Health & Fitness: Small, Deliberate Changes Lead to Life-Changing Results

IMG 7361Jen (Farrer) Schweigert earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Minnesota, but she has mastered health and fitness across the globe. This month she and her husband, Jim, will celebrate the 11th anniversary of owning and managing a SNAP Fitness franchise in Platteville, Wisconsin. While this is certainly a business milestone, it’s just one of many accomplishments Jen will celebrate in 2020.

Many people mark their 40th birthday with a surprise party or perhaps even a cruise with family or friends. Jen will celebrate her milestone birthday in March. That month she also will run a half-marathon in Des Moines as a speed check in her quest to set a personal record in April at the Boston Marathon. Jen will then focus on training for the 2020 World Championships, which will be held in August, where she will run the Olympic distance triathlon with Team USA.

Ironically, track wasn’t a sport in which Jen competed during high school. She didn’t even know she would enjoy running until she began a health and fitness journey the summer before her senior year of college.

IMG 7357“I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t happy with myself. I wasn’t making good food choices, and I wasn’t exercising,” says Jen, who had gained about 70 pounds from the time she started college. “I knew I needed to make changes, and I knew the changes had to be incremental. Instead of 50 Cheese-Its, I would count out 25. Instead of drinking three gigantic Coke each day, I cut down to one. I made very small, deliberate changes. I also found a way to exercise that I enjoyed. I drove to the lakes and would roller blade for three miles. I loved roller blading so much that I started adding more miles until I went nine miles at a time.”

Once college classes resumed that August, Jen’s roommate encouraged her to start running because it was an activity she could do anywhere and fit in around her class schedule.

“I was like, I can’t run. She was like, yes, you can. With her encouragement, I started running one block at a time. Literally, I would run one block and then walk one block. My roommate ran with me and encouraged me. It wasn’t long before I was running two blocks and walking one. The next thing I knew, my roommate and I were running a 5K on Thanksgiving Day.”

IMG 7358“I started to love how I felt after I exercised, and I felt so much better about myself,” adds Jen. “I decided to take a weight-lifting class, but I was so self-conscious. One of my good friends said, ‘When you’re at the gym, how often are you looking at other people?’ I told I never really looked at anyone else because I was focused on my workout. ‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry about what others are thinking because they’re probably not even looking at you.’ That was such great advice, and it’s the advice I give when people are new to our gym.”

After running a 5K, Jen set her sights on running a marathon. She confided to a friend that she had a couple of bad marathons and wasn’t sure what to do. Her friend suggested she try a triathlon since Jen has been a swimmer in high school, and she enjoyed riding a bicycle.

“I was excited to try something new,” says Jen. “That October the two of us signed up to compete in a Half Ironman for the following June. I really enjoy the flexible training scheduling for a triathlon. It’s also good for your body to do different things.”

Because it was her first Half Ironman, Jen says the Kansas 70.3 will always be one of her favorites. It was hilly bike course. The run was rolling, but she said it was fun. Another race she has run three times and hopes to run again in 2020 is the Accel in Waterloo, Iowa.

IMG 7359“The Waterloo race is smaller, but the people are all super friendly. There’s strong competition, too. Last year I took third overall. The woman who won is a pro. The woman who took second place also is on Team USA.”

Jen has gotten more selective about the races she enters because it’s about pushing her body to the limit rather than just having fun. Each race she enters also means she must alter her training schedule. Her training schedule is something she commits to whether she’s at home or away. Jen travels frequently with Jim, who like the owners of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, is a third-generation seedsman. Jim is president of Gro Alliance, which produces seed in the U.S and abroad.

“It’s important to me to get in my workouts, so I treat a day of traveling like I do a day at home,” says Jen, who shares her experiences online (#runtheworld), using the handle @jendoestri. “Sometimes I get up earlier than I’d like just to fit in my workout, but I make sure I communicate goals with family and friends. For example, Jim and I spent a week with family over Christmas. I was afraid people would feel bad if I went for a run instead of sitting around the table while they were having coffee. We communicated that it was important for us to get in our runs. Everyone else chose to do some sort of fitness activity to start their day. It really turned out to be a positive start to the day for everyone. Communication is key.”

While she always works out, Jen has learned to accept that doing something is better than nothing. She might run four miles instead of six. If she or Jim wasn’t able to exercise in the morning, they might eat dinner later to accommodate a late afternoon workout. They support each other’s desire to make fitness a priority.

IMG 7360“When you stick to your routine, whether you meditate, do Yoga, read the Bible, it is that gets your day off to a good start,” says Jen. “Good choices lead to good choices, which lead to more good choices. When I get in a good workout, I make better food choices.”

Jen encourages her clients to make healthy eating choices one meal at a time. She starts by analyzing what they ate for breakfast. If they’re not eating breakfast, she encourages them to start because it’s fuel for your day. Rather than grabbing something sugary, make the meal count by preparing overnight oats or making a protein shake. Once breakfast is mastered, it’s time to focus on lunch and then dinner.

“My goal is to eat 90% healthy every day. I’m all about living life. I want to enjoy a glass of wine and a treat, so I’ve learned to focus on portion size,” says Jen. “If you’re starting on a new health journey, shoot for 70% healthy if that’s a stretch for you.”

To help you prepare a healthy meal, today Jen is sharing with us one of her favorite salads. Once you begin eating more vegetables, she says your body will crave them. Here’s to craving salad with cheese and fresh berries!

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Salmon Salad

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 bag of arugula (5 - 8oz) or other leafy greens like kale or spinach
  • fresh (or frozen) peas, mushrooms, grilled asparagus or other seasonal veggies to your liking
  • shaved Parmesan cheese
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • **grain of choice or bread and olive oil to make a heartier meal.
  1. In a large bowl, toss arugula, peas (warmed if frozen), other veggies as you choose.
  2. Squeeze juice from lemon juice
  3. Add shaved Parmesan to your liking; drizzle generously with olive oil.
  4. Cook salmon to your taste preferences. Season both sides with salt and pepper as desired. We fry ours in a pan with olive oil to cook medium rare.
  5. Once tossed, divide on two plates. Place salmon on salad.

COOK’S NOTE: This is an awesome dish because it can be customized to your liking, using whatever you have on hand. If I have cooked quinoa, faro or wild rice on hand, I will add a cup to make it a heartier dish. If you want some crunch, toss in pine nuts or shaved almonds. Want a fresh taste of summer? Add blueberries or strawberries and goat cheese! This recipe serves 2.

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