Jen Lewis is a fitness instructor based in the United States, who has made it her mission to reach as many people as possible with her love for fitness.
Jen’s YouTube channel: Cardio Party Mashup Fitness hosts a great variety of workouts, of all different lengths, including: week-long fitness challenges, ab workouts, strength dumbbell routines and cardio workouts, all centring around dance HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
Cardio Party Mashup Fitness can be found on YouTube, with over 220K subscribers and over 18 million views. Jen describes Cardio Party Mashup as a way to “Burn loads of calories by doing workout moves to popular music”, but she makes it clear that fitness is about much more than just calories.
On a personal note, I have been following her YouTube channel for two years, and using her workouts alone has helped me to tone my muscles, allowed me to maintain a healthy weight, as well as aiding my mental health which is improving in leaps and bounds.
Now we chat about Jen’s journey through fitness, becoming a YouTube influencer superstar, mental health, motherhood, and LOTS MORE! Follow on for our exclusive, deep-dive interview with the Cardio Party Mashup Fitness pioneer herself, Jen Lewis!
Hope you’re well!
I’m doing great, thank you!
OK, so if we can quickly start out by asking, what do you think of the name Keep Fit Kingdom (KFK) for short? Our mission is to help a billion people reach 100 years of age happily and healthily – your thoughts?
I think that’s really cool, I really like the community aspect!
Thank you! So, let’s track back a little, could you tell us in brief what made you want to become a fitness instructor?
I did dance, ballet, tap and jazz, I’ve been in almost every part in The Nutcracker play. In high school I was a majorette, (baton twirler/dancer) I was active because of these things.
When I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to help people in the artistic field. I was not as active for a small while in college. Then my friend invited me to her gym. I took my first ever class, and loved it, my competitive drive came out which was never there before.
(Jen explained how she found the feeling of being in an exercise class unique: being among similarly minded people, along with the endorphin release we get when we exercise, made her feel better physically and mentally.)
I’m half introvert, half extrovert. If I’m in a situation that I’m not really confident in, I’m very quiet and don’t say much. But then if you see me in a workout class, I get so pumped-up, you would think I’m the most loud-mouthed, outgoing person ever, but it’s because I’m in my element.
Cardio Party Mashup Fitness
Can you tell us a bit about what you do and how your YouTube fitness channel: Cardio Party Mashup Fitness came about?
There was a class there called cardio party mashup led by two women. They had kickboxing moves and jumping jacks, all this standard stuff. I just fell in love with it. There were all these different people, all shapes and sizes, all different backgrounds, ages, men, women, in there together for the same reason, to get a good workout, to be healthy, to enjoy the music.
(Something that many people don’t know is that this was the origin of Jen’s Cardio Party Mashup Fitness; when these two ladies stopped doing their class, Jen took over with their blessing. Jen had learned all their routines before they left.)
The first class I subbed for them literally had 80 people in it, so it was do or die…Then my family and I moved and I started teaching a cardio party mashup class in a new gym.
Back then my routines were not as aggressive, I didn’t have burpees, squat thrusts or anything. As my class got stronger I thought, okay so now we need to make harder routines, we need to grow. For instance, if you’re a runner and if you keep running the same pace, you’re never going to get faster, you have to push yourself to get faster.
So I kept the cardio party mashup routine, but I took it in my own direction. When I first started posting videos and teaching classes, dance people struggled because they wanted more dance, but the people who liked basic exercises had to get used to doing choreography. So I felt like I was taking two different worlds and trying to make them work.
Then it just turned into something else. Helping people is my number one goal. Getting to one million subscribers is not what I’m doing this for, it’s more to reach people, where they are. So, I film low and high impact. It’s my job to come to your level, not yours to come to mine. I feel like that’s the purpose God placed in my life, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Jen’s Main Influences
Who are 3 of your major influences? Which people inspired you to start out in this area?
Natasha Océane (YouTube): She always does fun challenges, she’ll be like I’m just going to go run a marathon.
All of my subscribers and followers: The main inspiration, hearing all your stories and comments influence me to not quit, even if a video gets blocked, keep trying, I want to do what I can.
BTS (a music group based in South Korea): They really opened my eyes, they had so many different fans and so many different people that loved them, like people with wheelchairs, and chronic illnesses, I’ve always known people exist with those issues, but I thought, in a single concert you have such a diverse group of people, and all those people are coming together as one to support and listen to their favorite band.
So, I thought all these people said they would never workout until they found the workouts I do to their music, so I was like, well there’s people with chairs, or injuries, so why can’t I break all these routines down into being in a chair.
So it was BTS, 2 years ago, who inspired me to take it to the next level. A lot of the chair workouts available are for senior citizens so won’t suit some young people’s tastes.
