Kevin Stafford 0:02
Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of the conversations with coaches podcast. I’m your host, Kevin and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Jen Amira Montes. Did I pronounce that right? Mira Montes?
Jennifer Miramontes 0:11
Yes, you did perfectly.
Kevin Stafford 0:13
Excellent. Thank you. Jen is the founder of cancer champions, a nonprofit dedicated to helping cancer survivors with fitness, nutrition, and mindset guidance, as well as a supportive online community. She’s also leading the fitness component of a groundbreaking new program at Massachusetts General Hospital to benefit sickle cell disease patients. There’s a lot more to say about everything that you do. But Jen, I’m just really glad to get to talk to you today. And we get to talk about what you’ve been doing what you’ve done, what you’re going to do in the future. I’m just I’m glad to chat with you today. So thanks for being here.
Jennifer Miramontes 0:43
Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for having me. Of course. So let’s, uh,
Kevin Stafford 0:46
let’s begin briefly or actually, however long you’d like it’s begin at the beginning, start at the start, you know, your, your superhero origin story, as it were, how did you get your start? As a as a coach, how did you first maybe realize, and sometimes these moments are different sometimes are the same. So I kind of asked as a two part question. When did you realize that you wanted to be some kind of coach in the industry that you were passionate about? Maybe you were told or discover that you kind of had it anywhere? You found the whole name, the concept of coaching, and we’re like, oh, that’s, that’s who I am. That’s what I already do. I should do that. And how did you go from that, like realization discovery process into the practice you have today, the coaching business you have today?
Jennifer Miramontes 1:26
Oh, yeah, sure. It’s a it’s a quite a journey. So I’ll try and keep it brief. Eating myself. I started actually in high school teaching aerobics classes. Yep, aerobics. So doing the little eight count stuff. And went off to college. And I was running track at the time was running 400. And I just, I found myself kind of longing for the getting in front of people and teaching again. And, and so then I started my own little, I’ll put air quotes around it. corporate fitness. I was at Pepperdine, which is in Malibu, California. And so I drove into like, kind of Downtown LA Beverly Hills area and would go to to corporate offices with literally my boombox and a little bucket. And it was like, hey, 10 bucks, if you want to, I’d go in the conference room and teach a fitness class there. And I found it was really exciting, and I loved it. But this is a long time ago. And the fitness industry wasn’t quite respected the same as it is now it wasn’t really a career path. It was kind of like a, you know, Johnny, you know, at the gym. And you know, you think back to the movie with Jamie Curtis that I can’t think of off the top of my head where she taught aerobics and her little thong. And
Kevin Stafford 2:51
yet when like John Travolta was the name escapes me, whatever I can recommend, remember the exact movie you’re talking about? Very, very classic of the time.
Jennifer Miramontes 3:00
You know, so my career path became more marketing advertising. But I kept kind of coaching on the side because it’s what I love to so I did a lot of run coaching and didn’t charge for it would just get together with friends on the weekend, help them train for marathons, etc. And it wasn’t until the recession, well, probably just a little bit before around 2005, I would say that I just kind of realized I was not loving what I did. I wasn’t it wasn’t exciting me anymore. And I kept gravitating toward the coaching thing. It just kept. It was what I left, I was coaching my kids soccer teams, and I was in a car with my sister one time and she said, Well, you know, what do you love about your job? And what do you not like about it? And answered those questions. And then she said, Well, what do you what do you really love? And I was like, I love coaching? And she said, well, well then why don’t you try and make that into a career? So I said to my husband, How would you feel if I quit my job? He said, Because it did own me and and so the rest of his is a little bit history. From there I started my my office was a field near my house, that’s where I did the my gym was there and my office was there. My office was the back of my car eventually opened a studio which grew into a bigger studio, which grew into an even bigger studio. And so and then got my way out of that and decided to enter more into the special populations world that I’m in now. So that’s a that’s a brief history down a lot of years.
