The YMCA’s motivator

Kim Jans loves working out, and as the Feith Family Ozaukee Y’s healthy living coordinator, she uses her passion for fitness to inspire others to get in shape

Kim Jans’ passion for guiding people to reach their fitness goals has led her to a career at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Kim Jans of Cedarburg worked as a senior analyst at an insurance company or as a special education assistant for nearly 30 years.

During that time, she also led group instruction for the YMCA and eventually came to a realization.

“I just knew that this was my passion,” she said.

That led Jans to work at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville full time. Today, she is the organization’s healthy living coordinator.

It’s people like Ben Britton of Grafton who drive her. Britton was told by his doctor to get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days per week and change his diet.

He told Jans he has lost the equivalent of a bag of kitty litter from Costco — “one of those big scoopable kinds” — that weighs 35 pounds.

Those stories are music to Jans’ ears.

“I just love our members,” she said. “I just want to be part of that journey with them and see them succeed.”

 Lately, she has been filling a larger role since the YMCA’s healthy living director position is open. Jans is in charge of all the equipment in the Wellness Center on the second floor, which can involve troubleshooting technical and mechanical issues on treadmills, bicycles, elliptical machines. If she can’t figure out how to fix something, she calls maintenance.

The upside is Jans loves her job.

“I never dread going to work,” she said.

There are days, she said, in which “I can’t believe it’s 3 o’clock and I’m finally sitting at my desk.”

The downside is her dual role can sometimes mean members have a difficult time connecting with her.

“I’m approachable if I can be found,” she said.

Jans’ passion for fitness started when she was a teenager growing up in Milwaukee.

“I wasn’t big into sports. I always liked working out. That was my sport,” she said.

Someone told her she should teach classes, and Jans agreed. She likes to be pushed while working out but gets a bigger kick out of pushing others.

The glitch, she said, was “that’s not going to pay the bills.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Cardinal Stritch University and later went back to get a human resources certificate.

It was the Alloy personal training system that brought her back to the Y. Alloy includes personal training in a small-group setting, allowing for one-on-one attention.

That is one of the elements Jans loves the most, talking to members and hearing their stories, both about their fitness and their families. She has made many new friends through her job.

Her role is to help guide them along the way to better health, which includes specific training, such as how to do a lunge or a squat in the correct and safe manner.

“I want you to understand what you’re doing to your body and why you’re doing it,” she said.

“A lot of times people just go through the movement and don’t think about it.”

Alloy clients run the gamut. Some are looking to make a mental and physical change in their lives while others just want to try something different in their fitness routines.

Variety, Jans said, is key. She wants to eliminate muscle memory and keep bodies guessing. That’s why Alloy changes the focus of its classes each week.

For those who think the investment is too much, Jans compared rates to the price of cocktails or coffee, items people pay for without a second thought.

Body weight, she said, is determined by 80% of what people eat and by 20% of their activity level.

Jans has seen people get off high blood pressure medications, become less depressed, sleep and concentrate better from working out and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Her strategy is to always encourage people instead of make them feel bad, she said.

That even applies to her own two teenage daughters, who she said sometimes claim they could use less encouragement while running with their mother.

“‘You’re always hollering at us,’” she has been told.

Although she is in shape and squeezes in regular workouts when she can throughout her workday, which can start as early as 5 a.m. and end after 6 p.m., she admits her diet isn’t perfect as she picked up a package of Twizzlers from her desk.

Jans encourages people not to deprive themselves — enjoy that piece of pie or candy bar “but don’t beat yourself up over it.”

For those looking to start a fitness program, Jans cautions them to go slowly.

“Some do everything in one day and they’re so sore or exhausted,” she said.

“It’s baby steps. We all learn to crawl before we can walk. Walk 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Come back in a couple of days and add five minutes.”

Finding ways to enjoy fitness will lead to better results.

“If you’re going to have fun doing it, you’re going to stick with it,” she said.

She follows a saying she has posted on a thumbtack board behind her desk, “If you’re persistent, you’ll get it. If you’re consistent, you’ll keep it.”

Seeing people who drop out and aren’t fully committed — a commonality come February each year — is the toughest part of Jans’ job.

“There’s nothing I can do to convince them. They have to want to start,” she said. “It has to be a lifestyle change.”

For Britton, Jans played a key role in his alteration.

“She’s pretty good at reading people’s goals. She’s really good at keeping people motivated and everybody likes her,” he said.

He attributes the extent of his improved health to Jans.

“I would exercise but I would not be nearly as successful as I would have been on my own,” he said.




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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