How do you encourage women in midlife who don’t typically exercise to become functionally fit for their older years?
Ask them to join class online for short workouts in their jammies!
Today Claire talks to Jen, who runs an online, on-demand fitness studio. It’s her mission to make fitness accessible to all women, no matter their schedule or level.
Special thanks to Jen, owner of Fit With Shaver, for being our special guest on this episode!
[00:00:00] Jen: There are ways that you can use things around your house as well. You can use water bottles if we need light weights. You can use cans of beans for light weights. If we're doing squats with weights, you can just fill a backpack with some heavy books.
[00:00:14] Claire: Hello, and welcome to Good Moves our podcast by Punchpass on our show, we have wholehearted conversations with fitness- and yoga-studio owners to learn more about the unique ways they run their business and inspiring ways they live their lives. I'm your host, Claire. I ran a thriving yoga studio for eight years. I've been part of the Punchpass team for almost as long. We have so much to learn from each other. Let's jump right in.
So welcome back to Good Moves. Today, we are here with Jen from Fit With Shaver. Jen, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
[00:00:49] Jen: Yes, I am a mom of three who is a former Spanish teacher who took my love of teaching and my enthusiasm for fitness and mixed them together. Now I teach women how to make exercise work for their bodies as they hit midlife, and how to fit exercise into a busy schedule. I teach online on-demand fitness classes through Punchpass.
[00:01:14] Claire: I saw that. One of the things I immediately noticed about your setup is the shorter duration of the classes, which I really love. Then you provide a lot of encouragement on social media to make fitness fit into your life. That's one of the main things that stood out about your approach.
Is that something you've been doing your whole life or is that something that you figured out fairly recently? How has that come to be?
[00:01:36] Jen: No, actually, I just figured it out. I just incorporated it recently.
We get so busy, and there are so many women that have put their own health on the back burner because they say, “Oh, I don't have time. I don't have time.”
Because when you're in mid life, you're in this stage of your life where, if you do have children, you're caring for your children.
If your parents are still around, you might also be caring for your parents or some older adults in your life. And if you work outside the home, there are just so many things going on. Oftentimes, exercise gets pushed to the back.
I wanted to create a mid life exercise program and a functional exercise program for all women that would allow women to fit exercise into their schedule, where it's not overwhelming and it's sustainable.
[00:02:28] Claire: Yeah, and it doesn't have to be that big moment of joining a gym and committing to going every weekday or four or five times a week. I think that's such a critical moment in a lot of people's lives when they realize “This doesn't have to be that way.”
[00:02:41] Jen: Exactly. You don't need all kinds of fancy equipment. You don't need fancy clothes. If you want to do this in your jammies, nobody's looking, so you go for it, girl!
For a lot of my exercises -- in fact, all of my exercises -- I don't do extreme moves.
So I make it accessible for all women, no matter what level they’re at. It covers the gamut, from the woman who hasn’t exercised in years to the woman who has kept up with her fitness but just wants to find a way to make it fit her schedule. It's beginner-to-advanced.
[00:03:19] Claire: That's beautiful. I know you've been with us actually for exactly a year tomorrow. What were you doing before that? Did it all start happening at once, where you decided you were going to do this and then you went with the software and that sort of thing? Or did it evolve a little more gently than that?
[00:03:38] Jen: When I first started out, I was planning on doing the whole fitness thing after the kids got out of school and then 2020 happened and life shut down.
As a once-busy mom, I didn't have soccer games, track meets, or volunteering. All that stuff was no longer around. I thought, “This is it! This is the time. This is when I can do what I have been wanting to do.”
That's when I decided to pursue a certification, which I know you don't need, but I wanted it for myself. Then I started doing some online one-on-one training, creating individual plans.
But I just felt there was something missing, which was the teaching. That's why I love the classes. But then I decided, “Okay, I need to find a way to get this out in a teaching format. How can I do this?”
I saw that a woman I'm friends with was using Punchpass, and I went, “There we go!” I did my research on it. I also signed up with another company, but I was not impressed with their system or the way things went. The ease of use with Punchpass, as somebody who has so much difficulty with technology myself, was just great.
I thought, “Oh, this is it.” It's been fabulous. I absolutely love it.
