Active Life with Jenny
Have you ever seen those women in the gym that are GOING IN on their workouts? Lifting weights like it’s something they came out the womb doing. They look amazing and glow with confidence and strength. I would like you to meet one of these ladies, Jennifer Patton, also know as Jen Or Jenny. Jen is a Fitness/Nutrition coach and a social media figure, with over 13k followers. She inspires people on daily with her Insta post to live an active life style. Jen has her B.S. in Kinesiology (triple threat Beauty, Brains, and Strength), and lives a happy and balanced life of work and fun with her husband Eric.
I have known Jen since high school. It’s been amazing to see her dreams turn into reality. She has gone from that girl that is always willing to help and join in, to the girl that now leads and teaches. I recently sat down with Jen to talk about the fitness world. Jen talked a bit about her journey into the Fitness industry, and what is has brought her. She also shares some knowledge on some common misconceptions that people have about being healthy and how to do it. I hope you enjoy this read as much as I enjoyed the interview.
Can you tell us how you would label yourself, because I know you are into multiple things right now? Who is Jen?
You know I was just thinking about that and I feel like I am in this moment of figuring out my place in this health + fitness space. I am a coach with a goal of educating and inspiring others to find their strength through movement and building positive habits for lasting results.
What about your new Facebook group?
That is a new project with the goal of just spreading knowledge and information of moving with intention and really being mindful of how we feel while doing it to be able to do it forever!
Looking back when you were younger, was this something you wanted to do? Did you also want to be in the fitness world?
I think growing up I had some idea that I would be somewhat involved. My mom always had my brother and I involved in different sports growing up. Remember we even did the Basketball Stats in high school, you, Daisy and I!
Yesss… We did all do that together, the stat girls.
Yeah, so I was always around or involved even if not actively taking part. I couldn’t figure out exactly what space I would be in, at one point I thought it might be the athletic trainer but I didn’t think it would be an instructor or coach. Mostly because as a coach you have to take control of the environment and I was always so timid, I didn’t think I had it in me. I can definitely say I didn’t think this is where I would find myself when I was younger.
In high school; I am sure both of us were probably not at our prime; you started the vegetarian lifestyle. Then you just started paying attention to what you were eating. Do you think Fitness/Nutrition started as a self-love type of thing then maybe everything else grew from that?
Definitely! Like I said, my mom always had us involved in activities but it wasn’t until after high school that I started to notice I wasn’t the most comfortable with where I was at physically + mentally because of it. I don’t know exactly when it got to that point but I remember starting with the vegetarian lifestyle and then I got work out DVDs for home because I’d try going to the gym but I didn’t know what to do. There was no coach to tell me what to do so I’d try following things I saw on social media + home workout DVD’s… I literally had the Kim K DVD, did you know she had one?
NOOOOOOOO…. I remember you having DVDs though.
Yeah…I think I really liked the DVDs were because I didn’t feel comfortable in the way I moved and I especially didn’t want to move in front of people. Once I saw some progress I ventured out and got my first gym membership with Eric and could feel my confidence growing. Then I found CrossFit and I was hooked!
When did you cross over from just being a member at CrossFit to you being a coach?
When I first started, I was still in school for my Bachelors in exercise science at Cal Poly Pomona with the intention of going into physical therapy school but once I started CrossFit, it took over my life. I wanted to keep learning more about the movement and everything I could take in. I WAS ALWAYS THERE. I would stay after class to practice all the different movements, I would ask the coaches questions and I guess I was just there so much they offered me an internship, I took the course, passed the exam and became a coach.
Touching a little more into your expertise as a fitness trainer, what do you see as the most common mistakes or obstacles that people set for themselves when first starting to work out?
That is a really good question. Actually, I have been actively trying to introduce a way of letting people know that it’s okay to take it slow. I think so many people believe that we need to do all of the things all at once to get the desired feeling or look we’re after. I know it will sound corny but the saying “it's not a sprint, it’s a marathon” is completely true. There is no race to the finish line where you get to the end and say “BOOM, I’m done with all my fitness for the rest of my life!” The goal should be to be able to move your entire life. I think people forget or neglect to think about that and they go so hard that they burn out fairly quickly. Whether someone chooses to do CrossFit, Zumba, or the regular gym, we need that reminder that we don’t have to go 100% every single day.
