Robert Jones III
He graduated from Immaculata with a bachelor’s in exercise science and sports management; he holds certifications from AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), Fitour and SCW Fitness Education; and he has nine years of experience teaching others how to reach their health and fitness goals.
Jones, who originally intended to be a business major, partnered with his co-worker Amie Adcock to become the new owners of the gym they used to work at, Revive Fitness in Philadelphia. It offers more than the typical gym equipment and experience, plus classes in cycling, yoga, kickboxing, kettle bells, boot camp, Body Weight Blast, Sweat Like an Athlete, TRX—a suspension training system that leverages gravity to take workouts to the next level—massage therapy, and even a juice bar.
“One of the reasons I opened the gym is so I can teach more people and reach more people with the help of my employees,” said Jones.
Jones is also the owner of Riley F.A.S.T., a personal training company that offers a variety of options for individuals and groups: traditional, in-home, one-on-one sessions; yoga instruction; boot camp (for those who like to take their exercise outside); Zumba; and kickboxing.
Right now, Jones has 19 personal training clients—a roster that keeps him busy all week long. “Scheduling is the hardest part,” said Jones, “getting to so many people all in a week. I joke with my mom that what I need is an extra hour in each day.”
Jones has also been an adjunct faculty member at IU for a little more than a year, teaching classes such as Men’s Health Issues, Weight Training and Advanced Strength Training. “My guidance counselor at IU [Barb Gallagher, assistant professor of physical education] called me on short notice about an afternoon class that needed to be covered,” said Jones. “I was a little hesitant at first. It’s one thing to teach people how to work out, but it’s very different teaching people why to work out.”
Despite his initial trepidation, Jones now says, “I love it. It has become so much fun. With a year’s experience, it’s easier to communicate information, and I’m finding a better connection with the students.”
Jones credits Gallagher not just with calling him to teach at IU, but with making his transition from West Chester University, where he earned an associate degree in exercise science, as smooth as possible. “Because IU is a liberal arts school, I had to take a lot of language and history classes,” said Jones. “Barb Gallagher made it possible for me to finish as soon as I did.”
During his time as a student at IU, Jones played small forward on the basketball team and was tri-captain in his senior year. “It was only the second year of the program for the men’s team, and we struggled a little trying to find our rhythm, our style, the definition of what kind of team we were.”
According to Jones, Head Basketball Coach Jamie Chadwin was inspiring. “As the season went on, we finally had a team meeting where we just talked to the players,” said Jones. “After that, we won six games in a row, made our conference final, even got a little spot on the Comcast sports network about it.”
Jones remembers a game moment “like it was yesterday.” It was his senior year, the last game of the season. “We were second in the league, and it came down to this last game. If we lost, we would drop to fourth.”
With just three seconds left in the game, Jones had to make a decision: “Do I stay with the guy I was guarding or go for the shooter?” Jones went for the shooter, who ended up missing the shot. “We won, stayed in second and even hosted the conference championship at Immaculata.”
Not surprisingly, Jones comes from a family of athletes. His father and grandfather both played college hoops; an uncle played in Australia; male and female cousins play at various schools (including one who played a game attended by President Obama); one cousin is going to play football at Virginia Tech; and then there is Jones’ little brother, Nick. “He’s going to be way better than I’ve ever been at basketball,” said Jones. “In fact, he’s better than I am now, and he’s only in ninth grade.”
Athletic ability isn’t the only thing Jones inherited from his family. “I got my mindset from my parents, Robert Jones Jr. and Angela Hanner. When I was younger, we didn’t have the best living situation, but they helped me get through it. They always had a positive attitude, even when the times got tough.”
Jones’ godmother, Tracey Bodison, was another person “who helped me do all the things the right way when I was growing up. She even helped me with getting my first bank account.”
The list of people who have played a role in guiding and encouraging Jones along the way include his coach from Lower Merion High School (where Jones’ picture hangs in the new gymnasium), his strengthening coach from prep school in Lawrenceville, NJ, and Robby Schwartz, a strength and conditioning coach at IU when Jones was an undergrad.
Jones knows how exercise and working out can transform someone on the outside and the inside. He tells the story of a woman he used to work with in a restaurant who came to him for help. “She had undergone treatments for breast cancer, and she had put on a little bit of weight, so when the doctor gave her the OK to work out, we started together.
“I paced her gradually, increasing the workouts little by little. As time went on, she started shedding the pounds. After I’d been working with her for about a year, she lost 34 pounds. She told me she had started getting lots of compliments, and that made me feel really good.”
Jones enjoys it when clients tell him that they’ve tried on a pair of pants or a shirt and suddenly it’s baggy. “Then they ‘complain’ that not only are they paying for the training sessions, but now they’re paying for new clothes. I love to hear stuff like that.”
In addition to everything else Jones is involved in, he also has fitness segments broadcast through Comcast’s “On Demand” workout section. “Working with Weights” includes eight video workouts running from five to 35 minutes, and his “Abs” series consists of four videos 12 to 25 minutes long.
Jones was “discovered” when he was featured in Philly Fit. The producer of the Comcast videos saw Jones in the magazine and e-mailed him to ask if he’d be interested in doing some segments for cable. “At first,” said Jones, “I thought it was a joke.”
Jones described the experience of making the videos as “so much fun, so much pressure, and so much excitement all rolled into one.” It was very different from what he was used to when leading a class, since “I couldn’t refer to ‘left’ or ‘right’ because of the mirror-image issue; it’s hard motivating people who are not there; and those lights were so hot!”
But Jones adjusted to the demands, and he eventually wants to make his own videos targeting four different populations. “I want to make a workout video for kids that’s fun and short to get them moving, and something that can help them with sports. I’d like to make a video for the general public, one for intense athletes so they can really test themselves, and one for mature adults. It’s important to be specific, because different populations have different needs and different goals.”
And speaking of goals, Jones offers this advice: set a goal and find a way to get there, or find somebody to help you get there. Make sure your goal is reachable so you won’t get discouraged. Break it down into small steps and, if you reach a goal, reward yourself and keep going. As Jones noted, “The more you feel that you have achieved, the more you feel like you want to do.”
When asked what keeps him motivated to pursue his many goals, Jones answers without hesitation, “My daughter Mia Riley Jones and her mother, Jenna Specht. Mia brought tears to my eyes when she saw me on Comcast and cried, ‘That’s my daddy on TV!’ Providing the kind of life for them that I didn’t have growing up—that’s what motivates me.”