My Journey

Fitness, My Journey

Weight Loss and Weight Gain


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I am about to be really vulnerable with you. Really, really, really vulnerable, and I am not going to hold anything back in this post. If you are here to judge me or laugh at me you can move along, this post is not for you. Otherwise I welcome you and I hope that you find yourself inspired by my words. 

As I sit here in my living room writing this a million things are running through my head. I’m not quite sure where to start with this topic. Do I start where my journey started five years ago, or do I start where I am today? A lot can be said, and will be said, but I think I will start where I was sitting a year ago. In January of 2017 I felt both emotionally and physically drained. I had just returned from a mini vacation where I ended a relationship with a man I loved, my mom was finishing up chemo therapy and I was returning to a stressful season at my job. All of these things were mentally draining to me and my physical appearance reflected all of it. Upon returning from this vacation I weighed in at the most I have ever weighed. I don’t have an exact number, but a month prior I had weighed in at two hundred and five pounds. That was a blow to my spirit. How did I get here? How did I allow myself to gain over seventy pounds in three years?
weightloss 6Now that I got that scary, vulnerable moment out of the way I think I can finally breathe again. Thinking back over the last several years I know what happened, and really at the end of the day there is no excuse for allowing myself to get to that point, but I think it’s time to start from the beginning now. On December 3rd, 2012 I was finally fed up with being overweight and decided to try a weight loss program that promised fast results in a short amount of time. I will say it worked, and within two months I had lost fifteen pounds. Feeling unstoppable I decided to get a personal trainer and began working out with him three times a week. In a year I dropped sixty-five pounds and gained a new found love for anything fitness related. I started Spartan racing, running 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and I even decided to go back to school to get my CPT certification. 

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Left: March 2013 (first 5K); Right: October 2013 (first half marathon)

Now don’t get me wrong I loved how much weight I had lost and how fit I had become, but I knew deep down inside that what I was doing was not the healthiest and that it couldn’t be maintained forever. I was eating eight hundred calories a day, ninety percent of it being soy products, and I was working out twice a day. Along with my workouts I had developed an unhealthy relationship with my trainer. We had crossed over from a professional relationship to a brotherly/sisterly type of relationship, which left a door open for a lot of negative things to be said. I am an overly confident woman, but during this time of being at my lowest weight I was obsessed with every ounce on the scale. Partially because my trainer made me weigh in every time I worked out to make sure I lost weight, and if I hadn’t I would be put through a more rigorous workout, but also because every time I looked in the mirror I would see areas of fat that weren’t there. 

Around August of 2014 I decided that I needed to end the program I was on. All of the soy that I was eating was starting to mess with my digestive system and caused a lot of acne. I also needed to stop spending money on a personal trainer and get away from the unhealthy relationship we had developed. I still had a month of sessions left with him so I slowed down my weekly trainings with him and told him I was going to go and pursue my own fitness degree. At the start of 2014 I had joined my brother and his school friends and professor for a Spartan race. Everyone I met in that group was in the fitness program at school and I made the choice to join them in their education. For the next two semesters I took two classes under Jeff and learned everything I could about fitness and personal training. In the fall of 2015 I received my CPT. 

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I thought that for sure I would be able to stay on track with maintaining my weight because I was surrounded by like minded individuals and I was going to school for exercise science. Where I made my mistake though was I started partying. Around the same time that I started school I also began latin dancing. One night I went out for my birthday, met a guy, and kept going back every Tuesday. Every week that I went back I started to fall more in love with the dance style and I realized that one of the biggest things missing from my life was dancing. As time went on I slowly started to go out five or six times a week. The problem with this was that all of the dance lessons were at bars with the socials following after. I would get off work, go dancing from six thirty to two in the morning, come home and have sex with the guy I was with and sleep for three hours. Then I’d get up the next day and repeat this. I had no time to meal prep or work out. Instead I would eat fast food three times a day and then go out to the bars and drink, not heavily, but I’d still drink. None of this was conducive to a healthy lifestyle. 

Slowly I packed on the pounds. At first I noticed it and told myself that I could change this and that my going out was only going to last a little while longer. I’d say that next week I would start waking up at four thirty in the morning and get my runs in. I wasn’t going to let myself get back to where I used to be, but gaining a little bit wouldn’t kill me. I was having fun after all. Two years went by and the next thing I know I weighed the most I have ever weighed in my life. I was never a partier in high school or college, so I was thoroughly enjoying my time going out and dancing, but in the spring of 2016 I started to feel drained. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I ate like crap, I was in an unhealthy relationship, and my mom was just diagnosed with cancer. Something needed to change. I slowly started to leave the dance scene. I missed my friends, but I could no longer go out and party. I also wanted to spend more time at home with my family. 

Heading into the fall of 2016 I was only going out dancing to celebrate my friends’ birthdays. I had finally left the party scene and I was starting to get back into fitness and meal prepping. Then work happened. Earlier in the year we had gotten a new VP and our department was split down the middle between finance and accounting. A lot of training had been going on over the last couple of months, but nothing was as bad as the season we were about to head into. From August to the end of October we go through our budget season at work. We had a pretty good system going over the past few years, but our new VP wanted things done differently and wanted us to dive more into the detail. This left us working eighty hour work weeks, including weekends, and not really having any type of home life. We were all exhausted, doing everything we could to get from one day to the next. On top of that one of our team members was not coming into work, so we were left picking up her slack. By the time I got home the last thing I thought about were my workouts or making my meals for the next day. Instead I would crawl into bed knowing that I’d only be getting five to six hours of sleep before it all started again. 

