Jen Mueller (SPARK_COACH_JEN)

SparkPeople Community Director and Fitness Coach

Jen Mueller left her first career in corporate finance to earn a master's degree in health education. She is a busy mom of four and holds a number of fitness certifications (including ACE's Health Coach, Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and Behavior Change Specialist). She is passionate about helping people reach their health and fitness goals. In her spare time, Jen loves running, kickboxing and spending time with her family. Jen enjoys blogging about raising healthy children and how small behavior changes can impact health and quality of life.


Read More of Jen's Blogs:

How to Embrace Your Exercise Shortcomings

"No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everyone on the couch." Susie Miller

I've always joked about the fact that I'm a slow runner. I remind my kids that even though they can beat me in a sprint, eventually my endurance will win out and I'll catch them. Just as the tortoise eventually caught up to the hare, it just takes me a little while longer.

Have you ever been intimidated to try new activities because you know there's a chance you'll finish last or can't keep up? Are you worried that people will judge you because of it? Perhaps there's a class at the gym you've always wanted to try, but you're not sure if you're fit enough. Maybe you'd love to take a walk or jog around the neighborhood, but don't want everyone to judge your form or pace. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe you're too focused on other's opinions when you should just be focusing on yourself?

Posted 10/17/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 41 comments   7,128 views

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8 Life-Changing Health Lessons I Learned in My 30s

Earlier this year, a major milestone happened in my life, an event that I'm still working to fully process. Crazy as it sounds (to me at least), I turned 40.

I had a wide range of emotions leading up to the day, the biggest being disbelief since I clearly remember when my own mother celebrated her 40th birthday. Didn't I just graduate from high school and college a few years ago? Apparently not.

When I think back to my 30s, a lot of it is a sleep-deprived blur, best summarized by just a few words: kids, kids and more kids. I had my first child just before I turned 30 and three more within the next six years. I spent most of my time being pregnant, taking care of newborns and learning to juggle the needs of four children. I'm still working on that juggling act every day, and I don't think that will ever change. Don't get me wrong: My children are wonderful and I wouldn't trade them for anything. But it was a big adjustment to go from focusing primarily on myself for 29 years, to putting myself completely on the back burner within such a short period of time.

Posted 10/9/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 83 comments   17,632 views

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Breaking Up With Sugar Helped Jon Lose 260 Pounds

For some, the struggle to maintain a healthy weight is tied to specific life events, such as the birth of a child or death of a loved one. For others like Jon (WEWRTFO), weight loss is a lifelong battle. Jon recalls weighing 320 pounds in the ninth grade, with his weight steadily climbing from there. The tipping point came in his early 40s when Jon's weight ballooned to over 500 pounds and even daily tasks became a struggle.

Instead of taking the attitude that he was destined to be heavy forever, Jon decided to take control of his life and his health. After successfully losing 260 pounds, he wants to inspire others to believe that it's never too late to make a change.   

Posted 9/25/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 131 comments   34,829 views

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Can Sweat-Inducing Methods Really Accelerate Weight Loss?

Losing weight can be a true test of patience. It's not easy to cut back on eating so many of the foods you love, and it can be challenging to find the time and energy to devote to a regular exercise routine. You put in so much hard work that you expect the reward to be progress on the scale. When the scale isn't moving quite as fast as you'd hoped, though, it's tempting to look outside of just diet and exercise to find ways to speed up the process.
 
Water loss is one of those alternative prescriptions for those seeking quick results on the scale. Like the fighter exercising in a sauna suit before a weigh-in, sweating can help with temporary weight loss. The plastic suit acts as an insulator, increasing body temperature which increases sweat production. But is it a long-term solution to your weight-loss woes? Do products that promote sweating and turn up the heat really help keep those pounds off for good? These four items tout weight-loss claims, so let's find out if they really deliver and are even safe to try.

Posted 8/2/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 74 comments   23,476 views

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Why Don't SparkPeople's Images Feature People Who Look Like Me?

"We're looking for women who have a shape like the rest of us in reality. We're not the size 4. REAL LIFE MODELS, PLEASE."

"A little disappointed that SparkPeople chose this image to accompany the article. That woman is strong, beautiful, and probably around a size medium, which is well below the average size in the U.S. I'm happy you published the content of this article, but please be cognizant of images and the messages they send."
 
