« Back Squat / Front Squat | WOD 9.7.16 | Main | Deadlift / Handstand Push-Up | WOD 9.5.16 »

Rest Day

Underneath the Hoodie: Jessie Brown

Vital Stats
105 lbs
February 24th, 1988
Born and raised
Born in San Francisco, raised in Oakland, CA
Place of higher learning
UC Berkeley (mostly)

By Josh Schneiderman

Sitting across from Jessie Brown, you wouldn’t guess that she’s someone who has spent most of her life trying to get out of her comfort zone. I mean this in the best way possible. When we sat down at Mission Dolores a couple of months ago to interview for this installment of Underneath the Hoodie, her warmth, kindness, and cheerfulness immediately put me at ease. She’s at ease with herself, too. If you’ve been coached by her, you already know that she’s incredibly intelligent, and that her tack-sharp intelligence is tempered by her generosity and sense of humor. But what you may not know is that her life has been a struggle to better herself and the lives of those around her. CrossFit, as you may have guessed, has been a big part of this.

Jessica Brown, Jessie Brown, or JB (as you probably know her) was born about three minutes apart from Cassie, her identical twin sister, in San Francisco, California. Her parents, both lawyers and both very busy, raised Jessie and Cassie in Oakland. Up until her move to Brooklyn, Jessie spent her entire life in the Bay Area, with the exception of one short stint in Rhode Island (more on that later).

Growing up, Jessie and her sister were close but very different. Jessie followed the rules; Cassie got into a lot of trouble. Jessie was the teacher’s pet who was devastated by a B on 7th-grade algebra test; Cassie didn’t seem to let grades bother her. Jessie, in what seemed like a tragedy at the time, did not make out with that boy at that Bar Mitzvah; Cassie did.

This gulf between Jessie and someone who shared the exact same DNA was part of what led to Jessie’s struggles with anorexia at a young age. Around the age of 10, as her body began to change, she developed an unhealthy relationship with food. “Scary, weird changes,” Jessie explains, “that could be controlled by not eating.” But on a deeper level, she now observes, this was, in part, a misplaced attempt to differentiate herself from Cassie, who looked a little older, and to form an identity distinct from her twin. She and Cassie had always been compared—people assumed they had the same preferences and personalities—and this was one of Jessie’s ways of setting herself apart. Jessie’s eating issues came to a head in her freshman year of high school, when she was hospitalized for malnutrition.

Jessie describes her family as a typical “NorCal family”: busy and active. She took piano lessons and swam competitively from a the time she was eight (she wasn’t the team star but got awards like “Most Dedicated’ and “Most Improved”.) It was here that her eating issues intersected with her athletic pursuits. Her best friends were on the swim team, and after she was hospitalized, she couldn’t swim for a year. Deprived of her main athletic outlet, Jessie slowly began to recover from this early bout of anorexia with a lot therapy and support from her parents. At therapy and in the hospital, she saw other high-school-aged kids struggling with the same issues and decided that she just didn’t want her life to be like theirs. She did what she needed to do: she slowly got herself healthy, and returned to swimming.

Deciding that she needed something different—there’s that comfort zone again—she applied to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and headed off to her freshman year of college 3,079 miles (give or take a few miles) away. Now, at 28, she’s her own person, less of a rule follower. She sets high standards for herself, but they’re her own standards. At Brown, though, she wanted to impress everyone, to let everyone know how smart she was based on some arbitrary standards. Exacerbated by the pressures of college and the loss of the safety blankets of home and family, her anorexia emerged again. With the support of her family, she left Brown without completing her freshman year.

The following fall, Jessie applied to the University of California, Berkeley as a freshman. At a school of 34,000 undergrads, she explains, she couldn’t try to please everyone. “I had to do the best at being me,” she says, and realizing this helped her with her continued recovery. Jessie majored in American Studies, not necessarily the straightest path to a lucrative career. While it would have been a clearer path, she knew she didn’t want to be a lawyer like her parents. Instead, she continued to forge her own identity, to create her own expectations. Her athletic pursuits continued at Berkeley, where she got into aerobics classes—cardio, body-toning, and kickboxing type stuff. In fact, she eventually became a kickboxing instructor.

