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FITT Q&A: JESSIE WALLACE - PERSONAL TRAINER, OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST, AND DOG MOM

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MEREDITH O'CONNOR

JUL 14, 2020

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IMAGE VIA @J.WELLNESS | INSTAGRAM

In a recurring series, we’re talking to inspirational people doing amazing things in Pittsburgh’s fitness scene.

Recently, we caught up with SHAPE Training instructor Jessie Wallace about her competitive nature, binge-watching The Office for the millionth time, and life with her dogs Fig and Leif.

WHO IS JESSIE WALLACE?

I'm from Reading, Pennsylvania, and I've been an athlete my whole life. I was involved in volleyball, basketball, and I was a thrower on the track and field team at high school.

I got a full ride to play basketball at Ryder University in New Jersey and went there for one year. But it wasn't what I expected college basketball to be like, so I transferred to Pitt. I competed on the track and field team for three years and that was easily the best decision of my life. I loved the competitive training aspect and pushing myself as an athlete, so falling into the fitness industry wasn't a big drop for me — it was pretty seamless.

WHY SHAPE TRAINING?

I was Googling training gyms in the area and the turf they had in their facility was what stood out to me. I took a class there and I loved the energy, the atmosphere, and the intensity from the coaches. I was like: “I have to work here”.

I've been there for two and a half years and I absolutely love what I do. My clientele base has grown and my coworkers are awesome. I'm also one of the coaches at the new performance space — and bringing out the athletic and competitive side of people has become my biggest passion.

DO YOU WORK OUT FOR THE ENDORPHIN HIGH OR STRESS RELIEF?

Both. I had an eating disorder for a decent portion of my young life, so sports and training provided me a mental release through all of that and helped me learn to trust myself more.

On the physical side, I’ve been lifting my whole life. But when I started working at SHAPE, that's when I really fell in love with strength training. I’ve learned that lifting weights for women can be about more than just bodybuilding or hitting a performance goal. It's functional, and it can apply to every aspect of your life.

IS BEING A PERSONAL TRAINER CHALLENGING?

The schedule can be hard. I typically work anywhere from 50 to 60 hour weeks and I love every second of it. But waking up at 4:30am and getting home around 7:30pm every day takes it out of you.

I have marked times throughout my day that I go home to see my dogs, but it’s important to find a work-life balance and be selfish with your time. That’s why I don't usually work on the weekends. I need those weekend hours to decompress and reset myself so I can be at my best for my clients and my coworkers.

YOU ALSO POST A LOT OF FOOD AND FITNESS CONTENT ON YOUR INSTAGRAM. TELL US ABOUT THAT.

I started my J Wellness account when I was studying to get my personal training certificate. I was still struggling with my eating disorder and I wanted to use it for accountability so I wouldn’t beat myself up.

I also wanted to connect with other people who had been through the same things and learn from them as well. Over time, my engagement has grown, and I realized people really see the value in it. In the past year or so, I’ve gained a lot more knowledge about the fitness industry, and my goal is use my platform to try and educate people about how to live a healthier lifestyle.

@j.wellness | Instagram

ANY LIFE-CHANGING ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE?

Your progress will never be linear. There are times when I completely fall off the wagon — I’ll eat two boxes of Oreos in a week and I'm not as active. I don't drink enough water. I'm getting crappy sleep.

It’s about finding a balance in your life that you are at peace with and recognizing that the journey is ever-changing. And that's okay because you live, you learn, and you adapt.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?

I love being outside. I like to go on bike rides or go up to Schenley to play disc golf. I love taking the dogs out — I’ve probably let them run around at the dog park every day since quarantine started.

When TJ Maxx and Marshall’s are open, I spend a lot of my time there. I bake, I cook, and I hang out with my sister. I'm pretty laid-back, so I don’t do anything crazy.

WHO HAS INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST IN YOUR LIFE?

I’m going to be really cliché and say my parents. My mom was the person that inspired me to become a trainer. And my dad has always been there for mental fortitude. He was the one who pushed me to really love being competitive.

IS THERE A SPECIFIC DIET YOU FOLLOW?

Not so much anymore. Toward the end of my eating disorder, I tried to find something I felt like I could stick with forever, but that’s not sustainable for me.

I love food, and I always have dark chocolate in my house. I have no idea how it used to be easy for me to cut things out. But I’ve gotten much better at listening to myself and so I try to eat foods that are whole, and real, and raw as much as possible. I make sure I have vegetables and fruits in my fridge at all times.

WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU’RE WATCHING RIGHT NOW?

Even though I’ve 100% seen The Office over 15 times through, I’m rewatching it again. In my defense, I live by myself, and half the time, it’s just playing in the background.

IF YOU CHOOSE ANYONE, WHO IS YOUR IN-HOUSE DJ?

Kygo. I love the vibe of his music — he's my absolute favorite artist. Every time I listen to it, I feel like I'm driving down the coast in a convertible and the sun is setting and the ocean is right there.

@j.wellness | Instagram

IF YOU WEREN'T IN PITTSBURGH, WHAT CITY WOULD YOU BE IN?

When this comes out people are going to laugh. San Diego, California. I love Pittsburgh. It's the best decision I ever made to move here, but I hate the cold with a passion. And I don't think we get enough sun here.

I love being active outside and I have a very energetic, sunny personality, so living in a city that has temperate weather year-round and is next to a beach would be ideal.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FAVORITE SPOTS IN PITTSBURGH?

Trader Joe's.

SHAPE Training, obviously.

I love Thai food, so Noodlehead, Nicky's Thai Kitchen, and Smiling Banana Leaf.

I’m obsessed with Roots Natural Kitchen in Oakland.

University of Pittsburgh — my heart and soul.

I love The Point and the Roberto Clemente Bridge and PNC Park. I love baseball, and the ballpark was one of the first things that I got to really experience in Pittsburgh. I have a lot of special memories at The Point. I've always loved going down there to just sit and look at the city and the water.

HOW ARE YOU ADAPTING DURING THIS TIME OF COVID?

I started reading The Glute Lab and am learning a lot from that. I adopted a puppy in February, so I’m potty training him. Since my training schedule has opened up, I’ve also gotten the chance to connect with people on my J Wellness Instagram account.

Just little things like that feel like an accomplishment. I'm trying to do my best to see the positive in every situation and occupy my time with getting out, going to the park, seeing my sister, or finding ways to exercise.

Follow along with Jessie on Instagram, check out her at-home bodyweight workout, and tune in to the Fitt PGH ’gram for more local trainer spotlights and the latest fitness news.

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