“I want my children to have a healthy relationship with technology so I have to put my phone down and set them right example.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing J.J. Creegan, chief operating officer of Youfit Health Clubs. As one of the youngest COOs in the fitness industry, J.J. has successfully helped build Youfit from a regional to a national brand. Last year, he was recognized by South Florida Business Journal as a member of the 2017 “40 Under 40” class and also took home South Florida Business & Wealth’s “COO of the Year” title.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?

I began working at Youfit Health Clubs, before it was even named Youfit, as a part-time, minimum wage employee in 2001 when the company had just three locations. My ambition at the time was not to grow with the company; I just wanted a free gym membership and some money to keep my 1995 Chevy Cavalier running for high school dates. Nearly 17 years later I am honored to be one of our top executives leading nearly 4,000 team members across the US in more than 100 Youfit locations.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

As an assistant manager I went to cash my paycheck at my local bank. Unfortunately, I walked into the middle of a bank robbery and ended up having two robbers hold guns to my body (one to my forehead and a shotgun to my back). It was crazy. What was even more crazy is I loved my job so much that after speaking with the FBI, I went straight back to work and apologized to my boss. I don’t think I even called my mom. I was 16 years old at the time and can still tell you the name of the first membership I sold that night — Marlen R.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

I am very eager to begin working with ClassPass, Peerfit and ActiveSoul at Youfit. I’m in love with the intersection of technology and wellness, particularly how it makes exercise so accessible; these brands are doing this extremely well.

Class Pass is the leader when it comes to engaging with all the hottest boutique classes around the world. We are thrilled to be a gym partner with them, offering their clients additional access to Youfit for regular workouts or group classes.

PeerFit and ActiveSoul are revolutionizing corporate wellness. Partnering with them allows us to do our part in helping America’s workers become healthier versions of themselves.

While you may be interacting with your phone as you scroll through these apps, you’re ultimately going to get your butt up and out the door to enjoy some physical activity, such as an energizing group class.

Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?

Between our phones, tablets, and computers we are working our fingers and our eyes way more than our bodies or minds. We have created addictive rituals of interacting with apps with little expectation of results. It is just what we do. Swiping down to reload feeds endlessly.

Without healthy boundaries we are becoming sloth-like humans focused on entertainment and gratification. It is ironic that with all of the information in the world at our fingertips, we risk mistaking that for knowledge and life experience.

Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?

  1. Become a parent…and try to raise toddlers that aren’t addicted to your cell phone. Phones and technology are so ingrained in our life and unfortunately children mimic what they see. I want my children to have a healthy relationship with technology so I have to put my phone down and set them right example.
  2. Meditate. With so many distractions and devices screaming for our attention a little bit of personal silence is extremely valuable. After clearing my mind for 5–15 minutes my mind is in a much better space to prioritize and attack the day.
  3. Listen to music while working. Not many people do this anymore. When I am reviewing financials or writing out documents I get bored. Boredom in front of a computer is dangerous, as the internet blackhole is just a click away. Playing music fills the boring gaps for me, giving me something to hum along to and keep me focused.
  4. Use technology to limit your time using technology. Use Boomerang for Gmail to automate follow ups, Flipd on your iPhone and focusme on your computer to eliminate distractions and f.lux to soften the impact that screens have on your eyes.
  5. Live with your phone on silent — no sounds, limited notifications (call, calendar, & text only). Stay in the present with what you are enjoying. Don’t get pulled away by a BEEP that your friend posted a new photo of what they ate for lunch. If my family needs me they know to call my office.

51% of Americans say they primarily use their smartphone for calls. With the number of robocalls increasing, what are ways people can limit interruptions from spam calls?

Simple. Keep your phone on silent and on your desk face down. If you don’t see or hear it you can’t be interrupted.

  1. Register for do not call lists.
  2. Block the spamming numbers.

It is amazing to me how many of my colleagues that do not do either of these things.

Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?

Realize that social media is meant to be the place for you to share your real life experiences. What’s the point of it if it dictates your behavior?

I consciously try to leave my phone in my office or my room at home. If you don’t hear it or see it you can’t be distracted by it. This absolutely causes a FOMO for some. Well, if you are staring at your phone I guarantee you aren’t paying attention to the amazing things right in front of you. I recently read a New York Times article about “JOMO,” the joy of missing out, and absolutely love it. We don’t necessarily need to try to delete technology from our lives; JOMO is about finding the healthy balance.

80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?

Damnit, I hate being a statistic. I am guilty of this. In the past two years of my life (since I became a parent of twins) silence has increased in value to me. I wake up before 5, drink my coffee, and check (not respond to) my emails. I try not to engage in email unless there is a fire that needs to be tackled. From there I use headspace to meditate for at least 10 minutes, foam roll, and workout. When I make the mistake of actually engaging in email or work, I miss my silence, cut my workout short, and feel behind for the rest of the day.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?

“Is the juice worth the squeeze?”

I don’t know where this line originated from but I heard it first in the movie “The Girl Next Door.” If we are going to invest time, energy and resources into something, we have to make sure what we get in return is going to be worthwhile. If you know it will be worth it, put your all into it because there is no half-assed, no one foot in and one foot out. Your time and effort is finite, use it wisely.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

It would be the Netflix and burn movement. Don’t get me wrong, I love to sit on my ass with a beer in my hand and binge watch some TV. However, I do it at night after I already moved throughout the day. I wish people would take their shows to the treadmill. It is amazing how many calories you can burn while doing cardio. I binged watched the entire series of “Lost” all from my elliptical.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn regularly or occasionally on Twitter at @jjcreegan when waiting to board a flight.

Thank you for this interview. It was very insightful!

This interview is part of an interview series by Dan Pannasch, Product Manager of RoboKiller, the robocall blocking app that gets even with spammers. You can check it out at robokiller.com.

Originally published at medium.com