By Cheryl Conway
Every person has his or her own story to tell, but for this one local woman, she has just started a new chapter and her pages keep on turning.
Entrepreneur, medical coder, certified spin instructor, award winning speaker, former contest winner of the 2009 Mt. Olive Recreation Biggest Loser Contest and a mother- Denise Washington of Hackettstown is spinning her wheels to greater and newer adventures. The 67-year-old just began a new venture- Your Next Chapter- to help older women physically and emotionally.
By learning from her own trials and tribulations, and examining the journey of other women, Washington has taken on a new role as a life coach for women.
Her purpose is “to help women who are over 65 years young who are physically and emotionally tired of their lives,” says Washington. To coach them so they can “step into their next chapter with renewed confidence and purpose.”
Washington’s idea for her new venture “became solidified” in February, just after she returned from her solo birthday trip to Sedona, Ariz. Speaking with people, listening to others, spending some quality time alone and perhaps being treated like a celebrity was probably the spark that helped Washington connect the dots that have been following her all along.
“A lot happened on that trip that I became aware of,” says Washington, a 30-year Mt. Olive resident prior to moving to Hackettstown. “I had a marvelous time, spoke with people, met a family from Newton.”
She explains: “I actually became more aware on the trip. I hiked every day, wrote in my journal and spent time listening to my thoughts. This focus on self, helped to bring this idea into a reality. Plus, I found my vortex; it was a place on a trail, and I had to sit down on a rock; I just allowed myself to “be.” This one spot was powerful.”
A last-minute trip, Washington flew out to Arizona on her birthday, February 16, arriving at 10 a.m., spent the day shopping for healthy snacks, visiting the Botanical Gardens, Grand Canyon and then to Sedona.
Instead of spending her intended one hour at the Botanical Gardens, she stayed there from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., causing her to lose her hotel room at Los Abrigados Resort and Spa in Sedona.
"It’s a beautiful place,” says Washington, about the Botanical Gardens. “I saw everything; it was gorgeous. I talked to everybody.”
When the hotel gave her room away since she was so late, they ran out of rooms. The hotel wound up putting her in the Celebrity House, with her own private gate, private parking, two bedrooms, two patios, full kitchen, private outdoor jacuzzi and private pool, with memorabilia signed pictures of celebrities such as Richard Prior and Stevie Nicks, in every room.
Washington thought for sure the hotel made a mistake.
“They are going to throw me out when they realize I’m somebody else,” says Washington.
She stayed there from Wednesday through Thursday and already booked to stay at the Celebrity House next year. “You have to know that it even exists,” she says, adding she is saving up now for her return trip.
Live Life To The Fullest
Just like her trip, Washington is living her best life and is now motivating other women her age to do the same.
It was her trip that sparked her new venture, but she realizes she had the tools all along.
“I’ve been doing life coaching for at least 20 years,” she says.
Washington has been working in medical coding since 2010. As a certified teacher for the American Academy for Professional Coders since 2017, Washington teaches a 10-week coding program to others through her own coding business.
Over the years, individuals would come in with coding questions, but their discussions would lead to health questions such as better eating habits and exercise.
“It would always morph into something else about confidence,” says Washington. She says 80 percent of the people, mostly women, who came into her office for some coding lessons, wound up talking about health and wellness.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” she realizes.
With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, which Washington earned summa cum laude in 2020 from Rutgers University after earning her associate’s in liberal arts from the County College of Morris in Randolph in 2014, Washington is blending her counseling background and her fitness coaching skills to help women physically and emotionally.
Ready For Business
“I have opened my doors already,” says Washington, adding that her initial start date was April 1. “I’m open and ready for business.”
She spent some time interviewing 20 women formally and 10 others informally, and used her research to establish her goals. From those conversations she learned how women are set back from injuries, lost confidence, live with pain or are “eating themselves into a spot they don’t want to be” thus causing their health and wellness to plummet.
Some are holding onto anxiety from COVID-19, causing extra stress and excuses to not join a fitness program. “It’s not as deep as it was two years ago, but people are still reacting the same way,” says Washington.
Washington already has her first client. She hopes to work with two to three women each month. With a virtual world, she notes these women can live anywhere.
As the group grows, she hopes to offer a group session and possibly a retreat.
“Their time with me will be six months,” says Washington. “After six months they’ll be ready to go to their next chapter, but I’ll always be there to support them.”
As a woman who has two grown children, lost 100 pounds, became a widow, and then learned how to redefine herself by returning to school, following her career goals and interests, Washington uses her own personal stories and challenges to guide other women along the way.
She says life experience and patience to understand are the qualities that will help her succeed in her new role.
“When people speak, I not only hear, I listen and understand,” says Washington. Also having “the patience to try different methods; patience to understand something may not work the first time but use that experience and apply it to the next attempt.
“There’s a whole lot of universal things that women think and feel,” says Washington. When one potential client “realized I lost 100 pounds, she backed up and said what!”
When listening to women and their struggles, Washington says “weight is always related to something else, confidence, less than, feeling they should be doing something else. They still want more.”
Women aged 45 to 50’s, may still have children at home, are working in their career and are married. But the older women get, they may think “What’s next for me?” Children grow up and leave, some women never pursue their career as full-time moms; wives become widows.
“Either you are going to explore what’s more for you or you are going to push it down,” says Washington.