Jessie got into CrossFit during her first year of grad school at Berkeley, where she stayed to do doctoral work in History. While she initially had a negative perception of “the sport of fitness,” the competitive aspect of CrossFit drew her in. No surprise: Jessie enjoys pushing herself physically, and with aerobics, rock climbing, and yoga, she never felt like she was pushing herself as much as she could have. The community aspect also drew her in, and she eventually ended up at CrossFit East Bay, where she made some of her closest friends and started her coaching career. 

More importantly, CrossFit was instrumental to Jessie’s recovery from anorexia. “Doing a different physical activity,” she told me, “necessitated a different relationship with food.” She now has more of a utilitarian relationship with food; she has to eat to fuel her athletic pursuits (she’s also learned to eat for pleasure). She was also getting older and more comfortable with her body. Always “Little JB,” she didn’t get much “bigger,” but she did get more muscular. She noticed changes in her body, and loves the way she currently looks.

What is life like as Little JB, a smaller CrossFitter? “When I first started doing CrossFit,” she explained, “I found being smaller both frustrating and advantageous. Gymnastics movements came more easily to me, but Rx-ing a workout like ‘Grace’ took a while to work up to. When started competing, there was a while there when I would really get down about the injustice of it all.” In the grand scheme of things, though, she thinks there are more advantages than disadvantages to being a small CrossFitter. More importantly, she applies the lesson she learned in her freshman year to her life as a CrossFitter: not to compare herself to other people so much, to simply be herself. “I like to use this apparent ‘limitation’ as motivation,” she told me, “and I hope I can serve as some sort of example (especially to other women) that being small does not mean you can't be strong!” This is an understatement. Not long after I interviewed her for this piece, she qualified for the USA Weightlifting American Open by kicking ass at the Crow Hill Open. 

After a year at CrossFit East Bay, Jessie completed her CF Level 1 certification and began coaching there. It was a natural development, given the friendships she made there and her background in fitness instruction. She liked helping people move better, and this came in handy when she began coaching 1-on-1 Onramp classes at East Bay. Coaching CrossFit South Brooklyn, she now has an even greater appreciation for the art of good coaching.

How did she end up here? After deciding that grad school wasn’t for her, Jessie left Berkeley with a Master’s degree. In April of 2014, she broke up with her boyfriend of 4 years. Living with her dad and working an uninspiring job at a software company, Jessie decided she was going to move to Brooklyn, a decision she describes as “uncharacteristic.” It proved difficult to get a job from California, but she eventually got an opportunity to rent a sublet (a “terrible apartment”) and set out for the East Coast. Jessie touched down in New York on a Tuesday, and interviewed at CFSBK that Thursday. “I immediately knew this was the place for me,” she said. At first, she thought she might coach full time, but she soon landed a job at Ithaka S+R, a higher education research and consulting group. Her first year in Brooklyn was tough (whose isn’t!), but her new job was instrumental in getting her through.

An even more important factor in making Brooklyn slowly feel like (a) home for Jessie has been being part of the community at CrossFit South Brooklyn. Jessie reflects that she’s learned a ton from the other coaching staff (as both a coach and an athlete), and has made a fantastic group of friends from the gym (two of whom she just moved in with). “The few non-CrossFit friends I have in New York make fun of me because CFSBK is such a big part of my life,” she explains, “but I feel very grateful that I’ve been able to find a community of smart people that shares this huge common interest with me, but also has diverse enough interests that we can base our relationships off of a whole lot more than just working out.”

