Staff Feature: Bianca Jaimes

When thinking about wellbeing and how Western staff make an impact on your wellness, I bet I don’t pop up immediately in your mind. Honestly, if I made top 10, I would feel quite flattered. After all, I don’t teach group fitness, I’m not a personal trainer, I can’t hit a tennis ball without drawing blood, or make healthy, delicious smoothies for you. I do hope that I still have something to offer to you, my beloved members.

Let’s back up though, just for a moment. I’d like to share how I ended up here at Western in the first place. Many moons ago, I ran with a whole different crowd, a food crowd. I have loved food my entire life and that may sound silly to the general population, but my parents owned a restaurant when I was young. Restaurant life is difficult to say the least, but food becomes very central when you grow up around it. With parents that work from dusk-til-dawn paired with low-means income, family meals were special and rare. My sisters and I made it through with ramen noodles, canned food, pasta, bread, casseroles, essentials. Special food could be made on holidays or important occasions though, and we could usually pick our birthday meal. We even made tamales for Christmas Eve. Mom would make the most delicious chicken dumpling soup with massive, heavy dumplings when I was sick, which was often due to my uncontrolled asthma. Long story made longer, food meant togetherness and that has stayed in my heart to this day.

Making my way back on track, before my Western life I was at the local Chipotle, hired as crew for the brand-new store that came to Green Bay 9 years ago. Yes, I know all the Chipotle secrets and I’ve made your favorite guacamole that you undoubtedly paid extra for. I marinated the chicken, diced onions, fried the chips, double rolled your burrito, and washed an obscene number of dishes. It was all too easy to fall in love with Chipotle and its culture considering my deep-rooted love for food and the people who make it. Over the course of almost 3 years, I went from crew member to Apprentice (assistant GM) to acting General Manager when the GM relocated. Sadly, my love for Chipotle regressed into exhaustion when 50-hour work weeks turned to 80-hour work weeks with me attempting to do the work of two salaried managers. Eventually, I could tread water no longer and I submitted my resignation notice. A few days before my last shift, I snagged the attention of a kind, savvy businesswoman that was a regular, hoping that she might know a local place in need of help. I tried to explain that I could do a few different things, but I caught on fast and worked hard for what I lacked in knowledge. We exchanged numbers and promised to reach out. A few days passed and that same savvy woman reached out to me and offered me an interview at Western that I happily accepted (without a single clue about the business in which I was walking into). A short meeting and tour later, I was hired for the front desk at Western Racquet & Fitness Club. I am beyond grateful that Western's owner, our gracious Mary Thomas, took a chance on a 23-year-old kid that was completely spent and heartbroken.

That was 6 and a half years ago. Time ​flies, doesn't it? Since then, I have been lucky enough to be with all of you. You've allowed me into your lives, and it has been such a pleasure to welcome you each day with (what I hope comes across as) a smile. I look forward to our interactions whether it's just saying hello, connecting during our day, or your after-class sweat confession. Those moments mean so much to me and I have countless memories of how you've made my day. I appreciate all the kindness and support you have afforded me all these years, especially now that my role has grown further as I've continued onto our billing and membership departments. I anticipate serving you for many years to come, if you'll have me!

Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!

What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.

In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.

Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.

Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.

  1. Start with small, short-term goals. They’re easier to achieve and create momentum for the next one.
  2. Set reasonable goals and write them down.
  3. Create a schedule. Come to the gym on a set schedule. Consistent routines are key to forming a habit.
  4. Utilize Western’s registered dietitian! He has expert knowledge that can help set you up for success. (Learn more about Tad at westernracquet.com/wellness-coaching)
  5. Speak with a personal trainer. It’s not just a workout you’d be looking for; it is a partner who holds you accountable, creates a personalized workout plan to match your goals and lifestyle, and makes sure you exercise with correct form to minimize risk of injury. In my experience, nothing derails progress like pain and uncertainty. Speak with one of our great trainers to make sure you’re moving in correct movement patterns and using a plan that makes sense for you! (Visit westernracquet.com/personal-training to get matched with the right trainers for you!)
  6. Go to group classes. Western's group fitness classes have a reputation for being fun, energetic, and taught by excellent, passionate instructors. A team dynamic is very motivating and going each week will give you a set schedule. And even better? There are over 40 group fitness classes at Western that are completely FREE with your membership! (Visit westernracquet.com/group-fitness to see a full schedule of classes.)
  7. Workout with a friend. You hold each other accountable and push each other. Also, people tend not to skip workouts because they don’t want to let their friend down. Tip: Choose a friend who pushes you or has similar goals as you. You'll be that much more motivated!
  8. Keep your weekly goals in a visible place like your refrigerator or somewhere you’ll see it daily.
  9. Do you have to make dramatic, life altering changes? No. The key is small changes and moderation. Remember to take things slow!
  10. Do what you like to do. Do you hate running? Don’t do it. Does the thought of hopping on the stairmill for an hour give you anxiety? Don’t do it. Do you like walking your dog outside in the evening? Do that! Do what you like because you’re more likely to continue doing it. Fitness isn’t a cookie cutter lifestyle. Do what you enjoy so it becomes fun.
  11. Most importantly, ask yourself "why" and then keep asking "why". Get to the bare root of why you have this goal. If you ask yourself "why" enough times and it triggers an emotional response, you’ve found your reason. When the going gets tough, you can always look back on that core reason to help keep you motivated.

