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Jessica Yarmey of KickHouse: “Listen”

Listen. Find time to be quiet so that you can open up and listen. You can ask the universe to give you a message or a sign. If you’re constantly overstimulated, you won’t hear the answer, and you might miss the sign. When I was laid off from Gold’s Gym, I went on a trip […]

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Listen. Find time to be quiet so that you can open up and listen. You can ask the universe to give you a message or a sign. If you’re constantly overstimulated, you won’t hear the answer, and you might miss the sign. When I was laid off from Gold’s Gym, I went on a trip to Miami with a close friend. I went to the ocean and asked it what I should do with my life. The repetition of the waves brought the word “resilience” to me. There would be another wave, and another. I understood that there would be tough times, and I just needed to keep fighting.


As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingJessica Yarmey.

A life-long athlete and retired division I soccer player, Jessica has been focusing on promoting health and fitness for the last ten years. She is currently Chief Executive Officer at KickHouse, a modern kickboxing studio concept that she founded during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are 35 KickHouse studios across the country and she is looking to add 165 more franchise locations across 2021.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/405c57f69c292fb0a0af607e2f6a8491


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I’ve been interested in physical fitness from a very young age. I started playing soccer when I was 6 or 7 years old. I had average natural ability; I was never the biggest, fastest, or strongest player on the field. I remember feeling super small on a very big field (back then our youth league played on a full size field!). I learned early on that if I wanted to be good, I would have to put in a lot of work. I dedicated every spare moment to practice. When I wasn’t practicing with my team or going to a soccer camp, I’d be working on my own, kicking balls against the wall of the office building behind my childhood home, even breaking one of their windows! I always wanted to compete, but it was never as much about scoring goals and winning as it was about the process of improving. How do I get better, every day?

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

When I was in middle school, my mother enrolled me in a private gym, partly to support my interest in athletics but also to keep me out of trouble! The gym owner was a trainer named Bonnie, and she became a sort of guardian angel for me. She saw my potential, and she could connect the dots between where I was and where I wanted to be. For example, knowing that I wanted to be faster, she taught me to do plyometrics. She showed me that if I put in the work, I would get results. During my tumultuous teen years, Bonnie’s gym was a sanctuary for me. Even when I was grounded, I was still allowed to go to the gym to train. Bonnie herself was an expert resource and a sounding board, and she taught me that constant improvement requires persistent effort plus supportive coaching from a trusted guide. I believe in the power of fitness and I believe in working with coaches to optimize results.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Soccer was always my primary sport, but in high school I also played field hockey. Coach Karen Klassner noticed my soccer footwork and recruited me to play on her team as a goalie. Many coaches only coach physical skills, but Klassner and my goalkeeper coach Liane Kersey emphasized the mental aspect of the game as well. Klassner focused on excellence. Her goal wasn’t just to win the division but to win the state, and her legacy-scale vision led her teams to victory, year after year. She coached us to constantly go the “extra inch” that would make us a better team than our opponents. Kersey was a trained psychologist, and we’d have conversations about mental toughness. As a goalie, the last line of defense, I was devastated by every goal scored against me and I took every loss very personally. From Kersey, I learned the importance of resilience and the process of mental preparation.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

One recent mistake I made when I was starting KickHouse was not asking for help when I needed it! I had about 150 apparel items to load into our POS system and push out to the enterprise. I kept this task on my plate and slowly churned through about 40 items. As I neared my deadline, I know I wouldn’t be able to get the rest of the items entered in time so I asked a partner for help. She has a digital library background and had offered to help with the organization and categorization project earlier. I initially declined the help because I wanted to seem like I had everything under control! When I finally asked for help, she quickly jumped in and got the project across the finish line, even recategorizing some of the work I had already completed so that it would be more intuitive.

Collaboration is a super power for teams and in the franchise space. But in order to maximize it, you have to admit where you are weak and need help. Most often, people are willing to help if you simply have the humility to ask.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The only book I’ve ever read more than once is Thinking Body, Dancing Mind by Chungliang Al Huang. I first read it in high school, and I was inspired by the author’s advice to “act as if.” My goal back then was to play Division I college soccer, and so I learned to “act as if” I was already a Division I player, doing all the things a Division I player would do: eating the right foods, warming up and cooling down the right way, taking the field with confidence. And indeed I became a Division I starter. I’ve taken this advice with me into other aspects of my career, and I’ve often shared it with others. If you want to be an executive, act as if you are an executive already. Make decisions accordingly, dress accordingly. Live your life as if you are a CEO now, instead of waiting until you step into that role.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Self-discipline is the magic power that makes you virtually unstoppable.” — Dan Kennedy

There will be days when your motivation isn’t going to be there. You aren’t always going to wake up and feel like working out. I’ve learned you need to have a process for these days, a plan for connecting to your inner self discipline in the moments you need it most.

As an executive in a high-growth business, it is important to stay disciplined with my time, processes and priorities. The higher you climb in business, the more disciplined you need to be.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

As the CEO of KickHouse, I’m building a nationwide network of franchise-owned kickboxing studios. Kickboxing is high energy, high intensity, high calorie burning exercise, so it’s great for cardiovascular health. Plus, after a difficult year like 2020, people need the stress relief that comes from kicking the crap out of something! KickHouse studios offer coach-led classes and training, which helps students at any fitness ability reach their next level of performance.

I’m also working on a new concept that is on the opposite end of the fitness spectrum; both concepts will get people moving, and when we move, our bodies open up to healing.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In our work, we talk alot about cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Schedule strategically. Notice how your brain functions throughout the day, and plan to complete specific tasks when your mindstate is best suited to them. I feel more creative at night, while I’m more productive in the morning. So if I have a creative task, I’ll schedule time for it at night, but I try to churn through my to do list early in the day. This adds efficiency to your day but also keeps you feeling productive.

