You Can’t Keep a Good Girl Down | Trainer and adidas Ambassador Jera Foster-Fell
A NASM-certified trainer, blogger, Instagram fitspo goddess and adidas ambassador, Jera Foster-Fell is many things - but a quitter isn’t one of them. After a particularly rough year, it was dedicating herself to fitness that pulled Foster-Fell – also known as Funky J, and many other quirky names as you’ll soon find out – out of her funk. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and by the sounds of it, she’s only getting started. Learn more about this BOSSBISH below, and be warned - her energy and optimism are contagious!
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into fitness!
OH HEY! I’m Jera. Also lovingly known as Bread or Funky J by my friends. Where do these names come from, you ask? Well, my mom had a dream when she was pregnant with me, and the dream told her to “name her Jera!” So she did. I am occasionally Bread due to a random text conversation involving the bread emoji, and it just happened to stick. Funky J came about because one time, I was part of a group ice breaker where we were all asked choose an adjective that began with the first letter of our name. Somehow I missed part of the instructions, and when it came to be my turn, I wholeheartedly and unabashedly yelled “FUNKY!" Totally oblivious to the fact that I needed something that began with J. Thus, Funky Jera was born. The only other important fact that you need to know about me is that I have a dog named Spicy Grandpa and he is the love of my life.
In terms of fitness, I think that so many moments in life are hard to nail down. Memories blend together and become fuzzy, and specifics become generalizations. But it’s funny, I can actually pinpoint the exact moment that fitness came into my life. It was Saturday April 4, 2015. Prior to that moment, I had gone through a difficult year. I had a job that created so much stress and exhaustion that I started to lose hair, and I also went through a break up from a long relationship.
I had been following Kayla Itsines, an Australian personal trainer and creator of the Bikini Body Guide workout program, on Instagram. I always admired the transformation photos that she posted. We see so many misleading and photoshopped images these days, but being able to click onto the profiles of girls doing her program, and seeing that they were real, genuine people, always intrigued me.
So that Saturday morning back in April, I woke up, and as if a light bulb sparked in front of me, I decided that I was going to start BBG that day. With swift determination, I purchased the guides, went to the gym, and started day 1 of the twelve-week program. I haven’t looked back since.
We can’t get enough of the vibrant photos and motivational quotes on your Instagram, @workoutbean! What prompted you to take to social media to share your journey?
The same day that I started working out, I also created my fitness account, @workoutbean. My mom always called me Bean or Bean Robin growing up, so it took me about .5 of a second to decide on a handle, and then boom! I was live and public on Instagram. Though, side note, I didn’t tell friends or family about my account for a few months. I originally created my account to hold myself accountable for my workouts, but very quickly it turned into something much more significant. I started to tap into the incredible women-run fitness community, and within a week or two, I had started to make connections. There were several girls that I would stay in constant touch with - we would comment on each other’s photos daily, talk about what workouts were challenging, share our victories (10 burpees without stopping, wahoo!) and talk about life outside of fitness.
Before I created @workoutbean, I was at a weird point in my life where I didn’t really have any friends. I was just starting to emerge from this haze of a stifling job that had me working 24/7 and allowed no time for a social life. But because of Instagram, I started to make friends. It sounds kind of silly, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to finally have the female connections that I didn’t realize I was so desperately lacking. The wonderful thing was that the virtual friendships I was making started to become real life friendships. Fast forward to today, all of my best girlfriends are girls that I’ve me through Instagram. I never would have guessed that I would form such meaningful relationships that day back in April when I clicked “create account,” but I feel so grateful that that’s the course this wild social media ride has taken.
How does your background in graphic design play a role in your recent endeavors in fitness and blogging?
I’ve always had something to say when it comes to aesthetics. When I was younger, my mom would push me in a stroller down the streets of New York, and I would point to billboards and plastered ads and demand answers to questions like “why did they choose that color?!” Or “why are those words written that way?!”
In college, after a year of being undeclared and considering all kinds of majors (French, International Relations, Creative Writing…), Fine Art just sort of fell into my lap. It felt right. My emphasis was graphic design, and though I had never considered that profession growing up, I felt like I was in the right place.