 

Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!

2019 was a huge year for me mentally and physically. I overhauled my lifestyle, adopted new habits that served me, and transformed into a person who I was finally proud of. I felt confident, mentally/physically strong, and balanced. I was so happy, and I felt unstoppable.  

2020 was also a big year for me as I found my true passion and calling in life, which was to be a health coach. For me, this meant taking all the tools and tips I learned that helped me and help other people find their best selves. Fortunately, I have been able to do this through Western as a Wellness Coach, and there isn't a place I’d rather be than Western! 

Then in September 2021, everything changed. 

After almost a year of trying, my husband and I finally became pregnant! How exciting, crazy, and scary! But, I had almost a year to prepare for this! My nutrition was on point, my exercise routine was solid, and I knew all the things that would keep me and my baby healthy. I was determined to have a smooth first trimester. I was not going to go off the deep end with food (I knew what to eat and I loved good healthy foods!), I was not going to neglect my exercises, and everything was going to be FINE. 

 

Wrong. Oh boy was I wrong. 

 

Fatigue. I was in bed as early as 5:00pm some nights and I would sleep until I the last moment that I hadto get up the next day. I slept on average 10 or 11 hours a day. And it still felt like it wasn’t enough. 

I couldn’t think about eating veggies or most meat. I couldn’t even eat my favorite breakfast smoothies or protein oats that I had been eating for years. The thought or the taste would make me instantly nauseous or give me acid reflux. 

And my exercise? That suffered the most. I went from doing multiple high intensity classes a week (sometimes multiple each day!) to NONE in a matter of weeks. Although my body could handle it, I just didn’t have the energy to do it. I went through Shockwave training (an amazing rowing and stations class on the group fitness schedule!) around 7 weeks of being pregnant, and I was down and out for a day and a half.  

I ended up having a breakdown around 11 weeks of pregnancy to my husband and some of my closest friends. “I don’t like this new version of me! I feel like no matter what I do I can’t feel better!” I said. Sometimes, a Wellness Coach needs to be coached herself. 

The amazing people I have in my life reminded me that when you go through a big change in your life, you must give yourself grace. Your routine can be completely thrown off, and although you know the right things to do to make you feel good, there is only so much willpower one can have. And even that isn’t on will call. The best thing you can do for your body in times of change (job change, loss of a family member, pregnancy, sickness, etc.) is listen to your body and release the guilt of what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Taking each day at a time and doing small things that make you feel good and building on that foundation when you can. And if you can’t, give yourself credit for what you have done and can do. If that means eating one apple amongst the Spaghetti-Os, Kwik Trip doughnuts, and Taco Bell nachos and cheese, then you celebrate that win. If that means walking 3,000 steps one day when you couldn’t get out of bed the day before, you celebrate that win. 

This is my message to you that has helped me get through this time of change. It’s always a work in progress. May it resonate with you that we all struggle even if we feel we have the answers. Everything is temporary, and if there is one thing you can count on, it’s change. Things may get harder before they get better. Remember what you are capable of, what you’ve been through, and believe that this too you will get through. And don’t forget to surround yourself with people who love and support you and remind you of how amazing you are. It’s okay to ask for help!

When I was a kid I recall going on many adventures. I would pretend that my swing set was sitting over boiling lava. You had to get across without touching the ground or you’d burn to death!! I would go over to a friend’s house at least once a month and play games like Ghost in the Graveyard (although I was afraid of the dark). But the best adventures of all were when my sister and I would go over to my grandma’s house for the night or weekend. We’d stay up until the wee hours of the night watching I Love Lucy reruns while eating hot air-popped popcorn with real butter, salt, and a side of a Butterfingers candy bar. We’d play Crazy Eights and Solitaire for hours before we’d have a 30-minute bath. And once we were ready, the three of us would crawl into my grandma’s king-size bed, turn and face one way and scratch each other’s backs for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes were up, we’d reverse to the other side and scratch the other’s back until eventually, grandma said “bedtime!” or I’d fall asleep. It was always a blessing to get out of our normal routine to go to grandma’s. Sometimes, doing silly or out-of-the-ordinary things is just what we need to break out of the rut of a routine! When we're kids, this comes naturally to us, but as adults, we often need a little reminder!

One time we made a “For Rent” sign for the empty manger scene that was on the frozen pond right next to Main Street by the nursing home. Two of us would keep a lookout while the other would set up the scene. We created a big yellow smiley face that had its tongue sticking out and put the word “YUM” right on his forehead. We put that guy on the giant wooden ice cream cone that was outside of the BP on Main Street also. We even crafted a “Reserved Parking” sign for the light pole that our pastor would always park in front of at church so no one would steal his parking spot. “Thou shall not park here.” 

We were not vandalizing or hurting anyone, but it felt so bad...in a good way! The laughs we had, the adrenaline, the feeling of not knowing what would happen next were some of the best memories I had with my grandma. That kind of fun and the adventure I had when I was younger isn’t always present now that I am older. I have more responsibilities (bills, job, house, goals) now more than I ever had before. My routine is scheduled most of the time and life can become very predictable and controlled. It’s during those times that I like to pull a page out of my grandma’s handbook: Be B.A.D. 

