Elena Ferrarin

Article by Elena Ferrarin

Communications Coordinator
Northbrook Park District


Julie Lappas, the new fitness supervisor at Techny Prairie Activity Center, was 9 years old when she first felt the rush that comes with working toward a fitness goal and seeing results.

A native of Skokie, Julie had done poorly when she ran the mile in gym class in elementary school, so she decided to work on that. “I started running with my mom in the evenings a couple of times a week, and it drastically improved my time,” she said. “I found that competitive nature within myself, and I’ve been a huge runner ever since.”

The experience eventually led Julie to a career in health and fitness as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor — she has taught everything from Body Pump to Cycle and Basic Yoga — for a variety of gyms, park districts and large commercial clubs. She started her new role with the Northbrook Park District in May.

Julie’s philosophy is all about helping people find joy in exercising and moving their bodies. “If people are not doing things that are enjoyable, they are not sticking with it,” she said.

Julie is planning new specialty fitness classes at TPAC starting at the end of summer. For example, Yoga-Stock (a wordplay modeled on the music festival Woodstock) in September, which is National Yoga Month, which will be a daylong extravaganza of yoga classes along with beverages and snacks; Pie-Latte, a mat Pilates class followed by pie and lattes; and Bootcamp and Brew (the “brew” will be Kombucha). In the future, she’s hoping to also introduce similar creative classes for the community.

Practicing mental fitness also is crucial, she said. She encourages people to practice mindfulness, stress management and meditation, focus on gratitude and positive thinking, and stay connected to family and friends. “We can do all these (physical fitness) things for our bodies, but it’s the new mental health revolution that is going to be the big thing in the 2020s.”

Julie, who lives in Glenview, said she loves the collaborative environment of the Northbrook Park District. “Even though everyone is in a different building and has different responsibilities, everyone works together to make the Northbrook Park District such a great place to be,” she said. “If I call someone at the Leisure Center or at the Sports Center, if I need something or have a question, they are willing to help or provide their input. I really enjoy that aspect.”

TPAC Manager Shawn Bernaky said Julie has an extensive knowledge of fitness programming and teaching fitness classes. “We are excited to see all the creative and fun fitness opportunities she plans on implementing. Julie has already had an amazingly positive impact on TPAC and I know that will continue going forward,” he said.

Julie ran track and cross country at Niles North High School, then majored in health and sports studies with a minor in psychology at the University of Iowa.

While in college, she worked at the front desk of a fitness center and realized she wanted to become a personal trainer, she said. Her manager helped her study and pass the certification exam, and she’s been a personal trainer since 2008 and a group fitness instructor since 2011. In fact, supportive supervisors have had a tremendously positive effect on her career trajectory, she said.

A self-proclaimed “vitamin D junkie,” Julie loves to be outdoors year-round with her 4-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. She is also an avid fiction reader who’s been known to finish a book a day, and her favorite vacation destination is Greece.

Julie said she’s found her lifelong passion in health and fitness. She had a brief work experience in real estate, which made her certain this is where she belongs, she added. “(In real estate), I wasn’t making a real difference in someone’s life,” she said. “In fitness, I feel I can make great connections with people, and I can motivate them to feel better and be happier.”