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.
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
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