As things started to slow down I decided to pick up boxing as a form of working out. That only lasted a couple of weeks because as soon as our budget season was over the coworker who wasn’t showing up to work decided to quit altogether. This meant our team was down one member heading into the rest of the year. My only saving grace was that I got a promotion out of her leaving. Every year our work gives us a gift week off between Christmas and New Years. For that break I decided to go out and visit the man I loved in Colorado. My time there was great, but before I left I knew that I loved him more than he loved me and so I ended things. Thus bringing us back around to where my story started, January 2017. 

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As the year of 2017 started I knew that things needed to change in my life. I needed to focus on getting healthy both emotionally and physically, so I spent the last year doing just that. I slowly distanced myself from unhealthy people, cutting back on eating unhealthy foods, and I started working out again. In February I found a group of girls who were filled with positivity, growth, and love. Pole dancing was a safe place for me to escape when I needed to and it was also the place to help me rediscover just who I was. I can proudly say that even during my rough times I was confident and strong enough to not lose who I was deep down inside, but I did fail to nurture her and treat her with respect. That was no longer going to happen. If anyone deserved my time and energy it was myself and that is where majority of my focus went.

I have failed, stumbled, and beaten myself up, but I’ll be damned if I let anything keep me down. Life isn’t about being perfect, but rather it’s about learning from each moment and taking the time to decided which direction you ultimately want to go. I have been both healthy and unhealthy in my life. I have seen what both lifestyles provide me and I have decided I want to get back to my healthier weight and more active lifestyle. I recognize that I have a lot of changes to make if I want to get there, but I am no longer looking for the fast fix. This time around I am making daily choices to change my lifestyle.

Over the last eight months I have lost around twenty pounds and have found my athletic side again. Some of the changes I have made include canceling my netflix, working out three times a week, packing more lunches to bring to work, and making smoothies on the weekend. I still need to cut things out of my diet, such as pop and eating fast food, but I am proud of how much I have already cut back on those. Everything needs to be taken one day at a time and a good balance needs to be found. I have taken drastic measures before, but right now I need to focus on finding what works for me and something that I can maintain. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be fast, but it will be worth it in the end. Being healthy isn’t just about looking the part, but it’s about feeling the part as well. I plan on spending the rest of my life loving my body in every shape and size it is in and nurturing it to be the healthiest it can be. 

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Love always,

Jess

Fitness, My Journey

Bike Adventure!


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On October 7th my sister asked me if I wanted to go on a bike trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her and my brother. For a couple of minutes I pondered the idea while a couple of things ran through my head:

  • I’ve never ridden a road bike before, is two and a half months of training enough?
  • I’m in full swing of dance rehearsals, will I even be able to train?
  • I am not as in shape as I have been, is this something I can even do?

Despite all of the things telling me to say no, I said “absolutely!” Why would I hold myself back from an awesome opportunity? I had a feeling it was going to be difficult, but being able to embark on the trip of a lifetime with my siblings was going to be worth every ounce of difficulty. 

The following Wednesday, October 11th, I went to All Pro Bicycles and purchased a Trek Domane AL 2 8-speed bike. If you are going to buy a bike anywhere I highly suggest going to see Gina and Maddie. It’s a family owned shop and they know their bikes. We have been purchasing our bikes from them for years and they are super great people who only have your best interest in mind. The next morning I took my bike out for its first ride and it was definitely something I was not used to. With the skinnier tires finding my balance was difficult. Another thing I knew I needed to practice was switching the gears. On a mountain bike your gears are on the top of the handlebars, so switching to gear shifters in the front of your handlebars was not easy for my small hands. 

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For the next two months my siblings, dad and I would take weekend bike trips around Simi Valley. We found this beautiful greenway that ran the whole length of the city and made our training safe instead of being on the road with the cars. The Friday after Thanksgiving we wanted to do a 60 mile ride from our house to Point Mugu and back. That morning we were all feeling great, the weather was perfect, and we set out ready to conquer our first 60 miler. We rode the greenway to Tierra Rejada and took that down to Moorpark road and then over to Santa Rosa. The ride to Point Mugu was smooth and we were making great timing. It took us 2 ½ hours to ride out there and then we turned around and headed to CSUCI for lunch. Before we set out to head back home my brother told us that we should be prepared for a little climb, needless to say it was not a little climb.

Turning left off of campus we headed East on Portrero road. The first hill we came upon was short, but steep and ended up being a category 3 climb. Once I got to the top of the hill I was winded, but continued on, thinking that was the “little climb” my brother mentioned. Looking ahead I saw a bit of a down hill and some flat road. As I headed down the hill something flew into my throat and I started coughing. I stopped my bike and tried to get the cough to stop, but my airway started to spasm and I began to have breathing issues. After I got my body to calm down I got back on my bike and I would bike a couple of feet before I would be stopped by another cough/breathing attack. At this point my brother and sister were far ahead of me and I had no cell phone reception, so I knew that I needed to keep going, but I was to the point where my body was no longer getting enough oxygen to create ATP. My muscles were done. 

As I continued chugging along my sister had turned around and came looking for me. When she realized I couldn’t breathe she got off her bike and we walked a little ways to give my body some rest. As we were walking this car stopped and asked if we needed help, to which we responded that we were fine. He then asked if we had ever done this hill before and when we said no he said, “it’s brutal, then it gets more brutal, and then continues to get brutal.” Thanking him for stopping we continued walking until we found a safe pull out to stop. When we stopped my brother had turned around and came back to us. Knowing that I was done, but that we didn’t have cell service, we needed to get to the top of this road. My sister and brother took off on their bike and I walked up the hill until we were able to call my mom to come pick me up. That was the most brutal training day I had to date and it started to make me doubtful. Would I be able to do this trip?