*BREAK FROM YOUR ROUTINE 

*ACT NAUGHTY 

*DO SOME CRAZY FUN SH*T 

Here are some of my favorite simple ways to nourish my adventurous inner child to shake up my routine. Maybe you can try a few of these or make up your own this week and break out of your routine for a little fun!

These are just a few actions that I like to keep in my back pocket when I’m feeling drained and in need of a pick me up. Like when the feelings of “when is it going to be the weekend”, wishing my days away, or just waiting on the next big thing are weighing on me. Doing things like these really help get me out of the same monotonous routine of every day and they remind me of the fun rebellious times I had with my grandma when I was younger. 

What do you like to do to shake up your daily routine? Try to capture each moment and enjoy each day!

In this week's Wellness Corner, I want to explain what I feel the differences are between competitiveness and comparing, and how I’ve been able to live a happier life because of recognizing those differences!

I am competitive (I get it from my mom). The thrill of beating my husband (occasionally) at a round of horse makes me giggle. It feels like I won Jeopardy when I can name a song title and band name before anyone else as it starts to play. Monopoly? You bet I’m out for blood. 

Competitiveness can be a very healthy attribute to have, minus the gloating (I’m guilty!). Being competitive can give you the motivation to be better and push yourself. It can help you admire people that are, in your eyes, succeeding. Competitiveness may even create drive and inspire you to set new goals for yourself which is great (and has done wonders for me). But there is a fine line between competitiveness and comparing. 

I, like many of us, was a victim of constant comparison, and not the healthy kind. I found myself on Facebook endlessly looking at other people's profiles and comparing my pictures to theirs, comparing my job to their job, comparing their perceived happiness to my happiness. While I was processing the information I was seeing, it quickly turned into self-pitying or victimizing thoughts against myself. I would ask myself what was wrong with me that I couldn’t be as happy, or have that dream job, or have that flawless skin. The questions turned into negative self-talk:  “You’re not that good, smart, or worthy of a happy life”. To be honest I wasn’t aware that I was doing it at the time. Comparison can be subtle in the way it needles itself into our lives. But looking back on it now, it was part of my routine every single day. Comparing myself over and over again every day was making me miserable. I was unhappy, negative, and self-sabotaging. It was hard for people to have a conversation with me because of the negative, self-deprecating comments I would make, making other people feel uncomfortable. 

Teddy Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy" and he couldn't have been more right. It was during the beginning of my wellness journey when I saw that quote. It resonated and struck a chord with me so much that I knew I needed to change in order to live a happier, more fulfilling life. 

These were the major changes I started practicing to stop me from comparing myself to others:

1. Focus your energy on what YOU are doing 

Instead of focusing on what everyone else was doing, turn your attention back to what you are doing! Doing this gave me clarity on what I could control (like my effort), for instance, my gym routine at Western. Could I get lost in looking at other people’s routines, what machines they’re using, how they’re doing it, and comparing how my body looks to theirs? Of course! But I made the decision to spend that time and energy focusing on what exercises feel right to me and make me happy and...voila! I began to see a shift in my feelings of self-worth! 

2. Realize that the majority of people did not wake up one day with everything they have now

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a professional singer but didn’t think I was talented enough as all the famous singers out there. I mean, Lady Gaga is amazing but I doubt she woke up one morning and was a superstar. People have to WORK to build their skills. And skills are learnable. I just had to find out which skills were most valuable to me. It was also important to me to realize that everyone is in a different part of their journey. Experience, practice, and opportunities play into each person’s journey. I choose to support people and cheer for them on their journey but overall I keep my eyes focused on my own path. 

3. Everyone has an opportunity 

I used to feel that if someone had something or did something I wanted to do, that meant there was lesser of a chance for me. Now I know that's simply not the case. Opportunities exist for all of us! Something someone else has that I also want just might not happen the same way for me and that's okay! Part of the fun is figuring it out! 

4. Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday 

Going forward, if I’m going to compare myself to anyone, it will be to the person I was yesterday. Each day is a new day to be better. A better wife, friend, listener, money manager, sever, human. To me, that is progress. 

I still have my competitive nature, but my biggest competition is myself and who I’m striving to be. This has changed my level of joy in my body and life tenfold. 

What might you need to let go of in order to stop comparing yourself to others? If you need some extra help on the journey to self-acceptance and a life filled with happiness, consider Wellness Coaching! Western's new Wellness Coaching services offer one-on-one coaching to help you find and implement strategies personalized to your goals. We all need a little help getting on track sometimes! As a certified Health Coach and Life Coach, my greatest passion lies in holding the vision of who you want to be and helping you take each actionable step towards that version of your best self, and not only give you tangible tools, but also listen, understand, and believe in you. Check out westernracquet.com/wellness-coaching to learn about all our options and see what might be the right fit for you, wherever you are in your wellness journey.

It’s been over a year. A full year since I last wrote a blog expressing how lost I felt without Group Fitness classes running, expressing how it felt when we were not seeing our members on a regular basis, not hearing the bass drop in the studios, not watching my Instructors doing what they love every day, numerous hours a day. Over 80 classes a week of Group Fitness ground to a halt. A wide variety of modalities all created by my staff of 50 went suddenly -poof!-  A staff and a schedule that we built, studio by studio, class by class, year by year. We were so proud of that schedule. We brought in the education for each format, purchased the best equipment, and practiced a lot so we could give our members that absolute best Group Fitness experience.

