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Lauren Jenai: “Light at the end of the tunnel”

“Instead of looking for the “light at the end of the tunnel” or reasons to be hopeful, I prefer being proactive and productive in the moment. The truth is, none of us know what the future holds. Living life to its fullest — in the moment — is the best way to combat fear and anxiety.” The Covid-19 pandemic […]

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“Instead of looking for the “light at the end of the tunnel” or reasons to be hopeful, I prefer being proactive and productive in the moment. The truth is, none of us know what the future holds. Living life to its fullest — in the moment — is the best way to combat fear and anxiety.”


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Health & Fitness Expert and Founder of Manifest, Lauren Jenai.

She is the Co-Founder of CrossFit and CEO of Manifest, (a new health & fitness app designed to help those with pre-existing conditions take control of their health through fitness & diet plans. She has more than 25 years of firsthand experience managing and overseeing one of the most popular international branded gyms.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

“I met my x-husband in 1995 in a Gold’s Gym in Santa Cruz California. He was a personal trainer who had some novel concepts for revolutionizing the fitness industry. Together, we worked tirelessly developing and fleshing out the concept and brand that is now well known as CrossFit. CrossFit’s influence has forever changed the landscape of not only how athletes train and eat, but also provided a new environment for multitudes of health and fitness businesses to be developed, grow and flourish leading to CrossFit brand being valued in billions of dollars. Subsequently, I’ve been developing a new health and fitness concept called Manifest whose aim is to serve those who struggle with their health and fitness.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started Manifest?

“The concept of Manifest had been brewing, only in my mind, for about a year, until I had a friend who was hoping I could recommend a CrossFit gym for her parents to join. It became apparent to me that it was not CrossFit that they were looking for, they needed something different to improve their health and meet their specific needs. And that is when Manifest became a reality. I began working with a small group of people in my garage to test the concept. The results were infectious proving the concept viable. Manifest continues to change and improve the health and fitness of its participants.”

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

“Given the current epidemic, Manifest continues to focus on providing not only a health and fitness program that can be done remotely, but also employment opportunities that accommodate the need for social distancing.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

“As a “mom and pop” start up business in Santa Cruz California in the late 90’s and early 2000’s we were fortunate enough to have several influential and wealthy clients who thrived in Silicon Valley and the .com boom. Those relationships were pivotal in terms of business mentorship, inspiration, financial support, and friendship.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

“Fortunately for our family, in some ways the pandemic did not alter our lives as I work from home and also homeschool my 4 children. Although, due to the months of quarantine, we were not able to participate in our favorite sport, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which was a significant change and challenge. With all the uncertainty and even more time at home, I decided to spend less time and energy on work related issues, but more time enjoying family, cooking at home, starting a garden and practicing being content.”

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

“So, our biggest challenge was the change in our physical activity. For better or for worse, I worked to accept the down time and not feel guilty about it. Being an entrepreneur and longtime single parent, I have extraordinary expectations and pressures I constantly put on myself. I used the changes to our lifestyle as a way to find balance, acceptance, and calmness that I hope I can continue to incorporate moving forward.”

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

“It may be a stretch to say this is pandemic related, but during this time I was faced with some very difficult choices due to controversy my x-husband was involved in as the owner and CEO of CrossFit. I was approached by the press about allegations of a sexist/womanizing culture within CrossFit. The dilemma came down to whether I should remain silent and not comment, dilute the truth to protect the father of my children, or tell the truth. I chose to be truthful about the unfortunate culture CrossFit had developed since my departure. I felt obligated to do so, since so many people/women were fearful to speak up. The repercussions of that decision continue to challenge our family dynamic.”

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

“I strive to maintain integrity, honesty, dignity, and compassion in every aspect of life, but especially when facing challenges.”

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Sometimes it’s OK to go with the flow! I am a firm believer in set schedules, structure, organization to maintain sanity and to achieve success. But more importantly, there is a need to be flexible within that structure. I find being too rigid, things will break. Being too fluid, there is chaos. The art in life is navigating the balance — being pliable.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

“Enjoy all the small things that may get overlooked in normal day to day life. Get as much sunshine as possible. Exercise. Use the time with your family to bond over things like cooking dinner together, watching movies, walking the dog. Strive for contentment.”

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective, can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

“Instead of looking for the “light at the end of the tunnel” or reasons to be hopeful, I prefer being proactive and productive in the moment. The truth is, none of us know what the future holds. Living life to its fullest — in the moment — is the best way to combat fear and anxiety.”

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

“As someone with clinical anxiety issues, I have learned many coping devices to manage my own anxiety. One of the biggest causes of anxiety is being preoccupied with things that are not in your control. You can help friends and family members who are experiencing anxiety by talking with them and help them recognize the difference between the things they can control and the things they cannot. Being proactive about the things we have control over and learning to detach emotionally from the things we cannot control are critical tools to alleviate anxiety. Another important tool is to “get outside of yourself.” The benefits of doing kind things for other people are exponential.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

““YOLO!” This may not be for everyone, but often when faced with choices or dilemmas I evaluate options based on “You only live once” or what I would do if I knew I was going to die tomorrow. While sometimes living by that code makes me reckless, it also has helped me be courageous and live life to the fullest.”


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