Merrithew® Lead Instructor Trainer Jennifer Dahl is an enthusiastic, energetic and creative instructor who is not afraid to make her clients do another rep… or ten.
Her athletic-inspired workouts have made her a sought-after instructor internationally and at the Toronto Corporate Training Center.
And now, you can find her on Merrithew Connect™, our online Pilates, fitness and mind-body workout platform for fitness professionals and enthusiasts, where she leads several Halo® Training Integrated Bodyweight Training workouts.
If you’re looking for a cardio class that will elevate your heart rate, make you sweaty and proud that you showed up, Jen’s workouts are the ones for you.
We spoke to Jen about her mindful movement journey and what inspired her workouts on Merrithew Connect.
1. How long have you been in the fitness industry and what made you decide a career in fitness was for you?
I joined the Merrithew team in 2000, so I’ve been in the mind-body fitness space for 21 years. If you count my artistic career as a professional contemporary dancer, then you can add another 10 years on to that!
In all honesty, I stumbled into this career as an injured dancer who thought I could teach my way out of it. A number of lingering injuries and physical issues led me into the STOTT PILATES® Comprehensive Program in 1999 and I loved how my body felt and the connections I made with others. I’ve always been a physical person and a big talker, so it was basically a perfect fit!
2. As a middle distance runner, then contemporary dancer, why did you choose to pursue a career in mindful movement and what was that transition like?
Great question! Initially my interest was to gain greater insight/support and recover from knee and back injuries. I spent a lot of time in physiotherapy and saw how well that work aligned with mind-body conditioning systems like STOTT PILATES. I loved the science and logic behind the method.
The world of competitive sport and the professional performing arts community have always had a certain degree of understanding of mindfulness and the mind-body connection, so it was certainly not a big jump for me to deepen my appreciation of how valuable this type of training could be.
However, as an athlete and dancer, I was very accustomed to following direction and coaching from others, so it was a switch to be on the other side, teaching clients and instructors and finding the most effective and nuanced ways to communicate and cue them.
It was such a sweet surprise to realize how much I enjoyed that challenge and to see the results reflected back to me from others.
3. What is one of your favorite workouts you created for Merrithew Connect and what inspired it?
It’s hard to pick just one absolute favorite, but I like the simplicity and straightforward approach of the Halo Training Integrated Bodyweight Training Level 1: Workout 1, and then of course some of the more challenging workshops from that same series.
My clients, as well as myself, frequently learn and gain greater awareness from these foundational-level workouts, but basic does not mean easy!
The Level 1 workouts are best suited to those new to functional training and those working to re-establish better patterning and alignment due to an injury and as an adjunct to post-rehabilitative programming. I typically revisit these workouts and exercises to assess and gauge mobility and stability.
I was inspired by functional training/movement protocols and a renewed interest in track and field/athletics training programs. I was a competitive middle distance runner for most of my youth.
4. What’s one tip you have for fitness professionals on coming up with fresh programming ideas?
“Don’t create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.” This statement is attributed to the avant-garde composer John Cage. My advice is to explore first; do or create second.
It’s hard to unleash a certain degree of creativity without being too critical, so it’s important to feel free to explore and try movements and sequences and see where they take you.
Enjoy the exploration and then go back and edit what will be best suited to certain types of programming and clients— there is always a place for something! Always write down or record your ideas for later review.
A continued approach to learning and education is essential in any profession, but especially in fitness. It keeps the mind engaged and keeps one up-to-date with evolving practices and research.
An added bonus is that it will also spark movement/mental inspiration and further investigation of relevant programming that will keep the creative juices flow— a gift for you and your clients/facility in the long term.
5. What are the biggest things fitness professionals struggle with and how can Merrithew Connect help them?
One of the biggest things fitness professionals struggle with is to keep their programming effective, current and interesting to their clientele. No one wants to get into a phase where workouts get stale and lack diversity. Once a foundation is established, it’s vital to stimulate and challenge one’s physical and mental capabilities with new demands.
Often it’s a challenge to get creative when we are strapped for time or energy— a little inspiration can kick-start a whole new range of ideas or help instructors reconnect with training tips from different modalities.
Merrithew Connect offers a broad range of programming options and workouts that aim to address a number of different workout and conditioning styles, all with clear and approachable instruction from top-rated presenters.
6. How does Merrithew Connect compare to other workout platforms?
Merrithew Connect features high-quality content and industry-leading instruction in a variety of training and conditioning styles. It’s also a fantastic resource to educate and inform instructors at any stage of their careers.
7. What other workouts on Merrithew Connect are you most excited to try and why?
I’m very excited to get back to and try the Total Barre® workouts on Merrithew Connect. I’ve really missed my weekly dance classes due to pandemic restrictions and Total Barre always reminds me of how engaging movement/dance is for the mind and body.
8. And last question, do you have a life motto?
‘Live well, laugh often and love much.’
I try to do the above by challenging myself to explore new ideas about how to move well in the world as best I can and how to respect the bodies and voices that came to influence where I’m at.
Try Jennifer Dahl’s workouts on Merrithew Connect™, our online Pilates, fitness and mind-body workout platform to empower and inspire fitness professionals and enthusiasts.
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