Though I’m not working as a graphic designer anymore, having a graphic design background has been immensely helpful for everything that I do that’s social media-related. In terms of Instagram, I’m able to create a feed that I find to be balanced and aesthetically pleasing. For my blog, I was able to create my website on my own and update it as I please. And with photography, though I’m not by any means a photographer, I am able to utilize Photoshop to boost colors, get rid of blemishes, crop images...the list goes on.
“Fall down seven times, stand up eight. It’s not failure until you decide to give up."
Let’s talk about your role as an adidas ambassador! What does being a part of the adidas brand mean to you?
What?! ME? I’m an adidas ambassador?! Honestly, I constantly remind myself that it’s actually real because it still seems so crazy to me! If you had told me eighteen months ago that one of the most prominent athletic brands would want lil ol’ me as an ambassador, there’s no way I would have believed you. But fast forward a year and a half, and it’s now a reality.
adidas is such an incredible company and brand, and I’m beyond honored to be associated with them. adidas is at the forefront of so many things, but specifically with women’s fitness. They have figured out how tap into an industry that is starting to boom. Instead of solely using images of models and athletes, which for the most part are pretty unrelatable, they are starting to harness the power of influencers and social media. They understand and fully embrace creativity, innovation, and community, and it’s incredibly exciting and fulfilling to be part of that.
Earlier this year, you were selected to join the ten-week SoulCycle instructor training program. Can you run us through what that experience was like, mentally and physically?
Oh boy! Do you guys have about ten hours? I could talk about this forever. Since 2010, I have loved SoulCycle. Even before I was truly into fitness, I’ve always had the crazy thought lingering in the back of my head that I wanted to become an instructor. Last November, I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I truly wanted to make this happen. And so, my SoulCycle journey began. I auditioned in February, got a "no," and was completely heartbroken. I had the opportunity to audition for a second time in April, and I cannot even begin to explain the sheer joy I felt when I got a "yes" that time around!
It’s hard for me to put into words what those ten weeks were like. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, but at the same time, absolutely exhilarating in all those categories. I was riding more than I ever had, and my body ached, but I was becoming stronger than I ever had been. I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone each day, but by challenging myself in new ways, I was becoming more confident. Many tears were shed, but I was making stronger connections with my peers in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. I grew more as a person in those ten weeks than I had in the past two years, and despite the fact that after all that, I got a “no," I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Despite not making it through in the first round, you decided to go through with a second round of SoulCycle training. What are your thoughts going into training this time around? Is there anything you’ll be doing differently?
When I went in for my SoulCycle exit interview, I expected to hear that I had passed the training program. I was pretty shocked when they told me that I had not made it through, and they asked if I was interested in redoing the entire program in the Fall. I took a good solid month and a half to really think about everything. I needed my hurt feelings to subside before I could make a logical decision.
I took the necessary time to reflect, and I’m extremely excited to say that I’ll be joining the next training group this September. Even though from the outside, it may look like I’m starting all over again from square one, I know that this time around, it’s going to be very different for me. Last round of training, I came in feeling nervous, overwhelmed, and unsure of myself. I had to face my fear of public speaking pretty quickly, which was quite challenging. I probably looked like a deer in the headlights half the time. Though I’m sure that this will be no walk in the park, I do know that this time I’m entering training with a confidence that I did not have the first time around. I know the fundamentals already. I’ve experienced these ten weeks once before. Now, instead of feeling like I’m constantly trying to catch up, I can work on polishing myself and focusing on being a freaking awesome instructor. Instead of being afraid of talking into the mic, I can work on the tone of my voice. Instead of trying to catch my breath, I can properly teach choreography. Instead of living inside my head and focusing on my nerves, I can come out of my shell and command a room like it's nobody's business!
What is your favorite workout and why?
Hands down, SoulCycle. There’s something magical that happens in that dimly lit room that I don’t experience anywhere else. Between the loud music, sweat dripping off your bike, and your legs pedaling past your edge, it turns into an experience that is much more than just a workout.
