Reaching goals

Jenna DeBenedet settles into her new gym, Lift, located in the basement of Backus Community Center. The International Falls native said opening her own gym has always been her ultimate goal.

When Minnesota gyms were shut down, a local woman opened one up.

Jenna DeBenedet is the owner of Lift, a newly-opened fitness center located in the basement of Backus Community Center. The personal trainer, who has six certifications from the International Sports Sciences Association, offers group classes as well as one-on-one training.

Officially open as of Feb. 1, DeBenedet admits she had to take a minute to look around the new gym, soaking in the reality of what hard work and determination can do. The born and raised International Falls woman said she could hardly believe her dreams have come true.

“It doesn’t even seem real,” DeBenedet said. “And it came together so quickly.”

Early interest

DeBenedet’s interest in fitness stems back to her days as a high school athlete. The 2006 Falls High graduate was a multi-sport athlete who knew the benefits of conditioning during the off-season.

Fast forward to 2017, she decided to take her love of being active and healthy to the next level.

“I’ve always had a passion for fitness,” she said. “I always wanted to be a personal trainer.”

Admitting she has repeatedly run into the emotional conflict of putting things off because no time is ever the right time, DeBenedet began to follow her dream.

“I started doing my first certification when my son, Jax, was 6 months old,” she said. “I knew there wouldn’t ever be a good time to do it if I didn’t start then.”

The first certification she took on, strength and conditioning, could be completed at her own pace, but offered challenges. Aside from settling into life as a new mom and working full time, DeBenedet said she focused on end results.

“It’s just like working out,” she said. “It takes time and dedication. I followed my own advice that I give to other people.”

Ready to commit

In the final months of 2020, DeBenedet, now a mother of two young boys, has grown as a personal trainer and now has six certifications including: strength and conditioning, youth fitness, fitness nutrition, weight management, certified personal trainer and elite trainer.

Still, there was something missing.

“My ultimate goal was to have my own space,” she said.

When Gov. Tim Walz ordered in November a second round of closures for fitness centers, to combat the spread of COVID-19, DeBenedet turned the situation into an opportunity.

“I remember thinking that was my chance, and I made it my goal to figure it out — how I can make having my own space happen,” she said. “I was trying to take the negative situation and turn it into something good.”

Through her search for a space, it was suggested she reach out to Lois Lundin, executive director at Backus Community Center.

“Backus wasn’t even on my radar,” DeBenedet said. “I didn’t think there was anywhere there that would fit what I was looking for.”

So when Lundin contacted DeBenedet with the news that “the perfect space” had been located, DeBenedet said she was caught off guard.

“I just kept asking where it was,” she said. “I figured she was talking about the classrooms.”

Unbeknownst to DeBenedet, the basement of Backus Community Center had a boys and girls locker room. The 1,400 square foot space had high ceilings, concrete floors and room to accommodate everything DeBenedet had envisioned.

“It was exactly what I wanted,” she said. “It was perfect... and the people at Backus have been amazing.”

With the rearranging of the old shower stalls and changing partitions, the removal of shelving and a few coats of paint, thanks to DeBenedet’s father, Terry Wood, Lift came together in about three weeks.

In the center of the facility is bright green turf, a piece of the puzzle DeBenedet centered the entire layout around.

“That was in my vision of what my own space was,” she said of the turf. “It’s great for anything agility and any sort of sprinting. The conditioning portion of me wanted this.”

Growing slightly emotional, DeBenedet encouraged others to follow their dreams, no matter what they are.

“I still can’t believe this is happening,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a space where I can help people become a stronger, healthier version of themselves and this is the place where I can make that happen.”

She extended her appreciation to her husband, Grant, and other family members who continue to support her as a new, small business owner.

“I couldn’t have done this without them or without my clients,” she said. “I feel very lucky.”

While her one-on-one sessions are full for now, DeBenedet said it is her goal to offer more slots by summertime.

“The one-on-one drives me,” she said. “That is a piece of this business I hope to grow.”

Lift offers group sessions at 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. DeBenedet can be reached through her business’ Facebook page or at