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The origins of Jolly Bodies

Have you ever had a moment where you really knew something was meant to be? I'm not talking about finding the last ding-dong in the Little Debbie box that you thought was empty. I'm talking about intuition. Being 100% confident in your answer for the million dollar question. Having ZERO hesitations about some big life event. The moment where despite making a huge decision that will impact the rest of your life, you feel complete peace.

I went through this weird phase in my 20's where I thought the "meant to be" events in life didn't exist. I got dumped by my first long term boyfriend right after I graduated college, just in time for a summer of organic chemistry hell at UA. I spent all 6 years of graduate school with impostor syndrome and then my freakin' dog died.

College Lee Ann. Doesn't understand hydrogenation. Skips organic chemistry on the reg. Has to make up for it in summer school.

Being a Type-A with anxiety, this string of events made me completely unhinged. I questioned everything. I wondered if I was in the right place. I wondered if I was smart enough. I wondered what I was going to become. I wondered if the total annihilation of a 4 year relationship meant that I'd be single forever. 32 year old Lee Ann laughs a LOT at that.

There's only 2 things I've ever been 100% sure about.

The first one was Burke. I knew immediately I was going to marry him. Can't explain it. That's a long story in itself, so if you'd like to hear it, maybe I'll write about it sometime. But for now, just know that it was very special.

The second was the reason you're here reading this right now.

When I was 19 and a sophomore at the University of Arkansas (GO HAWGS), I started going to group exercise classes on campus. I realized that every class had a different vibe. My favorite classes were those that had elements of both work and fun. The exercises were really challenging, but the classes were fun in the sense that the girl next to me who seemed like a pro - performing every move with beautiful form - had zero problem telling me that she was dying inside and really just wanted to be eating pizza instead.

After a few months, I was approached to start coaching classes. I remember thinking of what I would want in a coach/class based on taking classes. I thought about it from a consumer's perspective. Here's what I wrote (yes, I still have this in a notebook):

1) "Build muscles and feel good"

2) "Be faster"

3) "Be friends and have fun - not too serious. Everyone included in fun, not just some."

How to achieve numbers 1 and 2 can be learned from a textbook and a certification.

Number 3 is different.

A big part of my teaching philosophy was to create workouts that encouraged connections and friendships. In the 4th grade, there was a girl at school that everyone made fun of. She looked different, she was quiet, and her parents didn't have much money. I was the new kid at school that year. I'm ashamed to say that I vividly remember hearing the other kids make fun of her and I didn't do anything to stop it. I was scared. I wanted to belong.

I think about her a lot. I have loads of regret for not standing up for her.

We should all be like Jenny.

It's funny how it's often assumed that as we age, we get smarter. Nope. Getting older doesn't make you wiser. Recognition of your mistakes, amending things, and being willing to learn new things does. That's why number 3 is so important to me in and outside of teaching classes. We all know what it feels like to be an outsider. Humans are gregarious. We like to connect with other humans. Feeling like you can't is lonely, and how we react to the lonely feelings can be very different. Some of us bristle up and turn into a human porcupine (been there, done that), some of us wear our sadness on our face (been there, done that), some of us use humor to make it easier (been there, done that). Are you catching my drift? How we respond can be very different, but our desire is the same - to feel understood.

Number 3 has proven to be the most valuable aspect of the teaching philosophy I wrote down 14 years ago when this whole thing started. I've led classes of 3 people, and I've led classes with over 100 people present. Group exercise classes are NOT ABOUT NUMBERS to us. Group exercise classes are about camaraderie. The ability to go through a grueling process with other people who understand and are there to build you up, not make you feel small.

Everyone deserves the gym. Everyone deserves to go to the group ex class that excites them the most, regardless of who else attends. Burke and I used to joke about wanting to become the Chick-fil-A and Mister Rogers of the fitness world.

So I guess now there's 3 things in my life I'm sure of - the 3rd being that we're 100% certain that's not a joke anymore.



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