Meet JD Lomanno, Former Director of Corporate Wellness [Interview]
The corporate workplace can be a dog-eat-dog world, cant’ it? Surviving in such an aggressive atmosphere is even more difficult if you’re not feeling physically or mentally fit.
Today, we’re talking to JD Lomanno who will share his experience as a former Director of Corporate Wellness for a large utility company in New England. JD will discuss how he and his team utilized exercise, fitness, and physical and mental wellness to create a culture of education and freedom in the corporate environment.
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Meet JD Lomanno
Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back. Thank you for joining us today. This is Schimri Yoyo with exercise.com and we are continuing our series of interviews with fitness experts, and today we have John David Lomanno who was the former Director of Corporate Wellness for a major utility company in the New England area. So John David, thank you for joining us.
JD Lomanno: My pleasure, it’s good to be here.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, and this guest is also a very special guest to me because not only is he a fitness expert, he’s also a great uncle. He’s my brother-in-law and so it’s exciting to have him on here to share his expertise.
So John David, let’s just jump into it a little bit and get to know a little of your background.
Share with the audience. Growing up, what were some of the sports and athletic competitions that you participated in?
JD Lomanno: Well, growing up, my main area of competition, I would say, was soccer. I was born and bred playing soccer in Central Florida. It was everywhere and I developed an early affinity for it. I loved it and that’s really what I spent my most time on when it comes to competitive sports.
Schimri Yoyo: I know you are an avid runner now in your adulthood. What is your favorite distance to run?
JD Lomanno: Right now, five milers. Five miles for me is perfect. It’s a little bit of a push in the sense of it breaks me into a good sweat. I know that you and I have been on some great runs together, most of them around five miles. I love that distance through some local trails where we live up in New England, so five miles is a sweet spot for me right now.
Schimri Yoyo: Do you have a favorite pre-workout meal and then a favorite post-workout meal?
JD Lomanno: I like getting creative, but if I had to pick a singular meal, I would say smoothies, because you can get so creative and versatile with them. I love a Go-To smoothie. I’m not big of a pre-workout meal sort of guy for the most part, long as I’m hydrated and have a little bit in my system, I usually go on somewhat of an empty tank and that’s just me. But post-workout, I love to put together a nice fresh smoothie.
Schimri Yoyo: I can vouch for those smoothies. They’re very good. I’ve had some of them.
JD Lomanno: Yes.
Schimri Yoyo: Share with our audience a little bit. How did you begin your journey and your love for fitness and strength and conditioning?
For me, Schimri, it started, I would say if you want to call it formally, I would say I formerly started a year or so into high school. And for me, it was one of those things where I was, even as a young kid an early riser. When I was little, I was up dressed and ready for school, breakfast table set before any of the other family woke up.
And as I got a little bit older and had a little more independence and was involved in athletics, the morning also became the time where I would have some time of devotion with God in His Word. And then I’d go out to the garage and just start exercising. I had a rudimentary weight set and a heavy bag that I would use.
So my morning exercise was, it was quiet, it was intimate and it was worshipful. So because those things were so closely tied for me at an early age, exercise as worship was something that, again, started for me early. And because it was that way, it stuck. So that’s really where I developed the joy of exercising. It was just another component, for me, of my relationship with God.
Schimri Yoyo: Awesome. And now as you were growing up, did you ever use a personal trainer as a client? And did you ever have any mentors when you were training?
JD Lomanno: That’s a great question and I really didn’t. For me, aside from playing team sports, I was always very independent. I had no problem being alone. And so most of what I did, whether it was running or exercising or anything pertaining to physical fitness and training, was by myself. I would certainly glean from things like health and wellness magazines or watching things on TV or reading.
But I never really had any particular mentor. What I will say in a lighthearted but a genuine way, and you know this well, I grew up, my favorite fictional character of all times is Rocky. And I started watching Rocky early over and over again.
So, to be honest, because those movies were so focused on not only the character’s development as a boxer but really his development as someone who conditioned himself very particularly and passionately for every stage and step of his life and journey.