I think it was that whole era of going Beast Mode, Go Hard or Go Home, and No Pain No Gain that has had negative impacts on the way that we move. Actually, pain is not a good thing. It’s okay to not go a thousand miles per hour all the time. It’s okay to just cruise along and pick up momentum, especially at the beginning. For most people, if you have been non active for X amount of months maybe even years, and then you jump into an activity without progressively loading your body, it's going to hurt. That is not fun and will cause most people to stop quickly. I think that’s why we have these periods of our lives where people will go so hard that they need a break, then they feel like they are back to where they were at the beginning. My suggestion is instead, to just focus on the small things. Start with a 5-minute walk, then build to 10-20 minutes and so on. People tend to forget it's okay to be a beginner, and it's okay to go through progression. The goal is to move forever. I think that’s why I’m big about what the Facebook group stands for. It’s Active Life with Jenny, it’s to live an active life each day for the rest of your life. It has a different meaning for everyone. Some people like walking and some like dancing, the idea is to find the thing you enjoy that will keep you moving. This can change too as we mature both mentally and physically. As long as you’re able to sustain it, that is what will keep you going. One of my go to sayings that sums up what I’m talking about is “If you’re persistent, you will get it. If you’re consistent, you’ll keep it.” We don’t just want to get it, we want to keep it.
Do you see a lot of people that either come into the gym or contact you set up unrealistic goals for themselves?
I wouldn’t say unrealistic because I believe that we’re capable of accomplishing anything we set our mind to. However, I also believe that the time frame in which many expect to get it in can be absolutely unrealistic. When it comes to weight loss specifically, we have this idea (thanks to the media) that its acceptable to SHED 30 POUNDS IN 30 DAYS. This isn’t only unhealthy in the short-term but it’s also more likely to regain that weight + some! This is why I think it’s best to focus on habit based goal setting rather than specific numbers.
What do you tell a client that is ready to make a change?
I’d start out by congratulating them on making the choice to do this for themselves. Change is simple but it’s not easy. You really have to think about those moments when you’re not motivated to do what you said you would do. It is those moments that will define your progress because ultimately change is an accumulation of the small things that will lead to lasting results.
You spoke on this a bit earlier about having DVDs because you weren’t comfortable going to the gym. I know that is an issue a lot of girls have, and maybe even guys. I know that was me and even to this day I’m still not that comfortable doing weights. What would you tell other ladies that are intimidated by the gym?
I would start off with the fact that it’s normal to think like this, especially when we are trying something new. I think in our head we believe that everyone is focused on us and what we are doing or not doing correctly. What you should realize though is everyone is there to work on themselves. They are more preoccupied on what they are doing, than what you are. Don’t waste your time thinking about what other people may think of you while you’re working on bettering yourself.
I often hear girls say, “I don’t want to get muscular or too bulky.” When people say that I think they underestimate the amount of work and time it takes. It does not happen by accident; it takes years of building + proper nutrition among other things.
One of the biggest things to take from this is that the benefits from strength training outweigh the chance that someone could be judging you. Think about how you want your life to be when you are older, look at how elderly people walk or sit up from a chair, those movements are all impacted by what we do when we are younger.
Just from knowing my own personal journey that just happened, many people overlook the food aspect. How important is that? Now I know how important the nutrition part is. For the people though that think like oh I will just follow one of these crazy diets that is out there.
The food we eat is going to impact not only how we feel physically but it will also help with mental clarity, it impacts our hormones and all the major processes in our bodies and even the quality of our sleep. When we think of the word diet, we tend to think of a detox, low-carb, keto, eating salads or a juice cleanse but in reality our diet is what foods we choose to eat on a daily basis and a “healthy diet” looks different for everyone.
There’s so much information out there that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and think you need to change everything about the way you eat in order to follow some pIan you read in the latest health magazine. In reality we all know what’s healthier than what isn’t. If you put two things next to each like a piece of kale and a Hot Cheeto, you know that one is a healthier choice than the other. This is not saying kale is the holy grail of health. If you visualize a spectrum of food where you’ve got the healthiest, whole foods at the top and what we know as junk food at the bottom – you want the majority of your foods to come from the top, some from what you’d find in the middle and the least amount from those at the bottom. If you think about it that way, then you really don’t have to restrict yourself.
At the end of the day it’s up to each of us to figure out what works best for our bodies, what makes us feel good and what we will be able to do long-term because that’s what really matters. Instead of changing everything about the way you eat, start with one small change – be mindful of the choices you make throughout the day, add in a new fruit or veggie, drink some more water. The last thing you want to do is cut yourself off of everything because as soon as you say it’s off limits you’ll be craving it like you never have before.