Looking over the details she provided during our interview, I have to respectfully disagree that Jessie’s move to Brooklyn was uncharacteristic. It seems entirely consistent with the life she’s shaped for herself, all of the small decisions she’s made to expand the borders of her world. Jessie’s relationship with her sister Cassie has also changed, but, despite the fact that they live across the country from one another, they are still very close. She tells her sister things she’d never tell anyone else and misses her every day. Up until recently, Cassie also worked in education, and Cassie lived in Brooklyn for years before Jessie moved here (unfortunately, they never overlapped). While their paths were informed by their disparate dispositions, Jessie finds it interesting that their lives continue—sometimes— to converge or follow one another’s.

Jessie isn’t sure what her next move will be, but she thinks about it a lot. She likes the writing and research she does for her job, and enjoys working in education. Whatever it is, she plans for coaching and working out at CFSBK continue to be a big part her life.

News and Notes

  • Please note: There will be no parking at all on Degraw Street this week from today through Saturday.
  • Schedule change: This Thursday's 9:00am Yoga class with Jaclyn K. is cancelled.
  • FIGHT GONE BAD registration has been extended to this Friday, but sign up as soon as possible if you want to participate!

Surprise! Gladiators Were Vegetarians Smithsonian
11 Deadlift Variations and Why They're Important Fitness HQ

Reader Comments (38)

Wednesday's Programming

Back Squat / Front Squat

BSQ 2x12 LP
FSQ 2x8 LP

Heavier than last week

BSQ& FSQ: 70%x2x2

Every other exposure is a de-load so these should feel light.

Post loads to comments.
Exposure 7 of 16

AMRAP 15 Minutes:
20 Wall Balls 20/10, 14/9
20 DB Power Snatches

Rx the DBPSn at about 1/3 of your body weight or scale accordingly. These should be challenging but you should be able to move through the sets relatively unbroken. Alternate arms on the dumbbell power snatch. Aim for unbroken on as many rounds of wall ball shots as possible

Post rounds, reps, and Rx to comments.

September 5, 2016 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Such a fantastic piece on such a fantastic person! JB is a beacon of light at cfsbk! She is hella strong, honest, engaging, intelligent and damn funny. I am truly proud to call her a close friend and wouldn't trade our conversations on Mumblecore, hamster bedding cereal and 90s-00s pop punk/emo/music in general for anything else. Thank you JB for opening up in this piece and it really goes to show how much you overcame struggles and obstacles a lot of women have dealt or still deal with, and hope it inspires others to do the same. So glad to have you in my life and everyone else's lives at cfsbk!! ♥ ♥ ♥

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCam

Great profile on such a wonderful person and fantastic athlete! Thanks for sharing your story JB!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJay-Star

Loved reading this profile! JB is an amazing athlete & human. && who among us cannot relate to being devastated after getting a bad score on a math test??!

"More or less" reached one of my 2016 running goals on Saturday, then PR'd my 10k yesterday. After the long weekend, the "recovery adviser" setting on my Garmin watch is advising me to "just f***ing die already" rather than work out again. So of course I came in for recovery squats & Wednesday's wod-of-fun...

HBBS 245x2x2
FSQ 215x2x2

Not much left for the WOD. All the 20# balls were gone so did this at 16# and 45#, and I still couldn't get my engine out of first gear. OOF.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdave p


PULL UP warm up
3 rounds
build to your weight from last week
20 hollow rocks
5 yoga push ups

A. EMOM 8 min
EVEN: 4 pull ups
ODD: :30 Handstand hold with or without shoulder taps

For Time:
20 Box Jumps
50 sit ups
16 Box Jumps
40 Sit ups
12 Box Jumps
30 Sit ups
8 Box Jumps
20 sit ups
4 Box Jumps
10 Sit ups

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCoach Ro

Great profile on JB - thanks for sharing your story!