Over the next 4 weeks I was only able to get two more training days in, maxing out at 47 miles in one day. My weeks were filled up with dance rehearsals and I wasn’t able to get any more time in on my bike. This was going to have to be enough. When December 26th came around my siblings and I woke up bright and early, put our bikes on the back of the car and headed out to Union Station. This was it, there was no turning back. We took the train from LA to Oakland and then biked the two miles from the train station to my friend Tanya’s apartment. Those short two miles brought on a quick realization for all of us, biking with our gear on the backs of our bikes was throwing off our balance. This was definitely going to add another challenge to our trip ahead. Getting to Tanya’s apartment we had a little scare because I opened the wrong apartment door, but once we were inside the right apartment we settled in and got a good night’s sleep before we started our bike trip. 

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PC: Chris Trapp

On the morning of December 27th we headed to the bart station and took that into San Francisco. Once in San Francisco we had a few miles of biking up the city hills to get to Target for breakfast. By the time we got to Target and ate breakfast it was already 11:00 and so we decided not to head to Golden Gate park, but rather bike west to the ocean. When we got out of the city and came across the beautiful view of the ocean we had a moment of clarity. This is what we were here to do. Take in the beautiful views of the ocean while biking 450 miles to our home in Los Angeles. My goodness we were blessed!

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Our first view of the ocean

Heading south along the PCH we were able to stay on a bike bath for a couple of miles, then we had to transition to the shoulder of the PCH. Hitting a couple of inclines we made it about 6 miles before we decided to break off into the neighborhood, opting for side street riding to stay off of the freeway. As we turned onto Skyline drive we were met with a category 4 climb, our first of 4 tough climbs on our trip. From the looks of the hill I knew that I did not want to waste my energy, so I chose to walk my bike up the hill. At the top of the hill I realized we were about to bike down a hill at the same incline, and I really do not like going down hills. White knuckling my breaks the whole way down we finally made it out of the neighborhood and continued on Oceana Boulevard until we found a nice place to stop and eat some lunch.

By the time we stopped for lunch it was close to 1:00 and we still had 40 miles to go for the day. Time was not in our favor and we were not looking forward to night biking, but at the pace we were going it more than likely would have to be done. I knew it was me that was holding us all back, the hills were getting to me and I was the slowest out of the 3 of us, but I wasn’t going to give up just yet. Heading back out onto the road we got back onto the freeway and biked a few more miles before we hit what is called the “Devil’s Slide.” Going into this section of the freeway you see a beautiful forest and a winding road that looks like a gradual climb. Don’t let it fool you, it is another category 4 climb that is about a mile long. 

As we started the climb my sister went ahead and my brother stayed behind me. We were on a small shoulder with cars zooming by on our left and soft dirt on our right. Going off of the road either direction could turn out badly. About a quarter of the way up my body started to fatigue and it was no longer staying in a straight line. My entire body was shaking, causing my handle bars to drift out into traffic. Thankfully my brother stuck himself out into traffic to merge the cars over, allowing me room as I swerved left and right up this hill. With constant encouragement coming from him I only had to stop and take a break once. As we crested the hill we noticed a tunnel up ahead, which made all 3 of us extremely nervous. The shoulder we just biked on was scary enough, what would a tunnel bring? Thankfully as we were taking a break a man came off of a paved hiking trail and told us that it was the old road before they built the tunnel. We could bike that around the tunnel and find our way to the other side. 

I slowly made my way along this paved trail, having to stop every 20 feet or so because my body was exhausted. Any type of incline, no matter how small, took all of my effort to bike up it. Knowing that we still had about 36+ miles until we got to our campground I began to worry. I wasn’t going to make it. We began looking at the maps and noticed that Half Moon Bay was a little over 10 miles away, so we decided to see how the next couple of miles went before we made any decisions. A couple of miles later we stopped at a gas station, bough two big bottles of Powerade, and booked a hotel in Half Moon Bay. Finishing our first day we biked by the Maverick’s surf point, went out for some Chinese food, and settled into our hotel to discuss our course of action for the rest of the trip.

Mentally I wanted to continue on with the trip, but physically I knew it was not something that would pan out with the limited time frame we were in. Yes, we did 2 out of the 4 hardest climbs on our first day, but my problem was getting my body to do 60-70 mile days. Knowing my limits I decided to call my parents and ask them to come pick me up. The plan was that my siblings and I would bike to the KOA in Pescadero, where we had planned to stay our first night, and my parents would pick me up there on Friday. Carissa and Chris would continue on to Monterey and we would pick them up there on Saturday and drive them around the mudslides in Big Sur. 

Thursday morning, December 28th, we got on our bikes and headed out for our 27 mile day. With the shorter distance to travel we weren’t in as much of a hurry as we were the first day, which meant we could take our time and enjoy the gorgeous views biking along the ocean had to offer. My body was still tired from the day before, so I had to take the occasional break, but overall the day brought small rolling hills and amazing weather! Google maps wanted to take us off of the freeway and onto back roads, but we opted to stay on the PCH and we were extremely grateful for that decision. 

Half way through our day we stopped at San Gregorio State Beach and we were treated to the most gorgeous lunch spot. Switching off between watching the bikes and hiking around the beach we took our sweet time taking in the breathtaking views and calming feeling the beach brought. As we headed back out onto the PCH our first climb was on a narrow bridge, which I opted to walk my bike. The way my body shook on the incline from the day before I did not want to be swerving out into the cars on this bridge. As the day continued on we came up to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We had originally looked into staying at the hostel they had on the property, but it was too expensive for our budgets. Since we were only 3 miles from our campground we stopped and toured the lighthouse. We saw the skull and ribs of a juvenile gray whale, and we learned that each lighthouse has a different timing between when their lights shine. As ships make their way up the coast they know where they are at based on the seconds that pass between each rotation of a lighthouse’s light. Pigeon point has a 10 second rotation, something I tested out later that evening as we were walking home from dinner. 

