Recreation and Wellness
May 2019 Issue
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Nancy J Reynolds Photography
For Brunswick resident Jennifer Rothe play isn’t just important for physical health.
“Being active creates endorphins, which produces a natural high and releases stress and anxiety,” she said. “The body, mind connection is so strong. Physical activity can help reduce depression symptoms.”
Although she had been active growing up as a runner and dancer, exercise took on a much greater importance for her in 2007. “Going to the gym was my outlet to relieve stress when my husband Kirt was deployed to Afghanistan,” said Jennifer, who was left behind to care for the couple’s young children. “It was a scary time. Going to the gym was definitely my solstice.”
That outlet became even more significant after Kirt returned physically injured and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “He had three fusions—one in his neck and two in his back from an accident during his deployment. He was also diagnosed with severe PTSD.”
Jennifer, who had been a stay-at-home mom and then a corporate director of sales for a hotel, found herself taking care of her spouse, as well as their children. “I was his VA-appointed caregiver for three years,” said Jennifer, who continued to use working out to cope with her stress and, at times, overwhelming responsibilities.
“Since the gym and working out helped me so much, I wanted to share that with others,” she said, smiling. So, she quit her corporate job and became a wellness, fitness and nutrition professional after earning certifications in fitness and personal training, fitness nutrition, group exercise and Pilates instruction and holistic health. Jennifer, who is pre-diabetic, also earned certification as a diabetes prevention specialist.
For the past five years she has put her training to good use as a health coach, fitness trainer and instructor, nutrition educator and lifestyle coach. Recently she added yet another job to her list when she was named the temporary director of Recreation and Wellness for the College of Coastal Georgia.
“The former director had relocated, and the college reached out to me to assist the department full time,” said Jennifer, whose previous experience included working as a virtual health and lifestyle coach with the popular health and weight loss app, Noom. In her new role, she manages the college’s fitness and recreation center. “I oversee all the student fitness programs and classes and work with other staff members on wellness initiatives.” This includes classes in everything from yoga to Zumba, body sculpting, strength training and more, which Jennifer implements with the help of about 20 student workers.
Although the job is full-time, she still has her private health services, which include private nutrition and wellness coaching, as well as teaching fitness classes at FLETC and boxing at Brunswick Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. For Jennifer, physical fitness is more than her job, it’s an integral part of her life.
“Variety is the key for me, so I don’t get burned out, even if it is going for a walk. I spent five years in the gym and was getting burned out, then someone introduced me to boxing. I would have never seen myself boxing before, but it has become a huge part of my life. It has so much cardio and conditioning in it. Boxing is fun. People come in to box and they’re tense, then you see them get all their frustrations out!” Jennifer said, adding that she also loves to paddleboard when the weather permits.
Staying active is something she shares with her three children—son Kayden, 15, and daughters Ashlyn, 13, and Kalli, 9. “My daughters love to go to the boxing gym with me, and my son’s taken up weightlifting. Ashlyn even gets up early on Saturday to go to my 6 a.m. boxing class.”
Jennifer’s healthy playful advice: “There are so many great things to do here in the Golden Isles: Swimming; hiking; beach walking. And, you don’t have to go to a gym or buy any equipment for yourself or your kids. There are so many free activities. A dance-off party at night is great and bike rides or throwing a frisbee are always fun. You can also set up an obstacle course in your front yard. Be an example for your kids by living a healthy lifestyle.”
“Regardless of what activity, or activities someone chooses, finding something you enjoy and doing it is the means to not only to achieving good health, but overall happiness. You have to take care of yourself; you can’t pour from an empty cup. You only have this one mechanism to get you through life, and you need to take care of it.”
Road to the Golden Isles: Dad was in the Air Force; Mom was a P.E. teacher. Born in Biloxi, Miss., grew up in Wisconsin and Texas. The couple transferred to FLETC 10 years ago from Madison, Wisc., “a wonderful area, but I don’t miss the snow at all! I’d rather sweat than freeze.”
Other Stress Reliever: “Cooking! My daughters enjoy it, too. We create weekly menus together.” Jennifer is known for homemade chicken pot pie and mac and cheese. “And I can mix a mean salad!”
Balance: “We love finding things like ‘where is the best coffee and doughnuts?’ I kind of hate saying that, but it’s all about everything in moderation. If you deprive yourself, it sets you up for failure. Balance is the key. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and food is a big part of life.”
Hairy Situation: The family’s five-year-old bulldog, Jax, and 20-pound part Maine Coon cat, Oliver, both shed. “I’m constantly vacuuming!”