Back at 6am after a long long weekend at a bachelor party

DL - 305x6x3 - still moving well. Reps are starting to add up.
HSPU from a blue plate - 3x6 - first time doing deficit so kept it to 6 reps. Will try to go up one rep per week

Metcon in 5:57 - did the first round unbroken and then just tried to hang on

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDan L

J Bizzle!!! California Love, great to read your story...and I'm pretty sure you snatch more than I do :)

6am doing Wednesday

BSQ - 225x2x2
FSQ - 205x2x2

WOD: 3 rounds + 20 wall balls. 60# db. My low back in smoked. I'm hoping I don't drop anything today.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames A

JB is a boss. Physically and intellectually. Very glad to get to know her, and to have her here as a coach.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

I remember the first time I saw JB. I had no idea who she was and I just turned to whoever was next to me at the time and asked, "Who is that crazy person doing muscle-ups like a boss?" She continues to amaze and inspire -- not least by having the bravery to share her story with us. My respect level for you was already up there, lady, but knowing what you've overcome, it's through the roof.

Came to OG one last time to test my 1RM bench. I wasn't too confident, given that Labor Day weekend was a bit of a food poisoning mess for me. :( Still, I figured I've at least been eating *something* the last few days, so I shouldn't be completely sapped?

Anyway, I PRed my bench at 155, and failed 160. I want to give 160 a go again soon, on a day when I'm feeling better.

Did some chinups, an easy 500m row, and a glorious 15 minutes of mashing with various sizes of Orb and the parallettes after that. Really was not feeling ambitious today!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Great writeup. Always enjoy JB's coaching.

DL 210x5x3
Box HSPU x8x3. I committed to trying my first real HSPUs next week.

Metcon @90# 12:40. Lots of sucking wind staring at the barbell on the floor. Good ole' brutal Crossfit fun.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBen S

Loved learning more about the wonderful, brave JB. I first heard about her from David after his interview with her, and every lovely adjective he used to describe her has held up, and more. Also, when I learned she works for JSTOR (a digital library that I had more of a relationship with in college than any man), I knew my crush on her was complete. Thanks for sharing your story with us, JB. You're an excellent coach and human. And awesome job, Josh!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKate R.

Great UtH on JB. Great coach and person as well. Thanks for sharing your story!

6am doing Wednesday work:
Squat 255x2x2.
Front Squat 205x2x2.
Metcon: 3 rounds even with 75# db (36%) since they gym doesn't have 70#. Dang it was heavy - back is smoked. Props to BK for also scaling up with an even higher percentage.

Make up posts:
Saturday - Squat 255x5x2, Front Squat 205x5x2, Metcon 8:10 Rx'd
Sunday - Snatch complex up to 100#. Metcon with BK 17:??. Rx'd for him, 20/20/10/10/10 DU for me.
Monday - DL 335x6x3, HSPU with 1 abmat + 10# plate. Metcon in 9:27 Rx'd

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDan G.

7am Squats with Jess

BS - 165# x 2 x 2
FS - 140# x 2 x 2
Was thankful for deload — creaky as hell

Metcon Rx-ish (31%) - 3rds + 30
Lower back was smoked so just sat the last 30 seconds of this one out.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan B

JB, your story is so inspiring. You are brave to share it. Thank you for being such a wonderful and encouraging coach, and thank you for being a role model!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterColleen M.

Wonderful UTH piece. Thank you JB for sharing your story with us. You have been a wonderful addition to this community. Thank you Josh for your excellent writing.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

Thanks so much for sharing! You are such a strong and inspiring presence, and an all-around fun and interesting person to hang out with. We are lucky to have you!

Josh- great piece.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

6am w/ McDowell

HBBS: 215x2x2 followed by FSQ: 185x2x2. Enjoyed an easy day on the squat rack.

Metcon: 3 rounds + 9 Snatches @ 65# (43% BW). Big fan of heavy DB snatches, my go-to hotel workout. Wall balls unbroken first 3 rounds.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBK

JB, thanks for sharing your journey. Keep up the good work.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBK

"Hella tight" interview with JB (norcal speak). Thanks for sharing.

