Photography by Stephanie Slezak

For two-time STRONG cover athlete Amy Jo Palmquest, there’s one mantra that always brings her back to her life’s purpose: “It’s not about me.” That phrase served her well as the certified personal trainer with a degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition, fitness model, NUTRISHOP spokesperson and storeowner, and owner of Transformation Fitness Studio in Lacey, WA, completely pivoted during the pandemic to continue doing what she does best: Serving her clients. “I knew I still needed to be giving to other people and not be focused on my own situation. That really helped me focus on other people, on communicating with my trainers, and helping them so they could help their clients,” she told STRONG in her exclusive interview. 

Now splitting her time between Washington and Arizona, where she eventually hopes to expand her empire and launch a second training facility, Amy Jo is transferring her skills as a badass trainer with a heart of gold into holding it down at home with her hubby and three boys. “I think it translates to raising boys pretty well. They’re very active and there’s a lot of chaos, so just telling them, ‘This is it, this is what we’re doing,’ has made me a better mom,” she shares.

So exactly how does this mom and entrepreneur match her outer strength with her inner strength? We were curious too. Here’s what she had to say. 

SFM: What's your take on "balancing" work and family? Is this an idea you believe in, and what's your approach? 

AJP: I do believe finding a healthy balance is critical to all areas of our life. That being said, family must always come before work. If your “house” and foundation are not in order, the rest will crumble, including work and business. I have a strict cut-off time in the evening, and I put my computer and phone away. I’ve also gotten better at scheduling “family game night” and “family movie night.” It gives everyone something to look forward to and reminds everyone to prioritize each other in the family.

SFM: Why do you feel it's so important to place your focus on helping others? How has this helped you in your own life?

AJP: This is a fundamental aspect of who I am. I have found that people who don’t prioritize others, or think mostly of themselves, are often the most depressed, miserable people. I think this is because we as humans are designed for community and serving others. I want my life’s legacy to be helping and building up others; that’s when I’m at my best and feel most fulfilled. It is truly better to give than to receive. When I’m feeling depressed, sad, or unhappy, I try to shift my focus to others and gratefulness. This approach has never failed to lift my spirits and get me back on track during difficult personal times. I find myself encouraging others to do the same, it’s just the best way to live. 

SFM: Can you think of any obstacles you've faced as a business owner? How did you overcome them?

AJP: Oh my, there are always so many obstacles as a business owner! I think to be a successful entrepreneur you have to embrace the challenges and love the problem-solving nature of business. You have to always be thinking outside the box, identifying needs, and then provide the solutions your clients and customers are looking for. One particular obstacle that immediately jumps out would have to be dealing with the far-reaching ramifications of trying to run a service business during a pandemic. When things got shut down, us business owners had a choice to make. We were either going to crawl into a hole, surrender and have a pity party, or we were going to get creative and find solutions to ensure our clients remained engaged and successful. We quickly pivoted to many more virtual solutions and outdoor workouts, and placed emphasis on continuing to engage our Transformation community so that everyone knew we were going to get through this period together. Almost a couple years later, we are gratefully still going strong and serving our clients.

SFM: How have you evolved since your first STRONG cover appearance?

AJP: Boy, have I ever evolved! Since the first cover appearance we have welcomed my third son into the world, the fitness studio has tripled in size, and we have navigated a pandemic. I’ve also recently moved to a new state and found out how much I love sunshine! I think life has a funny way of requiring our evolution if we want to continue to make a bigger difference in people's lives year in and year out. I have always felt that if we aren’t growing, we’re dying. We have a responsibility to continue to learn, grow, and challenge ourselves. I have to continually make myself better, and being uncomfortable usually does the trick. My family deserves it, my clients deserve it, and I deserve it. I am a different woman today than I was four years ago, and it’s been an amazing ride. 

SFM: What does your perfect day off look like? 

AJP: My perfect day off has always been so simple. It would be filled with family and laughter. Swimming in the sun, eating fancy sushi, and snuggling with my boys, watching a comedy movie to end the night.

Chelsea Clarke
Chelsea is a Toronto-based editor and writer, penning everything from investigative reports to inspiring profiles. She’s the current Associate Editor of Strategy Magazine.