Most people I would think probably feel that way.
Yeah like right now, I can have ice cream or cookies if I choose to, but because I say I can have it, I am just like cool maybe I will have some tomorrow, maybe not. Now tell me I can’t have it and I WANT IT NOW. But remember, it’s all about your choices; you are in control. Your food choices are YOUR FOOD CHOICES, you have no one else to blame.
Yeah, your current habits are kind of going to always been there. You can improve them, but they will probably always exist. If you have a sweet tooth, you probably always will.
That’s totally okay. Instead of fighting the sweet tooth. I will sometimes think to myself yes I can have this cookie, but is the choice the ‘adult Jenny’ is making or is it the 2-year-old throwing a tantrum? It’s like saying, “this is what I want so this is what I am having” or is it “I’m stressed out or emotional”. There is a lot of psychology to it. The more we ask questions about certain choices, then you are able to start calling yourself out. Remember, no one is stuffing it into your mouth. There was a point in time where I was like uhhhh I gained weight because of Eric, he likes to eat this or that and we blamed it on “the love chub” I was like “well he is having this so I might as well have it.” And when you think about it that way, it is easy to blame someone else because you don’t have to take control of your choices. Once you start calling yourself out, you will see all the BS excuses you make about YOUR FOOD CHOICES. That doesn’t happen till you start being aware. You can’t change what you’re not aware of. Once you are aware, then it's your choice to ignore it or do something about it.
You said some interesting things that I learned myself. I recently lost a lot of weight and I did it with low carb and cutting out mostly all sugar. Like you said certain things aren’t for certain people, but it worked for me. I continue to eat in a similar way but a little different. What was interesting to me was what you said about how it affects EVERYTHING else in your life. There was one point for about a month or so I was getting maybe 2 hours of sleep and not consistent 2 hours. I thought it was everything else going on in my life which there was a lot of other stuff. I would talk to my friend about it and he would tell me it’s my food. He kept insisting it was my diet; he was like you already lost weight start introducing other stuff back into your diet. I was like ughhhhh, I don’t like to listen. But I started introducing carbs back in and brought back sugar with fruit. Now I am sleeping like before, no problems falling asleep anywhere. It’s crazy, but I think many people don’t realize that it affects everything. I can totally tell now when I have been eating “bad”. Even in your hair, I can tell when I don’t have enough protein by the texture of my hair.
Your body is made up of proteins. Your body uses carbs, proteins and fats for so many functions in our body. Technically speaking the Keto and Low Carb is “ok” because carbs are a non-essential food source, meaning our body can produce glucose and whatever else it needs to function from other processes. If you are not getting carbs from food, your body can make it happen. I can’t remember who said this but they said, “yeah we can survive without carbs, but we are here to thrive”. Our bodies choice energy source is carbs. So like I said you can survive without… but we’re trying to thrive! So that is why Keto works and low carb works. When you are on a low-carb diet what are you doing…? Paying attention to your food intake.
Oh yeah my market trips turned into like 2 hour market trips looking at the carbs of everything. Now I can make the choices a lot easier, and I eat more carbs than before. It was a learning process though. It wasn’t a week or two weeks; it has been at least 6 months before I’m super comfortable and my weekends are more like oh yeah I can eat that today.
That is one the things people don’t realize, you just need to have this different way of being mindful and aware of your food choices. One of the biggest things you can do for yourself is to learn more about your food. We are not taught how to eat.
Do you think our culture plays a part in it as well? Being Hispanic or African American, we eat based on traditions.
I think that is why it's not fair to say everyone should eat one way. What about those traditions? I think back to when I was a vegetarian for a certain time and I did paleo for a time. When I went vegetarian, I actually saw a chicken die and I was traumatized by it. My grandma kind of understood that, when I went paleo though, which cuts out beans, that made no sense to her. Our whole family was raised on rice and beans and now that I think about it though it was kind of silly. Now some people don’t do well with beans, if that’s you - fine don’t eat them. Just like dairy and carbs, some people have an intolerance to them. There is only a small percent of the population who have a real intolerance to gluten. Most people that eat gluten free are doing it because it’s just another thing the internet told them to do. You do not have to be “on a diet” to eat healthy. If we get away from that thinking and just think about how we can make better choices we’ll start to see the progress we want and not lose our sanity doing it.
