Jonathan Morris, left, and Jeremiah Penney show off their medals for powerlifting and completing an Ironman Triathlon, respectively. Photo by Lexi Whitehead

Shipbuilders Passionate About Fitness

Published November 9, 2022

Shipbuilders by day, Jeremiah Penney – a triathlete – and Jonathan Morris – a powerlifter – are passionate about fitness.

“You only get one body,” Penney said. “If you only got one car for the rest of your life, you would probably take really good care of it. I apply that same mentality to taking care of my body.”

Penney, an X11 apprentice, started training for triathlons during the COVID-19 pandemic. He completed his first full Ironman Triathlon – which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon (26.2-mile run) – in September. The feat took him 13 hours and 52 minutes.

“Thinking about it after the fact, it really doesn’t seem like it was that hard,” Penney said. “In the moment, things are always more challenging. Looking back on it, it was not a question of whether or not I could but just how long it would take.”

Morris, an X11 foreman, started lifting weights about four years ago. He started powerlifting competitively just over a year ago. The sport consists of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift. “I had never really been in the gym at all. Once I started lifting weights, I enjoyed lifting heavy,” he said.

During a United States Powerlifting Association competition in Norfolk in September, Morris placed third in his weight class and set a state record for the deadlift – 679 pounds – in his weight class.

“It was nice to see the hard work pay off and just to have the support of my family there,” he said. “My faith was a big motivator in all of that, too.”

With a training regimen that can include riding 100 miles on a bike in a week or 10-to-20-mile runs, time management and discipline are important for Penney. “Just like coming in here, you have to have the discipline to do it every single day, even when you don’t feel like it. If you want to see results with something, you have to do it continuously,” he said.

Morris said fitness is important for all shipbuilders, not only for those participating in competitive sports.

“I think it’s paramount, especially with the work people do on the deckplate. It’s important that tradesmen who are doing physical activity all day, every day are not just going home and being stagnant on the couch because that’s not going to be beneficial to what you’re doing inside the gates,” he said. “Whether it’s weightlifting or cardio – or triathlons like Jeremiah – I think finding a physical outlet is extremely important for your mental well-being and your physical well-being.”