Meet September’s Member of the Month – Jerry O’Leary!


There are few members who embody the essence of ZUM more than Jerry O! Not to mention, few members who have been around longer! Learn more about Jerry’s experience at ZUM and how the ZUM community has helped him stay active and engaged as he’s matured and encountered the physical changes.


How did you become one of ZUM’s original members? When you first joined, was there something that made you decide you wanted or needed to join a gym? 


My story goes way back before the beginnings of ZUM. I had back surgery in 1986 and was looking for a way to rehab. I was referred to a few people who were all working at Sound Mind Body in Fremont.  I went there to meet these people who gave me both rehab and an interesting community. They then went on to become ZUM, and I followed becoming one of the first members!


Over the past 15 years as a ZUM member, I’m sure you’ve had quite the fitness journey. Will share a little about that with us?


As a person who went from middle age to late-middle age, I have had a long arc of changes in terms of my physical capacity. I’ve had 5 knee surgeries, multiple shoulder problems – none of which were related to ZUM, all of which were helped because I was at ZUM and had people who could care for me.

I had been a runner and had to stop running, so I had to redefine what I was as an athletic person. What was  going to be my athletic expression? I no longer could run; I no longer could play tennis. I learned, for the first time in my life,  how to use a gym facility to accomplish fitness goals and still feel like I was doing something fun and challenging.

My ZUM journey has been learning to feel good about myself with whatever momentary limitations I have, doing what I could do in a way that was challenging and interesting that ultimately brought me back to a level of function and performance. That to me is the essence of the ZUM community – the encouragement of all the trainers and members who I’ve met. People who see you and comment “it’s good to see you back working out.” That’s what keeps me coming back to ZUM.


How are you feeling about where you are currently in your journey? 


I’m discovering that the limitations that come with age are not redefining my value. They’re redefining how I approach what I do.


What do you like best about ZUM? 


The community. When ZUM functions as a community, it’s a really satisfying place to be involved. The possibilities of learning how to function in the community are things that I take into my whole life. When I see the way that I can have a positive or negative impact in a simple setting like a gym, it opens my eyes to how I can behave elsewhere.


What would you say to someone who is new to ZUM or thinking about joining? 


You don’t have to be distrustful of any of the trainers. The training opportunities and class opportunities are so well cared for and cultivated that you can enter with confidence. You’ll get out of ZUM what you put into it. If you treat it as a community and are open to being responsive to the people around you, it’s going to be a great community. If you close yourself off, it will be a great community that you’re not participating in.

It can be as simple as saying hello and acknowledging the hard work you see someone do – it makes the experience more rewarding for everyone. People appreciate knowing they’re seen. We become the encouragers of each other to get the most out of the community.

There can be a phony – almost fraternity/sorority type of belonging that a lot of places try to engender, but I love that ZUM has enough room for me to not participate in things that I don’t want to, but enough things that I can choose something to participate in.


What’s fun fact about you that we might not know? 


I lived for a year in Guatemala and 3 years in Costa Rica working in Columbia while Pablo Escobar was in power.


You travel a lot, where are some of your favorite places you’ve been?


London, Barcelona, Prague, Budapest. I’m more of an urban traveler than country traveler, but one of my favorite trips of all time was a 3 week drive in Ireland from Dublin down to Bray and then west to Shannon, meeting my people. The Irish people are just so friendly and so welcoming.


What’s your guilty pleasure?


Guilt and pleasure don’t go hand in hand for me.


Favorite Movie?


Yossi & Jagger – a small independent Israeli film. I like small, character driven movies.


Favorite TV Show?


As of a year or so ago, I don’t own a TV. It was the best gift I gave myself during election season.


Favorite Seattle Performing Arts Organization?


The contemporary dance company Whim W’him! They never repeat anything. All their performances are one-offs, so if you miss it, you’ve missed it. They’re season starts this weekend with the choreographic shindig where the dancers pick the choreographers they want to work with. I believe it’s the only company in the country that does something like it.

I also love everything ArtsWest puts on, but find it tough to get out there.


Favorite music?

It’s always something I just discovered. The surprise of discovering something and realizing this beautiful art was out there waiting for you, and you just had to look for it. Currently it’s Odesza.


What are you currently reading?


Tears We Cannot Stop – A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. It’s intense because it is having to confront things I haven’t seen, that makes me feel bad that I never saw it. It makes me confront my privileged as a white man.


Favorite ZUM class?


Used to take classes all the time, but private training ended up working better for my schedule. Now that I’m retired, I look forward to exploring classes again.


Favorite exercise/movement? 


The one I didn’t think I could do. Lately, I’ve surprised myself with the mobility around my artificial knee.


Is there anything else you want to share about your ZUM experience?

I come back to community. The more members I meet, the more staff I interact with, the richer the experience seems. Take advantage of the that – reach out and engage!