As a muse that fictional character, of course, along with the music that goes along with those movies, was probably more prominent in my sheer physical drive than anything else, because all the components are tied into one. You had the physical training, you have the competition. He had to dig deep into his soul to accomplish, to overcome, and be victorious.
So you got satisfied watching that character’s journey, and so that same sort of intensity and physicality I know was part of my psychology when I was exercising as I was growing up.
Schimri Yoyo: Nice! Being here locally in Philadelphia now, I love it when anytime you get a chance to throw a Rocky reference. That’s always a plus in my book.
JD Lomanno: That’s exactly right. So, you see, that actually dovetailed well. I’m glad.
Freedom in Fitness
Schimri Yoyo: That’s it, that works well. Now, getting a little bit about your philosophy and methodology and training, if you had to describe your training philosophy in one word, well best word, what word would best characterize that?
JD Lomanno: Freedom. You want me to expound, or is that enough?
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, sure. Go right ahead. Our audience would love for you to expound.
JD Lomanno: Freedom. I mean, I remember there was one, it was a piece I wrote while I was working, I think actually for the utility company, and it was entitled creative consistency. And not to belabor it at the moment, but in general, the thesis was consistency is something you have to look at in the long run, overall, the long view, the overall trajectory.
And people when it comes to exercise have been so pigeonholed into thinking it’s all or nothing, or that it’s based on doing some set routine or regimen, and any departure from that is kind of a failure. And then that builds up in the mind, and little by little people just give it up, especially when they have busy lives and jobs as they did in utilities.
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So bringing it back to your question, freedom, I want as an instructor or as someone who is overseeing health and wellness, I want people to approach this in freedom because physical activity and fitness and wellness is important, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. And if it’s going to work for the long run, it has to be something that is flexible and malleable, and that it’s not just another thing that people do to feel like they have to keep up with someone or something and things like that.
So, freedom has always been the core of my relationship with clients and the basis of my instruction for them.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, that’s actually a very unique answer, and very well thought out, so thank you for that.
Now as you’re training, how do you decide whether to take on a personal client? And what are some factors you consider when deciding whether to outsource or refer them to someone else?
JD Lomanno: A couple of things that I would consider as far as bringing on a new client is something like, “Were they ready to make the commitment?” Now, of course, I gave my previous answer that freedom is the core of it all and it is, but at the same time I would also investigate were they ready to make the commitment.
And I didn’t mean that as a challenge to their character, but rather I would try to provide them with some considerations such as, “I’m excited for you,” for instance, “and I understand some of the goals you’re looking to reach.” But I would dig in a little bit as to are they ready. Do they feel as though they can find time in their schedule?
Are the members of their family or their significant relationships—do they know you’re getting involved in this and taking this step? Because if some groundwork isn’t laid before saying, “Yes, I want to start training, I want to achieve these goals,” so on and so forth, then it’s difficult to see a path to them achieving their results.
Schimri Yoyo: Now in your experience, both as a trainer and director of our corporate wellness, what would you say is the biggest challenge faced in the health and fitness industry?
JD Lomanno: I would say that as far as the health and fitness industry’s concerned, the challenge is like it is in many other industries such as brick and mortar retail. It is facing challenges from online sales and being able to get what you want, how much of it, as quickly as you want, things like that.
I think the same thing is a challenge for the health and fitness industry. Maybe not so much in reference to the particular area of corporate wellness, but certainly when it comes to the health club industry and training, personal training and the like, because we live in a day where both the younger generations but now some of the older generations becoming more versed and utilizing technology, whether it’s smartphones and things like that.
People want what they want when they want it, and how they want it. And so when a brick and mortar health club, for instance, doesn’t have the versatility to begin to meet some of those needs or offer à la carte services or communicate in ways that effectively reach their population, it just becomes more difficult to hang on to those people. Because it’s twofold:
They either—for instance, people will pay hundreds of dollars a month because they want a CrossFit membership, and they want to row or cycle, or they want to train, or they want this particular type of group fitness because they’re training for a Spartan Race or things like that.
In other words, people will spend the money, but they want to get things in the format and on the platforms that they want them. And so they will have no problem spending that money, but they need it fed to them in a certain way on a certain platter.
