Trainer Diaries: Jessica Sullivan


Submitted by Jessica Sullivan (w/ some Q & A).

Ever think about becoming a personal trainer? Jessica Sullivan, an independent personal trainer based in Philadelphia, agreed to give us the inside scoop of what her typical day is like and how she stays motivated. Check out her account below!

I work for myself as a full time personal trainer. I have created this bizarrely beautiful life over the past decade that I sometimes can’t believe I’m living. I wake up around 5am every day (I’m such a morning person that I have to consciously refrain from being excessively bubbly with my first few clients lest I scare them) and make a point to spend a few minutes cuddling with my little buns while I brew a terrifically strong pot of coffee.

My greatest life work is that I rescue little bunnies from shelters and I spoil them rotten, beginning with morning greens and lovin’. It’s the best part of my day, those few dark minutes in the morning. The calm before the hustle!

What's a standard workday look like for you?

My first client each weekday starts no later than 6am and my last could be as late as 8pm. I work every day but I enjoy it and don't mind the odd schedule. My longest commute is about ten blocks from my home which allows me to fit a lot into a day and also gives me built in outdoor time traveling between clients, as well as chances to stop for lunch with friends, pop into various coffee shops, and fit in my own workouts.

Speaking of my own workouts...I teach nearly every day at Body Cycle Spin Studio and while that workout is about my riders, I certainly get a solid cardio session in trying to keep up with my own instructions! I love Philly Power Yoga and Thrive Pilates, I go about twice a week for barre, fusion, and/or yoga. I also enjoy a weekly ass-kicking at Unite Fitness.

What does 'being strong' mean to you?

My definition of being strong expands far beyond your musculoskeletal system. It starts with a promise to take care of your spirit, your body, and your surroundings. We give ourselves these excuses to treat our bodies poorly where we think, “I deserve this [unhealthy treat].” That’s incredibly self deprecating though, right?

I’m not saying there is no place in this world for a cupcake or a night out with the girls. I’m saying that if we truly love our bodies and can tap into believing that what we deserve is to wake up in a strong, capable body, that isn’t overloaded from digesting unhealthy food or exhausted from sleepless nights, then we can change our concept of treating ourselves to something much more meaningful.

I used to treat myself to a glass of wine - or perhaps, a bottle - and I am shifting my consciousness and instead treating myself to meaningful experiences like a 90 minute yoga, a long run, or time meditating in the sauna. Sometimes I’ll celebrate an accomplishment or sooth a disappointment with a new house plant. It’s really beautiful to change the concept of what you “deserve” to something nourishing to our bodies and spirits.

What's your favorite on-the-go healthy meal?

When I am in need of some actual nourishment, I have plenty of options around town! My most regular on-the-go is Sip-N-Glo in Rittenhouse. I pop in for scrumptious protein shakes (Vanilla Chia? OMG!) and energizing juices whenever I’m passing by - which is often since I live a block away.

If I have enough time to sit down for a meal I hit up Pure Fare for anything from chocolate almond milk to a zucchini salad, you absolutely can’t go wrong there. Post-lunchtime spin you can often find me at nearby sweetgreen, where I load up my own concoction of greens, tofu, and brussels sprouts. I’m not much of a chef but I make tons of veggies at home in the oven and rely heavily on a delicious chocolate protein shake I have every day.


When it comes to my clients, I try to lead by example. How I support my clients inspires my own healthy habits. Last month I quit drinking alcohol because I was constantly requesting that my clients make sacrifices and felt that it was more powerful if I offered to join them in a lifestyle change.

In that way, I’m accountable to my clients. They deserve to have a healthy, happy trainer who knows how to nourish her body and soul. Sometimes the physicality of my job wears me out and it’s easy to skip a workout, order something crazy from GrubHub, or polish off a bottle of Reisling (hey, it happens). More often than not though, I feel responsible to lead by example and show my clients that we make our own happiness and it begins with taking care of yourself. We can enable or prevent our own successes.

How do you celebrate achieving a fitness goal and how do you overcome your failures -- or shortcomings? 

There was a time when I thought my best body was simply anything less than 100 lbs. I thought looking slight and tiny showed dedication and discipline. And then I woke up. I couldn't keep up with running marathons and was constantly skipping actual meals to eat vegan chocolate bars. My skin looked bad, my body was exhausted, and I still didn't love myself. I had to embrace that I'm not a dancer or model; I'm a short, strong chick with glutes and a six pack. I hated the muscular look of my body for my entire adolescence and then realized mid-twenties that what makes my body valuable is its strength.

Now I celebrate what my quads are able to do instead of wishing they looked smaller in a pair of skinny jeans. I've been little and strong-looking my entire life but it wasn't until I fully embraced it that other women started complimenting me and telling me they found it inspiring.

I was voted Philly's Hottest Trainer in 2013 and it was hysterical to me. I have no idea who nominated me and I was shocked to win! It was really like, the year I started to love my body and celebrate my strength that all my clients and riders and friends jumped on board and confirmed that they think strong is beautiful, too.

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