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BFT “Life Changer” – Jennifer Turner

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This month’s BFT “Life Changer” Jennifer Turner, founder of NYC based MAD COOL FITNESS, a healthy lifestyle company that focuses on achieving long-term healthy living through behavior modification. Jennifer shares her story on why she started her company and how her life experiences, and her ability to overcome struggles with her own health, have put her in a position today to be able to inspire others and transform lives.

Q. What inspired you to take on the challenge of adopting a healthy lifestyle?

A. I was 24 years old and had not actually been overweight since I was about 13 but I had been struggling with an eating disorder (bulimia) for over a decade. Developing the disease is really how I lost weight in the first place. I had cheated. Over the course of 11 years, the disease had come in fits and spurts, highly correlated with the stress level in my life, but fundamentally I was bulimic. I felt completely out of control, trapped in my own mind and body and HONGRY, not hungry ALL OF THE TIME! I had done every diet under the sun, intermixed with bulimic bouts. I had no wellness skills, no stress management skills, I was miserable.

At 24, I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t live that way anymore. When I got accepted into Stanford Business School, I decided I would take the two years of school to take charge of my health and focus on developing the habit of going to the gym every day, the one thing I hadn’t done due to ignorance and perceived lack of time. Within 2 months, I lost body fat, my clothes fit differently, my palette changed to enjoy healthier foods, but most importantly I felt FREE! This was the turning point for me in gaining control of my life and conquering the disease.

Q. How do you balance your career as a television executive with living a healthy lifestyle and your MAD COOL FITNESS Revolution?

A. I have sometimes not followed my own advice and didn’t sleep! It’s been a challenge but I am deeply committed to MAD COOL being successful. Not for me, but for all of the people I’m hoping I can help through my story, and by connecting people to other people who can learn from each other and support each other in this common mission. To get it all done, I am very strict about my time. No time is “free” and can always be used for something. I’m the queen of “to do today” lists. I love making lists and crossing things off. It keeps me focused. The balancing act of entrepreneur, athlete, teacher, fitness activator may get a little easier as I will be focusing on MAD COOL full-time in 2013.

Q. What motivated you to start MAD COOL FITNESS?

A. I was in my mid-thirties and feeling very unhappy in my life. I felt misplaced. I had already been doing some self-analysis and had determined I felt most integrated and happiest when I was running or engaging in some kind of physical activity, or when I was giving advice and helping others on their wellness journeys.

Then one day I was at my subway stop at 125th at Lex in East Harlem, when I saw, really saw people, my people unable to get up and down the subway stairs due to being obese, being on walkers, including children, who were already over-weight and I thought, if I don’t get into this conversation about obesity and act then who will? I have been so fortunate to have come from the South Side of Chicago, been overweight, had an eating disorder, and overcome those health challenges. Moreover, due to the sheer will of my mother, I had had the finest education and exposure possible. I thought who else is better equipped to get into this conversation and help with addressing this health pandemic.

I felt compelled to act. So I first got certified through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as group fitness instructor and health coach. Then I started MAD COOL FITNESS, a healthy lifestyle company that focuses on achieving long-term healthy living through behavior modification and holistic tools. With a multi-ethnic, urban feel MAD COOL FITNESS targets women and communities of color to ensure they are included, they are represented, that someone is talking to them about health in a language they can connect with and understand. The company is called “MAD COOL” because when you take charge of your health, break down the walls of your own self-limitations, and feel healthy, integrated, and happy, that IS mad cool. When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, I became a different person. I felt like the real Jennifer Turner and I want EVERYONE to feel that.

Q. What is your current workout routine?

A. I work out 6 days a week; 1 day of rest. Cardio all 6 days. 3 days of running – speed work, tempo run, long run. Targeted weights 3 times a week. Indoor cycling 2 times a week. Sometimes a little kickboxing (great for stress!). Swim 2 times a week. Great for recovery from all of the other exercises that stress your body. I ALWAYS work out in the morning. It’s the time of day you have the most energy and also have the least probability of blackberry blowing up or some other commitment preventing you from working out.

Starting this month I will train for my first Ironman triathlon.  I’ll be training and raising money for cancer research with Team in Training in association with the Leukemia & Lymphoma society. TNT trained me for my first marathon 12 years ago and turned me into an athlete. I wanted this race to not be just about me and wanted do something for a charity and raise money. I couldn’t think of a better organization than TNT, and love that I’m going full circle, training for the ultimate endurance race with the organization that played such a critical role in my health journey over a decade ago.

