Interview Chera Justice – Justice For Wellness

Interview with Chera Justice of Justice For Wellness in Indianapolis, Indiana. Chera chats with us about motivational interviewing, sleep and hydration habits, working on your mindset, and so much more!

Chera Justice – Justice For Wellness – Indianapolis, IN

Thanks for chatting with me, Chera! What’s new and exciting in your world right now?

So much! I am always an eager learner, searching for new ways to broaden my horizons and think outside of the norm. The thing in the fitness and wellness world that most excites me currently is the gaining popularity in mind/body practices for the younger generations.

I think a lot of people are finally starting to realize that you can’t get the body of your dreams without working on your mind, because it is all connected. Mental health is so overlooked, or I should say, has been, for years. We are finally, slowly, breaking the stigmas around mental health and helping people work on their conscious and subconscious thoughts more effectively, taking away the stigma, and THEN focusing on the body.

It has been very cool to see the radical transformations people are able to make once they realize they can focus more clearly, find that fitness comes more easily; life feels more intuitive when they can be ok with wherever their mental health currently is, and then working on it, to make it better, to make themselves better.

We could all work on that. Yoga teaches that and so does Wellness Coaching. Both are really exciting for me right now.

I totally agree around training the mind, especially self-image. What’s an example of how you worked with someone changing their mindset that helped them change their body?

I use motivational interviewing techniques all of the time. The trick is helping people find the answers they already have, being the captain of the ship if you will. I can steer the boat, but it takes the crew to really make any of the changes/sailing happen.

I will ask prompting questions all of the time with the end goal in mind but help my clients reach it by using their own versions of the truth rather than me shoving my perception of their reality on them.

Asking great and prompting questions, I love it! How did you get started in this arena?

I was an athlete my whole life, admittedly a somewhat clumsy one, dabbling in a variety of sports from a young age. In high school, I was set on a trajectory to become an athletic trainer. I LOVED sports and activity, it was a safe haven for me as a child.

So as I embarked on my journey to the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) to study Human Physiology, I fell in love with anatomy as well as the human body and putting the pieces together. But I also knew there was something more about the psycho/social piece of the body that I wanted to explore. So I took a semester and went abroad, in a program called Semester at Sea (SAS).

SAS changed my life. 13 countries in 4 months, talk about culture shock. Woah! The world is BIG and beautiful and so amazing. I saw for the first time in my life, real poverty, real malnourishment, and it brought me to a deep place of darkness, forcing myself to reevaluate the purpose of it all. I came back to Oregon, and decided to switch the game up.

I studied behavioral sciences and focused on social dichotomies, why people do what they do in groups, and as individuals. I then fell back in love in with fitness and started working at the student rec center, teaching group fitness classes and helping manage the personal training program as the fit team program coordinator.

From there, I knew I had to move on and go to grad school—Indiana University had a great program and was calling my name. New adventure. Sign. Me. Up. While at IU, I obtained my masters in public health and a master of science in applied health science.

During that time, I worked to manage the group fitness program for the university, and dove into fitness and wellness management as a whole, spreading my wings into the hospital setting and into employee wellness. After grad school, I spent a short time working for the state government within the health department, working with nutrition and physical activity strategies on a state and local level.

Quickly, I realized I missed the day-to-day interaction of working with people, so I continued to personal train and teach group fitness on the side, until eventually, a position at Butler University opened, where I have been for the past couple of years. I now manage the employee wellness programs there, as well as group fitness and personal training, while also teaching yoga for the state government and for another private studio in my community.

I also started Justice for Wellness in January, an online wellness coaching, personal training, nutrition coaching business that has been an amazingly wild ride in the short amount of time that it has been live. But! I am loving every second!

Have you done any marketing online for your coaching services?

I have done some online marketing. I have a phenomenal marketing expert helping me to optimize my content. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable with him. I lean into him a lot to help me find the right companies to reach out to, the right forms of social media and the appropriate times to post.

I’d be lost trying to figure this all out on my own. Online marketing can be a very intimidating world if you didn’t grow up using all of these forms of social media and the web.

