We had the good fortune of connecting with Janna Zelinger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janna, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
I was always taught growing up to follow the golden rule, “treat others as you would like to be treated.” While this was always a reminder to generally be a nice person (never a bad thing), it also provided the gateway to understanding how someone else might think or feel from their own perspective. Being able to see from another’s point of view is precisely how we practice sympathy and empathy, two vital ways to connect to other human beings. While it may seem that this is merely a social benefit, it really dives deeper into our lives than that. We must be able to connect to others in every aspect of life including work, play, education, or simply needing assistance from another on a purchase or problem. We share the world with each other, and it’s a much easier experience when we can all value one another and communicate effectively. Not only that, but that experience is enhanced by passion, something only people can bring to the equation for themselves and others.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I started Fitness Partners Colorado (FPC), an in-home exercise training business for older adults, nine years ago. While I train all ages, I found the older population particularly special, in that they had the most wholesome goals of all of us. The younger crowd is usually motivated by physical appearance, coming to me wanting to lose twenty pounds before a high school reunion, whereas my older crowd gently states that they wish to sustain their energy enough to keep up with their grandkids and the like. What’s not to love about that? Since a gym can be a very loud and intimidating place for older adults, and even difficult to get to, I decided to make staying in shape easy on them by visiting them right there in their homes. We don’t need much equipment, if anything at all, to practice skills of daily living, balance, stretching, muscle strengthening, cardio activities, and postural corrections. The exercise industry is enormous, surely because most people know of its benefits by now. We need it at every age, but my goal with FPC was not to let the older folks go unnoticed. They have slightly different needs. We spend a very thorough time warming the body up, as well as stretching at the end. The time in between consists of a variety of activities to keep clients engaged and interested, confident, and well cared-for. Older adults have a ton of knowledge and experience they wish to share with the world in the form of fascinating stories. I am just as much a beneficiary of our time together as they are, having a companion to talk with for a while. Of course, their physical skills are always well refined in their tailor-made, individualized program, I find the companionship the underlying hero in my business. All of my clients are my friends, and many consider me their “sounding board” for all their stresses and concerns. To target a person’s health from all sides is more than exercise alone. It includes managing stress, acknowledging achievements, laughing, and nutrition, too. I added nutritional services into the realm of FPC’s services, because to stay healthy, it really is a big piece of the puzzle. Clients ask a lot of questions about food and diet, and I wanted to have a strong background to answer those questions. Some sessions are entirely nutrition counseling, or discussing what’s worth buying at the grocery store. What special things do older adults need to know about their diets? Surprisingly, that looks a little different for them, too. Many sessions end up being a hybrid of all those factors, the exercise, the nutrition discussion, the story telling, the laughing, the praising, and even the crying if need be. With FPC, clients are getting the full health experience, not just an hour of exercise. Because I focus so heavily on the health areas and relationships with my clients, I find marketing my brand the most challenging. As a business owner, you wear all the hats, even if they don’t look good on you! I never really thought marketing looked good on me, for fear it may seem inauthentic, or money-driven. I believe whole-heartedly in what I have to offer older adults through FPC, but this area of growing my business tends to hold me up from seeing the business truly thrive. I’m incredibly fortunate to have loyal clients of many years, but I’d love to expand my reach to more individuals, so they know about what I do and have options in an industry mostly geared toward younger adults. I found many of my current clients from doing talks in large buildings that house many residents. I wanted to provide a presentation of information and pose questions that encourage people to assess their own fitness level and what gaps might need to be filled. The first time I ever scheduled one of these talks with a building manager, not one person showed up. Any business owner knows failure among her success. This was certainly one of mine. I ended up rescheduling with the same manager for a different time of day, and signed on five new clients from that presentation. Despite feelings of defeat, I knew that before giving up, first you change your tactic. This couldn’t be more representative of how to run a business in my experience. Life is fluid, constantly moving and changing, and it’s our job to move along with those changes in order to persist. That kind of continual pivoting and returning to the drawing board has helped me through all of the hurdles with my business, most namely, the Covid pandemic, which seemingly eliminated the option for what I do in an instant. How could I walk into the homes of the most vulnerable population and expose them at a time like that? By appearing in their homes on a screen, I squashed the threat of passing on the illness. 