Finishing up our last few miles we finally made it to the KOA in Pescadero. I highly recommend staying here if you are ever looking for a place to camp along the coast. Not only are the campsites beautiful, but the people are extremely nice. We had to change our reservation last minute the night before and I had to sit around waiting for my parents all day the next day. Even though I stayed 4 hours after check-out they accommodated me and allowed me to stay without any charge. After setting up camp we walked over to Highway 1 Brewing for dinner and then came back to our campsite and laughed the night away until bed time. 

The next morning my siblings took off for their bike ride to Lover’s Point in Monterey and I hung around camp waiting for my parents to pick me up. I enjoyed the quiet of nature reading a book, walking around the campground, and spending some time watching deer walk through the fields. As sad as I was that my journey was coming to an end, I knew that it was necessary. A trip like this requires a longer time frame for 30 mile days, or it requires more training for 70 mile days. I will be back out to conquer this trip and knowing that my siblings are wanting to do it again so they can do the Big Sur section makes me super excited to have a future trip to take with them. I am beyond blessed to be able to go through life adventuring with these two. Not only do we push ourselves to do crazy adventures, but we have fun along the way. 

Love always,

Jess

Fitness, My Journey, Pole Dancing

Merry Christmas, Baby


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During the winter of 7th grade I was waiting at the bus stop with a girl named Jamie, and two other boys. Freezing our butts off Jaime asked me if I wanted to learn to pole dance. Not knowing what to expect I said sure and had my first lesson on a bus stop pole. Oddly enough I fell in love with pole dancing at that exact moment, and for the next 25 years I tried many different times to take an actual class, but it didn’t happen due to scheduling conflicts and sketchy studios. 

On February 11th, 2017 I was invited to a Burlesque Booty Camp class at Crystal Arts Dance Studio hosted by a guest instructor. Walking into the studio I had no idea what to expect, but I was greeted by a kind and vivacious woman named Christina. It turned out that I was the only one who had signed up for the class and so her and I spent the next hour dancing across the floor, in chairs, and doing floor work. Not only was the class fun, but the environment that she created allowed for my Goddess to open the door a crack and take a peek outside. It was during that class that Christina mentioned to me that she teaches pole dancing as well, so I knew I needed to go and take one of her pole classes. 

March 2nd was my first ever professional pole class and let me tell you, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I knew back in 7th grade that pole dancing was something that I wanted needed to do in my life. It wasn’t because it was sexy, or drew the attention of men, but rather it was what my body, in all it’s curvaceous glory, was BORN. TO. DO. I say that with so much passion because there has never been anything else that has made me feel so alive. I’ve skied, ran 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, completed 9 Spartan races, and salsa danced, among many other things. But nothing, nothing, has ever made me feel like this first class, and every day after, has made me feel. 

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That first night in class there was Tiffany and myself who were the newbies. Our big sisters were Marisha, Audra, Seraphina and Amanda, with Christina as our instructor. Each of the girls were inviting, warm, helpful, and super kind. They took their time to answer our questions if Christina was busy teaching someone else and they cheered us on when we did a trick. My favorite part of the night happened after we were done learning tricks. The Pole Dance Movement classes end with a mini dance session. Depending on the week each girl gets the opportunity to dance to a song in a solo. For the new girls a small routine is provided as we grow into our Goddesses, but for the more experienced girls freestyles are encouraged. That night’s theme was textiles, something that makes you feel good, sexy, feminine, comfortable, etc. I loved dancing the small routine, but it was in watching our big sisters dance that I fell in love. I fell in love with the studio. I fell in love with the girls. I found my Goddess in pole dancing.

Obviously when your Goddess comes out of hiding you have to keep doing it, so naturally I dove in. I would leave Flying Curves feeling empowered, relaxed, and on nights when words couldn’t describe what I was feeling my tears spoke for me because I had finally found my home. Finding this home led me to the Goddesses Empowered The Show, which is something that Christina puts on once or twice a year. All of us Flying Curves ladies have the opportunity to get on stage and perform in solo or group pieces. When I heard about this opportunity I knew I wanted to do both a solo and a group piece, so I asked Christina if I could take one of the solo spots and she said absolutely! From the moment she saw me dance in the Burlesque Booty Camp she knew that I would be an excellent soloist. Hearing those words from her only boosted my confidence and told me that I was on the right path. 

If you know me, you know the confidence I exude on a daily basis. I’m human, so of course I have my off days, but for the most part I know who I am and I share it with the world. I wanted this to be brought across to each and every single audience member. I wanted them to leave that show feeling more confident in themselves and having a desire to go out into the world and fill their lives with passion for something. To get there though I needed to train, work hard, find my song, learn the tricks, and put together a piece that portrayed my Goddess.

We had 6 months to train and put together our routines. Knowing that it was a holiday show I started listening to Christmas music in June. I knew I wanted something slow, but with hits. My Goddess loves to shake her ass and move her hips, so I needed something that would showcase that. Finding a song was probably the most difficult part of this process. Your Goddess changes so much throughout your pole dancing journey that what works one month might not work the next. One night during a Goddess Flow class I danced to Hot for Teacher by Van Halen. At that point in time it had probably been my best dance yet and I thought I found my show song. I had planned it all out in my head on how it could be a holiday song. I would be a teacher that taught elves in Santa’s workshop. It was going to be super HOT. Alas, when I danced to it a couple of weeks later it didn’t have the same fire. See what I mean by your Goddess changing all of the time?