 

Throughout the year, we (over)used the word "pivot" and I admit I probably added some words before "pivot" that I won't type out in case my Mom is reading this. Our members took our pivots in stride, stood by our side, cheered with us, cried with us, and were game for anything as we figured out how to do Group Fitness in a COVID-19 world.

 

If you followed our journey in the Group Fitness Department since March 2020, you might think "wow, they did this with such ease, such grace."  Well, I am here to give you a "behind the scenes" look at the many pivots (and somersaults and ‘I don’t wanna’ tantrums) that happened to me more times than I can count this past year.

 

Heres' the blog I wrote for Western when we had to shut down last spring: https://old.westernracquet.com/its-just-a-fitness-class/

I signed off with a short story about it being "just a fitness class" because I felt foolish crying so many tears and stressing out SO much over "just a fitness class" when so much was happening in the world. I remember always saying "the world is so dark, people are dealing with so much, it’s just a fitness class." But if you know me, my heart, my passion, I was freaking the heck out. I didn’t want to lose all that we had built. I didn’t want the relationships and the community to end. I wanted people to find any way they could to stay healthy, sane, and fit but also didn't want anyone to forget about us! I could see Pelotons being bought, memberships put on hold, some cancelling and I had to roll with those punches. If I am truly in this for the right reason I shouldn’t care HOW people are staying healthy, sane, and fit - just that are! But in my mind I was thinking, "Don't leave Western! Pick me. Choose me. Love me. Come back to me and my staff!"

 

I remember when we truly thought it would be just be two weeks to flatten the curve and then we'd be back. We closed Western and posted that we would be back soon and that we would take this on a case by case basis and we did! Every week. Then every 2 weeks. Maybe next month. With each passing day, we knew things would be so different. We could feel a shift in our world and it was hard to imagine starting over and rebuilding, much less trying to figure out how we work in this new world - this world when so many found fitness through technology and away from their community gyms.

 

Throughout the first few weeks, we posted "homework" for you to do on your own. I remember seeing other clubs jumping on Facebook Live, Youtube, and Zoom providing their members with live classes and I thought "I’m not doing that. I am not opening that can of worms - what if they never come back!" I remember my wonderful instructor and Western's Corporate Director, Katie Dubois, telling me each day, as nicely as she could, that members wanted some live classes. After stomping my foot, I said FINE but I am NOT teaching in my house. I have no space, my husband works nights, my stepdaughter is home from college trying to do her senior year online. There is no way I could make this work!

 

Guess what? I figured it out along with a dozen other staff. We upped our wi-fi game, bought different cables we never heard of, mixers, microphones, lights, and someone even bought a cat hammock so her 4 hairless cats could hang out while she taught (I know, weird, right?).

 

We found our niche. We magically found ways to connect over the computer. We added different, creative, classes and we even team-taught with coordinated outfits and all. It actually…..wasn’t that bad!

 

Fast forward to when we could open. Once again I thought, "No way am I going to teach in a mask and I will not make my instructors do that!" I believe I also said "Making people stand on an ‘x’ and spread people apart? NO!" <insert Kario stomping her foot> Well, the need to be with you all led me to create an in house schedule, measuring spaces 6 feet apart, throwing classes outside, renting a tent, a storage pod, buying speakers, more microphones, AND teaching in a mask.  It actually….wasn’t that bad!

 

Now that things are moving forward quite nicely, it was recently suggested that we could teach our Zoom classes from the club if we wanted. Here’s me “I am not going to pack up all my gear, drive ALL the way to Western, to set it all up, and teach when I have an entire studio in my living room.” Oh, how things continue to PIVOT even a year out. Besides, how would that girl with the hairless cats show them off to her Zoom peeps?

 

So I'll leave you with the take away from this little look into the raw and vulnerable emotions I've felt through this past year - if you want something bad enough, if you love something enough, if you want success, you will make it work. Recruit help, ask for shoulders to lean and, well, shoulders to cry on and you'll often find out…the things you thought could never work turn out to be "not that bad". Virtual, masks, spacing is all worth being able to do the job that we love for the people we love….YOU!

 

I am in constant awe of my staff. I admit, most were ready and willing before me. They helped me move forward and take the steps I knew I needed to take because we just wanted to be a part of your lives no matter HOW that looked.

 

Thank you for sticking by us and pivoting….no….EVOLVING to bring the magic inside (and outside) our walls once again. We are moving forward and we have big, big plans.

In the craziness of life, I often forget to be joyful and to find or be reminded of what brings me the most joy.

The past year has caused worry, anxiousness, stress and so many other emotions. We’ve had to navigate the unknown even more than normal.

It always leaves me feeling somewhat numb and just going through the motions of daily life. I have to remind myself to only control what I can, and that is myself and taking care of my family.

That’s where we need to come back and be present.

 

Present with our family, in our work, and in our daily life. We can’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow, but be in the present moment.

 

Think about what brings you joy.

 

Is it a hobby?

Traveling?

Sunsets?

Beaches?

Laughter?

Food? (I love food

Family?

Friends?

 

What truly brings you joy?

 

It’s the simple things in life for me. I have a very energetic 3-year-old. He reminds me to keep things simple. He’s silly and makes me laugh.

