Some people’s vibes are pure Zen, others’ are exhaustingly type-A, and still others’ make you wonder whether they have a pulse at all.
And then there are people like Marni Jasso – the precise intersection of Golden Retriever puppy and pro fitness ass-kicker Jillian Michaels – whom most of us can only approach fresh off a triple grande latte.
In fact, when I meet her at an outside table at Starbucks, she approaches bounding toward me playfully in her signature shorts and colorful knee socks. Her tan, muscular legs speak for her, saying: “This gal’s birth certificate may say she’s 48, but any squat challenge will prove that we’re 25.”
I immediately excuse myself to get that latte so I have a chance to keep up.
When I ask where all the energy comes from, Marni shrugs it off. “I guess I’ve always been like this. To me, exercise is therapy—it makes me feel so good. And loving people and being inspired by their stories probably comes from working in retail and customer service since I was eight.”
Eight? Yes, eight.
Marni credits her family’s move to Tillamook, Oregon when she was eight years old as an impactful part of her upbringing. Her parents had decided to leave the bustling Bay Area business world and open a KOA campground in Oregon. This dramatic lifestyle change had Marni working behind the cash register, cleaning bathrooms, planting trees, and meeting people from all over the world.
“For four years, we lived in a classic KOA A-frame in a room just above the store. Then, I spent the next three years working in a convenience store my parents bought in South Prairie. I spent all my time there talking to people,” she says.
When Marni’s family eventually moved back to the Bay Area during her senior year of high school, she got right back to retail. She has since worked in a camera store, an automotive store, as a semiconductor rep, and in client services at both Citibank and an online media company.
After meeting her husband Tyson and starting her family, though, Marni’s lifelong love of fitness became a career calling. She has since become a certified personal trainer who teaches at the South Valley YMCA in San Jose and as a private personal trainer and bootcamp instructor.
Although she is a woman driven to help her clients achieve their fitness goals, she is also in hot pursuit of a goal of her own. Marni is determined to become a middle school PE teacher so that she might inspire a love of fitness in young people who can take this passion forward to live a long, full, and healthy life.
This goal of hers is big. It will require her to complete both her undergraduate work and teaching credential… all while raising two daughters and supporting them through their schooling, and working hard to live in the ever-expensive Silicon Valley.
“To be back in school at 48 and taking math, which I haven’t had in decades, is so scary. This process will be long and challenging, but I don’t and won’t give up,” Marni explains.
By all accounts, she balances it all with – you guessed it – good energy, determination, and laughter.
Her mentor at the YMCA is Sherrie Lima, who hired Marni after speaking with her for just minutes. “Marni took my call while she was with her little ones at the grocery store about eight years ago. Even with the distractions, I could feel her positivity through the phone. I asked her to come right over and hired her on the spot,” Sherrie reflects.
“The thing about Marni is that when she is in the room, you know it,” Sherrie adds. “Like anyone else, she has challenges, but she leaves them at the door. By showing how much she truly cares and by going above and beyond in her work ethic, the staff and members are affected by her presence. They have fun because she has fun. Marni may call me her mentor, but I consider her to be mine.”
Marni leaves the same impression on her friends. Irene O’Brien has been a fan and friend since they met 16 years ago at Discovery Preschool, a parent-child co-op in San Jose. “Marni sees the best in others, cares about their wellbeing, and has an uncanny knack to make so many people around her feel special. Her joy and zest for life is infectious, always soaking in what each day has to offer her, whether it be finishing her degree, being a mom and wife, opening her door to friends, teaching at the YMCA or personal training in her garage.”
So how does someone who fills up others fill herself back up?
Marni will tell you that she recharges through her own workouts and through the stories of triumph her clients share with her as they discover how exercise has taken them through some enormous personal challenges.
One such client suffered a stroke and was alone on the floor for 36 hours. Somehow, at the age of 80, this woman still comes in to exercise on the treadmill every single day.
Another client who refuels Marni’s passion for wellness is a woman who participated in the Weight Loss Challenge. She transformed her life after realizing she couldn’t fit in the seatbelt to ride the rides with her daughter at Great America. By transforming herself physically, this woman has expanded her options for truly living her life.
Cancer survivors who participate in the Living Strong, Living Well program also inspire Marni. She watches them blossom from timid newcomers into people who are physically and emotionally stronger after the 12 weeks of the program.
To see these people get motivated to come in and fight for their wellness makes Marni motivated to cheer them on and push them toward their goals—always with compassion, a smile, and a sense of determination that makes her someone we’re proud to call our friend, neighbor, and colleague in the beautiful Bay Area.