When is a gym, not just a gym? When it’s something much more, according to Jill Schneider.
The reaches of the Franciscan Health Fitness Centers go beyond fitness and wellness; the relationships built along the way are just as important.
“It’s a community; it gets even tighter as family,” Schneider said.
Schneider is the fitness center coordinator for Franciscan Health Fitness Centers in Chesterton. She has worked with the fitness centers since 2001, where she began as a fitness specialist, later becoming program supervisor until she moved to her current position in 2016.
Beyond providing nutrition and fitness direction to clients, Schneider also sees the importance of a smile and a, “How are you doing?”
“People come here for social reasons as well as physical fitness,” Schneider said. “So, just saying hello is just as important as all of our other services. Maybe they’re not getting that interaction at home; so, they need that here.”
Schneider also said she loves that she works for a faith-based organization and that her faith is part of her work in Franciscan Health. She oversees all facets of the fitness centers. Whether it’s the swimming pools or the KidZone childcare center, she’s there to supervise a smoothly running facility. In Chesterton, there is also a 7,200 square-foot fitness area, free weights, a performance studio, a 1/16th mile indoor track and more than 60 fitness classes per week.
“Every day is something different,” Schneider said. “I never do the same thing twice. Sometimes, I am working in budget managing, other times it could be teamwork and communication. It depends on the day, what I am working on.”
While Schneider juggles many responsibilities, she enjoys working with new members the most.
“My favorite part is working with individuals who have never been in this gym, who may be unsure upon first walking in,” Schneider said. “I like to show them that there are ways to obtain your goals in realistic, do-able ways. A lot of times, they think they need to come in for five days a week and eat leaves and tree bark and whatnot, but that’s not the case.”
Schneider received her Bachelor of Science at Purdue Northwest in fitness management, and later earned her associates degree in nutrition and fitness at the same college. Also, she is certified by the American Heart Association in basic life support. Schneider said that she always had a passion for fitness, participating in many athletic programs during her time in high school. Continuing the tradition, she and her husband keep their children active by coaching volleyball and other sports they participate in at school.
“Throughout school, I had the opportunity to work in several different capacities of fitness and nutrition,” Schneider said. “I really liked working in fitness prevention, it fascinated me in the role it has in medicine in helping people.”
Her drive to help others in their health needs and goals is close to home for Schneider. Her family has a history of genetic health issues that can be aided with nutrition and fitness.
“I have a strong history in my family with diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia,” Schneider said. “So, I knew it ran in my family, and I wanted to find ways to help not only myself but my family too.”
Her mother and grandparents, in particular, are people she looks out for with her nutrition and health know-how.
“How I have been able to be a resource to their questions and issues has been an honor,” Schneider said. “I’ve been able to help them make cleaner choices in eating.”
As far as nutrition, food and cooking has been a part of Schneider’s childhood, as processed foods were never found in her house.
“My grandma and mom are amazing made-from-scratch cooks,” Schneider said. “We always had home cooked meals, so it’s a matter of tweaking existing recipes. They were very use to eating red meat for almost every meal, so I opened up the recipe to ground turkey, and other substitutes.”
Schneider grew up in Highland but currently lives in Chesterton with her husband, Ryan, of 15 years and her 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. She stayed in the region because of the tight-knit sense of community.
“In Chesterton, you go to the grocery store or library and everyone knows your name and asks about your family,” Schneider said. “You feel a part of something bigger here.”