In all of our soloist workshops I would dance to many holiday songs and previously I had danced to Merry Christmas, Baby by Christina Aguilera. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It was slow, but didn’t have the big hits. I wanted the big hits! One night I played a holiday playlist and came across the Merry Christmas, Baby version sung by the Nashville cast. That was it! I found my song! It was slow, sensual, and it had high moments where I could shine my va va voom! Next I found my story. My boyfriend just proposed to me and I was going to show him a good night. Not having a guy to dance for on stage I decided to make the audience my boyfriend. That meant I would need audience interaction. Could I do it? Could I tease, make eye contact, and play with the audience? Of course I could! I love breaking the 4th wall!

Everything that happened after finding my song and story was a whirl wind. I had long days at work and late nights at the studio. My weekends were spent on the group pieces. I had moments of clarity, moments of emotional break down. I had visions of what I wanted to do followed by blockages. I received feedback after feedback from Christina. I spent my daily commutes listening to my song over and over again. I lived and breathed that routine. There were days where I was overworked and tired that I wanted to change my song altogether, but taking a day to step away from dance brought my perspective back. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that dance is easy. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that putting together routines is easy. It takes a lot of work, discipline, and patience. It’s totally worth it in the end, but the grind to get there is filled with it’s highs and lows, so take each moment as it comes. 

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PC: Kate Chianese

On the day of the show I was ready. I hadn’t performed on a stage in over 11 years, but all of those same feelings came back to me. Butterflies in my stomach, excitement, and happiness. I was finally back to where I belong, and it felt great! I was born to be a dancer. I was born to be a performer. I am by no means a professional on any level, but I am an entertainer nonetheless. For those of you who have ever had the opportunity to watch me perform, you know this. I belong up on a stage. Most importantly though, I belong up on a stage pole dancing. I still have a long ways to go in my pole journey, but I’ll be damned if I’m not back on that stage in the next show. My Goddess has found her home and I won’t take that away from her. She’s ecstatic, I’m ecstatic and together we will continue pursuing this dream we have been chasing for 25 years and we will succeed! 

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Love Always,

Jess

My Journey

Big Magic!


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Happy Monday everyone! I just sat down to watch a TV show with my family after finishing up painting my bedroom, cooking dinner (thanks sis for helping me), watching football and reading a couple of pages from the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Today was the first day of a book club I am doing with the Truth and Dare Movement ladies, Allie and Carly. I’ve been following these girls’ podcast for some time now and I just love their personalities and their view point on life. Because of that, I decided to join the book club they are starting, and the first book on the docket is Big Magic. I’m really excited about this book because over the past couple of months I have been trying to find my way back to my magic. For the next thirty days I will be joining hundreds of girls on a journey of self discovery as we dive into Big Magic and learn to live a creative life beyond fear. 

This month long journey includes journal prompts and meditations throughout each week. The first journal prompt this week is, “reflect on an idea that ran away from you, why did you dismiss it?” Below is my response:

If I were to choose one idea that ran away from me it would probably be my writing. I have published three books, but haven’t really written much since leaving college. I tried a few years back to start up this blog to write about my Spartan journey, but life just kept getting in the way. I am the type of person who is constantly on the go and trying new things. When I find something that intrigues me I throw myself in to it one hundred percent and other passions fall to the wayside. Over the last three years I have ran nine spartan races, joined two salsa dance teams, prepared for a pole/burlesque dance performance this coming December, and joined in on many other adventures. I have gotten to be a part of a lot of fun endeavors, but with my time focused solely on those writing became something I rarely do anymore.

Sadly, as much as I have been enjoying the many amazing activities, I have been feeling like something is missing from my life. So over the next month I am excited to explore deeper and discover my creative self. I hope that you will join me on this journey, and if you are at all interested in joining the book club please click the link above for Truth and Dare Movement. I promise that if you get anything from today’s blog post it will be the true joy Allie and Carly bring to your daily life. Stay tuned for my second journal prompt later this week. 

Love Always,

Jess

My Journey

Probation to Promotion


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Hello! Wow, it’s been a while since I have written, so welcome back! I felt like today’s topic was extra important because my one year anniversary of being promoted to a finance manager just passed. It still blows my mind on the daily that I am a finance manager at 29 years old!!! The journey has not been an easy one, but rather one filled with a lot of tears, dragging myself through the muck of life, and finding the courage and bravery inside of myself to use my voice in a corporate environment.

In November of 2010 I was a recent college graduate embarking on her first ever career job. I began as a staff accountant at the former gaming company, THQ. I was surrounded by some amazing, hardworking individuals who to this day I am extremely thankful for. They helped shape the beginning of my career and saw something in me that I, at my young age, didn’t fully see in myself. Sometime around spring of 2012 things started to shift in the company. THQ was heading towards bankruptcy and a lot of upper management was leaving the company. With that came a change in my management chain. For a while things were great, but then I came back from vacation and was called into my manager’s office. I was being put on probation. My world crumbled beneath me. What I had I done? It turns out that during our year end close I made a mistake on an accrual. A mistake that came from the information I received from the finance department. A mistake that my reviewer didn’t catch, the manager didn’t catch, the controller didn’t catch and the auditors didn’t catch. With the demise of our company in sight they needed someone to place the blame on and that blame fell on my shoulders.