 

Quiet time by myself brings me joy. When I can simply enjoy 5 minutes to myself daily, that can often bring me the greatest joy, which shows how even the simplest of moments can produce moments of profound peace and happiness in our lives.

 

Here are a few ways to find simple joy in life:

 

1). Make a list of what you are thankful for.

2). Sing. Very loud!

3). Go for a walk outside.

4). Indulge yourself.

5). Watch a sunrise or sunset.

6). Try something new.

7). Laugh. A LOT.

8). Meditate.

9). Dance!

10). Start working towards a new goal.

 

Another thing that always brings me joy is being on my yoga mat. Flowing, breathing, moving, slowing down, just being.

 

Take some time to follow along with me in the video below and enjoy this joyful yoga practice.

 

Namaste.

 

Nearly 1 million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s Disease. An American is diagnosed every 9 minutes. I think when some people hear ‘Parkinson’s Disease’ they think it affects the older population, with tremors and slower movement.  That might be true for some, but being diagnosed with Parkinson's is different for everyone. When I got Certified as a Rock Steady Boxing Coach, a neurologist spoke with us and said, "If you met one person with Parkinson’s, you have met one person with Parkinson's." I think this is the most frustrating thing for diagnosed patients and their loved ones. Parkinson’s is an ongoing, progressive disease of the nervous system which affects your movement. There is no cure. There are medications to help control the symptoms but one thing that is scientifically proven to delay the progression of Parkinson's Disease is EXERCISE. That’s right. MOVEMENT. One particular organization has really put their foot down on the gas pedal and made some significant strides in helping people with Parkinson's live better lives. That organization is Rock Steady Boxing.

Rock Steady Boxing was founded in 2006 and has grown to over 900 affiliates across the globe. We added to that ever-increasing number in 2018 with our very own Rock Steady Boxing program at Western Racquet.

Western held Rock Steady Boxing classes 3 times per week in our gym that was filled with heavy bags, speed bags, and many other pieces of equipment to help with balance, dexterity, motor control, handwriting, and more. Besides the equipment, we filled the room with Certified Coaches, Volunteers, Caregivers (we call them Cornermen), and of course, our boxers (people with Parkinson's). We had an average of 26 boxers who dedicated 75 minutes 3 times a week with us, working on Voice Activation, Mobility, Core Work, Strength Exercises, Balance, Movement, and of course, heavy bags and speed bags. And, we had SO MUCH FUN.

I have never seen a group of people work so hard not only during class but all day long. One of our boxers once told me that Parkinson's was his "full-time job" now. And for many Parkinson's sufferers, that's the case - making sure you are continuously moving to eating the right foods to taking medications on time and making sure your mental health is in a good place.

Our Rock Steady Boxing classes were magic. I know that sounds a bit corny but they truly were! I could see the difference in their movement from the time they walked in to the time they left. They walked taller, smiled bigger, and confidence was at an all-time high. Of course, it was not always easy. Having Parkinson’s means every day is different. Every stride, every turn, every step up to a curb feels different minute by minute. But the one thing we all had was each other. We are a big happy family and had each others' back in and outside the gym.

Fast forward to COVID-19. We were all absolutely heartbroken to learn we could not have class for a while. We truly thought we would be back in "about 2 weeks". Remember when we were focused on "flattening the curve" so we could get right back to normal? As the first few weeks went by and numbers continued to rise, Coach Katie, Sara, and I knew we had to come up with a plan to keep our Boxers moving. We were recording homework for them, did a weekly check-in email, phone calls here and there...but being together is what we really needed.

With the help of Dance For PD instructor, Lisa Pritzl, we figured out how we could virtually get our group back together again. We started with a Happy Hour to teach them the ins and outs of using Zoom, then we slowly added our classes back virtually.

We successfully brought our indoor crazy high energy fun class virtually to their living rooms. We still get loud and we still play jokes on each other. We still laugh and dance and sing. Oh, and we workout too!

I am SO proud of our boxers for taking the fear of the unknown (technology) and continuing to fight back against Parkinson’s Disease. I am so proud of us, the Coaches, and all of the Rock Steady Boxing Affiliates who transferred their classes to a virtual platform. This year proved that there really is NOTHING that will stop us from fighting and living our best life.

One thing I love is being able to look back on my journey on how I got to be where I am today. I had my daughter at the very young age of 18 so I had to grow up very fast but gosh, she was the best thing that ever happened to me! A few years later I decided to go to college and I later graduated with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice in March of 2011. I was ready to dive into a job in the criminal justice field, make a difference, and change the whole dang world. But the funny thing about life is that you might make all the plans to go down a certain path, and life brings you down a path you never even dreamed you would go down!

 

Believe it or not, I started out at Western Racquet not knowing a single soul except for my good friend, co-worker, and boss, Kari Merrill. Her and I connected through a mutual friend and we were supposed to chat about me working at the jail where she had worked for 13 years, and we did chat about the jail, but she gave me every reason NOT to work there! So instead, we started talking about fitness and she asked if I wanted a tour and to try out a 7-day trial as a member at Western, which I immediately jumped on!

 

Before I found Western, I had never really enjoyed working out. I would start a workout routine, do it for a few weeks or if I was lucky, a few months, and I would give up because I didn't get the immediate results I wanted and honestly, I would just get bored. Working out was never fun for me, it was more of a chore.

