Real Life Wonder Woman: Meet Jill

We’re wrapping up our Wonder Woman series with Jill, someone who changed how Kelly and I look at fitness and motherhood. We met Jill as a coach at Push511 CrossFit. Right after meeting Jill we met her adorable daughter, Gracie, who’s been her coaching partner in crime since she was born. Just scroll down to see photos of this little CrossFitter in training! We’re convinced this kid is going to come up with the next gym enterprise because she’s been surrounded by healthy, fitness minded people since birth.

Getting to know Jill you see that her CrossFit coaching style is the same way she is as a parent. She provides clear expectations and constructive feedback, but wraps it all in kindness and support. If you take a class with her you’ll notice she’s one of the first people to finish a workout, but she’s always the one cheering the last person on at the finish line. Jill has this inner drive to continuously help make people be better than yesterday. We can both attest for the fact that she’s helped us so much on our CrossFit technique, but she’s also been there when we’ve had to make big life decisions like changing jobs, moving to a different state, and working through relationship struggles. If we haven’t said it before Jill – THANK YOU for all that you do!!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you live, work, number of kids, partner, etc.

I moved to Baltimore 8 years ago for my husband’s job (we call him DC) but I grew up in Chicago and lived in Atlanta. We have been married 5 years and have a 3.75 year old daughter, Grace (the .75 is important in the toddler years!). I am very fortunate to have two amazing employers – my full time job is a Project Manager for Hussmann Corporation where I manage our 900+ vehicles nationwide as well as some operations-related projects. My passion and my other ‘employer’ is teaching at Push511 CrossFit. I’ve been doing CrossFit for almost 10 years and teaching it for over 9 years. I teach 3-6 hours per week and if I could have a 401k, full benefits, four weeks paid vacation and bring home what my full time salary pays, I’d coach full-time again in a heartbeat!

Tell us about your typical workout routine (number of hours, types of workouts, gym membership).

Six months after starting CrossFit, two friends opened BTB CrossFit in May 2007 and needed someone to run the gym full-time. So I quit my full time job (I was 29 and had no responsibilities!) and embarked on a journey where I have always had access to CrossFit. I met DC at CrossFit and it’s always been a constant bond between us. When DC & I moved to Baltimore, we set-up shop in our garage until two friends of mine opened Push511 CrossFit which is three blocks from our house – that was in 2010. Even though I have a key and could CrossFit at any hour of the day, I prefer to go to our classes so I can be coached and workout alongside some of our amazing members & coaches.

I currently do CrossFit 5-6 days a week for an hour at a time. Some weeks I am able to also get in an hour of Hot Yoga at M.Power Studio. It helps calm & center me while keeping me flexible and just like CrossFit, no matter how good you are at it, there’s always something else to learn and strive for. In short, I workout 5-7 hours per week.

What keeps you on track with your personal goals (can be career, fitness, family related)?

My personal fitness goals have changed drastically since 2006. Before then, and honestly even the first year or two of CrossFit, my goal was mainly to look good – what kept me motivated was how I looked in my clothes and the number on the scale. That’s not exactly a good, healthy mentality to have, especially when you obsess over 1-2lbs. Over time, CrossFit took care of the aesthetics but gave me so much more  – strength, speed and most importantly confidence!  As someone who used to live their life by the number on the scale in the morning, it was quite relieving to not care about the scale anymore.

Now that we have a daughter my goals are family centered: to be a positive, healthy female role model, to put freshly-made meals on the table made out of real food, to be a good, kind wife, daughter & friend – basically just to be the kind of person I want to see in the world. What keeps me motivated is knowing that I have a set of eyes watching and emulating me at all times. Now I workout because I want to feel good, it lowers my stress level and it keeps me social. Our members and trainers push each other in a way you just can’t do by yourself. Sometimes it’s healthy competition, sometimes it’s a positive friend pulling you out of your ‘this is heavy, this is hard’ mentality, but the camaraderie keeps me coming back.

Currently what’s your biggest challenge as a working mom?

