While on her journey from addiction back to fitness, IDEA member Nancy Jerominski walked through a new door.
Nancy Jerominski hasn’t always been the healthy powerhouse she is today. When her clients share setbacks with her, large or small, she gets it. She really gets it. The Seattle resident and owner of NLJ Fitness and Wellness Consulting has taken the long road to wellness herself. While Jerominski got a head start in the fitness industry in the late 1970s, she took an alcohol- and drug-riddled detour that almost killed her. Today, she uses her insightful empathy to help others see glimpses of their authentic, healthy selves.
Jerominski’s dangerous courtship with drugs and alcohol began in the 1980s when she tried cocaine, which led to her smoking crack. Although she lost everything in less than 3 years, she continued working in the fitness industry, all the while engaging in “heavy recreational drinking and drugging.” Jerominski was smoking two to three packs of cigarettes a day and routinely drinking a fifth of vodka nightly. As her addictions worsened, she lost her job as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor and unceremoniously changed careers. Her personal demons continued to control her until she hit rock bottom and made the conscious decision to “stop being a victim” and take responsibility for her life.
At 47, having sustained a back injury and at a loss about what to do with her new life, Jerominski approached her former employers about the prospect of working in the fitness world again. They were willing to give her a second chance. She re-educated herself and updated her knowledge, studying for the personal fitness trainer examination. “Setbacks are a part of life,” Jerominski says. “Every single time I run into ‘life potholes,’ I gain valuable wisdom. Setbacks are opportunities to learn, steering us toward other gateways. When the door we worked so hard to get through has just slammed shut, it is difficult to spot any opening. But if we peer into the distance through the darkness, we’ll see a dim rectangular-shaped light brightening as we approach it.”
As Jerominski reclaimed her fitness career, she approached everything from a completely different angle. “My philosophy now is to help instill the personal responsibility of holistic health in my clients as they pursue fitness as part of their lifestyles,” she says. “I address the physical, mental and social environment of each client. This holistic health and conditioning begins on a cellular level. I coach validation from within, and that success is about much more than measurements or getting on a scale.”
Jerominski works with all ages and fitness levels in her “creatively equipped” garage. She also offers phone and webcam consultations and informational seminars. She believes that people can regain vitality through personal accountability and functional training. “I teach total wellness and build stable strength from the core out,” she says. “I see no point in kicking people’s backsides around for an hour until they are so sore they can’t move for 3 days. Wellness is a lifestyle, not something you do for 6 weeks and stop.”
Jerominksi spends a lot of time pressing media representatives to focus on providing healthy images and messages to the general public. She also feels fitness professionals have a responsibility to provide accurate assessments and information. “Proper spinal stabilization based on careful assessments is critical,” Jerominski says. “Most people have no idea how to perform or instruct this, in spite of having trained or taught for years. Teaching or applying it takes time and knowledge, which many are not willing to embrace. In my opinion, without those pillars of muscle protecting the spine, a serious injury is a matter of when, not if.”
Jerominski’s experience with addiction instilled a powerful reserve of compassion and drive in her. She is strongly committed, not only to her clients, but to the fitness industry as well. “It is not healthy to strive for a look that is not natural, engage in restrictive dieting and participate in certain types of training simply because they’re ‘hard,’” Jerominski says. “Many times, [the people] society sees as role models are ultralean or skinny individuals who are really incredibly dysfunctional inside that starved or carved pretty exterior. I have moved completely away from ‘mirror muscle, boot camp, more is better’ principles to the ‘start from within, less is often better’ approach.”
Her vision for the future includes higher professional accountability for personal fitness trainers. “Doctors go to school for years and still must pass their boards,” she says. “So do lawyers, truck drivers and hairdressers. Why shouldn’t we? I think we can make a huge difference in society when we walk the talk of a true teacher.
“Fitness is more than just being able to run on a treadmill for 60 minutes or complete a class that rivals marine boot camps. Thousands die every year from preventable chronic diseases. More and more of us are injured in the pursuit of trying to get mean and lean in as little time as possible. Fit people are not necessarily healthy, and healthy people don’t diet or beat themselves up in the name of fitness. Motivate and lead by example. Discriminate fads from facts. Act responsibly, demand accountability from peers and learn to think critically.”
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