 

My first class I took at Western was kickboxing and I literally had no idea what I was doing, but I didn’t care! I was jabbing left while everyone else was jabbing right. I was hooking while everyone else was kicking. And you know what? I did all of that with a big smile on my face, I just didn't care what I looked like because I was having the time of my life! I remember telling Kari one time that her kickboxing class was more fun than dancing out in the bars! The atmosphere, the smiles, and the ENERGY was contagious, and I knew in my heart I had found something very special.

 

I truly lived and breathed Western as a member. I loved trying out each class, I loved making new friends, and I loved the confidence I was slowly building for myself. I loved Western so much that when the opportunity was given to me, I decided to start working part-time at the front desk! Well, part-time quickly turned into full-time, which turned into me getting certified to teach classes, managing the front desk for a bit, and landed me in my current role as membership director for the past 5 years!

 

Now, what some people don’t know, is I’ve been through a lot in my life. I have suffered from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I have had some awful things done to me, and looking back, I can finally admire and be proud of my strength for getting through them. My journey ties in perfectly with the title of this blog. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wouldn’t have climbed a mountain to enjoy the view at the top. I'm not quite sure where I would be if I hadn't found Western. I didn't realize how much I needed this place until I felt a weight slowly lift off my shoulders. Looking back, sometimes the smile I had on my face was forced and fake, and once that weight was lifted, my smile was real and genuine and sincere.

 

One of the reasons I love my job is that I know exactly what it feels like walking into a new gym not knowing a single person. Not knowing how to use the machines, not knowing how to do a ton of exercises, or remembering even how to get to the locker rooms! It's intimidating and a little scary. But the love that surrounded me instantly by all the amazing members and staff is one of the reasons Western became so special to me and I vowed when I started working here that I would take away that uncertainty and intimidation away for anyone that felt uncomfortable or uncertain being here.

 

In life, sometimes we just need to take that leap of faith. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t gotten the courage to take my first group fitness class or gotten the courage to ask if I could teach cycling or gotten away from the comfort of the front desk and taken my membership role. Comfortable is EASY. It's safe. Not a lot can touch us in our safe bubble we create. It's when we spread our wings and take the jump when we really find out who we are and who we were meant to be.

 

For those of you who are thinking about taking a leap, whether it be switching jobs, moving somewhere new, ending a relationship, or where my journey started, joining a new gym, I encourage you to take that leap. You may fail, and that’s okay because that is life, my friends. But man, I’m telling you, I know the journey up whatever mountain you're climbing is sometimes very hard, and sometimes you want to give up, but once you're up there, and once you look at how far you've come, it's so worth it. I honestly wouldn’t go back and change a single thing in my life, good or bad. Our experiences shape us into who we are. We may make mistakes and make some wrong turns, but we are always right where we are supposed to be, and right now, you are EXACTLY where you are supposed to be.

COVID-19. No groups larger than 250. No groups larger than 50. Keep 6ft of distance between each other. No groups larger than 10. No groups...at all? But...but what about our Group Fitness Classes? I know, I know. It seems so minor in comparison to what is going on all over the world. In fact, I was a little embarrassed at how much and how hard I cried, how I loudly I sobbed, how horrific my face looked, I couldn’t breathe, I made sounds I have never heard before - it was so obnoxious that Popcorn, my hairless cat, didn’t know what else to do than to show me love by rolling his whole body over mine over and over again and giving me so many head butts that it left a mark. I remember that Monday. The night I walked out of Western's doors and knew that we would be closing. Yes, I cried for the world and yes, I cried for "just a fitness class".

It wasn’t a few hours later that I saw our instructors and members connecting on social media more than ever. Our members with a fear of missing their classes and their routines and especially their buddies that stand by them in every class. Missing the sweat and energy. The family and community they know and love. I knew we had to take action. Yes, the world was turning upside down but I know, first hand, how fitness can save you, it can help, even just for that 45 minutes. I wanted to make sure we could still take care of our group fitness community. I NEEDED to give them workouts, and fun memories to smile at, and a chance to just check in.

I remember seeing an Instagram post by Alissa Cotter, who has taught for Western for over a dozen years, with a hashtag that read #groupfitnessinstructorwithoutagroup

Alissa says: “Group Fitness Instructors love what they do because of the group aspect of working out together. The camaraderie and energy of the participants are what they feed off of so when there are no groups for the instructors to lead, they feel a little like fish out of water. A Group Fitness Instructor without a group is just a person wearing a microphone working out."

It might seem like a minor thing if you're not the one on the mic. But when you are the one wearing the mic, spending hours planning classes and even more hours planning just the right music, moves, and special surprise finales. The one who brings back a move that you know Kris in the back row center LOVES. The one who arrives early and stays late, buys their own decor, dice, and songs. The one who makes sure every single person in their class leaves feeling successful, happier, and healthier. Unless you are that person, or the person that comes to classes and makes it a lifestyle - it might just seem like a minor thing.  After all, it is just a fitness class…..