It’s important to find a mentor or expert to build your support team and very often overlooked. What is something in the fitness industry that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

I wish I fully understood the business side of it all. That for me, honestly, has been the hardest part. I certainly have a passion for helping others and working in health and fitness, but the business mechanics of pricing structures, and sales, and validating ROI has always been a continuous learning process for me.

I love it, but it takes some real research and investigation, and creativity to be able to advertise your services in a genuine and effective way.

What’s one book that changed your practice/mindset, etc… and why? What’s the one thing you took away from it?

Gosh, so many! But the most impactful book I read in 2016 was The Sleep Revolution”, by Ariana Huffington. For a long time, I used to be that person who would say, “I’ll sleep when I am dead” because there really are too many things to do, and not enough hours to do it all.

But during, and after reading her book, I woke up (pun intended). I took a step back and started to make a more concerted effort to prioritize sleep like I do food and fitness. Sleep really is our body’s mechanic, and if we don’t get enough of it, we perform poorly, we become grouchy, anxious, stressed, we tend to eat more, and just feel like crap overall.

Life should be enjoyed, and sleep feels good, I think there is a reason for that, so don’t be afraid to make it a priority and indulge from time to time. I love sleep, and I think sleeping in is a healthy indulgence.

Any sleep habits that you’ve been finding work really well for your clients?

Sleep habits are a hard one to refine. I often hear the best results from folks who say over and over again about how they turn their devices (tv, tablets, phones) off about 30 mins before bed and lean into a good book or meditation instead.

What are you reading right now?

I actually just put down You Are a Badass, How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life”, by Jen Sincero.

A friend of mine sent it to me in the mail as a gift today, and I have seen it floating around enough, I figure it is worth the read. I stopped at chapter 3, and so far, I can say, that if nothing else, it is absolutely hilarious.

It is one of those, stop and make you think about how to get your life together, while also adding real life humor and value to the topic, kind of books. I am LOVING IT! Highly recommended.

Can you talk about a breakthrough with a client, and what led up to it?

A recent example was working with one of my online clients. He was definitely in that preparation/action stage, that sweet spot that we can work together in to make things happen by modifying lifestyle habits. He’s been a regular participant of some of my yoga classes for a while now, and just wanted the extra nudge to help him lose some weight, and feel strong again.

So sign me up, doc. Let’s do this! We first took a real hard look at his nutrition and his water consumption. Realizing, that perhaps the weekend indulgences every Friday and Saturday were putting potholes in his progress, we agreed that making sustainable and lasting change attainable, we would need to modify these behaviors.

Have fun, enjoy a beer if that’s your thing, but mayyyybe not 7 beers every Friday and Saturday night. Same thing for fried chicken. So he did. I mean, really, he did. He enjoys the occasional beer here and there, and fried chicken is his vice, but he eats clean and healthy MOST of the time, and has simply become more mindful of what he is eating and how that can affect his body and his mind. He also added significant amount of water to his daily routine.

Since we have started on this journey, he has lost 12 pounds in 4 weeks, and has reported time and time again that his mood is improved, he has more energy and feels more chipper throughout the day, everyday. THAT is the gold in what we do. Helping people feel happy and feel healthy. That is the gold star break through, that you hope and pray for people.

With the chicken and beer guy 😉 you mention in the model of change he was in prep/action phase. If he wasn’t in that phase of change, what you might you do to get him there?

If my client was in the pre-contemplation phase, or the contemplation phase, I would first start with motivational interviewing techniques.

However, it’s been proven time and time again that in these two stages of behavior change, people just aren’t ready. They have to really want it.

So sometimes you can work to find their intrinsic motivation as well as their extrinsic motivation while in the interview stage and help coax the process, however, they really need to be in the right space to want to make the changes they say they crave.

I think that’s important to say again. Sometimes, people just aren’t ready to change. Try not to get frustrated and work with where they are at. What are your top 3 favorite questions that you ask a new client? Your top 3 questions for someone you’ve been training for a while?