(A group in Chile, called Teletón, who work for the rehabilitation and inclusion of children and young people with disabilities, sent out Jen’s BTS chair workout video during the pandemic since they couldn’t come into an exercise class.)
Why stop at high impact, why stop at low impact, I’ll keep pushing myself to do more, for more people.
What do you like most about uploading your dance cardio, HIIT workout videos to YouTube? What’s the most challenging thing about this?
Copyright is a challenge. It’s hard to work on something really hard and then have it blocked. It’s not about the money. I get excited to give you all something you’ll enjoy, so when it goes I’m upset for you.
The biggest challenge is trying to stay true to myself. In this day and age if you want to go viral, to get your video a lot of views, you have to make all these bold claims, certain videos make claims like ‘burn 1000 calories in a 50 minute workout’, and those videos blow up, when that’s not true. I give calorie burn ranges, but I always disclaim that it might not be that much for everyone, and that’s okay.
So, I ask myself, is this video really helping people, or I am just trying to fit in with other creators? I battle with this on a weekly basis. I want to be genuine, real with people and give them good workouts. The main struggle is comparing myself to others and being true to myself. If I stay focused on my main goal which is to help people, and not compare myself to others or be in competition with others, then to me, that’s the best way I can mentally be about it all.
A Day in the Life of Jen Lewis…
How does a day in the life of Jen Lewis shape up right now – please walk us through!
I’ll get the kids ready for school. I’ll get all my stuff ready to film out in the woods; I’ll be out there for a couple hours. I film the high impact, then the low impact material immediately after.
When I get back home, a lot of it is typical house-type stuff and meal prepping for dinner. Some days if I’m not filming, me and my dad go out and we run together which I love, it’s such a bonding time for us. Before the pandemic we ran races together.
(Amazingly, Jen sometimes spends 3 hours straight at night editing her YouTube videos, whilst making lots of time in the day for her kids, including helping them with their homework.)
Diet & Lifestyle
How does your diet look these days? What is your favourite ‘superfood’ if you have one?
I’m a creature of habit, so I find what works for me and I stick with it. For breakfast, oatmeal and a tablespoon of nut butter. Each day I wake up and say ‘how do I feel today?’. I try to listen to those cues, I don’t believe in labelling food ‘good-food’ or ‘bad-food’, because the second you start doing that, you associate that with you being bad. I grill chicken and use it for different things, on my salad, or with pulses or brown rice.
What problems do you see most often when it comes to the subject of diet and nutrition?
I try to make healthy, smart choices each day, and if they’re not all healthy choices, it’s okay. I wake up the next day and try again. I tell people this: if you are stressed out about eating certain foods, your body actually recognizes that stress, your cortisol levels get out of whack and then what happens is your body hangs onto that food you ate more than it usually would. There’s a difference in me going and eating 10 cookies and me baking cookies with my kids and having a few.
(Jen’s understanding and way of seeing nutrition is something that many people could benefit from, I myself have experienced the dangers of labelling foods ‘bad’.)
The vegan movement is increasing as we speak, with many adopting it, or trying it out. What is your view on veganism?
I’m personally not vegan. But I’m very much of the view, ‘you do what’s best for you’…I get it.
(Though Jen isn’t vegan, she has close family who are, and she has enjoyed vegan food with them.)
What does a typical training week look like for you?
I went through a lot of situational depression when we first moved. I had to get used to filming and working out on my own, I’m not working in a gym at the moment.
Typically I get my cardio through filming twice a week, and then running 5 miles with my dad, 4-5 times a week depending on what I’m doing. I try to do a mix of cardio routines and strength training, which could be my strength routines (from my YouTube channel) or going to the gym.
Another super-important one to me is going on a long walk. When there are days I’m really going through it, I don’t feel motivated, and everybody has them. There’s been times where I’m telling myself ‘get out of bed, just try’. I end up walking 5 miles, I listen to music. There’s no pressure, there’s no set pace. I feel so good afterwards. Really I feel as good just going on a long walk as I do doing an intense workout, because really that’s what I needed for that day.”
In my week I always have at least one rest day. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking they can’t take a rest day, because it’s going to derail their work. When really they don’t realize, they could derail all their work if they don’t take a rest day. Your body needs to repair!
What are your favorite bodyweight exercises that really work well for you?
My all-time favorite is the burpee, or squat thrust. It’s one of the best, full-body workouts, because you’re engaging everything, head to toe. When you’re going down, you’re using your abdominals, then when you come out, it’s still a core-type exercise, and then you’re engaging your lower body, and same thing with your arms to push yourself off.
(Jen has a unique way of modifying squat thrusts with her workouts including low impact and high impact options. Don’t be fooled, the low impact is difficult and can get your heart rate up just as high, it’s just less force on your body.)
Jen on Yoga
What are your thoughts on yoga and do you meditate?