But, like our instructor Sara Smith, a newer instructor on the team who recently became a Rock Steady for Parkinson's Coach, says: “There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life just by doing what you love. How lucky are we to be the ones to help ignite a 'spark' in others to want to set goals for themselves? Even better yet...we get to help them achieve those goals and celebrate with them! This is what I miss and yes, we can still do this virtually, but I’d much rather do it face to face and to celebrate with high fives and hugs in the gym instead of our homes”

That is what we miss as group fitness instructors. CELEBRATING with each and every one of you. Virtually is good and better than nothing, but, man do we miss our group and the energy in the room and our high fives. Will we ever get to do mandatory high gives at the end of my Monday night Zumba class again? Will Amy Xiong, instructor and Membership Director, ever be able to rub China Gel on our necks again during Savasana? The pitter-patter of her feet making her way around her Yogis? Amy says “I miss the calmness of the studio and the energy of my yogis."

Nothing feels normal right now - for anyone - but this is our new normal for a bit. And we are going to roll with it like Instructor Kimberly Uelman, creator of the clever Showtunes Bootcamp class says: "It’s just not the same getting my fitness on in my living room. I miss the energy and laughs..oh yes and the sweat that Western brings. Keep on keeping on - I can’t wait to see you soon!"

This pandemic has affected every single person you have ever met. Every person you have seen on your TV or heard on your radio. Your children. Their teachers. Business owners. First Responders, Nurses, Doctors, Corrections Officers, Police - the list goes on and on from your mail carrier to your local pet food supplier, to your Group Fitness Instructor. We all succeed with the help of others, by being with others, and now we must find a way to succeed alone, together.

I think Katie Dubois, instructor and Corporate Director, really hits home when she says “I love creating an environment where our members feel like they’re a part of something, feel safe, have fun, and feel like ‘we’re all in this together’ Not being able to teach my classes in person and be with our members in person has created a huge void in my life, and the feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ has a whole new meaning.  But it has also pushed me to find the motivation to seek out alternative ways to connect with my classes.”

Exactly. This we can guarantee. Your Group Fitness Instructors got you. It will just look a little different for a while. Katie adds “I have been amazed at the effort we have all put into maintaining the Western family we are all a part of.”  Yup. I couldn’t agree more and makes me a very proud Group Fitness Director.

Amanda Boeder, Instructor, Membership Director, laugh-a-holic, sums up the energy we feel so perfectly.  She says “I miss so much about teaching. The energy. The endorphins. The cycling studio. The butterflies in my stomach. The hugs and the high gives before and after class. The goals we hit. But I miss my people, my cyclists, the most."

The people. You people. We miss you. And I am not going to apologize for the ugly cries that happen over ‘just a fitness class’ because it represents so much more than just the class and it has the same feeling behind it that so many others are feeling now.

I want to leave you with something I read online a few days after businesses started to close and everything felt so heavy. It was a few nights after I walked out of Western and not sure when I would be walking back in.  It made me feel like it was okay not to be okay over "just a fitness class."

It's just a fitness class!

4 walls, a floor and a roof.
A stereo and a beat.
Trainers and lycra.
Movement to music.

It's just a fitness class!

Things get built here -
Stronger bodies.
Fitter bodies.
Confident bodies.
Things get broken here -
Barriers.
Silence.
Sweat.

.....but it's just a fitness class!

Friendships are forged.
Community is created.
We rally together in the sad times.
We celebrate the good times.
.....but it's just a fitness class!
We conquer our demons.
We relieve our stress.
We quiet the voices in our heads.
We feel at home here.

.....but it's just a fitness class!

It's the date in our diary we never miss.
It's the time for us to be carefree.
It's the place where we can let go.
It's part of our lives.
It's not just a fitness class.
We will be back. Stronger than ever. Together.

This week we asked each of our Personal Trainers to tell us a little bit more about their journeys to becoming PTs and training at Western. Learn more about what led them to this career, why they love it, and what makes training at Western special!

Ryan O’Connor
Why did you become a personal trainer?
Growing up I got bullied because I was smaller than everyone else. Everyday I was compared to my fraternal twin brother, who at one point was seven inches taller than me. I was lost and unhappy. Once I started working out, it honestly changed my life not only physically but mentally and spiritually. I started to love who I was. I wanted to share that amazing feeling I felt with as many people as possible. That is why I decided to become a personal trainer.

What makes working at Western unique?
Working at Western is truthfully unlike any gym I've ever been in. It has such a warm, family feeling to it. I believe that culture all starts with the owner. She really cares about each and every member and employee. It's inspiring and I am honored to be a part of it.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
My favorite part hands down is the relationships I build with my clients. Helping them achieve their goals, pushing their limits and showing them what they are capable of is extremely rewarding. Having any kind of positive impact on someone else's life is the best feeling.

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Alex Awve
Why did you become a personal trainer?
I became a personal trainer because I enjoy helping people and showing clients a way to become healthier version of themselves. I live to break barriers and show people what there bodies are capable from what they previously thought was impossible.

What makes working at Western unique?
Western is unique because we have so many different amenities under one roof. By having full access to all of these different amenities people are allowed to choose which path will help them the most. This ranges from spa, PT, tennis, cyro, fuel bar, group fitness, cardio, and strength equipment.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
My favorite part about being a pt is walking in Westerns doors every morning knowing I am going to make an impact. Being part of peoples journeys and seeing there accomplishments brings a smile to my face. I leave everyday knowing I have helped people get one step closer to there goal.

