There was something missing in Jennifer McKenna’s life.
Then the devoted mother, grandmother, and volunteer found it in something she usually kept clear of – the digital world.
It was a small Facebook post calling for people interested in keeping fit. Not through lawn bowls, tennis, or gentle walks along the river, but through boxing.
For Jennifer, 64, it was a life-saver.
“I’m not very good with online stuff so I tagged my daughter on Facebook asking her to sign me up for the classes,” the Yass woman said.
“Nothing happened for a while and then I got a message from Aaron [Reid] who runs The Valley Boxing Gym classes asking me if I was still interested in signing up.
“I don’t know what it was but it touched something in me. So I decided to sign up. I knew I had to do something, and this was it.”
Barely five foot tall wringing wet, Jennifer was also looking to get fit – and away from the chips and lollies that had become such good mates. Her weight was close to 70kg but today she is barely 60kg, dropping from a size 14 down to 8.
“I’m in better condition today than I’ve been in for 64 years,” she joked. “I can’t wait to get up in the morning and go for a walk along the river and I can’t wait to go to my boxing training. It’s made all the difference in my life.”
Jennifer’s not had the easiest of lives. Having been in retail most of her working life, Jennifer thought her constantly painful back was because of all the years standing on concrete floors.
It wasn’t until she was 33 that a chiropractor told her she had S1 spina bifida. It explained why her body would suddenly lock up, and why at times she could barely shuffle along, let alone walk. She also lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“I just can’t believe how boxing has helped me feel so much better,” she said. “I’m walking better, I’m breathing better, even my memory’s better.”
Jennifer said boxing was not just about punching people. For her, it’s a physical and mental exercise.
“It’s funny,” she said, “but for the first time in 64 years I’ve starting to really feel I know myself.
“I’ve learned it’s all a matter of control. But with boxing, though, I still tend to hit the gloves rather than the faces,” she laughed.
Jennifer now trains with the boxing group two nights a week and has even moved on to the fun bit, the sparring. Yes, she is the oldest in the class, but the money’s on her as the wisest. Her life skills alone propel her right up there.
Born and bred in Eden, Jennifer spent most of her early working life at the Fish Cannery – as did her siblings and parents. When you came of working age in the Far South Coast town in the 1970s, there was little choice.
She moved to Yass about 17 years ago to be closer to family.
These days she still works retail, but as a volunteer with Vinnies in Yass, and is one of the store’s most popular and familiar faces.
“Everything is different in my life now,” she said. “I used to be like a puffing billy, couldn’t breathe very well, couldn’t complete ordinary tasks – now look at me.”