After a long day of work, walk into the OKC Planet Fitness gym to squeeze in a workout and you just might find the extra motivation that you needed. As you begrudgingly find your way to the treadmills, it would be difficult not to focus on the 5’5″ lean yet muscular Jerra Simmons as she guides a client through some heavy squatting. Watching from afar, the transformation of not only the client’s physical body but witnessing something much greater happening. You are witnessing the building of a woman’s confidence and that power through Jerra’s unique style of instruction, motivates you to crank up the speed on your treadmill a little more.
Observing Jerra, you might think to yourself, “Man she’s lucky! I wish I looked like that? How can I get a body like that?” But this body wasn’t built over night. And for the same reason she concentrates on the mental aspect of training her clients, she too has a story of transformation.
Melanie Verdell: I can’t believe how far you have come! I am so proud of you for following your calling. It takes a lot of courage to do that.
Jerra Simmons: Thank you! Yes it does, and a lot of prayer!
MV: But how did you get here? When did you discover your purpose?
JS: It was about a year ago, I was in the shower, because thats where I pray and talk to God, and I asked him what my purpose was.
MV: Was this the first time that you’d asked him?
JS: Yes and No, I had been praying about it before, but this was the first time that I really wanted an answer. I heard him say that my purpose was to help people reach their fitness goals with mental and physical confidence. He told me I needed to get certified so that people would take me seriously.
MV: Wow, When you get detailed instructions like that from God, it’s time to take action. That must of been exciting for you to finally get the answer you were praying for.
JS: It was exciting but it was very scary. I had never had a message from God so clear.
MV: When you began praying for your purpose, how did you know that the job you had at the time was not what you were called to do?
JS: I never felt comfortable doing it. I never had a passion for it. One day day I realized that it was just a job. I didn’t enjoy it and it was only a way for me to make money.
MV: Yeah, people living that type of existence have always been close to my heart. I never want anyone to have to live like that. Working a job that you have no passion or excitement about is torturous and draining. And it’s so unnecessary when God put a purpose in each and every one of us. Why would anyone want to live like that?
JS: Because you don’t know. You just know you need a job, and money to support yourself. And that is what becomes your priority.
MV: You are absolutely right. Most of the time we have made commitments and have responsibilities that we must follow through on. What did you do when God spoke to you and gave you your purpose? I’m sure you didn’t just go into work the next day and quit your job did you?
JS: No, I did a lot of praying after that. A lot of praying to confirm that I had heard God correctly. I talked to people I trusted like you, and some other people in my life that have a heart for God and their purpose, people I respected.
MV: Surrounding yourself with like minded people is very important. Was there anyone that told you not to do it?
JS: Yes, when God first spoke to me I went to dinner with my boyfriend that night. I told him what I thought God had said to me and that I was going to pursue becoming a personal trainer. He told me that he didn’t think that was a good idea, and said that he didn’t think that I was a “people person”.
MV: Isn’t that crazy? The closest people to you are usually the ones you get the most criticism and negativity from when you share with them your plans to do something different. Many times it is out of love but it’s their fear that leads them to be so concerned. How important do you think it is to guard your heart and the word that God gives you, especially in the beginning stages?
JS: I’m learning to keep God’s word to me to myself until an appropriate time. Sometimes other people can change your mind with their opinions that are purely based on their own lives and past experiences.
MV: Yes, people often try to impart their lack of faith and understanding onto you, but God didn’t give the word to them, he gave it to you, so it’s important to guard your mind and your heart regarding that word until it has had time to take root and develop. God plants a seed in you from day one. You were formed for a purpose and many people don’t quite understand that. They think it’s the other way around. But God created each of us for a purpose.
Now knowing what your purpose is, and looking back on your life, can you now see the seed that God planted in you? The seed that grew this passion for fitness?
JS: Looking back, I remember when I realized that I was a lot thinner than the rest of the kids in my class. I remember it was around the time that I was in the 5th grade and my parents were going through a divorce. I wasn’t dealing with it well and I’d stopped eating. I was already very thin and when I stopped eating I developed Anorexia Nervosa. My mother ended up noticing how unhealthy I started looking and stepped in. I had to have surgery to correct some of the damage that I had done to my body. It was a long recovery for me to get back to a healthy mental state as well as physical.
MV: What did you do to recover from that?
JS: It was very difficult for me to put on weight, even when I ate. I started playing basketball and running track for my school. It was then that I began to build muscle and saw a positive change in my body.
MV: That had to be mentally challenging for you to build confidence through all of this.
JS: It was. That is why the mental state of my clients is so important to me. Confidence starts from within before you lose a single pound or gain an ounce of muscle. It’s about your state of mind.
MV: So with all of this confidence to see you through, have you ran into any obstacles while getting to the point that you are now at?
JS: Of course, there were many. Finding what certification was best for me and which one I could afford at the time was a challenge. Working a full time job and trying to study for my certification was very hard. I finally resigned from my position because I was ready to give 100% of myself to my purpose. It was very scary and still is at times but definitely worth it. I’m on this journey that I know I am meant to be on.
MV: Are you happier now?
JS: Absolutely! It was so scary but I had to plan for in between [financially] and putting all of my attention on my business has changed my life for the better. I am so much happier everyday now.
MV: You enjoy what you do because you were created for it! Go figure! So Ms. Simmons, how do you see the future playing out?
JS: Some days are harder than others but I see myself continuing to build my business and helping as many people as I can. I’m not in this to be a big Instagram star or for fame at all.
MV: What advice would you give to someone who has been searching for their purpose?
JS: Definitely pray about it. Make sure you talk to like minded people and research, research, research. Don’t think too much or talk yourself out of it. Figure out a way to make it happen and do it!
MV: Mind over matter right? The awesome thing about that is, if it’s God, you won’t have to figure it out. He will show you how to make it happen for sure!
What success have you had helping your clients reach their fitness goals?
JS: If you go to my website jasfitclubokc.com, you will see the programs I offer and the progress of some of my clients. I can definitely get those inches off of you!
JS: In a few months I can help you shed inches and really see a difference.
MV: Do you have any workout programs for people who are not in OKC?
MV: And I have that workout video, it is awesome and so are you Jerra! Thank you for being a woman of purpose! I am sure that the world will be seeing a lot more from you in the future.