These group fitness duos share more than just genes; they also share choreography and a passion for exercise.
Chalene Johnson attributes her success in part to her mother. It’s not just the nurturing hand of love that gave Johnson, chief executive officer (CEO) of Powder Blue Productions and creator of Turbo Kick® and PiYo™, a head start in the world of fitness. Johnson’s mother, Marge Melvin, was one of the first Jazzercise® instructors in the state of Michigan. Johnson and her sister, Jenelle Summers, were preteens when they started following their mother from local gymnasiums to church recreation centers to do “aerobics” with her students.
“Back then she carried a record player and a big box of 45s,” Johnson recalls. “My sister and I would change the records for her. She did this for just a few years, but we were very inspired by how much she loved it, how much fun the women were having and the joy of doing a routine to a recognizable song. Now things have come full circle, and she helps me by coming to my classes and enjoys seeing everyone having so much fun exercising!”
In honor of Mother’s Day, we wanted to introduce you to some of your fellow pros who were inspired to join our industry by their moms. As you read, take some time to think about who your role models have been and how they inspired you to be the person you are today.
“The sound of a ‘36 count’ cues me to wake up. It’s 5:30 am and time for my mother’s step class. I quickly dress to meet her in the kitchen as she finishes her coffee and carefully reviews her choreography. We’ve rehearsed the routine before, and I get to demonstrate the advanced options during class. Together we head out into the early morning for another energetic workout and the start of a great day.
“Fitness has always been a part of my life. My mother was an aerobics instructor back in the colorful days of leotards and leg warmers. Together we attended pre/ postnatal fitness classes, mother-daughter workouts, dance lessons and fitness conventions. Each workout nurtured my excitement and passion for group fitness.
“I was 15 when I told my mother my future was in fitness. I wanted to be a successful group exercise instructor. Any mother would have been concerned, as fitness wasn’t an acceptable or profitable career path at that time. Through my strong will and commitment, I continued to pursue my dream with a determination to be successful at what I loved. My mother did what any loving mom would do—supported me in my goals and helped me every step class of the way.
“Ten years later I find myself happily working as a full-time fitness instructor and personal trainer. Every day I am grateful that I find passion and purpose in my work. My mother’s powerful and positive influence has enabled me to create a career from something I love. Her lessons gave me more than simple choreography ideas; they also gave me the skills I needed to succeed as an instructor and an adult. The most important thing she taught me was that group fitness is not just about exercise, but about creating an experience that brings joy to people’s lives. The spirit and enthusiasm she has for fitness continues to inspire me today.”
“Our mother inspired all of us. We watched her do Jack La Lanne on television and attend a gym to maintain her health and slim figure through seven pregnancies when it was not ‘acceptable’ to do so. She always made exercise a priority, even when she was busy working and being a full-time mom. She also cooked a healthy diet in the ’70s when we were growing up, during a time when most people ate white bread, drank soda and added sugar and whole milk to their coffee. Instead, my mom served us brown bread, healthy cereals, legumes and fresh juices, and she avoided deep-fried foods. I would say both our parents were ahead of their time. Back then I was quite embarrassed. Now I feel fortunate that they inspired me and all my siblings. Their instincts were right—our current science proves it.
“When I was a teenager, my mother brought my sisters and me to the all-women’s gym where she exercised. Then we both got part-time jobs as instructors. When I was in college the gym went up for sale, and making it a family-owned gym for women became the most obvious decision. We’ve owned this business since 1986, and it’s still going strong. We’ve expanded the facility every decade. My mom and I work together on a regular basis. My sister Pamela works at the facility 4 months out of the year, and in the summer we film our annual fitness DVDs and materials. All of us contribute to the programming and presentations at trade shows and special events. My sisters and I are all working moms in an industry that we are passionate about—and that started with our mom!”
“For as long as I can remember, my mom has been the perfect example of someone who cares about health and fitness. As a little girl, I was known as the girl with the cool mom who made homemade peanut butter as a classroom experiment. She showed the kids how much healthier it was for them compared with the sugar-filled product. I also used to go with her to work. As she taught her fitness classes, I would sit and do my homework, all the while feeling so proud that my mom was ‘the teacher.’ I’m sure it led me to the job of group fitness instructor, which I have done for 24 years and love.
“My mom and I have done local cable exercise shows and fitness-related infomercials. We also seem to follow each other from gym to gym. If she works there, I will, too—and vice versa. Together, we’ve been involved in fundraisers, bodybuilding contests and certification workshops. We’re quite the team!
“I am grateful that I was raised by such an inspiring role model, who showed me that health is not something you take for granted and exercise is a necessary part of life. Unfortunately, so many kids today do not have that positive influence in their lives. I can only hope I will leave the same legacy for my kids. I know they are just as proud of their grandma as I am of my mommy, my best friend.”
“My mom, Judi Sheppard Missett, is the founder and CEO of Jazzercise. We work together at the Jazzercise corporate office, and I am executive vice president.
“Movement and dance were always a part of our lives. It was what we did as a family. Jazzercise was always so much fun—the classes, the people, the dance. My mom and I never really had a conversation about what I would do or what my path would be; it just all happened naturally. She inspired me without even trying, because she always told me I could do anything I wanted. She told me that I needed to be able to take care of myself and be self-sufficient. Then she showed me how to take responsibility for myself. By her actions, she inspired me and really ‘walked the talk.’
“My mom was and still is a role model for me through her belief in doing something that you love and have passion for. She taught me that when you do what you love, success will follow you—and it has. This viewpoint on life has made me more optimistic and taught me to take bad situations and see the good in them, or discover how to turn them around and make them successful.”