Jenn Labonte is a mom to Lexi (23) and Jacob (19) and married to Bill. She is a certified Personal and Group Trainer and initially operated a thriving outdoor boot camp for women. She is the founder of the Jenn Lab Fit women’s fitness and mobility program.
Shortly after turning 40, physically she felt like things were starting to fall apart. after being diagnosed with osteoarthritis that was causing extreme knee pain. Adding on was a torn rotator cuff and bursitis in the foot. She took charge of her body using her 20+ years of training experience with her own personal physical and emotional challenges after turning 40 which led to the creation of the Jenn Lab Fit, a women’s fitness, and mobility program. Jenn Labonte today is out to help women safely take control of post-’40s, the 50s, 60s, and beyond weight gain, build strength, and stay injury free so they can feel confident, consistently motivated, and beautiful in their own skin.
Women Fitness President Ms. Namita Nayyar catches up with Jenn Labonte, Certified Personal and Group Trainer and owner of the Jenn Lab Fit women’s fitness and mobility program to talk about her fitness routine, diet, and the app.
Being a mother, fitness trainer, and professional. Share insight into your fitness journey and what motivated you to choose this as a career.
I received my first fitness certification when I was 22 years old. It was a group training certification that I sought out to fill the place of the many years of dance team I did through high school and college. I was familiar with the weight room but I’ve always been motivated and inspired by the individuals working together at the same time toward a common goal. Years later I received my personal training certification and finally my favorite, a boot camp certification which led to me opening up my own outdoor boot camp for women and now an online community training program for women over forty.
According to you “I remember going for a walk with my friends with a metal plated knee brace almost the length of my leg after an osteoarthritis diagnosis that was causing extreme knee pain.” plus a rotator cuff and bursitis in my foot. Please share more about these personal challenges and how you managed to overcome them.
Shortly after turning forty, I started experiencing pains and injuries that took me down a path I had never seen before. First, I had a torn rotator cuff that led to surgery. While I bounced back from that surgery with a determination to keep going, the will that it took to keep teaching my boot camp classes definitely took an emotional toll on me.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both knees then eventually bursitis in my foot. I was wearing a metal knee brace the length of my leg on one day and a boot on another day. I decided to take the time I needed for myself to heal but, unfortunately not working out left me feeling really down which led me to eat more, go to bed really late, drinking more, followed by weight gain and not recognizing who was looking back at me in the mirror. This lasted for a few years until I had finally had enough. I slowly started working out again with trainers (yes, a trainer still needs a trainer sometimes) who helped me find the power to keep going.
That’s when I created a program that worked for me and my new body, with the injuries and all. I found an approach that I looked forward to, that helped me get stronger than I’d ever been in my life, and that made me want to share it with others.
Osteoarthritis is becoming a very common health concern. 5 things one should keep in mind and lifestyle modifications to follow once diagnosed with osteoarthritis?
I recognize my osteoarthritis diagnosis came as a result of my not doing some of the basics. I knew better but, I was always in a rush to take care of others and didn’t leave time for myself. It’s sidelined me once before and I do everything within my power to not let that happen again. Some of the things that are now an integral part of my routine are:
- Stretch Stretch and Stretch – A pre and post-exercise stretching routine is a must. I also integrate stretching on my rest days as active recovery. It doesn’t have to take long, no more than five minutes max.
- Maintaining a healthy weight – Keeping a balanced routine and avoiding excess weight has helped remove the unnecessary pressure on my knees.
- Strengthen your muscles – Strength training has been my number one saving grace. I didn’t think I would ever get back to where I was pre-diagnosis and I’m now stronger than ever. Especially with movements like squats and lunges, my key was starting slow, with no weights, and truly focusing on the form and getting the best range of motion my knees could handle. Then I gradually increased the weight keeping those form cues in front of my mind.
- Protect the joints – I eliminate anything that puts an unnecessary pounding on my knees – running was my biggest culprit. The competitiveness inside me struggled with that a bit early on – it still does sometimes – but, I’ve learned to enjoy the slow and steady walk, clearing my mind and enjoying the outdoors.
- Eat a balanced diet – Studies show that nutrients rich in vitamin C (think fruits and vegetables) and Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil may help. Keeping your diet balanced and filled with whole foods will do your entire body good.
- Rest – Taking days off with no active exercise has been crucial. While I schedule them into my weekly routine, there are days that I have to listen to my body and just rest or switch the workout to something that is upper-body focused only.
- Buy good shoes – A good pair of walking shoes is well worth the $150+ you might pay. And once you buy them, wear them often. I wear them throughout the day as much as possible to add additional support for my knees.
Share more input on your personal fitness routine every day? 5 misconceptions about strength training from your experience as a trainer?
My personal fitness routine incorporates a balance of strength, cardio, active recovery days, and rest days. I personally aim to strength train 3-4 days a week, do 2-3 days of steady state cardio or active recovery, and 1 day with nothing at all. Every one of those days includes stretching (except sometimes my do nothing day does end up with absolutely nothing). While this is my weekly goal, life does sometimes detour me from this schedule. I adapt the best I can and give myself the grace to know I’ll jump back into my preferred routine as soon as I’m able to. Perfection is impossible.
Some of the misconceptions I hear from the ladies I train or from social media are:
- Lifting heavy will make you bulky.
- Lots of cardio will get me the transformational goals I’m searching for.
- I have to work out for an hour a day for 6 days a week.
- I have to follow a strict meal plan and eliminate so many calories that I’m hungry all day.
- HIIT workouts alone will sculpt my body.
