Tell me a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Jess and I’m from Central, IL. I’m 26 and I’m the Associate Group Fitness Director at the YMCA and oversee both branches group exercise programs in my city. Along with running the group exercise department I teach a handful of classes at 530am. I’ve competed in 5 bodybuilding shows in the bikini division and have placed in all of them. I have also been hypothyroid for almost 9 years now and fight every day to show girls who are newly diagnosed that you are not your disease. When I was 17 years old they found a tumor on my left ovary and I had it removed. The tumor was slightly bigger than a softball and I had no ovarian tissue left from the tumor. They found cancer inside the tumor from a specific part of the tumor that contained thyroid tissue inside of the tumor itself but I have since been cancer and tumor free for almost 10 years.
What aspect of fitness do you enjoy the most?
Honestly, I enjoy everything about fitness. I love the feeling I get after a brutal lift or after a hard class. I get a surge of energy and nothing compares to it. It’s brought out so much inner confidence in me and has helped me become a stronger person. Fitness isn’t just that, it’s a lifestyle, my lifestyle.
How long have you been into fitness?
I first started working out about 5 years ago but it wasn’t serious or true weight training at first. It was a rough first few years of not getting into the right routine and trying different things and not staying consistent. Once I got serious that’s when everything changed.
How did you get into fitness?
That’s a funny story. I’ve been working at my gym since high school when I was a lifeguard and swim instructor. I had gained weight once I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and just kinda gave up. I kept complaining that I was gaining weight and wasn’t happy with how I looked. My boyfriend, who I had been with for over 3 years at that point, said you work at a gym, fucking do something about it or stop complaining. I had 2 options, be ridiculously mad or still pout but listen to him. So I did the later and started going to the gym with him on a regular basis. Slowly but surely I became more and more comfortable in the gym and here we are today.
What was a turning point for you to take it seriously?
In 2015, I wasn’t seeing the progress I wanted on my own and decided to do a summer challenge with a trainer on Instagram. I worked out 6 days a week for 2 months and I loved it. I saw some progress and it fueled my fire and I was determined to do a bikini competition the following year. I signed up for another 3 months with the same trainer from the challenge. Once I was nearing the end, I found my prep coach through some research and started my prep in February and competed in October and November of 2016.
How has fitness impacted your life?
Fitness has changed so much. I’m a happier, more confident person. I have an extremely strong relationship with my boyfriend, who we have now been together almost 10 years. I found my passion in life. My goal isn’t to look good, but feel good in life. Fitness has become my career. I go to my gym 5 sometime 6 days a week when I have to teach and work 40-45 hours doing what I love. I have become who I was meant to be because of fitness. I no longer allow myself to hold back on doing anything I want to. I just go for it and hope for the best.
What words of advice or encouragement would you like to give to someone who is just starting out or would like to start but doesn’t know where to begin?
It’s hard at first. There’s no question about that. You want results instantly because that’s who we are as a society. Everyone says not to compare yourself, but you can’t help but to it is just human nature. You can’t look at someone’s 3 year transformation to your 30 day transformation and question why you don’t look like that though. When you’re in the gym, don’t be afraid to ask people questions. Everyone started as a beginner and I guarantee had some of the same questions as you. Go with somebody to the gym that has some knowledge or better yet sign up with a challenge to really get yourself ready to go, just make sure you are truly ready and aren’t in the unsure mindset. Once you have the mindset that it’s not just a diet or exercise or fitness, but that it’s a lifestyle, that’s where you truly grow.