[00:05:15] Claire: That's awesome. Because a lot of your sessions are pre-recorded. What's the mix at the moment? Are you doing some live as well?
[00:05:24] Jen: I started out doing live-only sessions. I found that a lot of the ladies weren’t doing it live. I would have, like, two show up for the live session and then the rest would want to do a pre-recorded class.For my schedule as well, it ended up working out best to do them pre-recorded. That has worked out really well. I really enjoy the pre-recorded.
But I do the live classes once a month. I hold a masterclass. I call it a power hour. I’m hosting one tomorrow night. It's just a little class. Tomorrow we're talking about the mid-life metabolism myth.
So I use Punchpass for that as well. That part is live and it’s non-exercise but it still involves women's health and me teaching and getting the word out. I love the fact that I can use Punchpass and I'm able to not only put the video in there after the class is done, but then I can also attach PDFs or little notes or whatever it might be.
[00:06:38] Claire: Yeah, it's a great way to support people. The women's health thing — is this something you've been passionate about for a while? Or is it only as you came up on this time, yourself that you wanted to share with others? I know we've touched on it a little bit, but is this something that's interested you your whole life?
[00:06:55] Jen: I am a former endurance athlete. My exercise started back in the day with Denise Austin.
[00:07:03] Claire: Wow. Did you know that Jazzercise is now a thing again? I need to share this with you. It's amazing to me, and I think it's fantastic.
[00:07:09] Jen: Well, I’m going to have to dig those leg warmers out.
[00:07:11] Claire: It’s really big again. To be honest with you, we have a lot of Jazzercise clients, and I had no idea either. It's a thing. I don't know if it's the same as it used to be, but we're doing it again. Everything old is new again.
But back to the start, you got into the aerobics and then the endurance — I'm fascinated by endurance athletes. So keep talking, tell me about it.
[00:07:34] Jen: I got into the endurance world when my two oldest kids were two and three, and I absolutely loved it.
I wasn't a runner beforehand. I did Denise Austin. I was always active and I always knew that exercise was important. It was always a part of my day. Then I got into the endurance world and unfortunately, the more I got into that, the less my strength training became part of my exercise routine. So I skipped that a lot. I always worked with a coach and they would always say, “Oh, you need to do this routine.”
But I have two kids. So by the time I would get done with the running, or the biking, or the swimming or the whatever—.
[00:08:23] Claire: That's a heck of an age of your kids to start becoming an endurance athlete. That’s amazing!
[00:08:29] Jen: Right?!
[00:08:31] Claire: Did you take them with you?
[00:08:33] Jen: Oh yeah.
[00:08:34] Claire: They went out and about with you?
[00:08:34] Jen: It was a family affair. My husband would come to races with the kids. It was a lot.
But my lack of strength training brought me into a cycle of a lot of injury. I went for many years, from 2010 to 2020, where it was one injury to the next. It was a bulging disc, or a torn plantar fascia, then a bulging disc again, then “You’ve torn this hamstring.”
That was all because of my lack of strength training — too much endurance and not enough focus on strength training. I started this when I was around 35.
At 35 is when, as women, we start to lose lean muscle. As an endurance athlete, I'm also breaking that muscle down. So if I'm not rebuilding it with the strength training, then I’m more prone to injury. If I had only listened then to what I preach right now!
[00:09:41] Claire: It's so counterintuitive, though. Because we think of endurance athletes as being incredibly fit and incredibly strong and incredibly well-muscled, for want of a
We feel like they're incredibly strong people, and I think it's kind of amazing that we're only now figuring out that the strength-training side of it has to be a separate component. You can't get it all right just by doing your endurance training.
[00:10:05] Jen: You can't. Look at pictures of me. Did I have muscle? Of course I did. I looked lean and I looked fit, but there were weaknesses within those muscles. So that led to the injury.
I loved marathoning. It was a labor of love. I absolutely loved it. But then January, 2020 came, and I was on a run on January 1st and I was in pain, just like I had been for years. I thought, “You have to stop. There has to be an end to this. You can't be in pain every day.”
But I had become so used to it that I pushed it down.
[00:10:49] Claire: I don't want to dig too deep, but why was the running still so important to you at that point? Was it mental?
[00:10:54] Jen: As a stay-at-home mom, running was my identity.