Shelve the inner critic. Sometimes doubts and worries creep into my brain, telling me that I’m going to fail or mess up. When I’m preparing for something big and I know I need to operate with confidence, I acknowledge those thoughts but then push them toward the edges of my mind. To further protect my energy during intense preparation, I’ll avoid talking with anyone who will put doubts back into my mind. I’ll surround myself with people who believe in me and in the project, instead of giving time and energy to critics.

Seek out a focused environment. I like to take some of my work calls outside. This way, I can stretch my legs and get some sunshine, but I’m also in an environment where I can focus my full attention on the call. I’m not distracted by the other paperwork and files on my desk and computer.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I practice yoga about 3 times per week, typically in the morning so I start my day focused. When my brain has to concentrate fully on what my body is doing, there’s no room for other thoughts to creep in. I really enjoy this kind of moving meditation.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Crush it. At least once a week, do some really high intensity exercise (like running or kickboxing) that will torch calories and make your body sweat. This pushes your heart rate and also gives you the mental satisfaction of knowing that you gave 100%.

Rest and recover. Your workouts don’t always have to be high intensity. Sometimes your body needs to recover. Find time in your week for yoga, stretching, or other gentle movements. When my work life is high intensity and high stress, I balance it with a lower intensity form of exercise.

Garbage in, garbage out. My peak professional and athletic performance is always connected to peak nutritional intake. When I eat well, I’m at my best, in the gym and in the office. I haven’t eaten meat for over eight years and I typically start my day with a superfood smoothie with vegan protein.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

I’ve noticed that people often cut corners on nutrition because of time constraints and inconvenience. But there are a lot of ways to bring more efficiency into your day and time, so that you don’t have to sacrifice healthy meals. It’s really important to have a process or system in place. Rather than just setting a goal of losing weight, commit to a plan for how you will get there. Look ahead to next week and figure out in advance what time you can set aside for preparing nutritious food for yourself.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Work hard, play hard. There always needs to be a balance. If you’re going to be in the deep end at work, with a lot of stress, you need to counter that with a lot of light and laughter. When my team is tackling something big and everyone’s on edge, I throw some jokes into the mix to lift our morale.

Give yourself grace. It’s okay to forgive yourself for working at a B+ rather than A+ level during a difficult time, like this pandemic. Find compassion for moments of imperfection. Recently, I was working on the launch of our wholesale mall for apparel, and the launch ended up being seven days late. I’ve learned to breathe through those moments, to tell myself that while this isn’t where I want to be, it’s still okay. A delay is not a failure. My KickHouse colleague, Jonathan Collins, reminds me to give myself grace almost daily!

Calm down. I do two things to calm my nervous system and de-stress. Firstly, I use a weighted blanket when I sleep at night. Weighted blankets calm down the body’s nervous system, making it easier to relax and let go of worry. I recommend them to any higher stress individual! And secondly, I float. Some day spas have float tanks but I recreate the same weightlessness in my hot tub at home.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

I love to smile, and I love to laugh. I love having inside jokes with my team. I take my work very seriously, though, so when I’m in work mode, I’m rarely smiling. I’ve had people tell me to “fix my face,” but I choose to allow my face to reflect the focused space that I’m in.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Listen. Find time to be quiet so that you can open up and listen. You can ask the universe to give you a message or a sign. If you’re constantly overstimulated, you won’t hear the answer, and you might miss the sign. When I was laid off from Gold’s Gym, I went on a trip to Miami with a close friend. I went to the ocean and asked it what I should do with my life. The repetition of the waves brought the word “resilience” to me. There would be another wave, and another. I understood that there would be tough times, and I just needed to keep fighting.

Be like water. Water was my theme for 2020. I wanted to be more like water, to be strong and powerful but still be able to go with the flow. I wanted to follow Alan Watts’ advice and learn how to trust myself to the water, let go, and float. I spent a lot of time with water in 2020, visiting the ocean and then moving to a house on a lake, trying to learn these lessons.

Befriend a stone. Some people may be surprised by this, but I keep energy stones around me as an extra boost. I think back to my high school field hockey coach Karen Klassner and her theory of going the “extra inch.” If having an energy stone around me will get me an edge, I’m going to use multiple energy stones to create even more advantage! Lately my favorites have been smoky quartz (for clearing away negative energy) and druzy quartz (for collaboration and working harmoniously as a team). I keep them on my desk.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

It’s so important to get outside and find natural spaces where you can do your deepest thinking. My greatest moments of clarity have all come when I was looking at the ocean. My favorite times of day to be outside are sunrise and sunset. To me, these are moments of beauty and gratitude that frame the day. They remind me to pause and reconnect with myself.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

My overarching goal is to shift the national narrative about health from treatment to prevention and to help people understand the healing, preventative value of exercise. During this pandemic, the media focused on treatment, but there was no discussion of how to boost your immune system with exercise and healthy eating. Exercise facilities were shut down while liquor stores were deemed essential. There’s something really wrong with that. I don’t believe the government has our best interests at heart when it comes to wellness, so I’d like to teach individuals how to take ownership of their health through nutrition and exercise.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to meet ultra endurance athlete David Goggins. He’s a retired Navy Seal who is now a motivational speaker. He also published a memoir called Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds. What I admire about him is his commitment to constant improvement. He retired from being a Seal but just kept leveling up with endurance racing. He used perseverance and discipline to completely destroy others’ expectations of him. He seems to have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness all dialed in, and I’d like to learn more about his path to get to that state.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow KickHouse happenings on our website, Facebook and Instagram.

I am personally active on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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