So I think that health clubs are facing some trouble finding out how to retain members through those ways because they’re saying to themselves, “Well, our membership is not nearly as costly as what these people are paying on average for their wellness, but yet we can’t retain them or we can’t get them to up their usage in our club.”
And there are some ways to accomplish that, but I think that’s one of the challenges for the industry today.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, on the flip side, what would you say are some of the greatest opportunities in the health and fitness industry? You don’t have to give away any trade secrets or anything like that, but—
JD Lomanno: No, sure. I mean, honestly, I think the answer for both those questions is the same answer. Because on the one hand, while it poses a challenge, it poses great opportunity because there’s a principle where sometimes the service becomes a product and the product becomes a service.
In other words—a while back, I remember reading an article where there was Absolut Vodka. For a while, their ads in magazines were all the buzz, all the rage. They were just advertising their particular brand of alcohol, but the time came when the one-page advertisements of their bottles of alcohol became so expensive because they were being billed as works of art. [They were able to charge more because it wasn’t just a magazine insert, it was a work of art].
The point I’m trying to make is you can take the service that you’re offering, for instance, if a health club is providing health and fitness services training, so on and so forth, and convert that into a product, into a brand, into an offering that goes beyond the four walls of that health club.
So the advantage that the traditional health and fitness industry has is that, well, they have the infrastructure. So now if they’re willing to build a technological infrastructure around that and a brand identity, whether it goes so far as mobile apps, or offerings that training can be done remotely—all kinds of things that we don’t have to get into now—well, then they have a big opportunity, because they actually have the manpower and the history and so forth to achieve that, whereas they don’t have to have everything exist in a cloud.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s a great answer. Now as you are training, what are some ways that you measure progress for your clients and for yourself?
JD Lomanno: Well, are they—I guess it’s two-fold. One is the obvious results, right? A client always wants to see results, so they have to be achieving results. I think that the flip side of that coin is making sure that results are properly defined at the outset and you revise them along the way.
Not because you’re trying to soften the blow if they miss a benchmark, but in the beginning, particularly, clients are going to come with fairly cookie-cutter results they want to reach: “I want to lose weight, I want this, I want that.” And all those are understandable and you have to respect those desires and be considerate of them.
But what I have always found to be very rewarding and rewarding to the clients is: Okay, we have that stream of results that we want to be mindful of. But on the other hand, if they are learning and becoming more informed and more well-educated on some of the more intricacies of physical fitness—
For instance, someone might say, “I want to lose 50 pounds,” and whatever the reason might be for that. And let’s take out of the pictures some folks who might be obese or have a health need to lose that much weight.
Well, upon further discussion and as they begin to build some momentum and just being consistent with their exercise, they start to lose some weight and you find it’s time to introduce them to the principle of the fact that sheer weight loss might not be what we’re looking at here now. What we want to do is actually reduce body fat.
And how do we reduce body fat? Why do we reduce body fat? And if you have a lower body fat percentage, or if that’s heading in the right direction, down for the most part, what does that mean for you? It might mean that you don’t lose the 50 pounds you thought, but Sir or Ma’am, you are far healthier not losing all of that weight, but being at this body fat percentage then you would have been if you just lost that 50 pounds. And what are all of the reasons and principles of why that’s the case?
So as an example, if they are getting results but becoming more educated, because the more they know, the more independent they become, and they can begin to toggle their routine and shape it and bend it and flex it, i.e. freedom and being flexible, that meets their needs, because they know what to do in order to either achieve something more, or at least maintain where they’re at.
So the more they know, then I’ve always felt that I was satisfied because at any moment life can change and they’re no longer a client. They move, something else comes up. Our schedules don’t line up anymore, but if I can give them enough takeaways, I’m confident that even if we didn’t hit everything they set out to do while we were together, they’ll be able to take it from there.
Schimri Yoyo: No, that makes total sense, and that was how I was going to summarize it. It seems that with that education piece, and with your measuring their progress, that will lead to that core tenant of freedom and independence, so that’s actually in keeping with your philosophy. That’s pretty good.
