Taneisha Henline wanted something new in her life.
She came to the United States from Jamaica in 2014, and has owned and operated the Top Shotta Jerk Chicken food truck in Bloomington since 2018. But after a few years, she sought a passion beyond her food truck.
Growing up in Jamaica, Henline always wanted to go to the gym, but it wasn’t affordable. Fast forward to 2020, her husband, Eli, encouraged Taneisha to join him at the gym to lift weights. He, too, thought it would be nice if they could enjoy a shared activity away from the truck. So she gave it a try.
Changing of the guard:Area boys soccer teams will have new coaches
More:Indiana AD on USC, UCLA joining Big 10: ‘They were just a perfect fit.’
And she never stopped.
Though her first time at a gym was March 17, 2020 — one day before the Planet Fitness shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic — she found alternatives. She kept exercising.
It made a difference.
“When I first started in 2020, I just wasn’t happy with where I was,” Henline said. “I used to think I couldn’t. I was like, ‘I’m not too sure about where I’m at, being comfortable being in my skin anymore.’ And that’s not really a big part of me because you want to be happy about all of that. And then after working out and seeing the changes in my body, I’m more confident in myself and everything I’ve (done).”
Henline cycled through a few gyms before finding Iron Pit, where she felt like she fit in. After a while, she started seeing the results she wanted. Thanks to the weightlifting, along with a disciplined diet, she lost fat and added muscle. People would compliment her physique, and tell her she should compete.
Preparing for a challenge
Competition wasn’t in the picture when she started working out, but she was intrigued. After researching different shows in the area, one in particular caught her eye: the Natural Indiana Championships through the National Physique Committee (NPC) at Beech Grove High School in Indianapolis.
This competition strictly prohibits any performance-enhancing drugs, while some other shows allow them. Henline had no interest in using steroids or other PEDs, and didn’t want to compete against people who did. So she entered this one in early May, with the show set for mid-June.
She’d already developed a gym routine that didn’t cut into her time running the food truck. Her training would change for the competition, and there were days she felt sore while cooking her jerk chicken. But it didn’t impact her business.
“I’m in the gym by 6:30-7 every morning. So I set a time that I’m there, and then I go home and start my day from there,” Henline said. “It didn’t really impede anything for being able to be on the truck. Sometimes I would’ve wanted to be there a little earlier, but I would have to sacrifice that because I know I wanted to win this competition.”
More:Happy Gilmore advances to finals of Boys State Junior Championship
Fountain of youth:Thompson, Gutjahr leaning on recent experience on IU men’s soccer staff
In preparing for the show, Henline changed the way she lifted weights. She focused on some different exercises, but mostly, she altered the patterns of her sets. She previously performed drop sets — stacking sets with little rest time until she couldn’t complete another repetition, and then removing some weight and repeating.
But for the show, she switched to the double progressive system — meaning she’d stick to a specific number of sets each week, but increased that number at the same weight for a few weeks, and then going back to the initial number with a little extra weight.
Her diet changed from eating at a calorie deficit to a calorie surplus to keep on as much muscle as possible. She still ate healthy — heavy on green vegetables and protein, while only eating carbohydrates two days a week. This was all in an effort to build a symmetrical figure Henline said the judges looked for.
Henline practiced her posing for the show itself — essentially a beauty pageant. She didn’t work on stage presence, trusting that her personality would shine through as is.
After all the preparation, she was ready for the competition. She’d kept this endeavor a secret from everyone at Iron Pit until two days before. She was nervous, but trusted the effort she exerted through the training process.
“I tried to be mindful and aware that I can do this, I put in the work, and there’s no need for me to freak out. If I do everything that I need to do, then I’ll be calm as a cucumber, and that’s exactly what happened,” Henline said. “I didn’t leave anything for the last minute for me to be freaked out about. I made sure that everything was on point.”
A special moment
Henline stood on the stage at Beech Grove in disbelief.
She’d entered the show hoping to win at least one of the two Figure divisions she competed in — Class B and Novice. She knew she’d done all the hard work to get to that point, but didn’t know what would happen in the big moments.
Henline was stunned.
When her name was called out three times — once for each division, and once for the overall Figure winner — she wondered if she’d heard correctly.
“In my life, a lot of things did not go my way. Even though you can feel as if you deserve it, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get it,” Henline said. “I felt like maybe this could be my thing and go my way. But I didn’t want to think that way and then it wouldn’t (happen). And so I just tried to remain humble the entire time and focus on what I can control.”
As the emcee announced her victory, Henline looked over at her husband to the side. She saw his demeanor shift from a nervous back-and-forth pace to jumping for joy. They met backstage moments later, and shared a tearful embrace. Eli was the one who coached her through his journey.
He was the one who encouraged her to take up weightlifting in the first place, and stood by her side as it turned into a strong passion.
“He was just so proud of me,” Henline said. “He walks up to random people on the street and tells them that I’m Miss Indiana. He was on cloud nine. It was a very good moment. It was a special moment for us.”
More:IU basketball’s tough 2022 nonconference schedule includes big names, game in Indianapolis
High school sports:Newly inducted Hall of famer Larry Williams ‘blessed to be in a great place’
Henline is already looking ahead to her next competition, through the same organization at the same location in November. While this competition was Miss Indiana, the November show is Miss Indianapolis.
But she’s already feeling the positive effects of the changes she made in her life. The experience was big for Henline, both physically and mentally. It helped her continue letting go of her difficult childhood in Jamaica and opened up a new world for her.
“It’s been amazing,” Henline said. “Working out has a new meaning to me, and winning has a new meaning to me. Little girls, there’s hope; you don’t have to be your (childhood) trauma. It’s a part of you, but it’s not all of you. Everything around the show showed me that I’m a bada**. It’s been a great experience.”
Follow Herald-Times sports reporter Seth Tow on Twitter @SethTow, or email him at email@example.com.