April 15, 2020
Originally from Long Island, NY, Jennifer Tamules’ passion for fitness started as a kid who played sports and was always very active. Back at a time before personal training was a big industry, she went to school for exercise science and found that private fitness was a career that suited her and her goals. She moved to South Florida in 2001, where her first job in a private club as a personal trainer made her further realize that both fitness and the private club industry were her calling. After several years as a trainer, she moved into the management role in one of the nicest country clubs in South Florida, a path that eventually led her to other prestigious golf and country clubs and into planning and helping build out wellness centers. Now, for the past five years she has been director of Lakeside at Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club in Palm City, FL. Here she explains that journey to FIBO Focus, the impact COVID-19 has had on the fitness business and where she believes the industry is headed in 2020 and beyond.
What motivates you?
The people, both members and my team. Helping people is what I’ve been doing for 25 years in the fitness business. It’s not always about losing weight or getting stronger. Sometimes it is the social or mental aspect of caring about someone or just talking to them that helps more than the exercises themselves. Being a part of a team that is growing together, learning together and helping out a community together is very exciting and meaningful.
What’s the favorite part of your job?
I love coming to work every day — not everyone can say that. I have a team of about 40 employees that makes coming to work fun and inspiring. We have really become a family and grown together.
How about the least favorite?
It may sound cheesy, but I don’t have one.
What are the challenges in keeping to your own fitness routine when you are in such a demanding position, particularly in-season?
What fitness routine? Being the mom of three elementary school-aged children is my workout during the season. I do try to motivate myself at least a couple of times a week to do something structured. My boyfriend and I blew the dust off our old P90X-3 CDs and started doing that in the mornings.
You don’t get up before dawn to get your workouts in?
Being in the fitness profession most people think that I love to get up at 4:30 in the morning to work out — I don’t. Eating somewhat healthy during the season does help me to stay fit and running around the building from one department to the other gets my steps in.
So much of the fitness business incorporates a mind-body connection in a fitness regimen. Do you subscribe to that, or some variation of that thinking?
I do. A friend of mine has a company called Bright Insights. She has taught me the importance of Embodied Cognition. The function of your body and good posture tells your brain that you’re powerful and confident, which in turn affects your attitudes. The opposite is true as well — poor posture results in dysfunction both physically and mentally.
So where is that connection?
The relationship between our mind and body is interconnected, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts and the form of our body also triggers our mind. So even when I am sitting at my desk for way too long, I focus on my posture and what my body is doing. It really helps to have a connection to what is happening with your body and mind.
What do you like about being in the private club sector?
We are not in competition. Our sector of the fitness industry works together. We bounce ideas off each other, find out what works and what doesn’t. We want everyone to succeed and it shows. There is an organization called the CSFA (Club Spa Fitness Association) that we started quite a few years ago and they just partnered with the CMAA (Club Managers Association of America). It’s a great way to get ideas and see what’s trending for the moment.
How has that helped in the current COVID-19 situation?
Right now we have a large email chain about COVID-19 to see how we are dealing with it, how other clubs are attempting to adapt and what we can do to keep our members engaged in fitness through this very interesting period.
What do you look for in the people you hire for your club?
Passion. If you’re not passionate then you shouldn’t do it. I would say that for every industry and career. Having interviewed many people over the years I’ve learned – the hard way – what to look for. You get into the fitness industry for two reasons, I believe: To better yourself and to help others to be better. You need to have a passion for both to succeed.
What do you think your clients are looking for in their fitness efforts and how do you give that to them?
Excitement. Keeping things fresh is very important in our industry. If you do the same routine every Monday, Wednesday and Friday your clients are going to get bored. If our spin class is the same every day, our members won’t show up. So trying to get new and different group exercise instructors and keep our trainers focused, educated and on-trend to what’s happening out there is important. Most of our members come to the gym daily because of the staff. If the staff wasn’t as good as it is, people would stay home.
How would you characterize the state of the fitness business in the United States, pre-COVID-19 of course?
Fitness was booming in the U.S. Just looking at a commercial on TV or driving through a strip mall, you can see that it’s everywhere. Sometimes that’s a weakness though: Do you really want a new company that’s in it for a quick buck training you when they are not qualified? Educated, well-qualified trainers can be hard to find when our industry is saturated with bogus certifications.
How is technology changing not only how you do your job and communicate with your clients, but the fitness industry as a whole?
I have to say that technology hasn’t really encroached into my personal universe yet. We are still old school when it comes to most things. We keep workouts in a file written on paper with a pencil. We try to keep the “personal” in personal training.
Your members still like the “old-school” touch?
Our club is automated when it comes to making reservations, tee times, tennis lessons, etc. At Lakeside, you have to call up to make an appointment in all departments. Members sometimes get frustrated, but being able to speak with someone is something I don’t want to give up yet. Talking with our members and figuring out exactly what they need is something we can’t do if we don’t have that human contact.
What role do you see FIBO USA playing in the U.S. fitness business?
It could be huge. We haven’t had something new for a while. The fitness conferences and shows get sort of redundant after 25 years and to have something new and exciting on the horizon seems enlightening.
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?
Stay focused on what you believe in. Too many people try to be trendy. Sometimes it works, but I’ve learned to stick to the basics and excel at those.
Finally, in what direction do you see the fitness business in the U.S. headed in 2020, post COVID-19 and beyond?
That’s a very interesting question right now. The entire face of our industry is changing. Online videos, streaming and distance training are what’s happening. Are people going back to gyms after this is over or will staying home be more logical, economical and easier? It’s going to be a toss-up.
So what’s your prediction?
I don’t think gym goers are going to be flocking back to their fitness centers. Maybe little by little, but I think that the online universe is going to be inundated with fitness videos and new trends. Being that fitness is my life, I’m hoping for a quick recovery and normalcy.
THE COVID-19 IMPACT
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you professionally and personally?
It’s been a very trying time for everyone, but I am grateful that my family is still healthy and I am still working, although in a much different capacity. We have turned my building into a distribution center for essential items. We sell toilet paper, paper towels, tissue, bleach, eggs, milk and bread from our fitness center. We also have three of my employees doing personal grocery shopping for our members who cannot go out. It’s really a win-win — we get to help our members and my staff gets to work.
What are you doing to keep in touch with your clients in these challenging times?
We have daily water aerobics classes going on still. We have nine members and an instructor to keep the “no more than 10 people” rule in effect. It has really helped to keep our members active and engaged. We have two classes a day Monday through Friday. We are will be starting a variety of virtual classes through YouTube and Zoom in the next few weeks and we are emailing out and posting weekly fitness challenges on Facebook.
What do you think the business will look like when we eventually return to a “new normal?”
To be honest, I’m not quite sure. It seems that won’t be for a while whatever it may be. Will people want to congregate? Will they want to come back to the same or will it really be a new normal where people tend to stay distant. Being Harbour Ridge is such a socially active club, I’m hoping it will be a quick return how it used to be.