Now, what are the best ways for individuals and for corporations to be proactive about physical and mental wellness? In the corporate world, in the workplace, or even, outside of the workplace?
JD Lomanno: Well, from a corporate wellness perspective, I think that in terms of actual, practical measures that they can take, communication and opportunity is one of the best ways from a corporate perspective, for them to encourage and influence the health and wellbeing of their constituents.
In other words, things like seminars and workshops and giving employees to the best of the ability of the infrastructure, a place to exercise or bringing things on site. Bring all of these opportunities to them.
For instance, when I was working for the utility company as part of the corporate wellness oversight. This particular company had, they had a long-standing commitment to the health and wellness and fitness of their employees. At one location, the corporate offices, in particular, they had a full-service health club there as an example.
But part of what we did is throughout the year, we had a schedule of workshops, seminars. We would come on-site and do fitness assessments, health assessments, total fitness profiles, things that these folks wouldn’t even be getting when they went to their annual physicals with their doctor. We were going well beyond that. Everything from cholesterol to blood pressure, the body fat percentage, flexibility, all of the things that were very important for them to have a full picture of their health and wellness.
So hopefully that’s answering your question, at least from a corporate wellness perspective. It’s twofold. You have to have some opportunities and offerings in place. And the other biggest challenge is it has to come from the top down. I mean they gave us latitude as far as how we communicated with the constituents, but they had the final say in oversight what types of communications went out and how.
And so it was very important for the management, the executive level of the company, the business to buy in and let their constituents know, “Hey, we want you to go to this. You’re free to go to this, take the time out of your schedule.”
Because if the employees didn’t feel like they were able to take advantage of these offerings, for risk of being reprimanded, then it would backfire.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, now that’s actually very good. And in your experience, what are the main differences between putting together individual or group training plans?
JD Lomanno: Well, I probably would say as far as the principle goes, the degree of customization. When you’re putting things together for a larger group, say a corporate constituency in terms of specific metric, you’re dealing in broad strokes, aggregate data. You’re trying to establish some overall — like we just spoke about — some overall levels of learning and education. You always want their awareness to be increasing, and you want their opportunity to be increasing somewhat proportionate to that.
But you can’t necessarily take the time or have the opportunity to customize programming to each individual because there’s so much variation in their individual goals. But you can effectively establish benchmarks in all the major biometric areas of health and fitness, and give them opportunities to either reach that or show them how they can on their own time with their own trainers or whatever the case may be.
Schimri Yoyo: And what process did you undertake in order to assess a company’s fitness needs when you’re first going in? How did you assess what was best?
JD Lomanno: Yeah, well simply put, we were big on results and we were big on assessment. And so what we would do is we would use what we would call a fitness profile, and that was eight or 10 different biometric assessments where we would do it in two major ways.
Number one is we would have things called health fairs where we would be at every site of this company, and at least two, sometimes three times a year. We would basically come onsite and set up equipment and invite people to have each and every component, should they choose, of their profile perform. So it might’ve been body fat, blood pressure, strength, flexibility, cholesterol, blood pressure, skin damage assessments, everything that you might think of that would be part of things like that.
And so we would service each one of them that would come through, and so they would get a printout. They would get their fitness profile where they had all of the measurements of where they are at, where they had improved from the last time that they had come in and seen us. And so that was very significant for particularly for corporate employees and the corporate companies, because it was twofold.
The individual employee got to see how they were improving or not improving in some cases. But at the same time, while we didn’t share individual information with the company, we would give the company aggregate data on where things were at for all of these measurements.
So that was part of how we were showing the company, listen, we’re doing what we promised we would do. We can get the health and wellness of your base of employees up, we can lower soft tissue injuries, i.e., it’s gonna reduce sick time and things like that. So it was a way for us to get data to show, hey, we’re doing our job. And it was the opportunity for the employees to say, “Yeah, I’m improving or not improving. How can I get from point A to point B?” So we got to touch a lot of people that way.
Client Engagement in Corporate Setting
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. And now how difficult was it to get the employees themselves that base constituency to participate in the fitness perks?