Kevin Stafford 4:34
Coach a lot of time I love that. The the idea of being a coach was with you from almost the beginning, but in some way or another and you kept trying to find different ways to express that. And then eventually you discover it’s a lot like the way coaching works for people when they receive it is like there’s a moment of discovery where they finally get the language and the words describe what they want to do and they are able to then like figure out their intentions and they see a path forward with with some guidance from Coach and then they’re able to move into it. I love how, how much a coaches origin story mirrors their coaching, where it’s just this process of discovery. And this, you know, asking of questions, usually simple questions. Often I love that you had a friend who was just like, what makes you What are you doing right now? Do you like what you do? It’s like, what do you love to do? What is it that you love? And it’s that simple question where it’s like, it’s an easy one to dismiss. But when, when it comes from the right person at the right time, it is the perfect question. And I love how that just led so naturally into you to be like, You know what, that’s right, I do love this, I’m gonna find a way to do this and you had a partner who blessedly was just like, onboard, let’s make it happen, get out in the field, get in the back of the car, do what it takes to make it happen. And I’m always, I’m always both impressed, not amazed, but not surprised anymore, but always very impressed with how, how true the journey of a coach seems to be, from where you start to where you where you’re coming from, it’s very consistent with what coaches do and what the the effect deposit in the coaching can have in the in the world. I just, it’s easy for me to gush about it because I love it so much. And I get to talk to so many different kinds of coaches too. And it’s that does still kind of amazed me sometimes how there’s these common threads through every single kind of coach I talked to whether it’s, you know, coaching like CEOs to be better leaders in the you know, in the C suite, or fitness coaches or relationship coaches or, you know, career coaches, career change, career growth, development, it’s like, and sports coaches, even like across the whole spectrum, there’s this commonality of, I found my passion, and it’s to serve and to share, you know, in that in that way that best expresses their their own passions and their own work. It’s just, I really have a follow up question there. I just I love I love hearing stories like yours being like, parodies, again, that common thread that makes me that helps me to love what I do. Like I get to talk to people like you about your stories. It’s just like, it’s just, I’m consistently amazed, but never, never surprised anymore, if that makes sense. Yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about what your coaching practice and your and your and your business looks like today, I know you have, you’re involved in a number of very important projects. So I think I’ll just open that up to you and let you let you start where you’d like to start about what your what your coaching business looks like today, and what you’re what you’re involved in and what you’re working with.
Jennifer Miramontes 7:18
Yeah, so quite honestly, I joke that I have I own three businesses. So I still do through the pandemic, was able to keep a fraction of my clientele and actually train them in turn my backyard into a gym to a degree. And I did do like little mini spin classes back there. So they get their cardio and it was just a way for being there was a handful of people that just said, We really need you through the pandemic. Can we make this work we’re willing, we’ll do whatever, you know, I had them washing their hands when they arrived and hand sanitizers at every station and six feet apart. And you know, we worked it we made it work and so their their loyalty to me was was massive and so I continued to work with them. And quite honestly, I could never stop by just the every so often people say you’re gonna leave us you’re gonna go to Boston full time and I won’t because they’re they’re like family members to me and you know, coaches out there you are pure to realize that you know, when you’re on this fitness journey with somebody and you see the evolution of what happens to their mind and their body and just the emotional attachment that you you that happens just quite naturally. You can’t just say okay, well I’m gonna go now I’m, I’ve got other things so so those people I’m very, I feel a strong allegiance to staying with them. So that is I do have that part of that aspect of my business still. The cancer champions organization had was something I started in 2015. Without it’s a very long story and I know we don’t have a lot of time but they it’s easy to go on the site and read it but the essence of it is my mother who was super healthy, was diagnosed with stage four cancer and decided that she towards the end of her life wanted to hike in and out of the Grand Canyon, which is a massive undertaking for somebody that’s in chemo and and in not able to really eat a Salvaggio cancer. And my my job as a trainer became understand cancer understand the chemos understand what’s happening to her body and get her in and out of that canyon. And she did it and and then pretty soon I was kind of the you know, that woman that trainer that works with cancer patients and so people and that’s what happens in the fitness world right up, you find your niche, you do it long enough and you start to find the things that you you gravitate toward or you really love and I had already gotten my medical exercise specialty. So I’ve worked with with Disease, with like with MS and Parkinson’s and so that was not new to me. But so I’ve worked a little bit with cancer but learned a lot more. And then before I know it, I had built this practice up, but I could only Well, emotion between the emotions, and sorry about the dog, between emotions, and also just the ability to how much hours how many hours you have, I couldn’t really help as many people as I wanted. And my dear friend, who is a breast cancer survivor, toward the end of her, like, literally the last week of her life, said to me, you have to figure out a way to serve more people with cancer, if you can just figure this out somehow, then you I think that you’re gonna you’ll find it very gratifying. And people with cancer need you. And so that happened. I, I started the cancer champions program, and it’s a nonprofit, and we get donations, and those become grants for the for people that couldn’t necessarily afford it otherwise. But also you can people, you know, can gift a membership to, to, to a loved one. And I doubt there’s anyone out there that doesn’t know somebody either has been personally touched or doesn’t know somebody that’s been touched by cancer, it’s, you know, 40% of our population will have some form of cancer. So huge. So that was that was that that kind of took me through where I am now. And then I don’t know if you want me to head into the Mass General, if you have any questions for me?
