Jennifer Neumann, wife, mother of five, marathon coach and Instructor at Heather’s Gym
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve lived in Libertyville for 18 years and am married to my high school sweetheart, Peter. We have five amazing children and a wonderful son-in-law who range from 14 to 27 years old. I am an ACE-certified and Yoga Alliance certified fitness instructor as well as a personal trainer, and an endurance athlete and coach.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved children and have always believed that every child deserves to be safe and loved. In 2004, my family got involved with Oasis for Orphans (oasisfororphans.org), an organization that provides a holistic care approach to orphaned children in Kenya, by focusing on four key areas – physical, spiritual, educational, and social development. Oasis works to rescue some of the 2.4 million orphans (yes, you read that right 2.4 million!) through systems of care centers where children not only have a place to live and eat, but also to learn, socialize and develop as individuals allowing them to succeed in their communities and hopefully be the change for future generations.
I have traveled to Kenya three times with different members of my family and by myself once. Each time I go, I fall more in love with the people. There is still such tremendous need, but it is so rewarding to see that we are making a difference.
How have you applied what you’ve gained from your mission work to your personal and/or professional life?
Seeing the positive impact we are having in Kenya is so rewarding but there is also need right in our backyard. Peter and I got involved with Safe Families for Children (safe-families.org), an organization that provides support for parents by giving them time to get back on their feet while their children are cared for in a safe and loving environment. In most cases, children can return to their home.
Over the past two years we’ve hosted nine children in our home ranging in age from just 10 days old to 14 years old. They have lived with us for anywhere from two weeks to four months. Yes, it can be exhausting – it’s been awhile since I’ve had my own two-year-old running around and I forgot how tiring it can be! And, yes, it is very hard to say goodbye. But we hold on to the fact that while they were in our lives, we loved them the best we could.
In addition to teaching at Heather’s Gym, you’re also a marathon training coach. How did you get into that? What’s the most rewarding aspect?
In 2013, I combined my passions of training and teaching people and serving children by becoming Captain of the Chicago Marathon Oasis Running Team. What started out as six moms checking an item off their bucket list has turned into an official charity of the Chicago Marathon with between 50 and 60 runners from all over the world! Being part of the training and the marathon brings such amazing joy. It is such a privilege to help people accomplish something they never thought they could.
What classes do you teach at Heather’s Gym and do you have a favorite?
I teach hot PiYo Power, hot YogaSHRED, MUSCLErun, Strength & Power and cycle and cycle-fusion classes. My “favorite” class changes all the time but right now, PiYo is my favorite! PiYo makes you feel so strong and gracefully beautiful at the same time. It is also a class that requires concentration, so you must be 100% present in your workout and leave everything that’s going on outside behind.
I love my job and am so thankful I’ve been able to do it for more than 24 years! There’s no better feeling than knowing that you are helping to improve someone’s life mentally and physically. And, the relationships that develop in classes are priceless, it’s kind of like Cheers, “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”
As a busy mom, wife, friend, employee – what piece of advice or personal mantra has helped you?
My mantra comes from 1st Peter 4:8 – Above all love each other deeply