As part of my probation, weekly and bi-weekly meetings were set in place with the Sr. Accountant and my Manager. During our weekly meetings the Sr. Acct. would tell me that I was progressing and was doing great work, but then during our meetings with my Manager the complete opposite was said. I was making more and more mistakes and I wasn’t picking up on simple tasks. I just wasn’t cutting it. I felt betrayed by this person. I confided in a couple of people at work, those who saw the best in me. They were shocked and told me that it was the Sr. Acct. who was in fact struggling. In their opinions I was the stronger asset out of us two and I was a threat to job security.

After a couple of months on probation HR called me down and gave me an ultimatum. I take a job in the AP department or I pack up my things and leave that day. Man, that was a really hard decision to make. On one had I was miserable and didn’t want to take a $15,000 pay cut, but on the other hand I had student loans and no job on the horizon. I ended up taking the job, which shocked everyone in the company. I was pulled into many closed door meetings to ask me why I was taking a job beneath me, my skill set, and one that wasn’t projecting my career. Lying through my teeth I grinned and said I felt it was the best move for me.

What stung the most was the people who put me on probation told me that they were glad I took this job because I would straighten the department out and that I would be manager of the department in months. They knew I had the skills to make it. How do you go from putting me on probation to rooting me on?! To make matters worse, HR and my old manager promised to pay me my higher pay while I was training my replacement, but when it came down to getting my paycheck they told me I wasted time and took longer than needed to train this person and so I didn’t deserve the pay. My only saving grace was the upper management who saw my strengths and and pulled me onto projects that were needed for the bankruptcy, despite the objection from my old team. I was favored above them and so it felt nice to give them a little slap to the face.

Two months later I found a job, that included a promotion to Sr. Financial Analyst, at Universal Music Group and I began working there at the end of January 2013. I am coming up close to my five year anniversary here and I can say that without a doubt this company has been the greatest step in my career. Since day one the people on my team push me, pick my brain, and teach me more than I could have ever imagined. Amazing things are happening at this company for me and I am shedding more and more of the pain leftover from my THQ days.

I remember after my first year here I got called into one of my manager’s offices. I was beyond nervous that I was going to get into trouble for something. To my relief she wanted to tell me that after all of my hard work and dedication to my job over the last year she wanted to give me a raise. I kept my cool, but inside I was having a solo dance party! Immediately I ran to a friend in the company and told her what happened. She proceeded to tell me that I had the highest paid discretionary bonus in our group. This company was seeing something in me!! Could it be true? Could all of my doubts and and fears be behind me? The positive feedback I was getting from my coworkers solidified the feeling that I wasn’t the problem at THQ, but rather I was just a threat.

Since my first year here at UMG many changes have taken place. Our payroll accountant left the company and I was gifted the responsibility to manage our payroll systems. Then our department went through an outsourcing transition and I was tasked with training our team in India on our overhead entries. Both of these transitions allowed me to take on more of a leadership role, preparing me for my biggest role to date.

About a year and a half ago our VP was replaced and our central team was split down the middle between accounting and finance. This split was probably our most difficult change within the organization since I started. What came out of it though has been better than I could have ever imagined. Fall of 2016 was a very stressful time for me. My mom was diagnosed with cancer and in the midst of chemo, and I was working crazy amounts of overtime (80+ hour weeks). Everyone at work was working a ton of overtime and we were picking up the slack for one employee who was constantly gone due to family and medical struggles. Then one day, November 7th, we all came into work from a restful weekend to a note from her saying she resigned. No goodbyes, no chance of being trained on her duties, just poof, gone. This was my chance!

For the few months leading up to this moment I had been in talks with our VP about a pay raise. I knew a promotion wasn’t possible at that point in time, but I had been with the company for 4 years with barely any pay increase for the duties I had taken on. I felt like I deserved something. The day our Sr. Manager left I walked into our VP’s office and asked her what her plan was. I was ready to ask for that promotion, but she beat me to it. She told me she was going to promote me to Manager because she believed in me. I still had some things to learn to get to the Sr. Manager title, but I would get there soon enough. A few weeks later I went into her office to discuss pay with her. She suggested a salary and I felt I deserved more, but we compromised in the middle. Then something truly amazing happened. The following week she called me into her office and said she discussed my salary with her boss. He agreed to the number I wanted!! Wow, I had just scored myself a 42% pay raise all because I stood up for myself. I was blown away by this and left her office feeling extremely grateful!

A year ago I was promoted to finance manager and was provided a new endeavor in my career. This year as manager has been filled with learning curves, opportunities to voice my thoughts and opinions, and daily gratitude for what life provides when you put in the work. I am not perfect and am still learning how to be a better manager, but what I can say is that I went for it and I am being rewarded!

Life is never going to be perfect. You will go through your highs and lows and sometimes in those lows you get so down on yourself that you can’t possibly see how things could get better. My story is one of many that show that persevering, believing in yourself and being surrounded by people who see what you are capable of will get you places in life. Don’t ever give up on your dreams in life because you will get there, I promise!

Love Always,

Jess

My Journey

Injuries, setbacks, and the whole shebang


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Injuries and setbacks have been a part of my life since a young age. At 7 years old I broke my femur while rollerblading in PE and I ended up in traction for a month, a body cast for a month and on crutches for 6 weeks. From that point on I’ve always had what my family calls “femur fear.” This has often kept me from fully participating in any recreational sport. I would participate in almost any activity, but within my own mental limits. It was engrained in me that physical activity of any kind could lead to injury, which in turn holds you back from fully enjoying life.

As I have gotten older and become more physically active I have realized injuries are a part of the game. Obviously the whole point is to avoid injuries as much as possible, but that doesn’t always happen. Within the past year I have had quite a few injuries. I slammed my femur on a rock while mountain biking and now have a massive hematoma in my leg. I got glass stuck in the bottom of my foot and had to get it cut open. I have had my ribs broken and my most current injury is turf toe. I would have to say this is by far my worst injury. This is the one injury that scares me. When I tell people what my injury is the common reactions tend to be “huh?” from girls, because they don’t know too much about sports, and then the guys tend to cringe and tell me how they’d rather break bones than ever get turf toe.

