The Fittest Woman In Casual Food (and Her Mission)
In June of 2016, Jaimi St. John competed in her first National Physique Committee (NPC) physique competition, placing fourth in the novice category and sixth overall. But this wasn’t the first national title she’s ever been after: growing up, the avid weightlifter was an inline speed skating whiz, traveling the country and the world to win national championships and placing in world competitions. Ready for the plot twist? She now works for Chipotle Mexican Grill.
As the brand’s culinary program manager, the 31-year-old New Yorker partners with the CEO, Brian Niccol, as well as other executives to drive innovation through strategy in menu development, supply chain, alternate service models, and more. Translation: she’s one of the fittest woman in the fast casual food business. We caught up with Jaimi recently to ask her about how she ended up with Chipotle and what her fitness routine is like these days, and to snag her best tips for finding balance (and staying fit) in everyday life.
SL: You’ve got quite the impressive résumé. How did you end up working at Chipotle?
JSJ: I’ve got over a decade of experience working in many sectors of the culinary and hospitality industries, from education, sustainable programming, experiential marketing, and business systems to consulting. Before Chipotle, I worked on sustainable food models with many top companies like Google, Slow Food USA, and the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.
Before all of that, I got my master’s in food studies from New York University and also graduated valedictorian from the Culinary Institute of America. Oh, I’m also HACCP and ServSafe Manager certified, a certified personal trainer, and a huge fan of overall nutrition and meal planning.
You sound like a total underachiever (kidding). As you’re someone who’s participated in physique competitions, I’m dying to know: What does your standard fitness routine look like today?
My fitness routines always changes since I’m constantly challenging myself with new goals and trying out new styles of training. These days I’m lifting heavy, and doing very little traditional cardio. This started about a year ago when I decided to compete.
Right now I’m working with full-body routines, so I only need to lift four times per week. I superset lower body with upper body to get more bang for my time at the gym and keep my heart rate up. After the steam room and a warm-up, I always start with a glute-focused exercise superset with a back or shoulder exercise. I then move to a quad-focused exercise superset with a chest or shoulder exercise. From there, I work on stabilizers or accessory muscles. An example of a workout (after hitting the steam room for about 15 minutes and warming up) would be:
Barbell hip thrust: 3 sets of 10 at 225 pounds, superset with
Seated cable row: 3 sets of 8 at 80 pounds
Deep barbell squat: 3 sets of 5–8 at 120 pounds, superset with
Dumbbell bench press: 3 sets of 10 at 25-pound dumbbells
Standing cable or band abduction or adduction machine: 1 set of 30 reps
Good morning: 3 sets of 12 at 55 pounds
Barbell ab rollout: 1–2 sets of 20
Side bend: 1–2 sets of 20 at 30 pounds
That is an intense workout! What advice would you offer to someone who sees that and knows they’re nowhere near ready to dive in at that level just yet?
Fitness should be enjoyable. Be grateful for the opportunity to move your body. If you don’t like running, don’t do it! If you dread cycling class, stop going! Don’t force yourself to do things you don’t enjoy just because it’s popular, or you heard it’s the best way to drop pounds before summer hits. They key is to try many things and find the path that fits your personality and your lifestyle so that wellness becomes long-term rather than a fad. Many studios and gyms offer trial packages that make it affordable and easy to try lots of different workouts.
Also, starting a fitness journey is just like starting any other journey. It takes commitment. You wouldn’t quit your job and fly to China for a month without committing to the ups, downs, costs, and gains that would come along with that journey. Be honest with yourself about your goals and commit to getting there. Commit to knowing there will be bad days, and there will be awesome days. If you don’t commit, you’ll just wind up floundering around, perhaps slightly confused or frustrated at the whole experience.
I find that the easiest way to commit is to talk about it. Tell your friends, tell your mom, tell anyone. Simply saying the commitment out loud is proven to help you achieve the goals—it’s accountability at its best.
You’re obviously an expert in nutrition. What are your three biggest tips you’d offer for someone who’s trying to do better in the kitchen?
First, find balance. There are no good or bad foods. It’s OK to eat what your body is craving, just do it in a moderate and healthy way. Next, water, water, water. This really is so important for the body, and sometimes the hardest part of a healthy lifestyle is remembering to drink enough. And lastly, consistency. Like I said, you have to listen to your body. It’s totally fine to splurge every now and again. It’s OK to have a bad day and skip the gym. It’s OK to eat the brownie during the work meeting. As long as you know your weaknesses, you can embrace them and commit to making them up.
I work hard to live life in moderation and with self-love. If I am mentally exhausted from a stressful work day, I may choose to love myself with Netflix at home instead of the gym. However, I’ll make that missed workout up on my rest day when I’m feeling better. If I splurge on the brownie at work, I’ll make sure to either make it up at the gym, or make it up in my food choices for the next two or three days. Thinking about choices this way, knowing you’ll have to make it up later, sometimes it leads you to going to the gym when you didn’t feel like it. And guess what? You’ll most likely feel so much better if you do, and will be proud of your choices! Fitness becomes a balance rather than a battle.
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