Sharing a love of exercise and health

Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 1:27 PM

Before many of us even thought about fitness as a lifestyle choice, Jo C Soignier fell in love with the feeling of exercising and being healthy. As a child, she was always lean and active but had a wake-up call during her freshman year of college when she experienced the common phenomenon of gaining the “freshman 15.”

“I decided I didn’t like the way my body felt, so I really got into running which led to my interest in the fitness industry because I saw the power behind being healthy,” she said.

That began her pursuit of a degree in exercise science at Fort Lewis College. At the time, the degree was called Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and Jo C had a work study job in the intramural department under the direction of Dr. Joan Sanders.

“I found that I really loved intramural and decided to get into that field, it’s fun to play,” she said. During her time working for the department, she continued her running and also enjoyed playing tennis, hiking and skiing.

“I really don’t have a competitive nature,” she said. “I just felt good being healthy and at a reasonable weight that resonated with my soul.”

Before long, she began swimming and worked her way through all the Red Cross certifications to teach and share her love of swimming.

During her senior year at Fort Lewis, she was offered the job as recreation director for the town of Ignacio. That was many years before they had a recreation center, so she worked out of a van in the baseball park. Working closely with the tribe, she discovered she really loved recreation, creating a space for people to have fun moving and to feel good about themselves.

A position became available at Fort Lewis College in the intramural department replacing Dr. Sanders, who was planning to retire. The college did a search, and Jo C took a chance by submitting an application and got the job with the stipulation that she would have to earn a master’s degree.

Undaunted by the prospect of continuing her education while working full time, she entered the quick track at Adams State University and finished her degree in health, physical education and recreation.

“I was working as intramural director and also teaching in the department and began to feel a little pressure to get a doctorate degree,” she said.

Though she had tenure and could have continued without pursuing a higher degree, she decided to go for it.

Her perseverance really kicked in when she began working toward her doctorate. “It took me 10 years,” she said. “I was working full time, had a child and had to do all my course work in the summers.”

During that time she had to get three extensions but finally got there. “I would not recommend that to anyone else,” she said, “I would suggest they just go for it.”

Since retiring from Fort Lewis, Jo C has continued sharing her love of fitness with others teaching a variety of exercise classes throughout Durango.

Her students enjoy her positive, upbeat and light-hearted style of teaching that supports and encourages all levels of ability.

“I love getting people turned on to exercise, helping people to know that they have their own journey,” she said. “Helping myself first to live who I am, doing what brings me passion and then being able to share that with others.”

Reach Marjorie Brinton at