Q. What is your diet currently like? Do you allow room to enjoy your favorite foods?

A. I eat pretty clean, mostly raw, natural fruits and vegetables. I usually start the day with a fruit smoothie with hemp seed for protein, then have a mid-day snack of nuts and dates, salad with a protein for lunch and, dinner is usually a salad with lots of veggies, avocados and nuts.

I absolutely eat “bad” foods. You can’t eat nuts and berries every day. Some days you’re over it and you want chicken wings! And not necessarily the broiled and baked kind. Personally I’m obsessed with the $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco and I have a penchant for anything chocolate and my favorite dessert is red velvet cupcakes. You have to cheat. If you don’t, you’ll obsess over “bad” foods and next thing you know you are closet eating a box of Entenmann’s cookies! Cheat but proactively cheat. Plan your cheat days around events you know are happen and at which you are going to want to enjoy yourself. You happen to the food, the food doesn’t happen to you. You’re in control.

Q. How are you impacting your local community through fitness?

A. I started MAD COOL COMMUNITY, a suite of online/offline wellness programs (nutrition, exercise, and stress management) under the MAD COOL FITNESS brand. These programs are targeted and specialized to activate wellness in communities, long-term.

MAD COOL COMMUNITY includes:

MAD COOL CARDIO – A high energy cardio dance workout I developed using 80s/90s pop, Hip Hop, and R&B sounds for beginners to advanced fitness levels, taught in the heart of Harlem on Lenox Ave. (click here for DVD and for schedule)

 

MAD COOL RUN/WALK CREW – A run/walk program targeted to new runners and walkers who want to get moving and trains them for their first 5K race.

MAD COOL HEALTHY SUPPORT Seminar – An in-person seminar focused on nutrition, exercise, stress management, and behavior modification. The program also leverages online tools for support in between in-person sessions – online exercise video, meal plans, and online groups of 4-6 people (“CREWs”) support each other and compete in wellness challenges.

These are all programs that I developed inspired by how I was able to change, and are designed to get the community to embrace a healthier way of living. It is my goal to set up MAD COOL COMMUNITY across not only New York City but communities across the nation.

 Q. What advice do you have for people who want to change their lives but don’t know where to start?

A. Visualize what you want your new life to look like. Make a plan. A simple plan; don’t go crazy with a bunch of complicated elements you can’t realistically achieve. I say “KISS,” Keep It Simple Sister and don’t overdo. Write down the plan and enlist a buddy to help you to stay on the plan. Laugh and enjoy the process of changing, even when the slip-ups happen along the way. KISS yourself every day, and one step will lead to another, and another, and the next thing you know you’re running the Boston Marathon.

Q. Where can people find more information about you?

A. You can read my story and philosophy at www.jenniferturner.com and experience the manifestation of my life’s mission- to activate the inherent fitness in every person and unlock their personal happiness -through my company at www.madcoolfitness.com

LAICOMM_JTurner_PRPhoto_fullbody_smiling

Are you a “Life Changer” or know someone who is? We are looking for individuals or groups working in the health and wellness field (i.e. – allied health professionals,  fitness/wellness professionals, nutritionists, etc.) who are dedicated to improving the lives others and have a unique story to share.

Submit your information to be featured on our website!

 

Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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Interviews

CrossFit Inc Global Branding Manager Talks with Black Fitness Today Ahead of Manion-WOD to Honor Fallen Hero

Ilen Bell, MS, CSCS, Co-Founder of Black Fitness Today

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Manion WOD events will be occurring at CrossFit gyms across the United States on Sunday, April 29, 2018. Times vary by location. Proceeds from each event will go towards TMF veteran initiatives such as TMF veteran expeditions, veteran-empowerment programs, and scholarships.

 

On April 29th, CrossFit gyms across the country will recognize the sacrifice of 1stLT Travis Manion and complete the Manion-Workout of the Day (WOD) to benefit Travis Manion Foundation (TMF) veteran initiatives such as TMF veteran expeditions, veteran-empowerment programs, and scholarships.

Read our interview with CrossFit Global Branding Manager, Jimi Letchford, and TMF President and Sister of Travis Manion, Ryan Manion.

Who was 1stLT Travis Manion?

