It would have been understandable if Jackie Errico had given up when the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the world in March 2020, just a month after she opened her business JE Fitness in Clarendon Hills.
Instead, Erico almost immediately offered his clients an online option they could do at home, allowing them to continue working out even though they couldn’t go to a gym or other exercise facility.
Meanwhile, at the same time, longtime friend Linnea Lownes was let go from her corporate fitness job, where she managed more than 40 trainers and staff.
The two former basketball teammates at North Central College reunited to create Just Lift Fitness, with Lones stepping in as a co-owner.
Both women have trained in many different sectors of the fitness world, from corporate fitness to collegiate strength and conditioning, and from family fitness facilities to working with children with special needs.
“It was pretty terrifying to have a new business and have to close so quickly,” Lownes said of the impact of the pandemic. “We knew we had to keep people engaged, so we quickly offered online training. And we’ve continued to grow and actually win customers.”
Although many gyms and fitness centers eventually began offering online workout options, getting an early start on this proved to be a smart move by Lones and Errico.
“We knew all along that we were in this for the long haul,” Lownes said.
Erico said she and Lownes have given out equipment to clients so they can exercise at home.
“We made personal contacts, checking on them and their families to make sure they were OK,” Erico said.
She converted her Clarendon Hills garage into a training facility, and in November 2021, Errico and Lones opened JL Fitnesss at 154 Burlington Ave., in Clarendon Hills.
“People were excited to come back and travel outside of their homes,” Erico said.
Both Brad Angeletti of Clarendon Hills and Molly Bradley of Hinsdale are very satisfied customers of Errico and Lones at JL Fitness.
Angeletti had seven orthopedic surgeries behind him when he started at JL Fitness in February.
“I realized I couldn’t do this alone. I needed someone who understood,” he said, adding that his wife trained with Erico.
“I’ve made a lot of early progress with them,” he said. “They are so knowledgeable, almost like surgeons. I was so happy with it and I feel like it’s not my money that matters. They genuinely care about you. I couldn’t be happier.”
Bradley said she signed up with Errico and the Lones after knee surgery in January 2020 and subsequent rehab.
“They had live drills and preset drills with a lot of different options when everything was closed,” Bradley said.
When the personal training opportunity returned, Bradley was more than happy to continue with JL Fitness.
“It’s a different workout every time I go, and they keep pushing me,” she said. “They know the human body and how to get clients to have the right levels of motivation. They are extremely passionate and energetic. It’s like a family with them.”
Erico said she’s learned from experience that pushing people to the point where they’re uncomfortable works well.
“Making people uncomfortable gives them an opportunity to show growth and surpass their personal bests,” she said. “I’ve seen it in the NCAA athletes I’ve coached, the high-achieving CEO, and the mom or dad who wants to be at their peak for their family and career.”
Lownes said her goal is to have the most positive impact possible on the lives of the people she works with.
“It goes beyond what they see in the mirror,” she said, “it changes their internal dialogue, their internal motivation and their lifestyle.”
Chuck Fieldman is a freelance reporter for the Pioneer Press.