Bare Necessities amBRAssador Jessica never considered herself a natural athlete, but she’s a fitness devotee because working out does wonders for her mood. That’s why she recently took it to the next level and made the leap from student to instructor at her local CrossFit gym.
Read on for how Jessica makes working out her number one priority each day, the accomplishments she’s proudest of and her motivating mantra for pushing through even the toughest workout.
“I’ve always been interested in health. I got my Bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and thought about becoming a physical therapist, but at the time I struggled with academics due to anxiety. My other option was personal training, but I didn’t want my hobby to become my job. Though I wanted to be a doctor as a kid, I knew medical school wasn’t for me.
I’ve gone up and down in weight my whole life. Growing up, I did tap, jazz, ballet and yoga. In college, I gained a little more than the freshman 15, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduation. My friend was becoming a trainer, and I became his practice client. I joined a gym and started teaching swim lessons. Before I knew it, I was the swim department director at the YMCA.”
“I got into CrossFit about four years ago. I was bored with the standard weight training and cardio. A few friends at the Y who were also doing it said to me, ‘Just try it, you’ll love it.’
I was very intimidated at first. People see this elite section of CrossFitters, like at the CrossFit Games every summer, and get put off by them, but it’s actually not so scary when you step in yourself. I fell in love with it. The exercises and combinations are different every single day. You immediately feel a sense of community. You will accomplish something.
My friend lost 100 pounds and was asking for fitness advice from me. I had that moment of, ‘why shouldn’t I get paid to do this?’ It seemed silly. A few months ago, I completed my trainer certificate, and now I coach CrossFit classes at my gym.
I’m still learning a lot. People are so devoted not necessarily because of the workouts but because of the incredible support of the community. The trainers try to cultivate that environment. It’s so body-positive. You show up, you do your best work—that’s all they care about. I wish CrossFit had been around when I was struggling with my weight as a teen.”
“I exercise five days a week for an hour. I wake up, get the hour in, accomplish more than enough and it’s done. If I don’t go, I know I’m not going to feel good for the rest of the day, and I’ll be mad at myself, so even on the hard days, I get myself out of bed.
Each class is about an hour long and divided into two sections, a strength or a skill, like weights or gymnastics, and a Workout of the Day, or WOD, consisting of conditioning and cardio. CrossFit is about constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity. In other words, it makes me stronger and better at things in real life. When my grandma was wheelchair-bound, I could transfer her into the car. I can help my dad with projects around the house. Just knowing that I can help without a second thought is the best thing I’ve taken away from this. It’s taught me to expect the unexpected and to be ready for anything. That’s what keeps me coming back.
The body-positivity has been huge for me as someone who has struggled with it my whole life. I’m okay with being a curvy girl because there are others all around me. I went from feeling insecure to feeling very proud. It was hard at first because I was gaining weight, but I realized how strong I was becoming. Sure, I can’t wear shirts with tight sleeves, but now it’s because my arms are too strong.
I also manage my anxiety with exercise. It’s a stress-reliever. It sets my mood for the day. I know the benefits I get from it. I’m okay with taking a rest day, too—I know I’m in control. I also know the long-term health benefits; we have a history of heart disease in my family, and I’m not showing any signs of that.
Anybody is capable of doing CrossFit because it can be scaled to your abilities. You can substitute a movement or use less weight. The grandma and the elite athlete in the same class get the same workout. It’s the attention of a personal trainer combined with the camaraderie of a class. For the average person, you’ll see a significant benefit from doing it two or three days a week. If you’re only doing it one day, you’ll be sore and unhappy every time.
I swear by the Chantelle High Impact Underwire Sports Bra. It’s great if you’re shorter in the torso, and when you’re doing high-impact things like running and jumping, you’re not only pain-free but comfortable.
My best advice: Stick with it. It’s never going to be easy; it’s a never-ending journey. Consistency is 100 percent of the reason you’ll succeed. If you turn up, you will get better. Get advice when you need it, too. A friend and I just started a nutrition plan, and we commiserate and celebrate together. Don’t do this on your own if you don’t have to. Support and understanding make it a lot easier.
When I need a lift, I remind myself: Believe and breathe. You absolutely need both at the same time, in life or at the gym. Know that it’s going to be okay.”
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Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, calligraphy, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.