Jen Sharpe started to fall in love with wellness through hiking and biking 12 years ago in Colorado; then she moved to Nebraska.

“I started with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) 11 years ago before we had an onsite gym facility, but we got a free membership to 24-hour Fitness, which was right across the street at the time,” said Sharpe, enterprise product owner at BCBSNE. “I would use my lunch hour to go over there, but I never really watched my weight or counted calories. I was just going to lift weights and run stairs but wasn’t methodical about it.”

When BCBSNE moved to its new building in Aksarben Village in 2011, Sharpe found her new wellness-based passion. She began taking classes with Fit in the City, a company that taught group exercise classes at Blue Cross Centre (BCC) as a part of the employee wellness program.

“Even though it was intimidating at first, that’s when I fell in love with group fitness,” said Sharpe. “I like the competition and community that you get in those classes.”

Her dedication to her fitness began to impact those around her.

“As I was taking group classes, people would notice that every day I would grab my gym bag and go off to work out again for that hour,” she said. “I started to encourage people to join me the next day.”

Sharpe and some of her coworkers went to group exercise classes every day but lost that ability when they moved to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and BCBSNE’s onsite wellness center temporarily closed.

That didn’t stop them from getting together virtually to stay active.

“When we started working from home, I set up a meeting with those girls and a few more from my team, and I would show my video and put together workouts for us,” said Sharpe.

Watching the women around her stay motivated to get stronger and stay active is what kept Sharpe going.

“One of them came to me and was like ‘Jen, look, I have a bicep,’ and it was so great because she did that on her own without anything fancy,” she said. “It was nice to see women empowering themselves to lift weights and get into gyms without feeling scared.”

The people around her were not the only ones seeing results.

“I started to notice my body composition was changing,” she said. “I spoke to one of the instructors at the gym about how I was working out so much but still not losing weight, and she opened my eyes to the whole realm of food in fitness.”

While working from home, Sharpe earned her nutrition certification and took a better look at her diet.

“Yes, I could eat a Totino’s Party Pizza and have it fit into my day, but I really wouldn’t feel the best,” said Sharpe. “So, I focused on the quality of my food and looked for the foods that made me feel good and fueled my workouts instead.”

Since then, she has been focusing both on what she puts in her body and continuing to get up and get active and hasn’t looked back.

“Seeing little changes in your energy, your mood, your weight and seeing your skin clear up because you’re starting to eat better are all positive things,” said Sharpe. “For me, working out helps me decompress from the day, relieve stress and just overall gives me a positive mental reaction.”

She hopes that everyone can find the community that empowered her on her journey, and she continues to be the motivator of other women.

“You are you, and you are strong and absolutely capable of doing anything, regardless of your gender or sex,” said Sharpe. “It’s about finding your group and your people and living your best life.”

To read more stories like this one, visit Health and Wellness.

*Wise & Well is a monthly wellness series highlighting BCBSNE employees and their dedication to health and wellness.