BOKS Trainer Spotlight: Jesse Farren-James

BOKS was founded on the belief that movement has the power to improve a child physically, mentally and socially. It is unclear however, whether or not the three Natick moms that startedthe program had any inclination of the impact BOKS could have on an adult.

As the Marketing Manager here at BOKS HQ, it is my job to uncover and tell these stories.

Enter Jesse Farren-James a BOKS trainer at the FDR school in Hyde Park, Boston, MA. I had heard Jesse’s name a few times since I came to BOKS HQ, as she stands out in everyone’s mind as atrainer that truly represents what BOKSis all about. And no, that doesn’t mean she’s a fitness-fanatic. In fact, from an early age, Jesse, like too many young girls today, developed a strong distaste for any physical activity.

This is Jesse’s BOKStar Story:

“Growing up, I was heavy, so for me gym class was horrible,” Jesse told me over coffee. “I never saw physical activity as fun – I saw it as something that was very embarrassing and uncomfortable.”

Fast forward to four years ago when Jesse was sitting in a meeting with some dedicated parents and educators in her school community in Hyde Park Boston. The group was discussing the fact that the school didn’t have the funds for P.E. class when Jesse’s now co-trainer Lori presented the idea of BOKS to the group.

“Our community is incredibly diverse in every way – it’s considered inner city but the gap is wide and we just didn’t have the funds for P.E.,” said Jesse. “When Lori brought BOKS to the group I knew I wanted to get involved because I wanted my kids to have a different experience with physical activity than I did. I knew our kids needed this program, but my first thought was that because I was overweight, I couldn’t represent an exercise program.”

Jesse felt BOKS was important for her community because while her kids are involved in youth sports, many families living at poverty level cannot afford to get their kids involved on teams. She added that many of these lower income families have children that are overweight because they don’t have enough opportunity for movement.

With some encouragement from her friends Jesse and a group of parent volunteers brought the BOKS program to both the upper and lower campuses at the FDR school and since its founding ,has been a huge success.

“My son, he’s just like me, and I wanted him to see that physical activity doesn’t have to be something that makes you self-conscious – it can be fun,” said Jesse.

Jesse is passionate about the BOKS program because it’s all about self-betterment rather than competition. There is no picking of teams where a student is picked last or competition between students.

“I always remind the kids when we are running that the only person they are running against is themselves,” Jesse added. “As I’m saying these things to the kids I’m also reminding myself.”

During her time training Jesse has hit highs and lows in her own personal struggle with her weight.

“I remember at one point when I was at my heaviest I couldn’t keep up with the kids during our quarter mile run,” Jesse said. “I had a moment where I thought ‘I want to be a good example for these kids’, I may have given up on my bikini dreams, but I want to be able to keep up, I want to be fit and I want to be healthy.”

Jesse lost 100lbs. and running BOKS was a big part of that achievement: “When you go to the gym first thing in the morning it sort of shapes your day and that’s exactly how I feel after moving with the kids at BOKS,” she added. “After a BOKS class I’m more motivated to go hiking with my dog and after hearing the Nutrition Bit I’m more motivated to eat healthy.”

I recently visited Jesse’s BOKS class at the lower campus at FDR. She is an incredible trainer. From the moment I arrived at the school she was bursting with energy and that energy is completely infectious.

The kids in her BOKS class look up to her and you can tell they truly enjoy just being around her. One student once told her she was “the most beautiful mom she knew.” And that was before Jesse lost the weight.

Jesse shows the kids you don’t have the be the best, you just have to try your best. “Next week is burpee week you guys and you know that Coach Jesse does not like burpees!” she exclaims. “But you know what, I’m excited because I’m going to try my best and I may only get three when you guys do twenty and that’s okay!”

“I want to show kids that you can be any shape or any size and you don’t need to be an athlete to enjoy play and exercise,” said Jesse. “I think if I had had that kind of role model or I had learned that – my life would have been shaped so differently.”