Top 3 New Client Questions: 

  1. What is your goal/objective/expectations while working with me?
  2. What do you value in your life/what makes you happy? Is that family, friends, music, hobbies? Etc.
  3. What was it that happened in your life that made you want to work on your health a little more?

Top 3 Returning Client Questions: 

  1. What have you noticed about your mental health since we have started? Are you feeling you are more energized throughout the day? Is there something you noticed not related to your fitness that has changed?
  2. What part of the programming have you enjoyed the most/ the least?
  3. Where do you want to go with it all? Now that we have reached some of your goals, what do you see next in your future?

“What was it that happened in your life that made you want to work on your health a little more” – This is a very direct question, but at the same time not obtrusive. I love it. What sort of answers and reactions do you get from this? 

Thank you 🙂 I’ve gotten a variety of answers here from, “I just had a miscarriage and I want to be healthy for me and my future babies”, to “Well, damn it, I just want to look like Ryan Gosling!” And everything in between.

More often than not though, I work through the deep stuff with folks. What’s the underlying concern and motivation and how do we capitalize on it as a catalyst for change? Those are the deeper things I love searching for with my clients.

How has your programming changed since last year?

I used to think that training meant kicking someone’s ass and not feeling bad about it. That’s what they hired me for, damn it! Well, that has changed greatly for me over this past year/year and a half. The ass-kicking training mentality is for people who are ALREADY active, people who drive to be the fittest person in the room, the fittest of the fittest; not those that really need us the most.

Most of the world/Americans that we work with don’t want to feel the pain of being sore every day, they want to be able to pee in peace without figuring out how to fall on the toilet, or how to muscle up the strength to stand back up. They want to see changes, but they don’t want to be miserable along the way. And that is ok.

I realized that the smaller things like water consumption, sleep and nutrition, the less painful things are usually easier to attain first, then we can move into the really challenging workouts. Even then, most people just need moderate activity that is functional. Not all of the fancy bells and whistles of creating complicated programming for them. Make it simple, make it sweet, and don’t beat them up on day one.

Most people just need moderate activity that is functional. Not all of the fancy bells and whistles of creating complicated programming for them. Make it simple, make it sweet, and don’t beat them up on day one.

Is there any recent continuing education that you really enjoyed?

I just got back from the IDEA-PT Institute-West in Seattle, WA and absolutely loved it. It was filled with great information and awesome presenters. It was a smaller conference, but it was perfect because we were able to connect with the presenters in a way that some of the larger scale national conferences can’t.

I also went to the ACSM Health and Fitness Summit in San Diego, CA. I really valued that because there were so many diverse presentations from online training platforms, to presentations on social media and fitness, to sleep and everything fitness related in between. They both were phenomenal.

What’s one thing that you think is really easy, but works well with many of your clients?

One thing that I think is really easy and works well with my clients is hydration. Often overlooked and undervalued, hydration is essential to our survival, but also to optimal performance.

We tend to not get enough water in during our days, rather fill our beverage consumption with sugary drinks that are unnecessary and actually not at all helpful to our bodies.

Water is a great first place to start with clients, and then move forward in programming from there. They feel more well rested, an increase in energy, and are able to get through workouts with a reduced likeliness for injury.

What’s one way you are able to get your clients on board with drinking more water?

I ask them to track their water in myfitnesspal. I also ask them to buy a large container for their water right at the beginning of the program. I am also known to harp on them from time to time.

Thanks so much for your time! You have a really good handle on working with people. Any parting advice for us?

Parting advice? Gosh, don’t be so obsessed with the imperfections. Everyone has them. Embrace your body for what it can do, not all that it can’t or what it should look like.

Not everyone is blessed enough to be afforded the opportunity to walk through life and it’s challenges the way you may have. Love your body, nourish your body, be grateful for your body, and it will take care of you. Every time.

How do we get in touch with you?

You can find me at

Facebook: Chera Justice

Instagram: Chera Justice

Twitter: chera_justice

Books To Read:

The Sleep Revolution”, by Ariana Huffington

You Are a Badass, How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life”, by Jen Sincero.

Motivational Interviewing