Above: Sen. Jen Day and her family at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2019.
If one had to guess which current Nebraska state senator has competed in Olympic weightlifting at the international level, it might take a few guesses before choosing Omaha Sen. Jen Day.
Born and raised in Sarpy County, Day has always been a natural athlete. Her early years were invested in gymnastics and competitive cheerleading. As an adult, she started chasing new goals, literally — competing in marathons and triathlons. Day’s introduction to CrossFit and barbell lifting in 2009, however, was a personal turning point.
“Women are kind of discouraged from lifting really heavy [weight] and getting involved in strength sports,” she said. “It was interesting to me and I wanted to pursue it personally and get more women involved.”
Day cofounded a strength and fitness center in Omaha with her husband, Jon, where she also coaches athletes. Like many families, they have had to learn to balance work schedules while also supporting their sons — Canyon, 12, and Noah, 8 — through remote learning.
“It has definitely been difficult, but we’re so fortunate to have a lot of family in Omaha that have helped support us, taking care of the kids while we had to go to work,” she said. “But my kids are very independent and they’re just wonderful little people.”
It was her experience as a parent that spurred Day to get involved in local politics. After opening her business, she made the decision to go back to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in political science.
Day graduated thinking that she would work on political campaigns as a manager or staff member. When she found herself frustrated by her representation in the Legislature, however, she didn’t complain about it. She filed her paperwork to run.
“I think that a lot of people think that it requires years of experience as a politician to be ‘qualified’ to run for office,” she said. “But I don’t think that’s the truth at all. I think sometimes having a more adequate representative government — in terms of having people in office that are a lot like their constituency — is a good thing.”
Day says she is “ecstatic” to be working on issues close to her heart as a member of the Education and Health and Human Services committees. Despite the long days and heavy workload of a state senator, she welcomes the nonstop pace of her new job with the passion and energy one might expect from a lifelong athlete.
“You know, I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life that I have really, really loved,” Day said. “But the work [in the Legislature] is so fulfilling and wonderful that I don’t mind the busy aspect of it. I just feel very privileged to be here.”