ONE-ON-ONE WITH JENNIFER MORRISON
MAY 15, 2020
There was a point in Jenifer Morrison’s life prior to her current position as Association Director of Personal Training and Wellness at the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas when she realized her greatest successes in life were achieved through being at the service of others. As a lifelong proponent of health and wellness, it was only natural to incorporate that foundation in all that she did. Upon starting her career, little did she know that her values aligned with the core values of the YMCA. Ultimately, her career progression ended at the mountaintop of fitness and faith.
What is your role and responsibilities at the Y?
I serve as the Association Director of Personal Training and Wellness. I support 19 locations to create a positive member experience through recruitment, continuing education, scheduling and events to maximize participation and revenue.
That sounds like a lot.
It is, however, my purpose and true role is to bring my drive for the enhancement, improvement and overall appeal to our locations.
What motivates you?
It is exciting when we find solutions to help members either reach goals, create new goals for those who have reached previous ones or help those that would otherwise be less involved. I am motivated by my leader, Rebecca Lee, who inspires and challenges me, along with the YMCA Directors. If I can help our team execute their business, hold them to our organization’s standards and be nothing less than exceptional, that is what wakes me up in the morning.
What’s the favorite part of your job these days?
It never feels like a job. I leave work every day knowing that I serve a greater purpose, which is to give back to our community.
How about the least favorite?
The pandemic we are currently facing. Closing our doors was difficult for our members and staff. If someone would have told me that in my career, I would be challenged with this, I would have laughed. Yet here we are.
What do you look for in hiring the men and women who work with you?
Passion, drive, expertise and an aptitude for learning. It’s all about character.
Where did your passion for fitness come from?
Passion comes from experiencing something that becomes part of your heart. Mine started with dance. I studied through college and danced for the NBA San Antonio Spurs. As a stay-at-home mom, I joined a YMCA to be a part of a community. This rapidly progressed to becoming a Group X Instructor and within a few years, leadership roles.
How else did your career take shape?
As my career developed, I worked for the YMCA, for-profit clubs, boutique studios and Les Mills™ South Central under CEO Robert Dyer, one of my greatest mentors. The knowledge and experience I gained through each lead to my current position. I have come full circle. My heart never left the Y. I am home.
Do you have your own fitness routine? What does it consist of?
I wake up and work out. If I don’t, it won’t happen. When our facilities are open, I teach Cycle, Les Mills SH’BAM™, BODYJAM™, or BODYCOMBAT™.
So much of what we see in this business mentions a mind-body connection in a fitness regimen. Do you subscribe to that, or some variation of that thinking?
When the mind is happy so is the body. The YMCA encompasses mind, body and spirit.
How do you incorporate that in your life?
Instead of reaching for my phone at the start of each day to look at social media or news updates, I take the first 20-30 minutes to watch a podcast, listen to an inspirational message or simply sit in silence. I regret nothing and give myself the opportunity to experience everything.
How is working at a facility such as the YMCA differ from working at a private club?
Many private or for-profit clubs focus solely on fitness. The YMCA was founded in 1844 and now has more than 2700 locations worldwide. Along with fitness we provide youth sports, community health programs such as Live Strong for cancer survivors, and Youth and Government for teens, just to name a few. Our mission and the funds raised through our YMCA locations directly support our community.
How does that community involvement take shape these days?
Our focus has pivoted to what our community’s needs are during the pandemic. We are partnering with several outside organizations to deliver food, provide emergency childcare for essential workers, supply laptops to students in need, host blood drives, deliver groceries to our seniors and host diaper drives to parents.
Well, that’s way beyond what people think a Y does.
We are not a club, we are family.
How would you characterize the state of the fitness business in the United States, both pre- and post-COVID-19?
Prior to COVID-19, the fitness industry was competing against each other for member acquisition and retention. It is no secret we have been massively affected by the pandemic and will have an abundance of restrictions, regulations and operational changes to adhere to.
What is your advice?
We should look at new ways to approach business models and trust that our current members will return and new members will join. COVID-19 cannot eliminate a person’s need to achieve desired results through personal training or the emotional connection felt in group exercise classes.
What role do you see FIBO USA playing in the U.S. fitness business?
Connection. FIBO USA can help those working in the industry become more connected, regardless of the space we serve in — non-profit, for-profit, boutique, country club, equipment vendor, etc. We are all relevant and can learn from each other.
Based on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to the typical club owner or trainer on how to be better – and make more money – in the fitness business (post-pandemic, of course)?
Virtual fitness will not cease and should continue as an ongoing stream of operations.
And how about your people?
How we treat members and staff during this time will determine the longevity of our business. Building relationships has never been more important.
THE COVID-19 IMPACT
On a topical note, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted business at the Y and your interaction with your clients? Our Association has remained focused on staying the course for our members and our community. We have partnered with Les Mills™ to provide our members with Les Mills On-Demand virtual classes and emergency childcare sites with Les Mills™ Born to Move classes for kids at no cost. We launched a Virtual Resource page on our website to keep members engaged with several virtual options to choose from, including personal training, Group X Live Stream schedule, teen workouts and healthy mindset content.
What have you been doing during the pandemic to keep motivated in your job and to keep your staff involved? I rely on the little things. Sending handwritten notes to staff through old-fashioned snail mail or making phone calls instead of sending a text to check in. Our staff stays engaged with weekly updates, filming virtual content and serving in community programs. We are a strong and resilient team. We are the YMCA.