnb where there is a kitchen so I can make my own food, and stick to foods that I’m used to eating – which is especially important when competing. “

When not facing such challenges she eats a lot of oats, tofu, chickpeas, tahini, potatoes, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower.  “I also love to eat everything in a wrap. And of course different berries and fruits, mostly oranges and apples. Nut butter is almost too good and best straight from the jar.”

It works.  She has a very full training schedule to enable her to succeed, and certainly puts in the work.

“I do work a lot with kettlebells! And since ‘kettlebell snatch’ is my main discipline which I compete in, there is very much snatching going on. But I also train lifts with barbell, like deads, squats, cleans – and for fun I do crossfit/circuits. Normal cardio is also part of my training, so I spend some time running and on the Concept2 SkiErg and rowing machine. I’ve just started training with a new coach, so I’m excited about a new training program.”

Training with other people and coaches as the only vegan does highlight that Hege is the only vegan.  She feels that she’s been lucky with her team as they are considerate about her choice.  “That being said” she says “of course it has helped being the strongest on the team  – makes it hard to argue that a vegan diet is insufficient!” 

More plans

Hege has more to achieve, and clearly loves her sport and loves setting new targets.

Speaking with us in February 2020, she already was aiming for a strong performance at the World Championships in October. 

“But before that it’s National Championship at the end of March, then Europeans in May. I’m hoping to keep my title as National Champion and return to the podium at Europeans. My dream is to stand on the podium at Worlds, but the competition is fierce and I’m not getting any younger.

“I love competing and having a goal to work towards! So as long as I’m having a good time and results keeps getting better I’m all in!” 

Hege’s Instagram: @heyhege

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