On Her Mark

‘Clap It Up': How Peloton Superstar Jess Sims is Building Strength and Community

From the basketball court to the classroom to the fitness studio, popular Peloton instructor, and Peabody native, Jess Sims shares her story with Hannah Donnelly as part of the "On Her Mark" series.

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She knows how to kick your butt on the bike, on the tread, and on the mat! Once you’re past the ‘glazed donut’ look and start doubting yourself or your ability to finish one of her famous EMOMs (every-minute-on-the-minute workouts), she’ll bring you together with Peloton community members around the world by encouraging everyone to “clap it up.”

It’s the love of a team that encouraged Jess Sims to transition from the classroom to the fitness studio four years ago.

Sims grew up a multi-sport athlete in Peabody, MA.

She stayed in New England for college when she attended Trinity College in Connecticut. There she was a three-time captain of the women’s basketball team.

Sims explains her playing style as “the hustler", the one diving for balls, playing aggressive defense, taking offensive fouls, and boxing out.

When she graduated, she missed more than just the hustle and the game.

“When you finish your last basketball game, my senior game at Trinity, it's just, boom! Like that, your identity is stripped from you. And I realized that I could always have basketball in my life. I could always watch on TV; I could play pickup; I can do all that. But the thing that's missing is that sense of team, that wearing the uniform with the team name across your chest or on your back and having that sense of camaraderie.”

Jess Sims

Between Trinity and fitness classes, Sims spent several years in the classroom. She started with Teach for American in Houston.

She worked at different elementary levels, as an operations director at a middle school, and ultimately a principal in New York City.

While she loved her time in the classroom, Sims explains, “I always felt like something was missing.”

She got vulnerable with friends and she says they helped to focus her saying, "Jess, yes, you are supposed to be a teacher. You are super passionate about what you do, but maybe you're just in the wrong setting.”

Sims strategically made the transition to fitness and is now on arguably the largest global fitness stage at Peloton.

Sims calls Peloton her “adult sport," her new team. And she’s bringing us all along with her.

Sims explains that “clap it up” is a nod to her experience on the basketball court:  “That is me getting back into my captain mode, getting back into my pre-captain mode of saying, like, 'Y'all, we're not alone.'"

Sims is motivated by the messages she gets from members, especially Black women, biracial women and white mothers of biracial women. The messages simply say “thank you.” Sims’ response?

“It's an honor to be visible for young girls that look like me because I didn't have that growing up. I didn't have someone who looked like me, someone who participated in sports like me that I could look at and say, 'OK, look, I'm not the only one, you know? I do look like this person and I do play sports like this person.' It's an honor to be able to show that we have a space, we belong here.

Jess Sims

Of course, we had to ask what she hopes for the future of sports for women and young girls.So I just wish there was more education around the mind and the power of the mind if you're able to create it with your thoughts and you're able to change it with your thoughts. And that's powerful, especially for women.”

To watch the full interview with Jess Sims, watch here.

You can catch Sims on the Peloton app or keep up with all her projects on Instagram @jsimsfit.

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