I am a fitness professional since 2002, but fitness enthusiast all my life. I love the high I get from sweating and knowing I can walk into a gym and grab a set of dumbbells and lift right in the middle of the gym, not intimidated, not phased, or that I can pick up a surf board or go for hike at anytime because my body is that strong. I started lifting iron in my garage, trying to keep up with my four brothers. I am a tomboy at heart, but can rock the highest heels. Being in a family of 8, we didn't travel much. Now, I like to travel the world and show my son the endless opportunities to life! Travel, learn, inspire, explore, teach every chance I get! Call me crazy, but I like kale smoothies over a drink at a bar. I refer to my protein shakes and meal replacement bars as my fast food! I prefer to be outside working out, but will never pass up 105 degree Bikram room! If you relate, read on!
Since 2002, I have been fortunate to work internationally and throughout the United States with an array of clientele and avvariety of fitness experiences. These experiences have helped me add to my foundation and endeavor to commit to a lifestyle journey of fitness.
It all started in 5th grade! My older brother had to do a science project for school and he used me and my other brothers as his test subjects. At home with our chin up bar in the hallway, each night we were to do as many pull ups as we could and then get our biceps measured. I noticed myself getting stronger and being able to do more. I remember the confidence that came along with that and knowing I could actually do one. After seeing the results, I was fascinated with the science behind the body and what was happening! I was hooked!
It also helped that I was exposed to exercise early on as my dad was a high school P.E. teacher and wrestling/football coach, or maybe that I was one of six kids and I never saw my mom sit down. (Maybe it was their idea for the science project?) It wasn’t uncommon to have the entire football team at our house watching films of or to go on the Sunday morning run with the wrestling team. Every Friday night for 31 years I was at a wrestling meet either watching my dad's teams or my brothers wrestle. Between the wrestling meets and being in the high school and collegiate gymnasiums, I lived in the backyard playing every sport that existed and you better believe everything was a competition!
As I transitioned into high school, I was fortunate to be exposed to cadavers, anatomy, sports medicine and exercise physiology as elective classes. I knew when I kept choosing to take these types of classes, I had found my interest! After viewing my first cadaver and seeing the human body responded to a healthy lifestyle versus and unhealthy lifestyle, it lead me to venture farther into this field. I knew after high school I wanted to study exercise and the body. Through high school I stayed active playing soccer, competing on the gymnastics team and running cross-country.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN....
MY FITNESS JOURNEY
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The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
After high school I attended the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse because of their outstanding reputation in Exercise & Sports Science. When I arrived on campus and saw the bluffs (mini mountains), the hiking trails, the river, running paths, I was in recreation heaven! It got better though after taking a few classes, I realized this was my place! I had to choose a degree between P.E., Fitness, Sports Management, Athletic Training, Recreation Management and the list went on! Who knew there were so many options for people who like to move! I decided to narrow in and double major in Fitness and Sports Management and a minor in Business Administration. I thought it would be good to have if I decided to start my own business one day. While at UW-L, I also played on the women's soccer team as a collegiate athlete and was captain my senior year.
Shortly after college, I started my fitness career in May 2002 as a personal trainer at LifeTime Fitness. I met unbelievable trainers and management staff that gave me the skills and foundation for my career success. However, I quickly found out that I wanted more than just what a gym had to offer. I wanted to provide more people on a more personal level with the education and empowerment to change their body and life through exercise.
I reached out to youth athletes, coaching soccer through competitive travel programs and designing strength and conditioning programs for the athletes. In 2003, I became the co-owner of UNICUS Fitness at the age of 22. I was hungry and fueled some of that energy into hiking 34 miles in the Grand Canyon in 17 hours, running the Chicago Marathon and finishing the Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon. Transitioning from a college athlete and training year round, I had to stay active and find new adventures to keep my body and mind challenged.