[00:11:03] Claire: It was your way of being somebody beyond being a stay-at-home mom. I get it.
[00:11:09] Jen: Yeah. So I didn't want to let it go.
But I was just tired. My body was so broken down. And on January 1st while everybody else was like, “Oh, I'm going to run more this year—”
[00:11:22] Claire: A reverse-New Year’s resolution.
[00:11:25] Jen: I said, “I am not going to run. I'm going to focus on strength training.” And I did. I took 18 months off of running and I focused solely on strength training.
[00:11:38] Claire: Did you replace another cardio? Or was there no cardio, just strength?
[00:11:41] Jen: I did a lot of jump rope. And I would throw a stationary bike in every once in a while, but I hate the bike. When I was doing triathlons, I hated the bike. I’m not a bike fan. I love to swim, so I did a lot of swimming as well. Swimming just feels so good.
Swimming was always there when I was hurt when I was running. So I would always go swimming, like swimming was “the good boyfriend” and running was “the bad boyfriend.”
[00:12:10] Claire: The abusive boyfriend, oh god.
[00:12:14] Jen: That you just keep going back to.
[00:12:16] Claire: Yup, I knew that one.
[00:12:18] Jen: You know you shouldn't go back, but it’s like “I’m going back! I’m back for more.”
So, yeah, I did a lot of swimming, jump rope and occasionally the stationary bike. But I would lift at least three times a week.
[00:12:32] Claire: Wow.
[00:12:33] Yeah — for 18 months. Then I decided I wanted to start running again. So I started doing just four miles here and there, nothing fast.
And right when I started, I didn't have any pain. I thought, “Oh, this is great.” So I kept going, slowly building it in, but never more than three times a week.
After about two months, I thought, “Hmm. I wonder what would happen if I ran a half marathon?” So I did. I decided to sign up, and my daughter signed up with me. That’s actually her in that picture behind me.
[00:13:13] Claire: That's awesome.
[00:13:13] Jen: This past October we ran the Columbus half-marathon. I’ve run the Columbus marathon on several occasions, but we did the half-marathon. I ran it with my second-fastest time.
My first fastest time was in the very first half marathon that I ever did in 2011. This was my second fastest time. It's the first time ever that I've gotten to any race start line without an injury and made it to the finish line without an injury.
[00:13:47] Claire: So you’ve always been carrying something previously in running? Something was always up?
[00:13:53] Jen: I was always showing up with tape and having to go to physical therapy before and after.
But once I added that strength training in regularly, things improved. And it's not like I can skip it because I'm teaching class.
[00:14:11] Claire: Well there’s that, definitely.
[00:14:14] Jen: I’ve got to show up for my ladies, you know? So I actually ran less.
[00:14:19] Claire: You ran less. And you did small amounts of strength training, and that combination was stabilizing your body?
[00:14:27] Jen: Yeah.
[00:14:28] Claire: That's so cool. Because I think there's a real misconception that when you get to a certain age, your body's just going to start tanking. It's going to start going downhill.
Like, “Here we go” — you're going to make funny noises when you stand up from the couch, you're going to have a sore knee when the rain's going or whatever it is, but that it’s just inevitable. It's going to be a decline.
But what I really love about businesses like yours is just having that encouragement that it doesn't have to be that way. You should acknowledge your injuries, don't get me wrong. If you do have a sore back, you should probably get that looked at.
[00:14:57] Jen: For sure.
[00:14:58] Claire: However, it's not just an inevitable decline that comes with age.
[00:15:03] Jen: Well, that's just it. We don't have to see aging as a time where, “Oh, you're aging, so go sit in the corner and watch everybody that's having fun.” But that's the whole idea behind strength training, that we have to prepare our bodies for the future.
I always tell my ladies, “Think of it just like you would your retirement account.” You don't start saving for your retirement account the day before you want to retire.
[00:15:28] Claire: Right, you're investing.
[00:15:29] Jen: You have to prepare for that now.
Exactly — you’re investing. So let's invest in your health, and let's invest in your future health. Let's get everything prepared now, so that when that day comes you're ready to go. You're not sitting in that corner.
You can get in and out of that chair. You can take your grandkids to Disney or go watch them at their soccer game and climb up the steps at the stadium or whatever.