JD Lomanno: Challenging. It’s a marathon, not a sprint when it comes to employee engagement for sure. I think a couple of factors played into that. Some people, they were very wary that the information that we were gathering was going to interfere with insurance providers.
And as you well know, there are some contingencies in an insurance policy. So they figured, okay, if this information is shared with us, are they sharing it with an insurance provider or the company that then decides what they’re going to provide me for a level of coverage? So that was significant in our experience. We had to be very forthcoming and encouraging to those people that, no, this has … we are in no way sharing data.
So as is everything else in this day and age, privacy was huge for them. And again, it was just comfortability and taking advantage of the opportunities provided. They had to come to believe, yes, my employer or my supervisor does want me to take the time to be involved with this during a workday.
Schimri Yoyo: And so what ways did you, from a positive standpoint, what way did you seek to increase the staff productivity or workplace morale as part of your implementation?
JD Lomanno: Well, I guess to be redundant, but to answer in this context of the question, we would educate them so that they knew the value of the information. We were able to work closely with the company as well as at times the insurance providers to build in incentives. So whether it was cash incentives and things like that where if they participate, they can reach certain benchmarks, and there’s a reward that comes to them. So incentives were part of it.
And then just to reiterate to them the value of the high-end, concierge-like assessments they were getting. Again, it can’t be overstated that what we were providing as a wellness provider to them was largely, again, more interaction, more information, and certainly more customization than they were getting with their physician. So those sorts of things over time did begin to resonate.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, cash is always a good incentive. That’s good. It will always provide a boost in morale in the workplace.
And so what is the negotiation process like when you’re trying to secure a client for your corporate wellness and services? What ways did you demonstrate your value to them?
JD Lomanno: Well, simply put, it was, as is always, which is okay, businesses business, it was about the bottom line. So how can we help improve your bottom line? Can we indeed help lower sick and injury time taken? Can we lower insurance costs indirectly because there are fewer claims and things of that nature? Can we lower injury instances in time because these people know how to prevent injury through flexibility and things like that so that they’re not getting the soft tissue injuries?
There was a large segment of the constituency that, as you know with the utility company, it’s very physical, so there’s a lot of injury time, but not an injury that has occurred because it was something to do with the work directly. In other words, not as a result of some sort of malpractice or a result of something gone wrong with what they were working on for the company, but the individual themselves was injured in a way that could have been prevented had there been better conditions.
So if you can demonstrate that, then you’re in a good position to say, “Okay, that’s part of the value we bring to the table.” And it’s been a trend over the past 15 years plus where companies are trying to find ways to offer and add value to employees to gain new employees or retaining the ones they have. So a company having a wellness program is a selling point when potential employees are looking to get hired on.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, this is good, John David. Thanks again, JD. A few more questions before we wrap up. Again, thanks for your time.
How much of your time did you spend, day-to-day, between working on the business and then also working in the business, setting up protocols and then also running the day-to-day assessments?
JD Lomanno: I would say 80/20. 80 is working in the business, being actively involved, hands-on, 20 percent administrative and planning, and touching up on things. It varied from time to time depending on if they were big or seasons coming up. There were certain times of the year, for instance, the fall was very big on the company-wide endeavors.
And so when you were traveling from to multiple sites and doing a lot of these workshops and seminars, well that number changes a little bit because you’re doing a little bit more administrative work and so on and so forth.
But overall, 80/20. Most of it was hands-on and treating each and every employee like they were the most valuable customer in the world, servicing them, performing that function we’re designed to do, which is be their fitness go-to people for health and wellness and assessments. So 80/20.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, how, if at all, did you use social media and technology to leverage your services? I know you talked about the opportunities with technology. Did you guys use technology and how did you use that to leverage your services?
JD Lomanno: Well, the context for my answer to that is two-fold. One, it’s been a few years since I’ve been away from this particular position, so to speak. And so even in the several years that I’d been away, social media and all of that has exploded in how ubiquitous it is.
But having said that, there are two things. One is, with larger companies, as you well know, security and privacy are huge. So it was not necessary, and because we were operating under the auspices of a subcontractor of the company, which is what most corporate wellness providers do, you can’t necessarily integrate directly from that social media sort of way.