Why does this one particular injury scare me the most though? Because it is a career ender for top athletes. Coaches hate hearing their star player has turf toe. Now, as I am beginning my Spartan lifestyle I have been handed over an injury that could potentially end my career right when it is starting. Trust me, I am not one to back down easily. When I slammed my femur on the rock last August, everyone told me I was crazy to even consider racing my half marathon 6 weeks later. I was showing up to the gym with crutches and pushing myself every day because I wanted, no needed, to cross that finish line. Not only did I cross that finish line, but I ran the entire race and crushed my records. I was determined! I was being beat down by the enemy and so I fought. I fought like hell, and I am going to do that now. I currently have to wear a metal plate in my shoe to prevent a lot of movement, but that isn’t going to stop me. I have received permission from the doctor to run. I stressed to her how much this race meant to me and so she is going to help me get back out there. I have this dream for my future, and racing is a BIG part of it. A lot of people around me just tell me to give up. To sit myself down on a couch and prevent further injury, but I can’t do that. For 24 years of my life I lived an unhealthy, under active life and I refuse to place myself back there again. Injuries come and go, they are easy to fix, but health is something you only have one shot at and health to me includes racing.

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There are other setbacks besides injuries. One of the things I have been struggling with is my weight loss. Prior to this year I had lost 65 pounds, but for some reason 2014 has gotten the best of me. I wasn’t motivated. I didn’t have my why clearly defined. However, over the past few months the Spartan races have changed my mindset completely. I have found my why. I have found a reason to continue to lose weight and get into shape. Since my last Spartan race up in Monterey I have been trying my damnedest to get back on track. This week I prepped all of my meals. I stuck to my daily workouts. I ate every 2-3 hours. I drank a ton of water. I stayed on track. This morning on my way to the gym I was feeling so excited to step on that scale and take my measurements. All week long I had been feeling energized, I wasn’t starving, I was back to my old motivational self. How could I not be feeling pumped to go to the gym? When Jason pulled out the scale and I stepped on it I was imagining the high-five I would receive for a job well done. Instead the scale read 144.0. Slowly I could feel my excitement slipping away. Next he took my measurements and with each one I could just feel the energy drain from me. The confidence I had left my every pore.

At the end of it all I had gained 4 pounds since June 4th, with a 2% body fat increase. How could this be? The tears came. The disappointment came. The feeling of letting myself down and letting all of those around me down. Internally I was calling myself a hypocrite, racking my brain around what had just happened; trying to find out what I had done wrong. Clearly none of this was adding up in my head. I have a feeling this has to do with the timing of my period as I have seen this type of jump before in my measurements, but any type of setback hurts regardless of the reasoning behind it. I still have no answer as to what happened, but it’s life and I have to move forward and leave this behind.

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I wrote the above yesterday as a reminder of how many days left until each event I have this summer. This was meant to be motivation and to keep me on track. It still is, but with these two recent setbacks (turf toe and weight gain) I find it hard to believe I can accomplish anything. If there is one thing I have learned though, it’s that I can do anything I set my mind to. I’ve lost 65 pounds. I ran a half marathon 6 weeks after a mountain biking injury. I have made myself a stronger, healthier me and there isn’t going to be a single thing that gets in my way from becoming a life long Spartan. Things happen in life, but it’s how you allow those things to affect you that determines the outcome. I won’t let today’s weigh in or this injury prevent me from reaching for the stars. I will come out on top no matter how hard I have to push!

As my family would say:

“suck it up and be a Jessica.”

“You’re a Trapp.”

“No pain, no gain.”

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

“Pain is good. Extreme pain is extremely good!”

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Love always,

Jess

My Journey

Trifecta Baby!


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10391392_10100205358402480_5424275242538612880_nThe day finally came. Four months of planning, four months of training, four months of creating friendships and memories with people I had only met the day of my first race. I was finally going to be receiving my Trifecta at the Spartan Beast in Monterey along with my four amazing friends Kelsea, Dustin, JT and Jesse. Along for the ride was McKenna who was doing her second Spartan race, as well as Cass and Brenden who were doing their first ever Spartan. Talk about tough guys, not only making the Beast their first race, but also doing one of the hardest obstacle locations known within the Spartan community. To say I was excited was an understatement. I was surrounded with people I love; running the course with people who have come to inspire and motivate me. I was ready for this!

I had spent Friday volunteering and setting up the final touches for the course. Because of this early preview to the course I thought I had a pretty good handle on what was to come, but what I wasn’t prepared for were the hills. I had been told over and over again that the hills were hard and to take it easy. They weren’t joking! The climbs were brutal!!

The start of the race was like every other race. The MC gets you pumped up, gets you into your Spartan mentality. These are the last few seconds you have before you throw your body into whatever extreme journey the Spartan builders have prepared for you. My team of 8 had been running late that morning so none of us had any time to stretch, we were being thrown into the unknown with partially cooled bodies. Our warm-up was going to be the sprint out of the starting line. The second the race began we were off, over the 5ft wall (thankful JT made it over without face planting this time), and on to the U-O-U-O-U and U-O-T (U=under, O=Over and T=Through). I was pumped! In prior races I had difficulties getting OVER the walls. They are puny walls, but I am short and have little upper body strength, which resulted in me “cheating” and getting yelled at as I went over. However, this time was different. I got over the walls with no struggle at all! All of the other walls I needed help getting over, but at least I was making progress!

