What does it look like when leaders in a fitness organization get fit for impact? 24Life sat down with Jessica Adams, senior manager of learning and development (training and employee development) to talk all things fitness. Below, the mom of three shares how she makes time for movement so she can be a better manager, mom, wife and human at home, work and beyond.
24Life: How long have you been with 24 Hour Fitness, and what is your role?
Jessica Adams: I started in January 2018, and this is my first foray into the fitness industry. My background is in retail, in field leadership and then in operations, communication and training. My current position is in learning and development; my team works to identify training and development needs for our team members in the field and office, and then create training solutions to meet those needs. We also partner with different business functions to develop training for new initiatives and processes. We try to develop training that’s interesting and engaging, and also supports professional development to help them achieve whatever it is they’re looking to achieve, whether that’s a promotion or mastery in the role that they’re in.
24Life: Have health and fitness always been a passion of yours?
JA: Honestly I’ve been pretty inconsistent the majority of my life. I was never super active as a child, being fairly uncoordinated. I played soccer and basketball, but stopped in middle school. The first time I went to a “real” gym was in college. It was actually when I joined 24 Hour Fitness for the first time.
In my mid-20s, I started running, which became something that my husband (then fiance) and I would do together. We started running in half marathons, and that was probably the most consistently active that I had been in my life up until I started working here. We did that for about four years, prior to having children. And then, once I had kids, similar to many other people, it just became something that was really hard to squeeze in. I did yoga, and I started doing Pilates, but it was once a week, here and there, maybe twice a week. It was hard to keep a consistent schedule, especially because I was a district manager [in my job at the time], so I had a lot of travel and long workdays.
24Life: How has working at 24 Hour Fitness made fitness a more accessible part of your lifestyle?
JA: What I’ve been really grateful for is having more exposure to a personal trainer. I’d done training two or three times in my past and it was maybe once a week for five weeks. Now I work out with a trainer twice a week or more, and we have so many activities that we can do here as a team —yoga or boot camp at lunch—which just makes it much easier.
It is helpful to have an organization that values and prioritizes health and fitness. A colleague texted me one day during a session with my trainer, and when I told him I was with my trainer and could call him in a few, he immediately texted back not to worry about it and that he was sorry to interrupt my workout! I remember thinking, Wow, that’s a huge change from my previous life where work comes before everything else. Here, your workouts are considered your sacred time, when you can just be focused on yourself and not have to think about everything else going on.
24Life: How do you prioritize fitness in your life—any tips for others?
JA: I have three daughters, so I think a lot about what I want to role-model for them. Who do I want to be as a person? How do I want them to see me treating others and allowing others to treat me? And how do I want them to see how I treat myself? A big part of that is trying to put on that lens before I take action, before I say a word. We’re all our own worst critics, and I know, especially for women, it’s almost culturally expected that if you get a compliment, you deflect or minimize it in some way and that you’re always the first to call out what’s not right with you.
One thing I love about my work that spills into my personal life is our journey to become a strengths-based organization, a philosophy that is very much about focusing on what comes naturally to and what is good about each person. I’ve been trying to apply that across all elements of my life. One of those has been self-compliments, [which] I’m doing in front of my children and that my husband and I have become really intentional about: “We’ve been getting to the gym a lot. I feel like we’re so much stronger. Isn’t it fun when we can walk to the store and pull you guys in the wagon because we’ve been able to develop these big muscles?” And then we’ll all do a muscle show with our biceps to show off how strong we’ve become.
In the past, when I would stop going to the gym, the only person who was really impacted by that was me and my own mental and physical health. But my kids are really paying attention. They are watching. We want to show them that it’s important to spend time with your family and to balance responsibilities but it’s also important to get what you need as far as the right kind of food and the right amount of activity and the right amount of sleep in order to be and feel your best.
24Life: How has fitness changed your daily life?