We are in this era of this girl power and girls supporting each other. However, I still feel like girls are in competition with each other instead of really supporting. How important do you think a support system is for a girl who comes to you and is ready to start their journey? It could be their friends or their family, but they encourage and hold her accountable.
I think the hardest thing is for people to admit they need help. We are all really stubborn, some more than others. To come to a point in your life to say “whatever I am doing is not working and I need help”. That is a really brave thing to do. To be able to share that with someone is super important. Being vulnerable with people that is what we need more. It’s good to have people to push you when you need to be pushed and also remind you that you are doing great. The easy thing to do is to continue to do nothing. Think about the fact that you are making the hard choice, and the easy choice will always be there. Know that the hard choice, that is what will make you better. If you have people around you that will hold you to that higher standard. That will just help you so much more. We need people that will do that but also be your cushion. We will have those days we just might need a hug.
Yeah or maybe you just want to call up your friend and say I need a donut today.
Yes, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other. You want someone though that will keep you chugging along. A little bit at a time. I think that’s why a lot of people go towards group classes. The support isn’t at home, and the benefit of the group class is you have the coach and the people in the class. Finding that support system is super important to know they got your back. Accountability buddy. Just like you have your gym buddy* I am sure some days one of you doesn’t always want to go.
Yes, it’s always one of us texting the other are you going today, or do you want to come with? It’s like ummm do I really want to but fine if you go I will. Then we go and it’s fine, but some days we both are like yeah no not today.
That is fine to allow when your body needs the rest. It’s important to remember that exercise is a stress on the body so you have to have a certain amount of rest and recovery to keep making those positive adaptations to what you’re doing. The support system definitely helps when it comes to having someone to just listen to you.
Do you feel that fitness plays an overall part of the self-love and self-help? I know people can find happiness in a lot of other things that aren’t fitness, but fitness does release endorphins. Some people might not know that.
I definitely believe so. Like you said, there are things happen in the body when you work out. It helps with things like your sleep, increase immune system, and over-all mood. Finding that way to move that you are able to do consistently and makes you feel good is a form of self-love. Taking the time to work out and to take care of their body all while having that gratitude for what your body can do for you. There are people that are out there that can’t move, just let that sink in. If you are not getting your body to move or increasing your heart rate in some way, I think you are just missing out on a whole different experience of your life.
What would you tell a person who came to you that said they just don’t have time? What is a good basic home work out someone can do?
We make time for the things that matter AND YOU MATTER, so make time for yourself. Also, we all have the same 24 hours as Beyonce so we gotta get to work!
I know it’s tough and not always seen as the most fun, but once you get going you just gotta tell yourself “I GOT THIS!”
For a at home workout Jen recommends this for a little 10-minute workout.
Set your timer for 10 minutes and alternate between these things as many reps as possible.
15- Air Squats
15- Sit Ups
*If you have space to do a little run split it up. 3 movements go for a run, come back do the 3 movements again and keep going for 10 minutes.
I remember when I was house sitting my brother’s house; I hadn’t gone to the gym in a few days. One of the football games was on and I was like I am going to squat for as long as this team has possession of the ball. Yeah seemed like a good idea till the possession lasted way longer than expected and the squats got real intense. But I mean you could do a different set every commercial break of a show.
Yeah, that’s awesome! I think we have this idea that if it's not structured, then it's not worth it. But no, just get your heart rate up however you can. You can put a shoe on the floor jump over it back to back and do some burpees. There is so much you can do with your body weight. Honestly, there is this thing called GOOGLE.. if you type in home work out, it will give you so many options. Or even try YouTube. As long as you are moving mindfully and with intention, not recklessly, you’ll be okay. I think we all have a general idea of how things should feel, and what feels good and what doesn’t. You can be uncomfortable but not in pain.
I have seen that fitness has brought you other things in life. You have modeled and you got a huge following on Instagram. Did you expect fitness to open all these doors?
No, not at all. It has just continued to grow and opened up so many other things for me. It grew my confidence and courage to put myself out there in other places, whereas before I would be trying to hide in the corner. One of the biggest things was finding my voice and knowing that I do have the power to lead and get people to move. I also have been able to learn patience with myself and other people. Sometimes I wish I would have known these things sooner, but then I am like no it needed to happen on its own time. I am glad it happened in the way that it did.
