In March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 shut down, actress and comedian Jill-Michele Meleán felt like her entire life had shut down too. “I’m in the entertainment and fitness business so there was no work, no stage to escape to,” says Meleán who has performed around the world and had TV shows, films and comedy specials on all streaming platforms.
Meleán, who has also been a personal trainer for a decade, began getting requests from people to train them via Zoom. “I said “yes,” thinking we would only have a couple of weeks of the shutdown and everything would open back up,” she says. “Another week went by and another week went by and everything was still closed.”
Then she was really devastated when Mr. Jack, her beloved King Charles spaniel became critically ill. “He was my right hand, my spirit guide and I had to make a tough decision to give him the gift of transitioning,” says Meleán. “That choice was the most emotional experience of my life and I didn’t have coping skills for it.” So in the height of the pandemic she didn’t want to be home.
Since she was a sports-obsessed child exercise was her salvation. “The gym is like a second home to me and balances me out with the ups and downs of the Entertainment world,” says Meleán whose credits include Mad TV and Reno 911.
She began teaching at some well known Southern California gyms because it gave her joy to see people getting healthy. “I would go from telling jokes at night as a standup comedian to coaching in the morning as a fitness instructor,” says Meleán. “I had a stage and a microphone. The only difference was I didn’t tell the dirty jokes and I wasn’t wearing heels at the gym.”
She decided the best way to heal was to lean into taking action however she could. She threw herself into personal training people from 8am to 8pm. “ It was a healthy distraction. If I could lose myself in helping others, I might be able to survive this chapter in my life,” she says. “I could give them direction and see their bodies change right in front of me and it brought us both so much joy. Their appreciation was rewarding.”
Meleán also felt that because her clients trusted her, she could think outside the box. She focused on how her clients often wanted to zero in on abdominals. She thought about how pushing on the midsection during ab workouts limits the space for the abdominal muscles to expand.
She took a sweat belt and made a pocket for a flat five to ten pound round weight to fit inside. When the weight was firmly held on to someone’s core it resulted in a flatter abdominal wall over time. Additionally, she added acupressure to the mix. She wondered if in between crunches she could create a mechanism to scratch the skin to stimulate and create tighter skin with time.
Meleán cut up acupressure mats and began placing them inside the belt under the pocket with the weight. “I cut, sewed and glue gunned a makeshift belt together for clients and thought I was done,” she says. But they were so pleased with the results they inspired her to go further.
“That encouragement fed my desire, which is the key factor,” she says. “That desire gives you that seeking spirit to want to learn.” She began researching more and Core Set was born. “It’s you and your body working together with the belt,” says Meleán. “The silver ion material against the skin creates heat so even if you are wearing it at the computer you are feeling that core support.”
The Core Set pocket is used with a small flat round weight while performing various abdominal workouts. This stabilizes the muscles so the abdominal wall won’t expand when breathing out and flattens the back correctly to attain the ideal form. Additionally, the acupressure insert stimulates the skin, allowing blood stimulation to the area.
“Think of this belt as a partner in your fitness routine,” says Meleán who sells Core Set via e-commerce on Amazon and has videos demonstrating step-by-step exercises. “I can’t physically be there for everyone, I will be there for you through videos.”
Pivoting as a fitness coach and offering Core Set through her e-commerce site isn’t Meleán’s only career shift. Before the WGA and SAG strikes she directed a short film that she wrote. She shadowed her friend and director/executive producer, Joe Menendez on his television series and plans to direct another film after the strikes are over.
Meleán credits all the artists who have guided her. “I’m not alone. It takes a great team to make magic,” says Meleán. “I have Joe Menendez as my director mentor, Gigi McCeery as my writing mentor and Jenica Bergere as my producing partner.”
In five years she dreams that she will be a coveted television director while Core Set thrives in gyms, homes and infomercials. “That would bring me so much joy knowing that I’m being a positive influence in peoples lives through entertainment and self-care,” she says.
Looking back Meleán is grateful that she was inspired to make all these life changes and didn’t give up. Even when it’s hard. “Sometimes it feels draining. You don’t know why you even started it but it’s key to keep going,” she says. And she remains humbled by those who in continue to inspire her to forge a new path. “As a result of the pandemic, I was trying to escape,” she says. “But helping others actually really helped me. And something great came out of it.”
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