by CHRIS ROGERS
A man with a humorless face attached wires to Teri Tenseth Market’s chest and fingers. He inflated a blood pressure cuff around her arm, and asked her baseline questions — “What is your name?” “How old are you?” — before coming to the point: “Have you taken any steroids?”
Her answer was a definite “no.” She steers well clear of banned substances. Still, Market said, “Anytime somebody puts a cable across your chest and you have a light over your head, it’s nerve-wracking.” Pre-competition polygraphs are just part of the world of bodybuilding, along with makeup, posing rules, and glued-on, bejeweled bikinis. “Spray tanning hides a lot of the cellulite,” Market joked.
It is not obvious that Market is a bodybuilder. She does not walk around with rippling triceps bulging out from her shirtsleeves. The striations in her deltoids only start to show halfway through a workout, as she grimaces to eke out the last rep and asks men in cutoff shirts if they are still using the dumbbells. What is obvious is that she has a seemingly limitless energy.
In her full-time job as the production director at Winona State University’s KQAL radio station, Market runs around Winona festivals with a microphone and a video camera, chats with Marine Art Museum head Nicole Chamberlain-Dupree about women in art history, and edits it all down for broadcast. Market has moved away from teaching and performing belly dancing these days, but she now works as a personal trainer at Snap Fitness on the weekends and on weekday nights — when she is not teaching night classes in multimedia production at Saint Mary’s University. Market spoke with the Winona Post during her second workout of the day, before heading home to videoconference with a woman who sought her out over Instagram to ask for her help in learning how to produce video.
“I’m online 24/7,” Market said. Her Facebook and Instagram page is full of how-to workout videos, inspirational quotes, and the spread Woman's World Magazine did about her. Six years ago, Market weighed 209 pounds. “I couldn’t walk up the stairs at my house without breathing heavily. I couldn’t get up from a pushup,” she said.
Market convinced her boss at KQAL, middle school softball players, and the entire WSU football team to take part in a push-ups-for-a-Los-Angeles-homeless-shelter challenge, and posted fast-motion videos of their contributions. “If we get 10,000 push-ups, an anonymous donor has agreed to contribute $1,000,” she explained to the camera.
On the side, the Winona native runs social media campaigns for food company Miracle Noodle. She appears in and directs home cooking videos, sometimes sending late-night emails on how to get a well-lit, over-the-skillet shot to a film crew in the Philippines. Asked about how she makes time for the noodle marketing gig, Market said, “You fit that in wherever.”
Market has always been an exuberant extrovert, but a lot has changed since 2011, when she struggled to get up her stairs. “He really is one of the reasons I chose to get healthy because he told me he was worried about me,” she said of her husband.
Market described the ensuing years as her fitness journey — or #fitnessjourney, to the Instagram community. She tried crash dieting, relentless cardio, and triathlon training. “It worked, but the muscle preservation wasn’t there, and you don’t really learn to eat that way,” Market explained. “So I eventually put the weight back on even though I was busting my ass doing triathlons.” Ultimately, weight training and learning about macronutrients — diets that focus on the ratio of carbohydrates, fat, and protein — worked for her. “What works for one person doesn’t work for another person,” she added.
The journey was not just physical. Market talked about the feeling she and others had: “Why should I even care? I’m so far gone.” Asked how can people escape that mentality, she responded, “If you’re at that point, what you need to be doing is looking for a source of motivation.” For Market that meant following her favorite fitness athletes on social media. It was encouraging and inspiring, she said, to see their failures as well as their successes. As she set out to get fit, Teri posted her own progress and setbacks. “Social media meant that people were watching what I was doing and I had to be held accountable,” she stated. “It can be seen as narcissistic, but if you’re watching someone get better, why aren’t you trying to get better alongside them?” she added.
“Lifting weights was the big one,” Market continued. “[I realized,] ‘Oh my God, I am powerful.’” She recalled lifting with her husband one day when she joked, “I lift a lot for a chick.” He corrected her, “No, you lift a lot for a dude.”
Weight training led to competitive powerlifting, and then Market’s training coach suggested that she — a theatrical type who can tap dance and kazoo at the same time — might enjoy the on-stage performance of bodybuilding. In her first competitions, Market did dance routines to music while switching from one pose to the next. The poses are regulated by bodybuilding associations and are trickier than they look, Market said. Some are meant to spread the muscles of Market’s back like a fan, while others flex her arms into braided knots. Just before performing, bodybuilders eat lots of candy and start pumping weights backstage, Market explained. That sends sugar and blood rushing to their muscles, causing veins to pop out and sinews to swell. “I think this would be fun for you,” she recalled her coach saying. He was right.
Market stated that while not all bodybuilders do, she has a healthy relationship to her body image. She touched her phone and pulled up images of herself during the bulking phase, when she put on body fat as well as muscle and gained 20 to 30 pounds. “You have to be comfortable putting on weight in the off-season,” she said. Market recalled looking in the mirror then and thinking, “Yep, I’ve got [a butt]. I don’t think I look bad.”
A competitive, driven person, Market relishes having something to work toward. “I’ve always wanted to do more than the bare minimum. I’ve always wanted more,” she said. As she prepares for her next competition, Market tracks how many reps and how much weight she lifts each day in spreadsheets. Her California-based coach emails nutrition and workout plans to her. She sends him photos of herself flexing so he can track her progress. “I have structure, and I do well with structure,” Market stated.
From the office to the gym to her house, Market carries around three notebooks: one for KQAL, one for her own fitness, and one for everything else. It is a lot, she acknowledged, but she said that being physically fit has increased her capacity for other work. “I feel like a whole world has been opened up to me because of my health,” she stated. “I’m able to do more because I’m able to focus.” She shows no signs of slowing down.