I haven’t trained specifically for yoga, but I have a lot of respect for every type of exercise, including yoga, because there’s a lot of terminology, technique, and breathing routines.
Once I took over a yoga class, but didn’t call it yoga because I’m not trained. I lead a stretching class with breathing, centring yourself. I understand how beneficial it is, I need to do it more. Even when I film my stretching videos I love it, because you’re clearing your mind. I’m interested in doing more.
How does it make you feel when you see people comment that your videos have been helpful for their mental health?
It confirms that I’m doing what I feel like is my purpose. I don’t title my weekly challenges ‘lose 10 pounds in a week’, or ‘gain abs in a week’, instead I say, ‘transform in a week’, because it doesn’t matter how great you look on the outside. If you’re broken on the inside, you will never be satisfied with the outside. So I tell people if you work on yourself mentally, then you’re actually going to achieve more goals because you’re not looking for perfection.
Why does Jen Love Teaching so Much?
What do you enjoy more, recording your workouts or working out alone?
I love teaching the most. Recording the workouts can be difficult because I’m focusing on how I look a lot. I’m kind of picky. If I mess up on something I’m learning to put the video out there anyway.
(What Jen mentioned here is something that many fitness influencers struggle with – the balance between showing the routines perfectly to inspire people, but also to show their mistakes, because they are human, and want to give realistic expectations to their audience.)
Testimonials from YouTube Subscribers
“What I love about Jen’s videos is that they are easy to follow, and I love how she incorporates BTS music. To me it makes it more fun. I always try to sing along while working out. I appreciate how she incorporates different levels of impact in her workouts. I usually start with low impact and eventually move on to high impact. I feel like her videos are a great introduction to someone who is barely starting to work out.” – Yeleini, California, USA, 28 y/o.
“When I watch Jen, I think: If she can, so can I. And I love her for it!” – @Sahanapurples (Twitter), India, 31 y/o.
“As the pandemic broke out, and so much in our life kept stressing us out, Jen’s workouts have become my go to training, so that I don’t have to think too much about what to do. There is always something new, or that I hadn’t done. Jen never fails to put a smile on my face during workouts, keeps me motivated and challenges me to keep moving.” – Tania, Nicaragua, 40 y/o.
From the outside you seem very organized, you’re a mom and have children, a fitness class, and a YouTube channel, how do you manage these? Do you feel you’re well organized?
No, I don’t. I am organized to a certain extent, but I’m one of those people who does well under pressure, like when I have to pull it out, I do. I can be organized as far as how I make and upload my videos. I’m a type-B personality, I have a million things going on at once. I do want to get more organized, but I think having more of an artistic personality can mean you’re less organized, in terms of the people I have known anyway.
What comes first mental health then physical, or is it the other way around?
Do not do my workouts as punishment for what you ate. It’s more about ‘here’s a challenge, let’s see what you can do!’. I tell people to do these workouts for your mental health first, and then the physical benefits will follow.
How Jen Creates Workouts to Music
When creating workouts to songs, how do you determine if new songs will be suitable? How do you design a routine that’s perfectly timed with the music?
I put the new songs into a playlist, and when I go for a run, I listen to the songs and create routines in my head. A lot of times I create the whole thing in my head and the first time I try it is me filming it. I’m a very visual person so I can imagine it as it’s supposed to be from a filming viewpoint. Sometimes I’ll do it and I’ll realize it doesn’t fit exactly right, so I’ll identify which move doesn’t work and try again.
Why do you love the combination of dance for cardio and music with exercise so much?
When you’re setting your moves to a beat, that beat pushes you to do more than you usually would. When you have music pushing you, you forget what you’re doing. Especially if it’s your favorite group, you get pumped up.
(For many people, including Jen, normal dance fitness doesn’t raise the heart or cardio rate high enough. Jen explained that she always knew she loved music as far as the emotion it carried for her. So why not combine three of her favorite things – enjoy and experience: dance, music and cardio!)
Insights & Reflections
What’s the worst fitness-related injury you’ve ever sustained?
Well, 7 or 8 years ago I was doing strength training with a 15lb (7kg) kettlebell. I was in a squat swinging it, and I felt my lower back go. That was before I knew how much you need to engage your core to take the impact off your back. The next day I went to teach a class and I could barely walk, I was in the worst pain I’d ever been. To this day my right shoulder is lower than my left because I over-compensated by leaning one way to alleviate the pain.
How did you work around it?
I went to the chiropractor, had some adjustments. I had to learn how to build up the muscles in my lower back and in my core to be able to carry on. Then it got better, but I would sneeze abruptly and that would throw it out.
(Jen told a story of how one time when she was teaching a class, and live streaming it on her YouTube channel, she did a squat thrust, and felt her back go.)