Kevin Stafford 11:42
Oh, well, I’m alized. First of all, thank you for sharing that. But not really a question. But just Just a comment, pretty much in line with whatever you said about your journey and how I just I love that you were able to turn that experience with those with those loved ones, in some cases, with their direct encouragement into a way to give back and to serve and to help others as well. It’s just it’s very, I mean, it’s it’s a word gets thrown around pretty easily. But it’s very inspiring and very moving like I have a definite warmth in my chest for that I lost my dad to cancer a long time ago, or to a version of cancer and some other stuff too. But that’s neither here nor there. But it is I love, I love the way that you were able to serve those in need, and then use that service to then seek out a way to help to try to help more people and just follow that path. It’s just it’s very, I’m very grateful. So that’s all I have to say really is thank you for that. But yeah, we can, we can definitely move into your work at Mass General. And you can talk about that, because it’s also very, very exciting and very exciting way to serve people as well. So please talk a little bit about that before we run out of time. It’s already the clock is ticking. So
Jennifer Miramontes 12:47
I’ll be again try to read it. And also thank you for saying that it. You know it is it clearly it isn’t either neither here or there for you. It is you’re an example of you know how many people are affected by cancer, which is a big part of why I do what I do. It impacts everyone. So the story behind the sickle cell disease work that I’m doing is a woman Her name was Anne Marie Marie Paige, and she was really the motivation behind my bet when my best friend had the breast cancer, the motivation behind cancer champions, her sister, a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital reached out to me and she said, I work with sickle cell patients. And there’s nothing as far as fitness or nutrition out there for this group, this community. Do you know anything? Is there anything that you could do? And you know, I think many of us that are in this industry are we have this, this need to serve? There’s a reason that we do what we do. It’s and it’s to help people feel better. And I the answer was no. I know of the disease. I don’t know enough about it. So I but certainly I can. I mean, I can do some mindset stuff. I’d be happy to support in some way, but I really I’m probably not that person. Well, I went back and started researching and learning and understanding the disease and realize there’s probably to this day I don’t know of anyone in the fitness world that works with sickle cell patients. And the reality of either you learn and you step in and you do what you can or, or are these people will continue to be underserved and ignored. It’s a disease that primarily affects black people or people of color. And it’s a disease this disease that if it affected white people probably would have been eradicated by now by Gene therapy. That hasn’t happened. And so it was just something I couldn’t turn my back on. And because I feel like this is a community of people that have had people turn their backs on them for way too long, so that, that put me into it. And I was like, I’ll do everything I can, you know, within my knowledge base and, and then started to learn this was a couple of years ago learned, learned, started learning and reading and studying and talking a lot to Dr. Azhar who runs the program, he is constantly teaching me and we’ve started a we got he got funding through to into Mass General, he got a big grant from vertex pharmaceuticals, and part of that grant was writing in a position like mine. So we’ve, the changes that are happening with these patients are unbelievable, like let say, less visits to the ER, they’re actually sleeping better, less anxiety. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, I didn’t know that, that that this could happen, you know, you know, by working in this world that you know, you can make some some pretty good changes in lives, but to be almost every single patient to have their lives completely altered by just having somebody do the work and kind of explain and teach and put the time into them into the you know, you can do this and we can keep AYP has been it’s been really amazing and I just am super proud to be a part of it’s an this group of people that I work with at Massachusetts General Hospital, they sickle cell team that the best so that brings you up to speed on where I am with my all this stuff all the balls in the air that just are filling me completely.
