Cincy Chic Spotlight: Elyse Jarard, Philanthropist and Owner of Venus: A Fitness...

Cincy Chic Spotlight: Elyse Jarard, Philanthropist and Owner of Venus: A Fitness Studio For Her

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Cincy Chic: Why did you start Venus: A Fitness Studio For Her?
Elyse Jarard:
Believe it or not, most women hate being around men in the gym, even if they are trainers. And men have a different mindset about training. I wanted to have a place that’s all women (even staff) because women really understand what the deeper issues and needs are. Most gym marketing is about losing weight. I wanted to change the focus to being healthy in the long term. We are all different shapes and sizes. I wanted a gym that helps women let go of the self-deprecating, poor body image schtick.   I want women and girls to know (and to help them embrace the fact that) it’s OK if you don’t have a perfect body! No one does! But it IS important to focus on health, strength and peace with yourself. It is so hard for women to come to terms with their bodies. A lot of gyms prey on that mentality. I want to change the focus.

Cincy Chic: How does it differ from every other local gym?
Our mission is empowering women and girls through health and fitness. There is no other place where women and girls can exercise together or in peer groups, have a unique mother/daughter experience, or just get together and be girls in healthy environment.  
We are different in many ways:

  • We offer a unique atmosphere (set in a 200-year-old house)
  • Offer a diverse set of services: personal training, yoga and massage, beginner boot camp, triathlon training, nutritional support, skin care and girls’ night out parties.
  • We combine health and wellness with the social part — after all, we women socialize as a sort of mental-health outlet.
  • We also offer small group classes of 5 to 8 people. Group exercise usually consists of a minimum of 10 per class. We can accommodate each individual’s needs in a small group and personalize the experience.

Cincy Chic: You have a degree in biology and have worked as a medical researcher for 12 years. Did your academic and professional background prove integral in establishing Venus, and how does it come into play in your facility’s training and exercise programs?
I don’t think it was integral to establishing Venus, but it definitely gives me a unique angle as a fitness professional. I have always been fascinated by the human body. And because of my background, I really understand and can appreciate the body from a cellular and molecular level. (I am just a big fat science geek!) Fitness is more than muscles, body fat and physique. It’s also about controlling inflammation and oxidative stress with exercise, nutrition and supplements. Being a scientist has given me the ability to weed out bad or fad information and choose quality products for my clients, not just what gives me the best kickback.  

Cincy Chic: You’ve been a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)certified personal trainer for the past four years. What’s the biggest misconception that people have about starting a regimen with a trainer?
That they wont be able to walk for a week after their first session. So many people say that! My attitude is to focus on building a client’s foundation gradually. NASM focuses on building the stabilization core first, then building strength. If you don’t have a strong foundation, your strength training will suffer because you either won’t reach your potential (because your core is the limiting factor) or because you get injured. My number one goal is to prevent my clients from getting injured because if they do, they can’t work out anymore and they start to feel bad about themselves. That’s why we offer a beginner boot camp, to offer a strenuous workout but one that’s not “killer.” We still work hard, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a different kind of focus.

Cincy Chic: You are the mastermind behind the “Fit to Fight Ovarian Cancer Triathlon Festival” on July 13. What was your motivation for organizing this event? Do you have plans to continue this event annually?
My primary motivation to start “Fit to Fight Ovarian Cancer” was two women, friends, who died from ovarian cancer. They were my age, in their 30s at the time. I thought, ”How can I know not just one,0208GIBBERMAN.gif but TWO young women who not just had cancer, but died, and you never hear about it?” I found out that because women don’t know about it, it is almost always found too late and, consequently, is the deadliest gynecological cancer. I wanted to help create awareness about ovarian cancer and its symptoms so that women can catch it earlier. I also wanted to tie it to fitness because fitness helps women become more in tune with their bodies, and it has an incredible empowerment effect on women. It also emphasizes the need to take time to take care of ourselves because if we don’t, we might not be around to take care of everyone else. The event will carry on as long as there is a need for awareness and a desire for people to be involved.

 Cincy Chic: Do you have any plans for Venus to be involved in any other or long-term charity and volunteering events? What causes (local if possible) are near and dear to your heart?
Oh, yes. I have a couple of other ideas. My daughter has alopecia areata and I want to do some kind of awareness/fund-raiser for that. Hopefully a 5K walk/run. I also would like to explore the idea of empowering women in other countries who don’t have the same freedoms we do here. In very few places in the world are girls valued equally with boys. I would like to do something where local girls can help girls and women in oppressive countries break out from that to live more freely.  
Cincy Chic: Why do you think it is important to be a civic-minded individual and get involved with local volunteering opportunities?
I think it’s important to do something, no matter what it is. So many people say, “Oh, that’s too bad,” and never actually do anything about it. Or they want to but they don’t follow through. You have to go with what is in your heart and take action.

Cincy Chic: Have you done any volunteering personally, and what did you gain from that experience?
Uh, yeah! I have volunteered in our synagogue and larger community, in school. I am one of those people who has a hard time saying no, but I am learning to prioritize.

Cincy Chic: What’s your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
I love that there is six degrees of separation from almost everyone in Cincinnati and that almost everywhere I go I know someone!

Photo: Courtesy of
Venus: A Fitness Studio For Her