“I weighed almost 200 pounds. Something had to change.”
Walking into Iron Forged Fitness, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Cheri greeted me with a cheery hello and right away asked how I was. I was blown away that she would be interested in getting to know me as a person instead of getting right down to business. We chatted for a little as I told her about the STORY BEHIND THE FACE and then she took me to meet Jennifer and April.
Jennifer Hardister and her husband opened Iron Forged Fitness in November of 2013. Ten years ago, she was a totally different person. She had reached a weight of almost 200 pounds and knew something had to change. “At that time in my life, I was going through a personal conflict. As I started working out, I thought the only thing that would make me happy was if I looked a certain way.” Jennifer realized that beauty is not just skin deep, it is eternal too. “During my journey trying to be this perfect super model figure, I learned I didn’t have to be a certain way – it’s about my wellbeing. I had to find the spiritual side first, which trickles into the physical, and so on.” Everyone is different, which is why learning your priorities are so important. For Jennifer, it was God, family, and of course, finding time for herself.
“In college, I wrote a paper about feeling unhappy with myself.” Jennifer said that paper was life changing. “Instead of thinking everyone had to have one specific image, I realized God gave me my body and I was going to be happy with it and learn to work with what I was given.” Now she is passionate about helping other woman change their lives for the better.
“We genuinely care about everybody. You aren’t just a member, we want to hear about you!”
April, pictured below with Cheri to her left, is one of the Zumba instructors at Iron Forged Fitness, also Jennifer’s next door neighbor. “Jen was my personal trainer for competitions. I was healthy and fit, but I wasn’t eating right.” Jennifer taught April that eating is just as important as working out, which resulted in muscle gain and 20 pounds of weight loss. “Jennifer is so positive. That’s what makes the difference, she really cares about people.” She also teaches group classes on base, “I truly enjoy working with the military and their families.”
We have to be body consciences. The ultimate goal is being healthy, not skinny.
Jennifer has some tips for how YOU can lead a healthier lifestyle:
> Food. You don’t live to eat, you eat to live. Eating is 70%. Put the right fuel in. Prepare and plan ahead.
April added in: Drink a gallon of water a day. Don’t be afraid of food, what is most important is the food you eat.
> Positive thinking. Make the best of what you’ve got and be positive. If you’re negative, those negative thoughts will trickle down into every part of your life – including your body.
> Self Control. That is what ultimately defines you. Self control is important for every part of our life: Finances, relationships, food, working out. No one is perfect in all of them, but strive for self control.
> Exercise. Mix it up, work every part of your body. We offer different zumba classes, hip hop muscle, a weight area, treadmills, etc. We are also the only gym in the area to have both a regular gym and a functional fitness room – which is a more intense workout. Iron Forged Fitness also offers flaunts – also known as sexy Pilates.
I love to motive others!
Customer service is a top priority at Iron Forged Fitness. “Knowledge is power. I want people to feel comfortable on the floor.” First, Jennifer talks with you to understand what you want and guides you to the perfect workout for you. “It’s about empowering people to feel comfortable to come in and workout. To enjoy it. It’s not just a workout, it should be fun!”
As a child, Jennifer was always on the heavier side. “It was discouraging feeling like I had to look a certain way to feel loved. Even though I knew my parents loved me, it was more about how I personally felt.” Years later, she found out why. “After working hard to lose weight, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.” Determined not to give up, Jennifer says, “Who I am as a person is most important. I had to keep going and stay positive.”
“The F word in my home, is FAT,” Jennifer explained, “I was made fun of for being heavy. Looking at someone and calling them fat is unacceptable because you don’t know if they’ve just lost 50 pounds or if they’re battling thyroiditis or diabetes. You don’t know what that person has gone through so to make fun of them could be so disheartening.” A healthy lifestyle should be for longevity of life, not to look hot – although it helps. ;)
Treat your body right and it will thank you with a healthy look.
“We will get discouraged, it’s always a battle. But we get back on track.” Again, think positive!
Growing up, April was a gymnast and always worked out, “While I was fit, I was always thicker. That’s just the way my body is built. I have struggled with self image my whole life.” After she had her first daughter, she started eating whatever she wanted. Her weight climbed to 210 pounds, “And I’m only 5′ 3″. I got to the point where I was done, this was not the lifestyle I wanted.” She started making time for herself to go to the gym.
If I hadn’t gone through personal conflict, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
“Everyone’s story is different. I had no energy, I smoked – I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle and I wasn’t happy.” After two miscarriages which left April heartbroken and shattered, she fell on her knees and prayed. “I bawled my eyes out. I wouldn’t be where I am without Christ, I would have sent myself into a downhill swirl of negativity.”
No one is perfect. He died for us, because we are broken.
Honesty, pictured below, has been coming to Iron Forged Fitness since it opened last November, “It’s a great atmosphere! Everyone who works here is great.” Her favorite place to be is the weight section, she says, “Do what you do, go in and be yourself. Don’t be intimidated. Anyone is capable of fitness!”
We fall off the bandwagon, but we get back on.
Zumba class with April is nothing short of fun! “She’s full of energy,” Jennifer said, “the ladies come out of her class and they say, ‘that lady has so much energy!’ and someone else will say, ‘she don’t stop!’” Today someone told her, “You must really love her job.” To which April replied, “I truly love what I do!”
I had to learn to be happy with who I was and not defined by someone else.
Michael, Jennifer’s personal trainer, started playing football during 7th grade in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas where he grew up. In 2005, he joined the marines. 2 1/2 years ago, he was medically retired due to a brain injury. “Now I’m working on getting my life back on track. My wife and I are working hard with shows and personal training. This is the only thing that makes sense for us to do.”
His greatest desire is to make a difference in peoples lives. “There is so much to learn, so many different ways to go about it. It’s something a lot of people take for granted. With fast food and everything these days, everyone wants the easiest way. They wonder what drugs they can take or what they can skip, but you can’t do that. You have to work for it. Nothing comes easy. Nothing is handed to you in life. Do what you can to prepare yourself. If I just wait for handouts, nothing is going to happen. Go out and get it. Work for it. Want it. Put in the hours, dedication, and hard work. When you run a business you have to represent it in every way, that is why Jennifer has a personal trainer. You can’t own a gym and not be fit yourself.”
Jennifer says her faith is the most important part of her life. “It’s about faith. I believe without Christ I can’t get through life.” He promises to take care of us, no matter what happens. “My favorite verse is, He is for us, who can come against us.” She relates this to both personal and workout life, “He will give you the strength when you feel like you don’t have any.”
What you put out comes back to you.
Going through a personal conflict is difficult, and no one is immune to it. Jennifer says, “You have to draw from your foundation. So first, what is your foundation? If you don’t know, you’ll go to alcohol, drugs, sex and eventually you will hit rock bottom.” Don’t lose yourself to conflict, find yourself. “Trust in God and your core group of friends. Move forward past the difficulties and medical problems. Don’t be a victim. Rise above it.”
Get Involved: Visit their Iron Forged Fitness online or visit the gym, located in the Piney Green Shopping Center, for a tour!
Read how THE STORY BEHIND THE FACE got started, [HERE] A new STORY BEHIND THE FACE coming every day for the month of February!
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