"I wish SparkPeople would do a better job of using "real people" photos for their articles, and modifications for the less fit, less flexible and older members." 

"What in the world happened to that woman? She is so thin she doesn't look like she could stand, let alone cook. Is this SparkPeople's idea of a good role model? Even the runways now are requiring models be a healthy weight. How about SparkPeople following this trend?" 
 
When SparkPeople members speak, we listen. We've made many changes over the years based on suggestions and feedback from our members, and we take pride in the fact that we care about the user experience and are constantly working to improve. If you've ever thought or commented on an article with sentiments similar to the real member comments above, you too might be wondering why we consistently feature average-sized or even thin models in our article and blog images. We're not ignoring your feedback—the root cause is actually a bigger problem with stock photos in general and it is one that we struggle with regularly.

Posted 7/17/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 194 comments   23,331 views

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6 Incredible Stories of SparkPeople Friendship & Success

Helen Keller said it best: "Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light." The road to a healthy lifestyle is filled with ups and downs, but having the support of friends to celebrate your victories and lean on when times are tough makes the journey much easier to navigate.

The SparkPeople Community is full of members who have formed special bonds as they work toward their goals together. Whether they meet for coffee once a week, go on group vacations or just check in on the site regularly, these relationships help define their success. Why go it alone, especially when you don't have to?

Bonds forged through message boards, SparkTeams and our Community Feed happen every day, and, for many, those supportive networks are the glue that holds their ultimate dreams together. Through thick and thin, good days and bad, scale victories and weight-loss plateaus, these six stories from the SparkPeople Community will inspire you to believe in the power of friendship. After all, there's a reason people say this community is unlike any other.

Posted 6/8/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 102 comments   18,683 views

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10 Full-Body Strength Exercises Every Beginner Needs to Know

You know that strength training is an important part of any well-rounded fitness program, but somehow it hasn't made it into your routine just yet. You've been having that reoccurring nightmare where you finally decide to try the weight room at the gym, only to be met with a room filled with experienced and toned lifters whose heads all turn and stare, judging you as you walk through the door. Although this nightmare is more fantasy than reality, the weight room can still be an intimidating place.

For many, the fear of the unknown is what keeps them from lifting weights. How heavy should weights be to start? What kind of moves should I be performing? How do I know if my form is correct? Is that guy with the massive biceps judging me? The good news is that you can get an effective strength workout, right in the comfort of your own home, with an audience of just yourself. Creating a balanced routine that targets all of your major muscle groups is easier than you might think.

Posted 3/24/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 165 comments   194,414 views

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Stay Safe And Be Seen With These 7 Fitness Accessories

One of my favorite times of day to run is in the early morning before the rest of the world wakes. It’s quiet and gives me time to think before the craziness of my day begins. I prefer to run when the sun is already up, but at certain times of the year, that becomes more difficult. When I do head out in the dark, my first priority is safety. Although I never assume that cars can see me, I try to make myself as visible as possible.
 
I hear of too many runners, walkers and bikers out with no lights, no identification, wearing dark colors and expecting that everything will be fine and that cars will gladly move out of their way. Accidents happen all the time, but you can reduce the chances they will happen to you. Here are some of the products I recommend to help you stay safe and visible when exercising in the dark.

Posted 3/16/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 84 comments   45,603 views

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Check Out SparkPeople's New Community Goal Feed

Spend a little time on our site, and it won't take long to discover that our positive and supportive Community is unlike any other. That's why we're excited to launch a new feature, designed to help you celebrate success, get a boost of support when times are tough and engage more easily with other members just like you! Did you know that SparkPeople members who are active in the Community tend to lose more weight than those who try to go it alone? This new feature can help you reach your goals, all while having fun along the way.

The Community Goal Feed (found on your Start page or homescreen) is a place to post updates and photos, share your goal progress and tell others a little more about yourself! Here are the features the Community Goal Feed has to offer in more detail:

Posted 3/9/2017  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 399 comments   111,186 views

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7 Must-Join SparkTeams for Goal Getters

What if there were a place you could go to meet people who not only have similar interests as your own, but also could offer support and comradery as they worked toward their own healthy living goals right alongside you? The power of community and support groups cannot be understated and, lucky for you, there is a place in the SparkPeople Community where you can find all of these things and more. Whether your goal is to conquer emotional eating, learn more about photography, find others with similar weight-loss goals or meet people from your city, there's a SparkTeam for that.