[00:15:56] Claire: Yeah — functional fitness that's just going to help you out. What's so great about that is that, once they've learned that skill, even if they're not still coming to your sessions in 5 or 10 years, if they're feeling bad or out of it or unfit, they've learned from you.
They can pick up a little bit of movement or get back into it slowly with the permission that it can just be a little bit here and there. It doesn’t need to be 45 minutes of full-on hiit craziness to be classified as a workout.
[00:16:25] Jen: Oh, don't get me started or my head’s going to explode.
[00:16:30] Claire: I looked on your social media at a few different bits and pieces, and one of the things I liked is that you’re actually using hiit the way that I think of hiit — or anything intense. It doesn't have to be 20 burpees. It can just be getting your heart rate up.
[00:16:42] Jen: Oh no, not the burpees!
[00:16:44] Claire: So you're not a burpee person? It's such a controversial topic.
[00:16:50] Jen: The only thing that I have an issue with is, especially as we age and when we're dealing with a certain population, that the risk of injury is so high with them versus what you could potentially get out of it. The risk is just too high. I’m not saying that you can't do hard things as you age.
[00:17:20] Claire: Of course.
[00:17:21] Jen: That’s not what I’m saying at all. But it is a move that has to be performed in proper form, or you do risk injury.
[00:17:28] Claire: Absolutely. It's incredibly demoralizing when you do start down the path of fitness and then 3 or 4 weeks in you do something and then you're out for 6, 8 weeks, or you're trying to figure out how you're going to get into it again.
It’s a lot, so to be able to exercise safely is actually a real gift to be able to give people, especially if they haven’t exercised in a while along those lines.
[00:17:52] Jen: Right. And that's just it, because if they do get injured, a lot of times they'll be discouraged and might not want to come back and then it just leads them back down the path that they were just starting to come off.
Now they're back down that path.
[00:18:13] Claire: I’m totally projecting here, but I started running again a few weeks ago and I rolled my ankle and I'm miserable. I'm so sad.
When I knew I was talking to you today, I was in that place where it's just horrible. You’re like, “Did I push it? Do I push it now? When do I get back?”
There's so much to know about our bodies. I think intuition is a wonderful thing, but when do you rest and when do you push? To have someone like you guiding them is such a valuable resource.
[00:18:41] Jen: That's a great point because we do want to challenge ourselves, but we want to walk up to the line and not cross the line.
For many of us, especially the perfectionists, those Type A’s, we have trouble with that line. Because we see that as “Is this lazy if we don't keep going?”
That's something that even I struggle with. There are some days more than others, but I'm getting wiser as I age so as to learn to avoid those types of days,
I just had a conversation with my ladies today, because I was reading a post in another running group. A gentleman was talking about how he tore his plantar fascia and asked “Has anybody else had this?” and “How do I heal it quickly?”
I thought, “Oh, he's looking for the quick fix.” No, there isn't a quick fix. We have to learn to focus on the things we can do. So, rather than him focusing on not being able to run, what are some
things that he can focus on that he can do?
Can he do push-ups? Can he do pull-ups? Can he do some core training? What was the weakness that caused this injury? Can you work on that right now? Can you focus on your nutrition? Can you focus on getting some good sleep? Can you focus on your hydration?
Focusing on those things that you can do, those things that you control in life — and not the things that we can't do — is also very helpful.
[00:20:24] Claire: Absolutely. I definitely agree with that.
I think it's so interesting how the time does pass and then you're better. When you look at people's resumes, especially people like you who've been endurance athletes, you’ll see “I was out with this and that and this,” and people get through this all the time. It passes and they heal and it's amazing.
Elite athletes break things and get sick and they're still elite athletes. It still comes back around.
[00:20:50] Jen: It's not to say that it's not hard. When you’re in that moment and that one thing, whatever it is, gets taken away, it's really hard.
So, knowing that I’ve gone through that injury, that's why I felt like, “You know what? I understand how he's feeling, but that took me about 6 months and he's at month three.”
It's hard when those things happen, but that's why you need to take that same intensity that you have with your training, whatever it is you were focused on before, and take that focus and place it on something else.
[00:21:34] Claire: Yeah, you definitely need to fill in the gaps.