As the race continued on we were soon thrown into the hills. At first I tried running up them, but that proved to be pointless. Why exhaust myself this early in the race when we hadn’t even made it to mile marker 1? This was the point in the race that our group of 8 split off. Some went ahead and others fell behind. Despite us being separated as a group we were racing together in spirit. The Spartan Raiders had hit the trail and nothing was going to stop us! The thing I love about my group is we each, individually, have our strengths and weaknesses. We have come to learn what these are about each other, so we push each other through the hard times and cheer each other on through everything. There is no judgement in our group, but rather solidarity in knowing that we are capable.

As Dustin and I continued on through the hills we hit some traffic jams. There were runners up ahead who were on crutches. This excited me because that could potentially mean that Amanda was ahead. Amanda is a girl I am following on Instagram. She has become so inspirational to me in all that she has accomplished even with her setbacks. She doesn’t let them get in her way though. Could Dustin and I have made our way around the traffic jams to get in the lead? Sure, but that poison oak wasn’t looking too appealing to us, and with Dustin wearing shorts it wasn’t the smartest idea to take the risk of being itchy the next day. As soon as we got off the mountain we saw Amanda and her team and that motivated me to no end. My goal had been to see her during the race and I just had!

We rounded the next corner and there sitting before us were the rolling mud hills and the monkey net! The monkey net was still in full operation, woot! woot! The excitement coming from Dustin when we saw that was pure joy. As we waited in line we both assessed how much worse the ground underneath had gotten from the previous day and we knew they would be shutting the obstacle down shortly as the morning race continued. Climbing the platform I let Dustin go first. He did the obstacle with such ease and made it across, rang the bell and dropped into the water. Goal “No Burpees” was still in check! Me however, my height disadvantage got the best of me. I couldn’t reach the netting. I tried swinging up to the net and I tried stretching, but to no avail. Eventually I gave in and swung off the platform into the cold water below. After I got out of the water I walked over to burpee-ville and punched out my 30 burpees. For every set of burpees I did (90 total – 3 failed obstacles: Monkey Net, Rope Climb and Spear Throw) Dustin was the cheering me on and giving me a high-five after each set of 30. He may have made it through without doing any burpees, but we both knew that wasn’t going to be the case for me, so it goes back to our team knowing each other so well and cheering each other on through the nitty gritty!

Back to the hills we went. We had no idea how long these hills would go on for. We would be climbing and think we had reached the top, but then turn a corner or come up over a crest and realize there was still more to climb. They were never ending! Thankfully we both had our Reebok All-Terrain shoes on. These shoes were specifically made for the Spartan races, and they worked beautifully. We had so much traction on those hills that it made it easy to make it up and around people as they struggled while slipping off some of the steeper sections. As the race continued we were faced with obstacles such as the bucket brigade, demo carry, cement block pull, sandbag carry and walls varying in height. When it came to the walls I was extremely thankful that Dustin allowed me to step on his shoulder for a little extra boost, otherwise I would have struggled getting over them. There were a couple of obstacles that I had surprised myself with. In previous races I had struggled with the balance blocks and the tire flips. For the balance blocks I had frozen half way through and broke down crying from fear of breaking my femur at the Sprint and for the tire flips I always received help from one of my teammates. However, this race I was able to complete both!! It is such an amazing feeling when you complete obstacles that once challenged you to the point of failure.

There are always a few of my favorite obstacles out there on the course and they include the barbed wire crawls, rolling mud hills and the inverted wall. Rolling around and splashing in mud are just such fun activities I don’t see how anyone could hate them! The first time my parents saw the mud on the course at the first race they knew from that instant on that I would be hooked and they were right. I haven’t looked back since. The inverted wall scares the living hell out of me. You are hanging backwards and trying to swing your body up and over a wall. My femur fear gets to me every time and it has been a consistent obstacle that terrifies me, yet I complete it with such ease that I have to love it! Another new obstacle they had out the course this time was the Yoda Tires. Basically tire swings. Seriously, what I love about this race is that it is your chance to play on a grown up playground. There are challenges, there are difficult obstacles to get you to quit, but you get to play in mud, swing on tires, climb ropes, hop walls. How could this not sound like the best thing ever?!

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When all was said and done and I crossed that finish line I was ecstatic! I had just received my Trifecta and I was surrounded by people I love. We all came out here with one goal in mind and we did it! All 8 of us received our Monterey Beast Medal!!!! I am extremely thankful to my teammates, those who have been with me at every race, those who I have come to know from one weekend spent with each other, those who go along on this wonderful journey with me. I am thankful Dustin helped me out as much as he did, he was such a true sport, and even though we both had our setbacks we made the best of it. Thank you to the Spartan Raiders for making this weekend one of the best weekends. Road trips will never be the same without you guys! Thank you to every single person I met out there on the trail. Thank you for letting me, a stranger, massage your knots out of your backs, legs and arms. Thank you for cheering me on during my struggles and for allowing me to cheer you on. Thank you to the Spartan team for letting me volunteer and help make this race possible. Thank you Joe and Andy for creating this amazing obstacle course race. Thank you to every single person who has been on this journey with me, whether in person, in spirit, or in reading my posts. There aren’t enough thank you’s, so in general THANK YOU!

This isn’t the end for me, but rather the beginning. I have found something I love, something that challenges me, forces me to grow. I have received my first Trifecta in a matter of four months and I have so many other goals and aspirations within Spartan racing that it will keep me going for years to come. I am looking forward to my next race in Temecula on September 13th, 2014. Until then I look forward to sharing with you my journey leading up to it and all the goals I wish to accomplish!

AROOOOOOO!!!

Love always,

Jess