Kevin Stafford 16:44
I just I yeah and again I’m so like, I literally I could feel like warmth in my chest. And I like the when she began talking about the work you were doing and the effects the positive change you were seeing like this audio only podcast so it’s only I get to see it but your your your demeanor already very warm to start with just like you’ve just brightened up and like it was, I could feel it. I mean, I know we’re just on Zoom, but I could like really I can literally feel it coming across coming through the wires, how how needed this work is and how how grateful I’m sure everyone else’s but how grateful you are to be able to be able to serve in that way. And I just Yeah, I just I’m so again, keep coming back. But I’m so grateful that there are people like you who are finding those places of greatest need, and just moving into them when the opportunity arises, you know, not being careful, you know, you you thought about you’re like, I’m not sure I’m the right fit. I just I love that caution because that’s something another one of those common threads to that I find that good coaches are always concerned that they be the right fit for the person, they’re coaching, regardless of what the what the nature of the coaching is, fit is so important. You want to be the right person, you wanna be the right coach for that for that for that person for those people. And to have that consideration upfront and and to but to still move into it with hope and opportunity. And to have it work out. So far, so good, so well. And to be serving in this way. It’s just I’m yeah, I’m impressed and inspired and grateful for what you’re doing. And I could, I could see it on you. I can hear it in your voice. I can see it on your face. It’s lovely. So once again, I lack a follow up question other than gratitude.
Jennifer Miramontes 18:14
Oh, and thank you so much for allowing me to share the story. It’s really it’s it’s, it’s great. It’s it makes me it gets me excited. Yeah,
Kevin Stafford 18:23
of course, of course, I don’t know where else there is to get to anything you want to like leave anybody was actually you know what I should say? If anybody wants to find out more, we’ll have all the links to where everywhere you’re at in the show notes. But go ahead and speak for a few moments on not only where people can I find out more about the work that you do and how you go about doing it all these various aspects of your of your of your practice in your life, but also where people can maybe best connect with you. I don’t know if you have a place where you’re most easy to reach, like if your LinkedIn, DMS or if you have a social media, like maybe you’re very active on Instagram on that I forgot to check before we started talking. But is there any place where people can go to both find out more about you? And also connect with you if they’d like to learn more and maybe even figure out how they can help?
Jennifer Miramontes 19:03
Absolutely. Probably the easiest way to connect with me would be via email and they can get that on either of my sites. So the sickle cell was run through gem fit Jen mera Montes, Jen and fit.com. And then cancer champions.org is more of a cancer focused work that I do. And so that’s probably the easiest way I am on LinkedIn and Instagram and Facebook. A little bit of tick tock I don’t run my social media personally, but they’re fun. They’re very very good about if somebody does DM me, they’re really great about letting me know so But and if you just want to kind of follow the just the journey and social media it’s there’s cancer champions and Gen M fit or both. And Instagram and Facebook so and like you said, we can share those, the specific handles on on the, wherever it is you share them,
Kevin Stafford 20:10
go get them, get them in the show notes, put them in the in podcast, show notes, get them everywhere we can put them, put them up on the website and all that stuff. Once again, I have I have no other notes to say except to thank you thank you thank you I’m so I’m so pleased to get a chance to talk with you and that you get a chance to share a small fraction of your story and also about the work you’re doing now and keep going. Just keep going. I love what you do. And I love the opportunity to share a bit of that story and to be just a small part of of this journey for you and for the people that you’re helping. So thank you.
Jennifer Miramontes 20:43
Thank you, thank you again for having me. It always makes me feel special to to get a chance to share this story.
Kevin Stafford 20:50
Good and to the audience who are listening. Reach out, find out more find out ways that you could help if that if you’re so inclined. And thank you for listening. Thank you for being here with us today and we’ll talk to you again soon.