My biggest challenge as a working mom is fitting everything in and spending as much quality time with my daughter as I can.  We take her with us to the gym for the weekend classes and she loves being there. I teach one evening a week and she comes with me – I let her play and run around and engage her as much as I can while still effectively teaching class, but it can be difficult. My husband has a crazy job with even crazier hours, so he can’t always help on the night I teach. Some of our members step in and help entertain her as they’re waiting for the next class, which I appreciate more than they could ever understand. I’ve also been known to hand over the iPad during the second hour of teaching just to make it easier! I feel so guilty when I do that. But I have to remind myself that there is no perfect parent and we are all just trying our best.

Do you get help from family, friends, co-workers, etc. to help you juggle everything on your plate?

We don’t have any family nearby as they’re all 700+ miles away.  We see them frequently, but not often enough. The amazing community at Push511 and some of DC’s coworkers have become our extended family. DC’s best friend was immediately coined the only non-related “Uncle” to Gracie, and he goes above and beyond to help us.  On Saturdays at the gym, one mom in particular oversees her 4yo son Tyler and Gracie during the 10am class. Erika works out at the 9am class, then her husband Steve brings Tyler to the 10am class. Steve, DC & I work out together, Tyler & Grace play while Erika relaxes and stretches (I owe Erika a million bottles of wine at this point!).

During the week, I work out during my lunch hour or it doesn’t happen – my family and cooking take priority in the evenings. My husband has a crazy job with crazy unpredictable hours so some days/weeks I have to play a single mom which can be stressful, especially when it’s unexpected. When he’s working a regular schedule, we divvy up responsibilities. He keeps me sane as he’s definitely the calm rational one! I don’t know what I would do without him.

What’s one tip you would give to new moms who may be struggling?

If you are a struggling mom, remember the airplane analogy: You must put on your oxygen mask first before helping your child (or panicking husband) with their oxygen masks. That resonates with me every day – I must take care of myself first in order to take care of my daughter, husband, house and work. If I’m a physical or emotional mess, things just won’t fall into place as easily as they do when I’m healthy & happy. If you need to reach out to someone to get this done, DO IT. It doesn’t have to be another mom, it doesn’t have to be a close friend, just ask someone for help.  They don’t even have to do anything – sometimes just venting & listening is enough. Whether it’s fitness related, meal-prep or just “I’m losing my marbles today”, we need to find someone that can help. When I’m having a bad day, the gym is my sanity check. Even if it’s also a bad gym day, it calms me and reminds me that life is good.

What’s the WORST piece of advice someone gave you when you were a new mom?

The worst piece of advice I got as a new mom was to put our baby on a schedule. Now, after 3.75 years I realize what a ‘schedule’ truly means, but back then we thought it meant awake at 6am, nurse for 45 minutes, play for 45 minutes, sleep for two hours. You can’t hold an infant to a schedule – that’s akin to holding a wiggly puppy slathered in butter! Trying to put our daughter on a schedule right away caused all three of us a ton of unnecessary stress. It took a week or two but we realized we needed more of a ‘rhythm’ and let her dictate how long each of those things took. She nursed, then we ‘played’ until we saw signs of tiredness, then she was rocked to sleep. She slept for however long she needed to sleep and we started our rhythm all over again. We still use this same plan – she wakes on her own in the morning within a 30 minute window and she goes to bed at night within a 45 minute window. Living life by the clock with kids is frustrating – make life easy on yourself and have a general window instead.

We would describe you as one kickass woman 🙂 but how do you think Gracie would describe you?

Gracie would probably describe me as both loving and mean. In our house, mom is the dictator and dad is the fun one. She’s the kind of kid that likes to stop and smell the roses and I am the same way. She sees every detail and wants you to know about it all. Some days I get flustered and frustrated with the molasses-like state in which she does things then have to remember I was the same way (still am at times). I have to constantly remind myself “She’s learning. She’s only 3, she’s not 13”. I know when she is 13, I’ll wish she was 3 again. As frustrating as it can be, I honestly love this age and I love being her mom.  She’s the sweetest, happiest kid I’ve ever met and I wouldn’t change her personality for anything. I’m trying to remember to stop and smell the roses more often when I’m with her.

Jill thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story with us! Hearing your words of wisdom makes us love and admire you even more.

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