2020 turned my business into a completely virtual one, utilizing Zoom for sessions instead. If you look closely enough, you find that silver lining in the mess. Virtual training allowed me to expand my reach out of state, as well as entertain more options, like half-hour sessions. Until the time comes to pivot again, FPC is managing pretty well this way. While it was too complicated for a select few to learn the program by themselves, the majority of my clientele took my instructions for what to do and adapted beautifully to their situation in order to continue prioritizing their health above all else. I was incredibly humbled and inspired by these “old dogs learning new tricks”. I found so much power in their loyalty and commitment to themselves and their needs, and that energy is more contagious than anything. The grit that older generations possess is part of what drew me to them, and also what is leading them to their successful results with FPC. They are training me, too.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have lived in Colorado my entire life, and I find that what makes Denver a gem, changes as I do. We have here, a dynamic, fun, unique, and entertaining spot for all ages and personalities. Being of active nature, I am drawn to the hiking here. You could plan a different one every day of the week, taking an easy stroll along Lair ‘O the Bear, or a day-long commitment up a 14er. You could drive a ways into the mountains to see the ski resorts or stick close to Golden up Table Mesa overlooking Denver or Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, where you may come across many people you know and chit chat on the side of a mountain as if you’re at the local mall. Who wouldn’t fancy a day of shopping though too, at Cherry Creek North where you can find the finest of the fine, or one-of-a-kind artist works at the Artisan Center. Hiking and shopping will make you hungry and thirsty, so a favorite spot of mine for both is Avanti food and beverage. On one of Denver’s 360 days of sunshine, you can enjoy the patio there with a drink and some grub from a number of their local vendors operating out of old shipping crates, soaking in a view of the city. As it gets dark, I would suggest a little night life on the Dairy Block, where you can eat, drink, shop, indulge in dessert, and even play games out back of the alley. Then maybe mosey on down to Union Station, a bustling central hub for travelers, socialites, questionable folks, and the post-Rockies game crowd. You can quench your people-watching thirst there, and even play shuffle board. It’s a hotel too, so if you get a little too indulgent at the bar, stay a night! Just make sure to eat at Snooze the next morning for breakfast (putting your name on the list two hours in advance!). Depending on the season, I find it a thrill to attend a Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets, Avs, or even Rapids game succumbing to Denver’s spirit and testing out your vocal chords. Or perhaps you test them out by singing along to a concert at Red Rocks, which every single group that performs there compliments, inclined to use words like “magical”. If you just can’t get enough Red Rocks, head over in the morning for a self-guided workout or perhaps a yoga class already going on there. Just be sure to give yourself a little grace, as the mile high altitude will get ya. For a day to just relax and hang around, there are a number of local coffee shops like 2914, which homes puzzles and games. You’ll find games at the many breweries too, like Little Machine or Lodown. Grab a blanket and head over to one of Denver’s beloved parks, like Cheesman, to soak up the sun or play frisbee. For volleyball, the most nets stand at Wash Park. City Park is home of live jazz on Sundays in the summer. Dance along and enjoy another city view. Whatever you choose to do in Denver, it won’t disappoint!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to thank all my family and friends for their continual support, especially my husband Marshall for always believing in me. I would like to thank Jamie Bovay, movement Jedi and physical therapist extraordinaire. When we had the same client/patient many years ago, Jamie called me to discuss the best care plan for her, having never met me. He immediately saw me as his ally. From that point on, we were linked. I’ve turned to Jamie for advice, my own PT treatment, and for networking. We send client referrals to each other, as well as professional ones, constantly building our professional bond. I have tremendous respect for him and how he is continually innovating his practice, bringing all his trusted circle along with him.
Marshall Zelinger, Philip Inge