The class kept going, I went to the side. I was crying at the pain. I low-impacted the rest of the class. I knew how to deal with it, and amazingly the next day it was back to normal. That’s an injury I have to be careful with, I have to remember to engage my core.
Jen’s Tips to Live to 100!
I see. On a lighter note, aside from pure cardio exercises alone, what are Jen’s top tips to live to a 100-year goal?
I feel like stress can kill someone more than just eating bad because stress leads to eating bad or not eating at all. When I made the BTS: BE Moved Week, it made me think, just BE, be you, be who you are. Trying to eat perfectly, live perfectly, in order to live a long time, can actually work against you.
’ve never felt more free and happy and healthy than I do now, because I’m not trying to be someone else. I’ve come to accept that this is who I am, I can be the healthiest I can be by doing the best I can for me. You have to look at your current circumstances and environment. People hold themselves to such a high standard that they can’t reach it and they end up going backwards.
If you want to live a long life, focus on mental health, ask yourself, ‘how do I feel today?’ If you feel like eating a bunch of garbage, first ask yourself ‘why do I feel that way? Is something going on right now in my life that makes me feel that way?’
First let’s address that. Is someone treating you a certain way? Is it your job, is school stressing you out? If you go back to those things, then naturally your body will gravitate to wanting to be healthier and do healthier things.
How has the internet affected attitudes to cardio and fitness in general? What do you think the pros and cons are of social media platforms like Instagram?
The good thing is that social media has made fitness more accessible. What if the pandemic happened before all of the technology? YouTube is free for those who can’t afford to go to the gym. It’s nice to feel you have a person there doing a workout with you.
A negative thing is people don’t see the other side of things. You’re looking at the best version of that person. That’s why I show bloopers, because I don’t do things perfectly in real life. You see that person at their best.
Instagram and TikTok with filters; I hate it because you’re not even looking at a person’s best version, you’re looking at someone who doesn’t even exist.
For people who don’t know, influencers use filters, it’s dangerous because people question why they don’t look like that. So, they kill themselves punishing themselves by not eating and over exercising. Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment.
(The unrealistic expectations put forward by social media influencers, whether intentional or not, have an effect on all of us, including Jen.)
I question myself when I see other influencers, I can feel the pressure to be a certain way but it’s impossible to reach that bar.
Fun & Leisure
If you could be a superhero Jen, what superpower would you most like to have?
Teleportation – so I can see parts of the world and do fitness classes everywhere. I want to get back to teaching, I want to travel and have people meet to do a masterclass together.
BTS, outro of “Tear” – it brings up a lot of emotions if I’m going through something, it’s such a powerful song, it pushes me to go hard. If I’m running it will dial in my cardio and push me through the home straight and make me go harder. I like the meaning of the song too.
BTS: “Butterfly” – for when I’m stressed out or having a panic attack.
“Pride & Prejudice”
Which books in particular have influenced you?
The Bible – I try to live my life in a way that honors God, it inspires me to be the best I can be, and I’ve always gained knowledge from it.
What’s your proudest accomplishment so far?
Being a mum –it’s an ongoing accomplishment. You don’t have to physically give birth to be an amazing mother. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be my childrens’ mum.
Jen’s Future Goals
What are some of your future goals?
My goal is to reach more and more different types of people. I want to always create something that could reach someone I haven’t reached in the past, like with the chair workouts.
I want to try to expand the channel a lot more, to offer variety to people as much as I can. I don’t believe in reaching my peak, I train for life. For example, once you lose weight you have to keep maintaining.
I don’t want to ever feel like ‘I’ve arrived’, I always want to be on a journey because that’s what pushes me.
Jen’s Personal Message to Keep Fit Kingdom Readers, Fans & Followers
What message would Jen like to leave Keep Fit Kingdom followers, and your fans around the world right now?
It’s all about striving every day to be the best version of you, given your circumstances and environment, not anybody else.
That would give more joy, happiness and self-acceptance. Comparing yourself to other people sets you up for failure. I want you to learn to accept yourself and be the best version of yourselves. Maybe step away from social media a little bit if it makes you feel bad about yourself. Be you, be your best you. You will overall feel so much more complete that way.
We hope you liked this interview with the Cardio Party Mashup Fitness girl herself, Jen Lewis!
Definitely check out her high-energy, encouraging and motivational videos on YouTube, and be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook: @cardiopartymashup
What do you think about Jen’s Cardio Party Mashup YouTube videos? Which ones have most helped you to reach your fitness goals? Let us know in the comments below and join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!
Keep Fit Kingdom would like to thank: Rachel Stevens, and editor-in-chief, Raj Khedun for their thoughtful, fitness-oriented contributions to this interview.
If you’re interested in health, and wellness, check out the book: How Squats Can Change Your Life (with a foreword by WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, Rob Van Dam) and sign up for our FREE, 7-day energy-boosting technique, whilst it’s still available!