Posted 2/7/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 15 comments   23,811 views

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SparkPeople Premium Can Answer Your Toughest Health Questions

Getting healthy can be confusing. In any given day, a hundred questions can arise about your diet or how many carbs you should be consuming or how to figure out the appropriate weight to bicep curl or exactly what the difference is between Barre and Pilates. Whether you're a beginner or you've been at it for a while, none of us are experts and trying to figure out the best path to weight loss can be frustrating as a result. But what if you had an expert right in your pocket? Someone to consult along the way who could guide you in the right direction?  

Posted 11/28/2016  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 7 comments   11,736 views

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17 Productive Ways to Deal with Stress Head-On

I have dreams of living a stress-free life, where my children are always happy, my house is always clean and I have plenty of free time to do whatever I'd like. In reality, I'm just like anyone else who has a lot of responsibilities on their plate and gets easily overwhelmed with the daily to-do list.

Stress isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some stress is normal and can even be used to your advantage. It's important to recognize that there are dangers associated with too much stress, though, including long-term effects on your physical and mental health. Headaches, insomnia, constant worrying—these are the kinds of things I'm trying to avoid.

Yet, when I read about how to reduce stress, so much focus is on things that require amounts of time I don't have available in the first place. I'd love to do a yoga class, but finding time for it would create even more stress. A massage would be great, but squeezing in an appointment between martial arts practices and work isn't going to happen. If you're like me, you're looking for simple things you can do right now that will make daily life a little more relaxed. Many of these options take just a few minutes, but the benefits can last a lifetime.

Posted 9/26/2016  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 12 comments   43,252 views

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SparkPeople Premium Puts a Personal Trainer in Your Pocket

One of the most frustrating things about adopting healthy habits and losing weight is that you're an experiment of one. What works for one person might not necessarily work for your particular body, metabolism or lifestyle, so it's on you to test drive various eating habits and fitness routines until you find the one that fits just right. It's easy to drive yourself crazy with all of the information out there telling you what to eat, when to eat, how to exercise, when to exercise and the best way to minimize your effort while maximizing your results.

With all the conflicting information and resources out there, wouldn't it be nice if you could talk with an expert, tell them your story and get personalized advice to help you reach your goals? Now, it's possible with the Email a Coach feature as part of SparkPeople Premium!

Posted 9/14/2016  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 8 comments   15,611 views

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4 SparkTeam Challenges That Will Help You Reach Your Goals

Most of us have worked as part of a group focused on a common goal at some point in our lives, whether on a class project, a team sport, a work task or a family vacation. In these situations, you know how important support from the group can be. When it comes to losing weight and adopting healthy behaviors into our lives, this kind of support becomes even more crucial. Research shows that accountability to others and social support are key factors in weight loss and weight maintenance success.

Posted 9/8/2016  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 64 comments   21,216 views

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Safer and Stronger: Which Self-Defense Class is for You?

My husband has trained in martial arts on and off for years. Still, when he suggested our four-year-old daughter try it, I was hesitant. “Are they going to teach her to fight?” I asked. “They will teach her to defend herself,” he answered.

That’s all I needed to hear to convince me it was a good idea. Fast forward five years, and her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class is now one of her favorite activities. The class not only teaches her skills needed to defend against an attacker, but it also gives her the confidence to stand up for herself.

Witnessing the mental and physical benefits both my kids and husband experienced, I decided to jump on the bandwagon by enrolling in Muay Thai kickboxing. An avid runner, I was looking for a new kind of workout that would challenge my muscles, but I was also interested in learning tools I could use if ever confronted with a situation where I needed to defend myself or protect my kids. A year later, I can attest that martial arts classes are solid workouts that will get your blood pumping (sparring for 5 minutes sounds easy until you actually do it), and I’ve learned techniques that I can call upon if faced with a dangerous situation.

Posted 7/25/2016  12:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 18 comments   20,046 views

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