Ryan: Travis was my best friend, and younger brother by 15 months. Even though I was the older sibling, I looked up to Travis in many ways because he always set the example. Travis was a high character person even from a young age, and when he saw something wrong, he would stand up. He was an all-league standout in wrestling, football and lacrosse, a member of five championship teams, and an All-American wrestler. Travis was best known as a motivating and popular figure to his classmates. This combination of leadership, athleticism, and academic achievement opened the door to his appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

After graduating from USNA, he decided to follow in our father’s footsteps and was awarded a commission into the United States Marine Corps. After finishing at the top of his class at The Basic School in Quantico, VA, Travis was assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, with whom he deployed to Iraq for his first tour of duty. On April 29, 2007 during his second tour of duty in Iraq Travis, his fellow Marines and Iraqi Army counterparts were ambushed. Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates. Travis Manion paid the ultimate sacrifice that day, but his selfless actions allowed every member of his patrol to survive.

 

How does CrossFit serve as a vehicle for honoring heroes like 1stLT Travis Manion, who paid the ultimate sacrifice?

Jimi: Every day, millions of people engage in CrossFit workouts around the world. Our Workouts of the Day (aka WODs) are constantly varied, (relatively) high intensity, functional movement challenges that are intended to elicit physical and mental responses like no other workout regimen. The CrossFit program may not be for everyone, but it is for anyone.

Our Hero WODs are a different breed. They’re intended to take you to your limit. It’s up to the athlete to decide whether they’ll push past this limit. During this process, we honor the Hero(es) in which the workout was named. The men and women we honor through these WODs have amazing stories of character and bravery, and knowing about their legacy pushes us to go even further than we thought possible.

CrossFit has closely aligned its core values with that of the military. Why might CrossFit be something veterans want to give a try?

Jimi: CrossFit has a very tight-knit community, and a great sense of camaraderie among participants. When veterans join a CrossFit gym, they often find that camaraderie very similar to what they experience while in service to our Country. The idea that you belong to something bigger than yourself can often be lost while transitioning out of the military to civilian life. Like the military, there’s also a competitive nature to CrossFit. That friendly competition is something many veterans continue to look for in the next chapter of their life, and CrossFit is a great way to fill that void.

“If Not Me, Then Who…” is a question that has come to shape 1stLT Manion’s legacy. How is TMF and CrossFit answering this question?

Ryan: “If Not Me, Then Who…” isn’t actually a question, it’s a mantra that Travis lived by every day, and we’re inspiring future generations to put that mantra into action within their own lives. Just before Travis left for his second deployment to Iraq, he attended a football game with my husband Dave, and while they were leaving the stadium, Dave said to Travis “How about I push you down the steps so you break your ankle, and you won’t have to go back?” Travis looked at Dave very serious, and simply replied “If Not Me, Then Who…” He went on to explain that if he didn’t go back, someone less prepared would have to go in his place. This is the way Travis approached everything in his life, even from an early age. Those words have grown into a national movement that is inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to be of service to their own communities, and to be part of something bigger than themselves.  

Jimi: Travis was as true a friend as you could ever find. He always looked out for others, and often times would even thank me for pushing him to work harder. He was also a fierce competitor, and would never cut corners. His mantra of “If Not Me, Then Who…” really does represent how selfless Travis was. To me, Travis is representative of all the other Heroes that our Nation, and CrossFit community, have lost. So, I’d like to tell anyone that will be honoring Travis (or whoever else they’ll be honoring this weekend) to do so with the utmost integrity to the workout standards. Remember that those we honor through our Hero WODs paid the ultimate sacrifice in their line of duty. It is now our duty to never forget them. “If Not Me, Then Who…”

How does CrossFit motivate its members to collectively complete intense WODs sometimes named in honor of fallen military and first responders whom the members have no personal connection?

Jimi: The people that walk into our CrossFit boxes are people that recognize that only hard work will achieve health and wellness. CrossFitters don’t believe that there is a ‘magic pill’ for fitness. It turns out that this psychographic also tends to be very altruistic and humble. As a CrossFit community, all we have to do is tell the story of the fallen Hero, how it may relate to the workout, and the rest just happens. For example, the “Manion” Hero WOD is extremely leg intensive. We know from our relationship with Travis that he always had the strongest legs of anyone on our team. So, Travis’ workout consists of a 400 meter run and 29 back squats (135lbs), done over 7 rounds. The numbers are somewhat poetic; Travis was killed 4/29/07.

Manion WOD events will be occurring at CrossFit gyms across the United States on Sunday, April 29, 2018. Times vary by location. Proceeds from each event will go towards TMF veteran initiatives such as TMF veteran expeditions, veteran-empowerment programs, and scholarships.