In July of 2003, UNICUS Fitness was born and along the way, the business has helped over 10,000 clients live healthier lives. Shortly after starting UNICUS Fitness, we partnered up with Parkway Properties and opened up a private training studio on Michigan Avenue, The Fitness Lair (which we landed with no overhead rent). We then took over management for the One on One Fitness Center for property management companies Grubb & Ellis & The John Buck Company, providing programming, training and seminars for Aon employees. For three years, UNICUS won the management contract for the government agency, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), managing their onsite corporate wellness center. In 2004, the UNICUS Fitness Wedding Boot Camp program started and was featured in media such as The Wall Street Journal, 97.9FM The Loop, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune and many others. Upon the success of UNICUS, it continued to grow and new opportunities arose, including the creation of the “O Fitness Challenge” for Oprah’s staff.
In 2009, the HR team of Harpo and I created the "O Fitness Challenge" and for 9 months, I had the opportunity to work with 330+ Harpo employees. This fitness challenge launched to other companies throughout Chicago and my desire to help more people was happening! UNICUS Fitness expanded its operations in designing and procuring the equipment for fitness facilities and started working with the national company, Wilkins Solutions. UNICUS Fitness worked with Wirtz Beverage (also owners of the Chicago Blackhawks) in designing and managing their corporate wellness center. During this time period, I was also selected as a Sports Ambassador for the People to People Program, leading a team of youth athletes to Europe to compete in an international tournament.
As my career was unfolding and I was making a name in the industry, I tacked on another certification and became perinatal certified. I was expecting in 2010 and knew my current and future clientele would be asking about pregnancy and working out. In March 2010, my son Frankie was born and my world hasn’t been better since, I love watching him grow and learn daily. Being a mom has put a whole new perspective on time management and priorities. Every day is a challenge to balance nutrition, workouts, running a business, healthy cooking, work, family and making sure Frankie is taken care of. When I started my career at the age of 21 and training adults that had families and kids and businesses, I sympathized with them and their lack of time and tolerated some excuses. I am here now and yes, it is hard, yes, it is a balancing act, but you do what you set as a priority! The rest are excuses.
As a new mom and a great place in my career, I decided to get back in the competition and wanted to inspire others to get started or get back at it. Even though I didn't stop training throughout my pregnancy, I did slow down and listened to my body. However, I was ready to jump back in and didn't want to allow the excuses of being a new mom stop me. Seven months after my son was born, I ran my 3rd Chicago Marathon and 6 months later I competed in my first bikini bodybuilding show. These two competitions for me was to prove to myself that no matter the age, what the body goes through and how hectic life becomes that my fitness is still my priority.
Since my first bodybuilding show in 2011, I have competed every year since. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy my first show it because it was the fear of the unknown. I was nervous, I didn’t think I had the confidence to walk up on stage, that I would look foolish, that I wouldn’t place and the list in my mind went on. The weekend before, I told my fitness coach that I was going to drop out and that I wasn’t ready and wasn’t going to participate in the show. However, with her coaching and support, 7 days later I stepped on stage and took 4th place. I walked around with so much confidence that week that I was beaming! I didn’t know at that point if I would do another show or not, but I remember how strong, mentally and physically I felt. My second show was a year and a half later, September 2012. This show I took more seriously and was learning the ins and outs of this new hobby. I keyed in on my nutrition and made my workouts a priority even more than before. In 2013, I competed in two National Physique Committee (NPC) shows placing 10th in both. In 2014, I took 2nd place at the NPC Continental which qualified me to compete nationally! I have a team and coach that are helping me prep and train to take the national stage in 2015!
What lead me into this field is what lead me into this competition, how we can change the body through natural medicine; exercise and nutrition. My journey has not wavered from when I when I began over 12 years ago; to help others change their body and lives through exercise. I view my job as a lifestyle mission of providing education, motivation and accountability to empower others to help them succeed. I put my "Fitness Bucket List" below to put out there to the world and for others to keep me accountable. Join me on this fitness journey!
My Fitness Bucket List:
Run Chicago Marathon (finisher 2002, 2003, 2010)
Finish a half Ironman (Steelhead 2007) (maybe someday a full)
Compete in a fitness/bodybuilding show (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015-qualified as a national competitor, 2016)
Travel the world and explore through crazy outdoor fitness adventures (first Fitness Vacation launched 2014)
Combine fitness and education to travel and inspire individuals throughout the world
Create and run an annual fitness event for charity