Kenja Shankles – Athlete of the Month

kenja1Date of Birth: August 4, 1989
Hometown: Marietta, Oklahoma
Marital Status: Single
Facebook: Kenja Jean Shankles
Twitter: N/A
Instagram: Kenjajean

Bio: I grew up on a ranch in Southern Oklahoma. I have one older sister and my parents have been married for 34 years. Growing up on a ranch was probably one of the most rewarding experience that I will never forget. I grew up around cattle, horses and was exposed to hunting, fishing on the Red River and anything you could think of in the nature. Most people could not imagine growing up on a 2500 acre ranch, but it was a place full of adventure and discovery.

I was very involved in sports growing up. My dad has the most competitive spirit about him and that is exactly where I get my drive to excel in everything that I do. In high school I ran track, cheered, played softball, basketball and also took piano lessons. During my sophomore year I injured my right knee playing in a basketball game. I had completely torn my ACL and partially damaged my meniscus. I thought my life had ended when this happened. No one ever wants an injury to happen and being 16 years old and on the top of my athletic career I had completely crashed. With 6 months of hard physical therapy and my parents continuously pushing me to keep going the whole time; I was back and better then I had ever thought of being. Injuring my knee taught me a lot. It taught me patience, drive, diligence, passion and the obsession that I can always do better I just have to have the willpower within myself to do it. And once again my family was there to help me every step of the way.

My senior year of high school I all-stated in basketball and softball, while also ranking 4th in my graduating class. My parents were great examples of how to live life to the fullest and to do the right things. Having such a close family that supports each other is such a blessing and I feel very fortunate to have the kind of loving family that I do.

My parents always had our family involved in church. I grew up never missing a Sunday service. I will always be grateful for my parents taking my sister and I to church and getting us involved in our church family. Without God in my life none of this would have been possible and I thank God every chance I get for allowing me to follow my fitness journey. I 110% positive the reason I am so uplifting and inspiring to others is because of the way my parents raised me and watching their relationship growing up through Christ. My parents are truly my role models.

After graduating high school I attended the University of Central Oklahoma. I spent a year at UCO and then transferred to Southeaster Oklahoma State University (SOSU) to continue my career in cheerleading. I attended SOSU for 4 years and graduated with my bachelor’s degree.

I did not start the obsession with lifting weights until after I graduated college. I have always been super involved with everything. Whether that is involvement with my local community or with friends and family. When graduated I became lost in what my next step in life would be or what my purpose was. I had landed a great job opportunity working for a law office, but I was still missing that competitive spirit.

My very first bodybuilding show to watch was the Battle of the Bodies in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It really is true when they say after you watch your first show you become hooked. I started working with Marcus Wade in November 2015 and competed in the Ultimate Bodybuilding Championship April 2016. After my first stage experience I could not believe how rewarding this sport actually was and how well I adapted to the trials and tribulations that come along with prepping for a show. When I won the Overall award at the UBC I could not believe I had the chance to compete on a National level. One of the most rewarding feelings is having your hard work recognized. It is not all about winning, because I grew as a person along the journey as well.

I will never forget my experience at Nationals and all of the fantastic people I was able to meet. I will say the Oklahoma NPC family is one to be a part of. Everyone has been so helpful and great to work with.

I cannot wait to see what this next year has to hold for me and I am very honored and blessed to be recognized for the hard work that I have put in thus far and look forward to the future. I cannot help but feel very thankful for everyone and every experience!!!!

Pet Peeve in the Gym: Not having clean mirrors in a gym or another one is someone asking for fitness tips or advice and then in return doing the complete opposite of what you explained.

Special Talent: Most people do not know that I have a musical talent. I can play the piano and have since I was 8 years old and also sing specials at my church.

Favorite Cheat Meal: Favorite cheat meal would be my mom’s homemade pizza. My mother is an extremely awesome cook and anytime I get the opportunity for a cheat she makes it extra special for me.

Best Fitness Recipe: Protein Waffles! 1 scoop whey isolate protein (flavor of your choice), 1 medium banana, 1 whole free range egg, ½ cup (dry measured) oats, ½ cup unsweetened almond milk.

37.5 protein/55 carbs/9.5 fat/450 calories.

Best Dieting Tip: Best tip is to NOT cheat!! Ultimately you are cheating yourself out of your full potential. Mind over matter is always a good rule to follow.

What Inspires You To Excel In Life And The Gym: What inspires me most is being a positive role model for other women. I may be just a small individual in the fitness world, but I thrive on helping others and inspiring others to do better for themselves. All it takes is a small spark in each person to eventually let that spark to become a growing flame. I keep in mind that someone is always watching. No matter if you are in the gym or not, but I never want to disappoint myself or others. The thought of being someone’s inspiration keeps me going and wanting to help myself more and more every day. I want and strive to be a healthy individual regardless of what situations come my way. If I’m able to help people along the way, then my purpose has been completed.

Favorite Fitness Quote You Live By:
During this fitness journey I have noticed and seen a lot of women trying to find the “secret” to getting fit or wanting the “perfect” body. I hate to say it, but there is NO perfect look, there can only be a better YOU. Anytime I get the opportunity to encourage women or uplift them I take full advantage of it. If there is anything that I want to be remembered by in life or in the fitness industry it is that women were able to be take encouraging words from me and run with it to do better for them. I always look towards this quote: “I will beat her; I will train harder; I will eat cleaner; I know her weaknesses; I know her strengths; I’ve lost to her before, but not this time; she is going down; I have the advantage, because I know her well; she is the old me.”

Most Important Thing / Person in your Life: My family members are the most important people in my life.   I absolutely could not have made it this far without each and every family member that helped me get through prep. I owe a lot of appreciation to my mother. She was there to help me in every way possible to make life easier. Trying to balance a full time legal assistant job, high school head cheerleading coach position and also prepping for a national show was extremely tough and challenging at times. My family saw the highs and the lows along the way and I could not have asked for a better family to be there for me. We are not perfect, but we always stick together. My mother is honestly my hero for being the one to always encourage me, uplift me, support me, get me through sleepless nights, prep most of my meals, wash my never-ending tuber-ware bowls and shaker bottles when I would come in late from workouts, help me with laundry and for lifting me up in prayer every chance she got. A fitness journey is not easy and it takes a lot of dedication and encouragement to get though each and every single day, but this is what I love and enjoy doing and hope to continue to excel in.

Contest Placement History: The Ultimate Bodybuilding Championship/Tulsa, Oklahoma: Novice 1st place, Figure division 1st place, Figure Overall Winner: Qualified me for Nationals, NPC Nationals/Miami, Florida: Class D 11th place.