How can people exemplify Travis’ character and sacrifice beyond the four walls of a CrossFit box where many join together once a year to complete a WOD honoring Travis’ legacy?

Ryan: Get involved in your own community. Look for your passion and a purpose, and wake up with determination to make a difference in the world every day, no matter how small. Live by “If Not Me, Then Who…” and look for those opportunities that present themselves each and every day that you can be the best version of yourself, and take advantage of them.

What communities does TMF serve?

Ryan: We currently have offices in 8 cities across the country, which include: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington D.C. However our impact and opportunities for involvement are nationwide.

How does the Travis Manion Foundation ensure that children of fallen heroes are not left behind?

We work closely with families of the fallen, and specifically organize service expeditions for survivors. These expeditions allow family members of fallen military to spend time with others who can relate to their journey, while providing them an opportunity to carry on their loved one’s legacy by being of service to a community in need. We host 8-10 domestic or international expedition each year, and one such expedition is specifically for teens who have lost a parent or sibling in service to our country. These young adults learn that while their loved one may be gone, they can honor their memory and carry on their legacy through the actions they take each and every day.

Where can people find information on joining or volunteering with TMF?

Ryan: Anyone can join the mission by visiting travismanion.org. We have volunteer and engagement opportunities throughout the year, which includes our Operation Legacy service projects and the 9/11 Heroes Run 5K series.

What do you want people to know most about Travis?

Ryan: Travis always challenged himself to be the best person he could, and he did that by focusing on being big in the little things. Because of that, he was prepared when bigger challenges arose. The legacy that Travis left behind, and for that matter all our fallen heroes, is one that we all have a responsibility to carry on. The way that we do that is by look towards the character they lived with, and challenging ourselves to think about how we can be the best version of ourselves – because “If Not Me, Then Who…”

 

 

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Interviews

Bernie Mac’s Widow, Rhonda McCullough, Talks Regaining Health after Loss

“In October of 2016, I made up my mind. I said, ‘This was it,’ and I’ve been committed ever since.”

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Rhonda McCullough, Bernie Mac, widow

Rhonda McCullough, Bernie Mac’s widow, has dealt with so many life changes over the years. After losing her husband, then her father and mother last year, Rhonda’s eating habits became increasingly unhealthy and her weight skyrocketed. It wasn’t until last year after her mother’s death, that she decided to change her eating habits, and shed the weight. Today, Rhonda has lost over 70 pounds by eating healthy and keeping a regular exercise routine. She’d like to let others know, that if she could do it, so can you!

Black Fitness Today caught up with Rhonda McCullough, to learn more about how she turned pain into triumph and how she kick-started her weight loss journey!

Describe yourself as you can remember while you were with Bernie Mac:
I was a young mother, a young wife and a stay-at-home mom for a while. That’s where I came into my weight issues; being at home, a little bored, and having a baby… I’d eat a dozen of doughnuts, then I’d say, “wow I can’t believe I ate all of that.” It was always the sweets.

So your weight problems started as a young mother, even while Bernie Mac was still living?
Oh absolutely. The weight issues started after my pregnancy. I gained close to 80lbs. After I delivered her, I lost 20lbs, then I went on a strict diet. I ended up getting back down to my original pre-pregnancy size, and I maintained that weight for a while.

How long were you able to sustain that post-pregnancy weight loss?
I was able to lose the weight, but I couldn’t sustain it for very long. Bernie Mac worked 4pm to midnight, and I’d wait for him to come home before eating dinner, and you know, you can’t eat late like that, plus I wasn’t active. As African-Americans, we’re not taught that you must exercise daily to sustain weight loss. You have to exercise, you have to move, and I didn’t do any of that. So as life went on, I ate, and I gained the weight back, especially once Bernie got sick.

After Bernie Mac got sick, how did that affect your weight loss?
Bernie was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in the 80’s. As his sickness progressed, it just got worst for me. I was here taking care of him. After he died in August 2008, I could only think, “What am I going to do now?” I just didn’t care about my diet after that. Nothing was healthy, nothing was good. I remember saying to myself, “I’m going to be fat the rest of my life.”

What happened between 2008 and now?
After Bernie died in 2008, my dad died months later. In 2010, I joined Weight Watchers and ended up losing 70lbs. I got remarried at the end of 2010 on New Years Eve. From 2010 to 2013, I don’t know how, but the weight crept back on me. In 2016, my mom got sick. She was in and out the hospital, it was just so stressful and I didn’t care about my diet again. I was at my highest weight that I’d ever been. I just couldn’t stay focused on the weight loss.

