Fitness is the Universal Language: A Q&A with Jayel Lewis
At City Fitness, we’re constantly learning about what motivates people to strive for healthier lifestyles. This Q&A is part of a larger interview series with a number of Philadelphians representing a wide range of industries and communities — from entertainment to fashion to fitness. These interviews and photos were completed to celebrate the launch of City Fitness’ Signature Club which is coming to the Sterling Building on 18th and JFK. Click here for more information and 30 Days of early access for just $10!

Empowered women empower women. Jayel Lewis is certainly proof of that. She’s the owner of JL Fitness, specializing in one-on-one training exclusively for women. She has a philosophy that we at City Fitness particularly love: Train from the inside out. Don’t just improve the physical self, establish a stronger mental being as well. In the following interview, Jayel talks about why she loves Philly’s growing fitness community and why looking good is never as important as feeling good.

What is your philosophy around health and fitness?

Start building yourself from inside out. It’s not just about the aesthetic. It’s about how you want to feel — not necessarily how you want to look. That will come but it has to start from within.

Why do you exclusively train women?

I relate with women better. I’m a quasi-therapist. Whatever they’re going through, I can relate. A divorce, a breakup, the loss of a loved one. You’re going through something and I want you to grow through that process. Whatever led you to fitness and led you to me is much greater than just wanting to look good. I want to tap into their mindset cause I’ve been there. We open up to each other when we’re in that safe zone. I want them to feel confident enough to trust me and tell me anything and everything. You being able to tell me those things allows me to help you in the gym better. Let’s work this out — literally and figuratively.

How do you find time to train yourself?

It’s still hard for me to get in the gym. I’m training people all day so when it comes time to train myself, my brain is fried. But like I tell my clients, you have to make yourself a priority. People don’t do that enough and I’m guilty of it as well. You know the safety announcements when you’re on an airplane? They say “help yourself before helping others.” It’s the same thing in life. To be a better mom, to be a better wife, to be a better businesswoman — you have to realize that you are deserving of that time. It’s time without your phone, without having to stop at the bank, without having to call someone or respond to emails. It’s your time.

What excites you about the fitness community in Philly

I couldn’t ask for a more supportive community. People in the fitness industry want to see you succeed. If you’re knowledgeable and good at what you do, they want to help you.

Philly is often called one of the least healthy cities in the country. How can we change that perception?

Philly gets a bad rap. People come here and they want a cheesesteak and to check out Rocky stairs — which is great. I get it. But there are a lot of healthy things to do in Philly. We don’t have mountains and lakes at our fingertips but there are so many free workouts, so many ways to get involved. I think we’re taking a much bigger stand to try and get healthier. We can all do this together. It’s a domino effect. It’s going to take time for us to climb the ranks of fitter, healthier cities but we’re on our way.

Why do you say that fitness is the universal language?

I have trained people from all walks of life. I’ve trained active-duty military. I’ve trained people when I was overseas in Germany. Fitness is a commonality we have no matter what. You don’t need to speak the same language but fitness is the language we can all understand.

Q&A by Jared Shelly