So for us, it was basically sending our communications through the proper channels and then they would disseminate them largely via email, which was effective. But the way we would use that direct contact, where we able to, and when we were able to, is that’s when we would do pop up sessions. We would motivate them with tips and tricks. We would tell them about events coming up, remind them of their incentives and so on and so forth.
And that was very helpful because people wanted to know that they didn’t miss an opportunity. They would resent the fact at times if they felt they didn’t know they had an opportunity that they missed.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, were you ever able to do any little video, commercial type things that were sent in the corporate emails at all? Any stuff like that?
JD Lomanno: We did not do that as much. And again, for your readers and listeners, probably a reminder of my particular involvement with the utilities, and for those of us who know something about that—the utility companies, they’re kind of nominally private, but they’re also very much tied to the public sector. They’re very bureaucratic and so you don’t have the same type of latitude when it comes to content.
What our workaround for that, to get to the answer to your question, is we as a company kind of had an independent site where we would build all of this content material: the videos, the blogs, all of that stuff—so that we can give them a place to go outside of directly communicating through the company channels, and that was to your point, very, very successful, and something similar to the type of content that you create with exercise.com, as well as [having] the platform to do that, would be very, very helpful.
We did it in sort of a rudimentary way because, to be honest, even the company that I was working with, we were very good at what we did in terms of on the ground dealing with people. The company that I worked for, though, they did have room to grow and need to grow in the area of technology and communications, and the things like you provide at exercise.com.
So we did, I did, what I could with what was available to me, but, so the answer is, those things are very effective and helpful. We used them to the degree we could, to the degree of technology that was available to us at the time.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, and now, lastly, I know you mentioned education as being a core tenet to the way you train and the way you work with your clients. And I know that you have many interests from an educational standpoint.
What are some resources, any books or podcasts that you think would be helpful, that you could recommend to our audience?
JD Lomanno: Honestly, you mentioned this just in preparation for our interview and, and I would say go to your website (exercise.com/learn), of course. But I would just say the best approach is just to have fun gleaning from wherever you are because the information is so available now and you can Google it. I encourage people to take a very day by day, moment by moment, interest.
If you say I want to get out and run, but you have a question about what shoes do I buy, or what’s a good distance for me to start at or a pace, go from a sense within, let your mind be the guide, search it, you’ll find an answer. Experiment, see how it works. If not, go back and research some more.
I would say that “Just enjoy the process” is my guidance.
That’s ambiguous to your question, but I don’t really have any particular place where I say this is the authoritative spot to get your information from. Just ask, have fun, just find a few that you like because you can glean tips from things that aren’t purely health and fitness-related, you know what I mean?
So, whatever your interest is at the moment, look into a little bit and see how you can use it for your next workout.
Schimri Yoyo: Is there anything that you’re reading or listening to currently for fun that, maybe would be of interest to our audience?
JD Lomanno: Yeah, yeah, well something that I’m loving right now is the Outside podcasts. So this is not [necessarily] an advertisement for Outside, but those are podcasts that are very fun because you can tune into that and basically it takes you on an adventure. Every creative podcast or the science of survival they’re doing a series on, which I love.
Something that allows you to kind of immerse yourself in an adventure while you’re out running or exercising or whatever it is, is definitely a lot of fun. Because if it’s not fun, it’s not freedom, and if it’s not freedom, it’s not worth doing.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s great advice. I also know that JD is also a huge fan of Jack Reacher novels. You and I both are.
JD Lomanno: Yes! I’m counting down the days.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s right, the new one is coming out soon.
JD Lomanno: This is a big month, September, is the new Reacher book, and September 20th Rambo: Last Blood drops. So this is like, I mean, my chest is kind of out to here in anticipation right now.
[Editor’s note: Blue Moon, the newest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, has an October 29, 2019 release date.]
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. Well thanks again for your time JD and we look forward to circling back with you in the future and get some more tips on running and some other things that you’re passionate about.
JD Lomanno: Great, anytime. I love to be here with you. Thanks, Schimri.
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Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.