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Sarah Voet
Why did you become a personal trainer?
I love program design! Taking time to learn about a person's past mistakes, current struggles and inspiration, and future goals helps me to design the most beneficial programs for that person. I really enjoy helping people find their very own unique "best practice" and then put it into place.

What makes working at Western unique?
My goal has always been to join a team that has a considerable amount of passion for their careers. WRFC has the best employees around who live and breathe this passion every single day. I love representing a company who has passionate employees like ours!

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
My favorite part of PT are the text messages I get from clients saying how SORE and GREAT they feel after a workout with me. This appreciation helps remind me of why I started training others in the first place.

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Tad Taggart
Why did you become a personal trainer?
I developed a passion for health & fitness very early in life through sports and weightlifting with my dad. As the years went on, I learned more and more about human anatomy and physiology and its amazing intricacies. When it comes to helping people better their lives through health and fitness, personal training seemed like the best chance to be hands-on and make a difference.

What makes working at Western unique?
Western Racquet delivers "the whole package" when it comes to improving one's overall health. There are spa services, training services, a massive array of space and equipment, and even a cafe and bar for socializing. Though these might not be completely unique from some clubs, the atmosphere and constant innovation, or drive to deliver better is what makes this club stand out. When you are at Western, you are among friends and are part of a family. At Western, everyone you meet is on the same journey of "taking life further". Because of this, the club is a constant source of motivation and encouragement for all that enter the front doors.

What's your favourite part about being a personal trainer?
My favorite part of being a personal trainer is the people I get to work with. The clients that I get to work with make every day unique and fully rewarding. I emphasize that a client-trainer relationship with me is a partnership and not a purely instructor-client relationship. Working with people is how they find lasting results and I gain a lasting relationship that often evolves into friendship. Getting to share with others in their health journey and help point them in the right direction is what energizes me every day and makes me excited to come to work.
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Casey Alger-Feser
Why did you become a personal trainer?
I became a trainer because I enjoy coaching people and helping them learn new things. Training allows me to do that in workout/athletic-based environment.

What makes working at Western unique?
Working at Western is unique because everyone is very friendly and welcoming. From the front desk to membership to the trainers, everyone cares about the members no matter what level they are at.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
My favorite part about being a trainer is seeing my clients achieve things they did not think they were capable of.

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Alexis Alger-Feser
Why did you become a personal trainer?
I became a trainer and my favorite part about being a trainer are the same things: being able to see what people can accomplish.

What makes working at Western unique?
Working at Western is unique because everyone - members, staff, visitors - are friendly and enthusiastic about being here.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
It’s rewarding to see people achieve the goals they set and hit milestones in their fitness journey.

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Dan Chojnacki
Why did you become a personal trainer?
I've always enjoyed helping people, and after experiencing successes in my own fitness, I thought it would be great to be able to help people reach their own goals. It is also really cool to have my profession be something I'm passionate about.

What makes working at Western unique?
Western is unique because of the variety of equipment, services, and community presence. Not only that, but the employees are very knowledgeable and welcoming to old and new members alike.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
In short, I like to be a part of adding quality to my clients’ lives. I've worked with clients of all levels and goals, and it adds fulfillment to my life to be able to help them. Whether it is battling a medical condition, training for an event, or adding muscle mass, I enjoy being a part of my clients’ journey.

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Alex Zeller
Why did you become a personal trainer?
I became a personal trainer because I am fascinated with the human body's ability to train and adapt; I love bringing that enthusiasm to my clients and helping them to dig deep and realize what they are really capable of.

What makes working at Western unique?
I believe Western cares more about its members than the average club. We don't settle for mediocrity and genuinely care about our members’ and clients’ lives and well-being even outside the few hours that we spend with them. Western aims to please anywhere and everywhere.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
Being around and part of the outgoing staff. We are like a family.

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Andy Gaustad
Why did you become a personal trainer?
Initially I became a personal trainer because I wanted to work in the fitness field because it's my hobby. Now, I do it because it’s my whole lifestyle.

What makes working at Western unique?
It’s one of the only fitness clubs where you're treated more like a person instead of a number.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
I love helping people who have pain and helping them overcome it.

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Kari Merril
Why did you become a personal trainer?
In 2008, I had a Group Fitness regular tell me that she has lost 100lbs and has hit a plateau. She told me she has always wanted to learn how to properly lift weights and had all the equipment she needed at home. I quickly became Certified with NASM and was ringing her doorbell two times a week. This client jump-started me in my career as a Personal Trainer. I took such pride in really teaching and coaching clients not only how to exercise efficiently but how they can switch it up, shock it to rock it, and have FUN.

What makes working at Western unique?
100%, no question about it, THE PEOPLE! From the owner to the Directors, to the PT and Tennis staff to, of course, my Group Fitness staff, and everyone in between. We all truly love what we do and we are such a great team. Because we are a family-owned club, we are able to brainstorm and be creative with our programming and marketing. When our staff gets together, whether it is a meeting or just a quick chat in a cubicle, I am always blown away by how much everyone inside our doors wants to help not only our members but everyone outside our doors as well! We also have the BEST members. Hands down, no question. They are all so inviting. I never doubt for a second when a new member joins that they will not feel welcome with open arms.

What's your favorite part about being a personal trainer?
Besides being able to create one on one workouts that will truly help a client live a better life? I LOVE being part of the PT team. The energy, the knowledge, the passion. Nothing beats hanging out with the crew.

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