Most of the misconceptions I see when women start working with me were at some point the catalyst to them starting a routine strong and then quickly quitting. The goal is to find a behavioral change balance that allows you to slowly and steadily incorporate positive changes into your routine. If you knew you were going to find a routine that allowed you to reach and maintain your goals for the long term, does it matter if it takes a little bit longer to get?
Diet plays a pivotal role in staying fit and healthy. What kind of diet do you follow? 5 foods that you must have to combat aging
Just like in fitness, my diet goals aim for balance. If you even try to take away some of my favorite foods or tell me I can’t eat every few hours or after 8 pm, I’m not going to be a happy camper. That’s not fair to myself or my family if I’m grumpy!
I choose to eat small meals every 2-3 hours and focus on a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. My protein intake is especially important as I try to build and maintain lean muscle. I aim for whole foods about 80% of the time, leaving room to enjoy my treats about 20% of the time. Doing this consistently allowed me to reach my goals and maintain them.
I personally don’t follow a diet routine that says, eat this and it will combat aging. I am more along the lines of eating a balanced diet, full of foods rich in nutrients that will help keep your skin, brain, muscles, and gut health in check – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein-rich foods like salmon and grilled chicken, healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.
What motivational quote do you live by
It’s very simple – “I am.” I actually got it tattooed on my wrist last year. To me, it means I am a beautiful, messy, incredible person that can choose to step in front of any challenge and write my own story. I shared this with my members recently as my explanation of the meaning:
- I am powerful.
- I am fearless.
- I am anxious.
- I am worthy.
- I am strong.
- I am tired.
- I am beautiful.
- I am full of flaws.
- I am grateful.
- I am positive.
- I am unsure.
- I am loved.
- I am resilient.
- I am confident.
- I am a mess.
- I am enough.
- I am me.
- I am in control of my story.
How do you perceive fitness in the year 2023? Share your expert input.
I’ll speak to what I see working with women. With the changes we’ve seen in the world over the last few years, I see the women I’m training becoming more flexible to the concept of strength training outside of the gym. Initially, when COVID forced us into our homes, many people got creative and found ways to move and stay active.
Now that the gyms and training centers are open again, I’m seeing women say, I like working out at home and now let’s see what I can do to add more to my routine. I’m also seeing women show up for themselves in ways I’ve never seen before. It’s a movement of, it’s my time to get strong so I can be the best version of myself, both for my inner peace and for my family and friends.
Best exercises every woman should do in their late 40’s and 50’s.
Strength training in general is super important for women in their late 40s and 50s. It’s crucial to maintaining muscle mass, improving mobility, and increasing our healthy physical years of life. It also helps protect against the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density and reducing the risk of fractures.
I train almost exclusively women over 40, 50, and 60+ so we learn to modify and adapt as necessary. It doesn’t mean we can’t still do an exercise, we just might need to find our new version. Better form and slowing down the motions are also more important than ever before.
Mothers find it difficult to balance their routine with fitness. Share your personal journey as to how you managed to keep up with the same.
Finding a balance is truly an individual journey. Every one of us has a unique set of circumstances. I don’t tell the women I work with to follow this routine and only this routine because I know it won’t last more than a week or even a few days. Instead, we work on establishing a routine that works for them.
Personally, I not only train women through my Jenn Lab Fit app but, I also work 9-5 as a Senior Manager of Social Media for a global nonprofit. While I could sustain working in one and not both, this schedule allows me to benefit from doing the things I love throughout the day. It also makes me extremely relatable! When someone comes to me and says they’re having trouble finding the time to work out, I can easily say, “I get it” and provide some helpful tips on finding the time. Typically the time is there, we just don’t want to get up 30 minutes early, or get active during lunchtime or after work. Write your daily schedule out on a piece of paper and look for the pockets of time that would allow for a 30-45 minute workout. Even 20 minutes is better than no minutes.
I’ve established a routine that works for me and one that I now look forward to. I wake up earlier than I used to in order to fit my workout in, but I also go to bed a little earlier now as well. In our fitness journey, we have to make small behavioral changes to see results. Getting to bed earlier is probably the biggest culprit and the first place you should look. Start with 10 minutes earlier then add on over the next few weeks.
Let us know more about THE JENN LAB FIT APP.
I’ve worked with women in helping them reach their fitness goals for the majority of my fitness career. Combine that with what I’ve learned from my personal fitness journey of overcoming the injuries and boundaries that sidelined me for a few years and the Jenn Lap Fit app was created.
I wanted a way to bring women over 40 together from around the world that are trying to stay active, get strong and find a balance in their lives. I wanted a place for women that are struggling with injuries, haven’t worked out in a long time, are nervous to get started, and want a place to work smarter towards reaching their goals. We work on crushing the misconceptions, strict diets, and high-impact workouts and replace them with small, simple daily steps to reaching our individual goals safely, confidently, and affordably. The app includes:
- A weekly total body strength program for all fitness levels is to be completed from home. Includes 4 total body strength training workouts and 2 cardio recommendations.
- 2 weekly live workouts directly from the app which will also be stored in a library for you to complete at any time.
- Weekly healthy habit goals to help you make small, consistent steps toward long-term results.
- An extensive library of scientifically backed, individual exercises at your fingertips.
- Recipes that include healthy, balanced, easy-to-make meals to choose from.
- Weekly wellness tips and guidance through dedicated in-app blogs.
- And my favorite part – is a community of like-minded women empowering and cheering each other on.
The app is only $15/month and you can sign up here: https://jenn-labonte.web.app.
Learn more about Jenn Labonte: