I work with them every day; so I know how awesome Precision Nutrition’s coaches really are.
Today you get to meet one of them, Jen Cooper. This way you can find out too.
Jen Cooper hasn’t always had red hair. But she’s always had the proverbial redhead’s zesty spirit.
Everything about her – from her quick, purposeful stride to her infectious laugh – conveys upbeat energy, optimism, and determination. Talk to her for five minutes and you’ll feel as though the two of you are long-time friends.
But warning: Jen is not the wallow-in-woe kind of friend who may be cozy and comfortable, but who drags you down, down, down.
Instead, she’s the funny, fierce, and fiery friend who challenges you to dream, to dare, and to fly in the face of all your limitations to become the person you really want to be.
And, when it comes right down to it, isn’t that what you really want in a coach?
“Being your best self is not about looking a certain way; it’s about living a certain way.”
That’s Jen’s coaching philosophy.
“You must always remember – and believe, right down to your electric-pink manicured toes – that sexy, healthy, and strong doesn’t come in a size,” she says.
“It comes in an aura.”
Meanwhile, if you’re afraid that committing to fitness will doom you to endless plates of plain, steamed broccoli, or countless mind-numbing lifts in a stinky cave of a gym, Jen is your antidote.
“I like to have fun,” she says. “Healthy living doesn’t have to be a chore or a bore. It’s about feeling saucy, alive, and ready to hit the ground running.”
Fitness has always been vital to Jen’s happiness.
Born and raised in Philadelphia – where she still lives – she grew up doing dance and gymnastics. In university, she studied exercise and sport science and then physical therapy.
She graduated with a Master’s degree… into an economic slump. Jobs for physical therapists were scarce.
So she joined a pharmaceutical company, where she worked for eight years as a sales representative.
The work was health-related. Sort of. And if it wasn’t exactly what she’d hoped to do, at least it provided a decent salary – along with the trappings of success.
“I was the corporate hot shot with the Fendi handbag and the company car,” Jen recalls.
Meanwhile, she was also the Superwoman who ripped through marathons and Ironman triathlons, hit the gym like clockwork, and offered fitness coaching and personal training on the side.
And whenever her acquaintances had questions about health and wellness, Jen was the person they asked.
She was happily married. She lived in a great neighborhood. She had a well-paid, important position, a fabulous wardrobe – and a fit body. In fact, some people probably thought that Jen was leading the perfect life.
But actually, she was harboring a nasty little secret: Besides being a serious go-getter, she was also a major stress case, who suffered from frequent and bothersome injuries and constant fatigue.
On the outside, she looked completely pulled together. But inside, she was a roiling mess of confusion and frayed nerves.
Many women know this feeling.
One day, Jen found herself in conversation with one of her managers, who’d come to her for some fitness or exercise advice.
Forgetting her sales reports for a minute, she launched into a response, quickly warming to her subject – asking the right questions, offering resources, suggesting possibilities. She could hear the excitement in her voice, could sense the sparkle in her eyes. Her muscles tingled with the joy of sharing what she loved.
“If only you were half as passionate about the pharmaceutical business as you are about health and wellness,” her manager sighed.
The comment stunned Jen. But it also turned out to be a watershed for her – one of those awkward, but hugely powerful, moments that come to define the subsequent direction of our lives.
By any objective measure, her professional life was a success. She had developed and implemented influential sales strategies. She’d trained others, managed a budget, and launched several important products, exceeding the company’s target goal by a huge margin.
Yet, what truly fired her interest was fitness and preventative health. Not peddling medical solutions to already-existing health problems.
Shortly after that conversation, Jen took some important steps.
What am I doing, she wondered? What am I doing with my one and only precious life?
She quit the job, gave back the car, traded in the business suits for yoga pants, and stopped trying to be Superwoman.
“It was scary,” she says. “My income took an enormous hit.”
More than that, she had to find a way to redefine success – according to her own standards, not somebody else’s. And that meant caring for herself and listening to herself, just the way she might listen to one of her clients.
“Deep down, I knew I was amazing and that my body and self deserved every ounce of care and nurturing I could give.”
The trouble was, she had no idea what proper care and nurturing looked like, felt like, tasted like.
“For the record,” she jokes, “I knew for sure that it didn’t taste like 72 tons of cabbage soup, and it didn’t feel like exercising to the point where your body simply calls it in.”
“I knew that I wanted something different, but I wasn’t sure what it would look like.”
So, she embarked on an extensive process of re-education, dedicating herself to learning everything she could about nutrition, functional movement, anatomy, physiology, and strength training. And this time, instead of working from the outside in, she decided to work from the inside out.
“Knowing” was less important than “doing.” Information wasn’t enough for her. She wanted deep understanding.
That’s what led her to Precision Nutrition.
Enrolling back in 2009, when the program was six months long, she wasn’t sure at first what to expect.
She wondered how it would work with her endurance training. Even though she hoped for change, she also clung to the person she used to be.
It’s a common pattern among clients, as Jen now recognizes. But back then, she only knew that she was frustrated. She’d been working so hard, for so long, yet wasn’t seeing the results she thought she deserved.
“A lot of people might have wondered what she was doing in the PN Coaching program,” her coach, Krista Schaus, recalls.
“She didn’t need to lose a lot of weight. Yet she felt the same disconnect that drives other Lean Eaters to the program, and she had a powerful dream of becoming her genuine best.”
Krista noticed Jen’s potential quickly. But she also saw a woman who was worn to the bone, and who more than anything, needed replenishment and rock-solid foundations.
“How about you just try the program?” she suggested. “Do the opposite. Instead of endurance, do more strength training.”
So, putting her skepticism aside, that’s exactly what Jen did.
Admittedly, this was a stretch for Jen at first. “I had to break up with my old life,” she says. “I had to break up with Triathlete Jen.”
It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to the part of herself that had excelled at and gloried in endurance sport.
“But with PN Coaching, I started seeing results really quickly,” she adds. “Not just body composition, but more in terms of how I felt.”
Eventually, Jen became so enthusiastic about strength training that she went on to competition, even earning the title of Ms. Natural Philadelphia in the NGA Mr. and Ms. Natural Philadelphia Bodybuilding Championships in 2012.
Yet feeling better wasn’t a simple matter of trading one sport for another. Jen felt better because she was living in closer alignment with her core values.
“PN Coaching helped me address the imbalances in my life, the integrity gaps. It changed who I was, who I was going to be – both personally and professionally.”
Even before she signed up, Jen had launched herself on the path of change, but when the program finished, she redoubled her efforts, adding to her personal training and physical therapy qualifications with certifications from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and from Precision Nutrition.
Meanwhile, she volunteered with her city’s homeless population, teaching people to run as a way of promoting confidence and self-esteem. Later, she founded a successful coaching business for women.
And every course of study, every new experience underlined the same message:
How you live changes everything.
“I learned that being healthy, strong and sexy isn’t just about biceps and broccoli; it’s also about nourishing yourself through relationships, hobbies, career and spirituality,” she says.
Looking back, it all seems obvious. Of course fitness and health was her abiding passion. Of course she should have been working full-time in the field! After all, she’d even met her husband, John, in a gym.
“He actually proposed during a training run,” she laughs. And on their first vacation, they biked the big island of Hawaii. “Four hundred miles,” she says, smiling at the memory. “It was an amazing trip!”
But necessity – or fear – has a way of side-tracking us from our deepest dreams. As someone who’s been through the experience, Jen understands this. She knows that clients sometimes need help to see what’s staring them right in the face.
She also knows that there are no quick fixes.
“I know you want one,” she says. “And I want a sparkly pony that does housework! But neither exists.”
Instead, she counsels the gradual adoption of habits. The change that results is slow, but lasting. And instead of working from the outside in, it manifests from the inside out.
Jen specializes in helping her clients tease out their limiting factors.
One client was having trouble making it to the gym in the morning – and that was the only time she could possibly go.
“We spent two weeks creating a night-time ritual of packing lunches, preparing for the day, and laying out clothing for the family. And guess what? For the first time since her kids were born, she started making it to the gym.”
Another client’s flexible work hours made it tough for her to establish routines in any part of her life. So that became the focus of coaching.
“Sticking to a consistent work schedule allowed her to plan healthier meals, go to the gym, spend more quality time with her family – and start shedding pounds.”
It’s this kind of sensible, practical problem solving – combined with her feisty, fun-loving spirit – that makes Jen such a successful coach.
“It was such a natural transition for her to join PN,” Krista Schaus says. She knows PN’s principles in her bones, and having taken big risks and undergone big changes herself, she understands the fear, the hope, and the excitement that her clients feel.
“It’s like she was born to do this kind of work.”
Nicknamed “MiniCoop,” and “MiniCooper,” Jen more than lives up to the moniker. Like the famous British car, she’s small, attractive, efficient, and surprisingly powerful.
Unpretentious, smart, and not afraid to be silly, she’ll get you where you’re going in record speed and iconic style. And she’ll keep you laughing, every mile of the journey.
You’ll never misplace your smile when Jen’s around.