I was talking about that with your husband when I first got here. You have always been this nice bubbly person. But I feel like you have completely blossomed and have the confidence to be you. You can be like this is who I am, and this is what I do. I love it hopefully you love it. I don’t feel you are worried anymore about what other people think.
I still have my days for sure. Now more than ever I feel like I am calling myself out on it when I get those uneasy feelings. Like, why do I feel this way. I have that ability to make that connection when something is off.
Which is good because everyone has off days. It's good to be able to recognize it and even allow yourself to have them. Like you know what I am going to give myself this time, then I will snap out of it.
And to not allow yourself to fall off. Allow myself to be in a little snooty attitude or whatever I’m feeling for a bit, then shake it off and snap out if it.
Changing the vibe a bit, I want to talk about the fitness scene. Have you or have you ever seen any type of sexism or harassment towards women in this industry?
That is one thing that I noticed early on, especially being a coach at the gym. I noticed a little bit of resistance from the male members. It was like “well, you’re going to be teaching me what to do?!”
Because you are female and smaller than them….??
Yeah, I can definitely see how they would be surprised and some even taken back that they’re going to be learning from a girl about lifting weights but once I show them that I’m there to work and teach them how to move properly I earn their respect in the gym.
On the other hand being in this space has exposed me to all of the amazing women in strength. I can now see the potential in everyone I meet, it’s incredible what we are capable of when we really put in the effort.
When it comes to the fitness industry as whole there’s definitely a lot of work to be done. One of my least favorite things that’s out there is how bodies are used to promote things we don’t actually need.
Are you talking about the people we see like drink this tea and get fit?
Yes, that part probably gets me the most frustrated. I told you earlier that I bought the Kim K DVD at one point. Now that I look back and I wonder “did I buy it because I wanted to look like her?” I think the DVD was called Fit In Your Jeans By Friday. Something about me at that time was like this is the look she has, and if I do this I can have that. The part the sucks and realize now. There are so many people using their bodies to promote these things, but it's very likely they are not using whatever it is they are promoting. Think about the actress that promote the hair products at target…. Are they really using that product.. probably not?
I just had a rant about this on my story recently. They should be telling you what doctor they went to. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that either but just know if that is the look you want, more than likely she did not get it from whatever item she is promoting. People get sucked into the promoting of these products. We are very much about the quick fix and get me here now. It’s easy to forget it didn’t take us a week to gain the weight it won't take a week to lose it.
I like to ask everyone woman I interview this question. The blog is called FemPower, what does FemPower mean to you?
The way that I see it is Female Power. The power we have as women. We have so much more in us I don’t think we are aware of. Then I also think of it as empowering females, and one another. That support system to share and encourage. It doesn’t have to be the fitness world, but that is an outlet to show your strength and find your capability of what you can do. Knowing you have the power to do anything you want to accomplish and challenging yourself to follow through. Being proud of where you’ve been, where you’re at and where you’re going and growing!
So would you say FemPower to you is allowing yourself to realize that you can grow into this force?
Yeah and not have to wait for someone to give you this title. I think that is what I am realizing now. The power is yours to do whatever you want.
One last thing how can people get a hold of you if they want to start working with you, or where can they find you if they are looking for some daily motivation.
They can find me on Instagram @jennyyfromthebox
For nutrition or private training or any questions at all they can email me Inspirechangenutrition@gmail.com
And if they are interested in joining my Facebook group, they can search Active Life with Jenny.
I want to thank Jen for taking time out of her schedule to talk with me. She has shared some great knowledge about fitness and nutrition. Don’t be scared to reach out to her if you want to start your own journey or maybe you already have and just want some support along the way.
As mentioned in the interview this past year I went through a lot of changes in my personal life. Weight loss and being a healthier person was one of them. Doing this interview with Jen was something I wanted to share with people. Going through changes is never easy and it’s even harder if you do it alone. People like Jen are there for you. Don’t be scared to look for that support. I just want to thank everyone who helped me with that journey. The friends that either went with or encouraged me to work out. My neighbor who we now record ourselves doing work outs (we are still a mess and half the time it’s bloopers). The friends that we have meal prepped together. My girls who always had positive encouragement. My friend that helped me with my sleep issues and would send workouts for me to do at the gym. The ladies at work that all come to me with their updates and say that they seen me doing it and now they are too. Those women are always daily motivation. Having positive people in your circle is important, recognize those ones and appreciate them.