So let's talk a little bit about your women, as you call them. How are people finding you? Who are your people? Where are they coming from? Why you? Why them? Is it locals?
[00:21:50] Jen: I have a large percentage of locals, and then I have ladies from all over the United States who have just found me on social media.
Some have connected through a friend of a friend, and then others have found me organically.
[00:22:06] Claire: And do they connect with each other? Do you have a platform for them
to interact, or is it all fairly separate?
[00:22:13] Jen: Yes, I do have a private Facebook group for the ladies to interact. I do weekly live talks there as well. I call it Fit News. I do all that in the Facebook group.
I also do a Friday Funny and just share all kinds of other information and questions that they have.
[00:22:36] Claire: So they're making those connections as well.
[00:22:40] Jen: Right. Creating a little Strong For Life community.
[00:22:44] Claire: Beautiful.
I guess my question is with the pandemic hopefully coming to a conclusion of some sort, maybe at some point if we're lucky: is this something you see yourself continuing doing? Is there plans for any sort of evolution or a change in the way that you're structuring these
You seem very content with the little world that you've set up, which I think is brilliant, but is there anything coming next?
[00:23:12] Jen: I'd like to get into corporate wellness so I could try and reach more women, especially the working woman who is overstressed, overworked, tired and just needs to start taking care of herself.
[00:23:32] Claire: So it’s a matter of just getting out there and reaching more of those types of people.
[00:23:36] Jen: Yes, for sure.
[00:23:39] Claire: Are you going to stick with online?
[00:23:41] Jen: I am going to stick with online. It gives me a platform that is working well. I also like the fact that they can do it at their home. Because a lot of women are intimidated by a gym, especially when it comes to the strength-training aspect.
So the platform will stay as it is.
[00:24:08] Claire: Are you doing mostly body-weight strength training? I'm just curious, because you're saying they're at home.
Are you encouraging equipment for your classes or is it “Come as you are in your PJ's and we can work it out”?
[00:24:18] Jen: I encourage them to have weights, but they’re not required. I explain to them that the best way to get results is to incorporate weights.
Obviously, if you're new or you're just getting back into fitness, we need to start there. That's the smart, safe place to start.
But once we've been doing it for a little bit, we do need to start to add those weights in because we want to work those muscles to muscular fatigue. That's how we're going to build that lean muscle that we start losing at 35.
So I encourage them just to get one light set of weights and one heavier set of weights. Of course, they ask “What does that mean?” But that's different for everybody.
I tell them, “There are ways that you can use things around your house as well. You can use water bottles if we need lightweights. You can use cans of beans for lightweights. If we're doing squats with weights, you can just fill a backpack with some heavy books.”
[00:25:18] Claire: I like that.
[00:25:20] Jen: I try and find different things and different supplemental methods that they can still use if they don't have the weights yet or are reluctant to get them. They can still add something in.
[00:25:33] Claire: I think sometimes the reluctance is just not wanting to say that this is something they're doing now. Like it's sort of testing the waters.
I know I'm a bit like that. You kind of want to just put your toes in and then buying weights would imply that you're supposed to keep doing this now for six months, so you don't become that person with 8 sets of dusty weights and a stretchy band and 20 million other things that the world said you needed to work out.
That pressure is definitely real as well. Cans of beans sound like a little less pressure, which I like.
[00:26:03] Jen: Exactly.
[00:26:04] Claire: That's awesome, Jen. I've really enjoyed talking to you. I'm really inspired by what you do. I really love the small-part pieces of exercise fitting into your life.
I just think that's such a great way to go forward in our lives, especially for the busy mom that maybe doesn't want to become an ultra-marathoner when their kids are 2 and 3 years old.
I'm still blown away by that timing choice, and I admire you so much for it, because I know how much time that takes. But like you said, it's a matter of your mental health and getting you out of that house and getting you out of that stay-at-home mom thing, which I think is so important.
I love that you're giving that to other people now, which is brilliant. So thank you so much for talking to us. I really appreciate it.
[00:26:46] Jen: Thank you so much. This was so much fun.
[00:26:51] Claire: If you'd like to learn more about any of the guests we’ve featured on the show, or about Punchpass, you can head to our website at punchpass.com.
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