Jen Merritt has been a group exercise instructor at the Greenbush YMCA for 10 years. She started out teaching a Body Sculpting class and quickly fell in love with teaching. Now you can find her teaching Spin, Boot Camp, Cardio Pump, Max Strength overload and ‘all sorts of high energy stuff’.
“I am a very high energy person, so I really like to work out,” said Jen. “Working out sets the tone for my day in a very positive way. Sometimes my alarm goes off early in the morning and I don’t want to get up, I’m not going to lie. But I do! I get up. And I always feel better when I’m done. It makes me feel better and gets me ready for the day.”
Jen came to the Y 12 years ago with a friend who encouraged her to take her first group exercise class.
“I was very out of shape at the time,” Jen said. “At first I was thinking, I don’t know why people do this to themselves on purpose. But then I got into it.”
From there, Jen took more and more classes, and even became friends with one of the instructors, who convinced Jen to become and instructor on her own.
“She came up to me and said, you know, you have a lot of energy, you should really think about becoming an instructor, and I said there was no way I could do that and she said, Anyone can do it if they have the right mind,” explained Jen. “So I started taking the classes to become an instructor. I started teaching one class a week and slowly started adding on.”
After that first class, Jen ditched her note-cards and learned to teach on the fly, becoming more comfortable in her role. She started breaking out and teaching more classes—like Couch to 5K.
“I feel like that’s one of the most rewarding classes. They start out as completely non-runners,” Jen explains. “One of the ladies even ended up to go on and run half marathons.”
The relationship doesn’t end there. After the woman finished her first half-marathon, she called up Jen and thanked her, saying, your passion for running really made me feel like I could run farther.
This was two years after the woman completed her Couch to 5K class. It kick-started her love of running.
“That was such a valuable moment,” smiled Jen “I’m glad I can inspire her.”
That wasn’t the only valuable relationship Jen built within the Y’s walls.
“My best friend and I actually met through one of my classes,” smiled Jen. “I’m friends with a lot of members on Facebook and it’s a great support network outside of the Y.”
In her 10 years, Jen has been able to build a strong, loyal group of members who enjoy her classes, but she’s always looking for new people.
“If I see new faces in class, I’ll make a general announcement to make them feel welcome,” Jen explained. “I try not to single people out. They’re probably already scared enough, standing in a room, not sure what to expect.”
Getting to the first class is one of the biggest hurdles for a potential new regular.
“People are always really terrified of Spin, but I think it’s a great place to start,” Jen said. “The lights are off. No one can see you. You’re completely in control of how hard you’re working. I don’t control your resistance and speed. I’m up there guiding you, but you control yourself.”
Jen has fallen in love with fitness. She works full-time as a school Social Worker, but still finds the time to prioritize her workouts. She even taught group exercises classes for the majority of her pregnancy. She truly love her job as an instructor.
“I’m a part of this great group. We all work hard and push each other,” Jen smiled. “As a group, we cultivate a positive atmosphere.”
That’s what Jen works for—a high energy, positive classroom—and she invites you to join her!