JA: The other day, I mentioned to my trainer that my daily life had become so much easier now that I am stronger. My twins are four, and not small, but I was able to carry them, one on each hip, plus my purse, and probably grocery bags or something, and I remember walking into the house and thinking, Gosh, I don’t know that I would have been able to do this six months ago. Or maybe I could have done it just out of sheer will, but it would have been a lot harder. Being able to feel the functional differences in my life are awesome. I have better reflexes, and I trip less and walk into things less. It’s an increased physical awareness of my environment. That’s another piece that keeps me going, because I can really see and feel the difference even if I don’t have the flattest belly that I’ve ever had because I don’t. And that’s not my goal right now, so that’s OK.
When my husband and I are taking time for ourselves, our connection is much deeper. First of all, we have something else to talk about besides our kids, which is just fun. You never really understand someone else’s work unless you do the same kind of work, and we have very different interests and hobbies outside the gym. So being able to have fitness be a goal that we can celebrate with one another, I think it’s really done a lot for our marriage and gives us something positive we can cheer each other on with.
24Life: How do you define fitness personally?
JA: We do have a scale, and we’ve used our scale on and off and sort of just as a barometer. Recently I like to think more about fitness as how easy my life feels in all I have to do, whether it’s how I think of myself or how easily I can manage of all of the other stuff—as moms, as women, as humans, it seems like we just always have to carry so much (lunch, and gym bags and laptops). It can be really exhausting just trying to manage your day-to-day life. Having the ability to do that relatively easily and without thinking about it, it’s just such a relief in some ways to know that you’re able to do those things.
24Life: What advice would you give to a friend starting his or her fitness routine?
JA: Two things come to mind for me. One is self-grace. Talk to yourself the same way you would talk to a friend if you missed a day or you don’t hit a goal or you fall off whatever wagon you’ve put yourself on. Don’t just throw your hands up and say, “Well, I definitely suck at this, and I’ll just not do it anymore.” And it reminds me of a quote, “I would rather be disappointed than live disappointed.” Living disappointed to me is when you don’t acknowledge what you want for yourself. Being disappointed means you’ve acknowledged what you want and you can recognize when you’re not getting it, and then what do you do differently? For me, that was having a trainer. I know that if I don’t have a trainer and somebody to hold me accountable in some way, I’m just not going to go as often as I want or work as hard as I should. I can think of every excuse in the book, but if I know that somebody’s there waiting for me, I get my butt there and I work harder.
Second, it’s a million small decisions that lead to this big result. We live in a culture where we’ve become conditioned to instant gratification. If it’s not fast and easy, you don’t want it. I can’t come out of a really tough lower body workout and say, “Where’s my butt? It should be there, right? I just did all these squats!” It takes time to build up great things, whether it be your booty or your body of work. It isn’t going to happen overnight, and the continuous and consistent changes and decisions and choices that you make will have the big impact if you can wait for it.
The first thing you do when you wake up.
Check my phone.
The last thing you do before you go to sleep.
Kiss my kids.
Last book you read.
“Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine.”
The next book on your reading list.
“Way of the Peaceful Warrior” was recommended to me, so I have that on my list for next.
Do you have a favorite podcast?
It’s a Gallup podcast—Called to Coach. Since I became a Gallup Strengths coach, I started listening to it every day.
What do you listen to before a workout to pump you up?
I really love the “Hamilton” soundtrack. I find a lot of those songs are very energetic. I listen to them when I’m on the StairMaster.
A food you cannot live without.
If you had one superpower, what would it be?
I would love to be able to read people’s mind—but maybe only their front minds, not any deepest, darkest secrets.
How do you reset during stress and overwhelm?
I tried getting into meditation. I struggled with that a bit, but I have been able to get to a point of self-awareness of recognizing when I’m ‘triggered’ by something and can find a way to take a step back from where I am and breathe. So I think breathing would be my response to that.
A workout you would do in 24 minutes or less.
I’ll take a 24GO workout and just modify it a bit if I can’t get to the club, or to do them faster by removing some of it. Or I’ll do 15 minutes of cardio and some basic dumbbell moves to get my upper body going.
Do you have a message or a mantra or favorite quote?
I love the Maya Angelou quote, “People will forget what you did and people will forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”
Photo credit: Mark Kuroda, kurodastudios.com