The second runner up would be BBG, also known as the Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines. It’s a twelve-week circuit-based program that you can do from home or at the gym. It’s easy to follow, challenging, and effective, and the community that comes along with it is pretty freaking amazing.
Run us through an average day!
Oh goodness, every day is different right now, which I absolutely love! But on average, it’s something like this.
Morning: I wake up some time between 6:30 and 7:30 am and have a solid cup of coffee before I consider myself fully functional. I head out to a double SoulCycle class, which means I could be anywhere in Manhattan. Just this morning, I took an 8:30am class on West 77th street, and then a 10:30am class in NoHo. I definitely made sure to grab a bagel and an iced coffee in between classes, and a protein shake after my second. And water! Lots of water!
Afternoon: Nine times of out ten, you can find me at Sweetgreen for lunch, and then I either head to a coffee shop or back home where my dog Thatcher, also lovingly known as Spicy Grandpa, awaits. I usually sit on my computer for a few hours catching up on emails (or catching up on Snapchat and social media).
Evening: There is always something happening in NYC, so if I feel like getting out of my introverted shell, I’ll meet up with my #girlgang to attend a fitness/wellness related event and eat all the passed apps in sight. More often than not though, I’m home with my boyfriend Julian and Thatcher having a quiet night in.
Within a year, you’ve completed Kayla Itsines’ BBG, and have become an NASM-certified trainer, an adidas ambassador, and a SoulCycle instructor-in-training. How do you balance your responsibilities in fitness and freelance work, with having down time for yourself?
I feel extremely lucky that since I now work for myself, I get to make my own rules. And since I get to make my own rules, I find that most of what I choose to take on progresses me towards my goals, and simply makes me happy.
When I spend three hours riding in and going to/from SoulCycle classes, I know I’m prepping for this upcoming round of training. When I spend time writing and responding to emails from brands, I know that I’m working on potential new partnerships. When I’m brainstorming content ideas or taking photos, I’m working on my personal brand. When I get to interact with followers through snapchat messages, Instagram comments, or emails, it gives so much more meaning to everything that I do. Despite having a busy schedule and constantly juggling different responsibilities, for the most part, none of it really feels like work.
That being said, I think it’s incredibly important to carve out time to relax. Whether it’s spending a weekend away from emails, taking a hot bath, hanging with friends, or Netflixin’ and chillin’, I always give myself permission to recharge and reset.
We truly admire your go-getter attitude and positive mindset, even during times of hardship! What are some of your favorite pieces of advice to help overcome these challenges?
It’s funny, this past year has been one of the best and also one of the most difficult. Though I feel the happiest I’ve ever felt now that I’m working for myself, and finally feeling passionate about what I get to do on a day-to-day basis, some really crappy things have happened along the way. My dad got cancer, I was dumped, had my dog diarrhea and barf all over me (a story for another day), and I’ve been told “no” more than once during critical parts of my journey to becoming a SoulCycle instructor. The funny thing is though, I look back on each of those sh*tty experiences and reflect on how it’s gotten me to where I am currently. Even though something can feel terrible in the moment, I’ve learned firsthand that bad situations have a way of hiding some sort of a silver lining that becomes apparent with a little bit of time.
One of my favorite sayings, which has been extremely relevant for me over the past few months, is “fall down seven times, stand up eight." It’s not failure until you decide to give up.
What are your goals for 2017?
I want to constantly keep creating and connecting in new ways. Right now, I use and love Instagram and Snapchat, but I don’t want to limit myself to those mediums. I want to focus more on my blog, as I’ve always loved writing but I haven’t been strict on myself with creating content for it. I absolutely love video and editing, so I would love to start exploring the possibility of a YouTube channel.
Oftentimes I get very comfortable doing the same things, so for 2017, I want to constantly ask myself, what ideas am I simultaneously uncomfortable and excited about? How do I push myself past my comfort zone to attempt those new ideas?
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH is about women empowering women. It provides a space for us to celebrate creativity, boldness, humor, risk-taking, and passion. And basically, that women are simply dope AF, especially when we join forces.
Photos by: Paristoribio