An Interview with Jessica Kelly
LA based Jessica Kelly was a late bloomer who didn’t start going to the gym until her early 30’s. Little by little she discovered yoga, which opened up a whole new world of health and fitness. From there she moved to CrossFit and now at 42, is the strongest she has ever been in her life.
I train for a lot of different reasons. It reminds me how strong I am. Even on a bad day, it reminds me who I am. It’s such a mental game for me. Am I going to be able to do it today? If I can’t, am I going to cry? Am I going to give up? What can I pull out of myself today? It’s to prove to myself that I can do things, and to prove to myself when I can’t do them, that I can deal with it and go back in and try it again tomorrow. And that translates to the rest of my life. It’s a different type of courage and confidence and playfulness that I didn’t have before.
"I’ll never be the strongest. I’ll never be the fastest. But I’ll be the one that works the hardest."
On the toughest thing I ever did
Seven years ago, for a variety of personal reasons, I completely started over. I moved to Los Angeles on my own with no savings, no job and no contacts. I left my best friend, my marriage and my family. I was alone. But I never looked back. I started doing yoga twice a day. And discovered that helping people through health and fitness was my true passion.
On struggling with self doubt
I’ve struggled with self doubt and lack of confidence all my life. I think it goes back to not playing sports as a young girl. Only by training have I felt more accepting of my strengths and weaknesses. Where as before, I hadn’t learned how to deal with that. I’m now learning to do things I never thought I could do. So deep down I know I can do anything.
I want to be as healthy and as strong as I can be so I can live life the way I want. I want to be ready for the next adventure!
“For the first time in my life, I had an appreciation for what my body could do, rather than what it looked like.”
On turning 42
I was never really age conscious. But coming to LA when I was 35 has been really interesting. Everyone here is so focused on youth. I want to stay an inspiration. I have people come up to me and say, “You’re 42? I can’t believe that.” Why? Am I supposed to behave like an old person? I don’t know what old is. Am I supposed to look like a bag of bones? Or stop taking care of myself? I’m not training for aesthetics. I’m doing it for achievement. I have people my own age who tell me “I can’t do this stuff anymore”. It’s funny, because I never had done it before so I have nothing to compare it to. So there’s no limitation in my mind. I may take longer to warm up than younger people, but that’s it!
On her tattoo
I have a small tattoo “Amor Fati” on my arm. It’s Latin for “Loving Your Fate”. Not just accepting what happens in life, but really embracing and loving the good, the bad and the ugly – knowing that whatever is happening in the moment is necessary in order experience life and beauty and to move forward. So when something happens that I might not like, I repeat it to myself and helps me see what could come out of that moment. We can’t choose what happens to us. But we can choose how we feel about it. And why wouldn’t we choose to feel anything but good?
"Human greatness is the ability to love your fate"
On being beautiful tough
This phrase changed my life and my notion of myself. There could be a bad connotation to the word tough – stubborn, closed off, unrelenting. But pairing it with beautiful brings all that positivity to the surface. That tough is being courageous and strong. When I finally let go of what I looked like, and focused on being strong, I felt my body change. My clothes fit different. I felt different. Because there’s such beauty in strength. It’s grace and grit in harmony and balance.
On the power of one
Everyday is an opportunity to see what you can do. It’s like beginners mind. It doesn’t matter that you’re doing Downward Dog for the 1000th time. On that day, in that moment, it’s the only one.
Athlete: Jessica Kelly
A baby born in Canada today has an average lifespan of 89 years. That takes us to 2105.
What if when that baby was born there was calendar on the nursery wall counting down to 2105? I think the choices they would make might be very different in how they lived their life. But we don’t look at life as being a finite or that things are counting down.
So when I look at my life and I realize I’m reaching the halfway mark, I ask myself “now what?” I want to believe there is something beyond what we are doing now. Does it scare me a little bit? Yeah. But I believe we are all here to serve a purpose. Whatever that is for you, whatever fills your heart and gives you that sense of oomph when you get out of bed in the morning. Especially if that is helping others, or giving back, or making the world a better place.
When I talk about the Faith pillar as part of my philosophy on life, that’s what it’s about for me. That’s why I give back so much of my time. It makes me feel really good. Maybe that’s selfish. Do people benefit from me being selfish? Yes. I think it’s win-win.
YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE
That’s why I invite people to try and live a lifestyle that feels good. A 2% a day commitment. 30 minutes a day. 15 minutes of movement with purpose. 5 minutes of mindfulness. 10 minutes of personal development. At the very least it’s what you deserve. You’re worth it. Try it for 28 days. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not a program. It’s a lifestyle. It goes until the day you die. Until the day you CHOOSE not to do it anymore. Because it’s always a choice. But many of us get stuck. We get sidetracked during the day doing things that don’t fill the mind body experience. And that’s ok. But I’d like to start to encourage people to start with 2% a day to commit to themselves first.
CHANGE ANY HABIT WITH THESE 3 QUESTIONS
There are 3 simple questions you can ask yourself to change any habit to live a more fulfilling and higher quality of life.
1. Can I do this?
This relates to education. Can I learn the skills necessary to do this? From learning to play the piano to getting nutrition knowledge, the answer is yes. You can always educate yourself to learn how to do something. You’re capable. Have a little self-belief.
2. If I go and get lessons, will I get better?
If I start to eat better, move my body differently, or obtain specific knowledge, will I get results? The answer is yes.
3. Is it worth it?
Which really translates to “Am I worth it?” It’s highly subjective and comes from internal motivation. It’s “I WANT to do this” as opposed to I should or I would or I could do this. It’s the difference between desire and discipline. Discipline is forcing yourself to do something until eventually a habit is formed. Desire is “I really want to do this because I know the end result. I know what’s it’s going to provide for me from a lifestyle from this alternating perspective.”
Once you answer yes to all three, that’s when lifestyle becomes habit. And you can continue to reinforce that.
COMMUNITY - THE KEY TO EVERYTHING
This is the last layer, which I think is the most essential. Community. It’s why I believe Cross Fit has exploded globally. It’s that community of like-minded people. Because they’ll be days when you feel discouraged. When you feel down. It’s nice to have someone there saying “it’s ok, I felt like that last week. Now lets get back up and do it again.”
So let’s go through those 3 questions again.
Can you do it? Yes.
If you keep doing it, can you get results? Absolutely.
And are you worth this? Yes you are. You know it. That’s where the community comes in to remind us of that. And keep us going.
But If you choose to say no, I’m not worth this anymore, then we got a bigger issue to deal with. I’ll fight you tooth and nail on that one.
Because you are.
Written by: Dai Manuel
About the athlete
Dai Manuel is a coach, lifestyle mentor and bestselling author of Whole Life Fitness Manifesto, an indispensable guide for a healthier mind, body and spirit. Check out www.wholelifefitnessmanifesto.com where you can download a preview chapter from the book and learn about how to join the tribe for free.