What was the turning point for you?
I have a good friend, he told me, “You know what Rhonda, you’re a beautiful person, no matter what size you are. Stop talking about yourself… if you don’t like how you look, change it, only you can change it.” I’ve been a yo-yo dieter my whole life. So this time around, because I’m turning 60 this year, I said I wanted to be healthy, and I wanted to look good. So slowly but surely, I started making changes. After my mom died, months later, I knew it was time for a major change. In October of 2016, I made up my mind. I said, “This was it,” and I’ve been committed ever since.

How has your diet changed?
I cut out sugars, white foods, potatoes, sodas, I only ate lean meats and vegetables, and I did that for four months. I got tired of that so I decided to incorporate some foods back into my diet, but in moderation. You just have to learn how to compromise.

Are you happy?
I honestly am. I love the way my shirts and blouses fit; I love the way my jeans fit. I’m a size that’s suitable for me. I want to lose maybe 10-15 more pounds but I honestly am happy with the way I look now.

What are some words of encouragement that you would give someone going through the same thing you went through?
Right now in this moment, no matter how you feel, or how you look, you still have to love yourself. We always show compassion to other people, but we never show that same compassion to ourselves. Within loving ourselves, we can make a change. Start small, it doesn’t have to be big. Don’t make goals that are too big and overwhelming. Take something away for a week. Start walking everyday for 10 minutes, until you can build up and do more. Baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s not a diet, this is a lifestyle. Not to say you can’t enjoy some things, just not every day. We have to learn how to love ourselves and not let the food consume us. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

Rhonda McCullough plans to continue her weight loss journey while living on purpose! Follow Rhonda on IG at @mcculloghgilmore.

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Cover Feature

Living Fit The Civil Way – How A Healthy Lifestyle Powers Karen Civil’s Success

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karen civil
Photo credit: Noel Daganta

Karen Civil, Live Civil, Black Fitness Today

It’s another beautiful November day in Los Angeles, and it’s shoot day. Karen Civil is en route, and the team is preparing for her arrival. You can feel how the atmosphere changes when she walks into the studio. She brings an aura of confidence, yet calmness. Even while she’s ironing out details of her schedule for the rest of the week, she’s in lock step during shoot prep. Karen is like a chameleon who can rock many different looks and shine bright while doing it.

Everyone has their own method of preparation for photo shoots. We can imagine that in being a cover girl for a fitness mag, she wanted to be ready. But, her lifestyle, work ethic, and commitment to maintaining good health and a solid physique proved to be a perfect return on investment on shoot day.

The Elizabeth, New Jersey native now residing in Los Angeles is one of the best digital strategists in the game.  Even if you still don’t know who she is by now, you probably know her work and have seen her footprint. Check some of her most notable receipts:

Remember when Weezy went to prison? Karen was responsible for the creation of his fan site weezythanxyou.com, that kept his fans connected and brand intact during his incarceration. This was crucial because it was before social media gave us all direct access to our favorite celebs and entertainers.

You know all those Beats by Dre ads with notable athletes and entertainers wearing the headphones while getting a glimpse into their journeys? She spearheaded that campaign.

The booming success of mainstream artists like YG, Nipsey Hussle and Dave East and more, link back to her, as she has elevated these artists into formidable brands.

One of Karen’s platforms, karencivil.com, which kicked off in 2008, has been unique in the hip-hop industry because it is credited with introducing now global superstars to the world before anyone else including Drake, J. Cole, and Nicki Minaj.

Karen and her team launched the LiveCivil playground in Haiti, the place of her roots, to create a safe place for children to be able to play and express themselves.

Karen Civil is not only holding her own in a male-dominated industry, but is setting the path that women — and men — want to follow.

What enables Karen Civil to be the powerhouse that she is goes beyond her knowledge, experience, and connections. It is often said that our health is our greatest wealth. How can we live out our fullest potential if we aren’t healthy enough to do it? This is an idea that Karen takes very seriously; it gives her balance and a solid foundation.

Self-care has enabled her to successfully fight her battle with anemia, and maintain not only a solid body, but a solid mental state – something so crucial in the industry she dominates each and every day.

Flip to the next page to read our interview with Karen to find out what fitness means to her, why she felt it was best to let go of her vegan lifestyle, what keeps her grounded, and advice she has on brand-building.

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