6am with J. Fox

Deadlift: 235# 3x5 (up 10#)
HSPU: 3x6 with 2 mats

Metcon: 11:02 @ 95#. This was a good 'n difficult one. Got the heart rate way up.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Thank you for sharing your story with us, JB. Amazing all around human being.

LBBS: 185x2x2
FSQ: 165x2x2

WOD: 4 rounds + 25. Did this Rx-ish (when choosing between the two dumbbell weights between 1/3rd of my body weight, I went for the lighter). Back is shot from yesterday, so really had to focus on being upright and using my legs.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKayleigh

P.S. to my earlier post . . . I can't get comfortable with the "Lil' JB" moniker when applied to someone with such a big heart, big skillz, big talent and big drive to share her knowledge with our community. I think we should call her "J-Bro" instead.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJay-Star

@Jay: J-Bro was actually my nickname is middle school, prompted by Jennifer Lopez's pioneering use of J-Lo as her moniker.

@everyone: Thanks so much for the love! It is all returned, of course. Now you know everything about me (what can I say? I'm a millenial and I like to overshare). But, in all seriousness, trying to forge healthy relationship with food and my body has been a big part of my adolescence and adult life, and CrossFit has been instrumental in helping me do that. I'm really glad I got to share my story with you guys, and grateful I had such a wonderful storyteller in Josh to help me do that. :)

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJB

6:00 am for Wednesday's work:

Squat 230 x 2 x 2.
Front Squat 195 x 2 x 2.

WOD: 3 rounds + 28 reps at 55#. Kept pace with BK but he was moving way more weight than I (especially as a %).

Great bio on JB!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoyC

JB was one of the coaches who led my first crossfit group class. I was apprehensive about the whole thing, but when I saw her I felt like I found a home (5'-3" and 100lb at the time). I've always been a 'little girl' and seeing JB and all her badassery was and is an inspiring example of new possibilities. Thank you for sharing your story and for repping for the (strong) small girls!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKDay

Also JB owns a shirt with the Shakespeare quote, "Though she be but little, she is fierce." YAAAAAAASSSSS.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Thanks for sharing JB! You were one of the first people to welcome me into the CFSBK community and I have been continually blown away by the weight you move. Always fun to talk to. Keep up being an awesome lady!

6am with McD

HBBS 225 x 2 x 2
FSQ 195 x 2 x 2
Low back/hip was pretty tight and sore this morning so questionable depth. Packer noted it on my first set of front squats so tried to sink a little lower on the second set.

WOD 4 rounds + 4 wallballs at 60# db snatch
Sweaty, heavy, generally unpleasant. Wall balls were all unbroken at least. Did I mention sweaty?

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

@JB: Thanks for sharing. Inspiring and uplifting. As per your usual.
@Josh: Great write up. After my next attempt at Fran, I'd like you to write my eulogy.

Speaking of...

I only got 1 rep of the 2nd set then something popped in my back while in full upright position. No shooting pain down my legs, so I know it's not another disk issue; but nevertheless, I won't be going heavy on anything for a while. It was moving quite easily as well. I guess it's just my 45yr old back telling me "After this Labor Day weekend? After all that booze and animal fat? BITCH PLEASE."

Handstand Push-Up

Exposure 4/8

MU Work
Strict pulls 5x5
Hollow rocks 20x5
Seated transitions 3x3

6 rounds
Assault Bike
:10 / 2:50

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChris "NeverFT" Yun

12pm with MeLo,

Switched my squat days in preparation for a 3RM front squat test on Oct 1st at Girls Gone Rx (there are still tickets and the workouts have all been posted and are super-accessible! Sign up!)

195 x 6 x 2

165 x 6 x 2

Last rep was a little high. This was really hard today.

WOD- had to scale. My left elbow is still sore from OHS and couldn't even bring myself to do one DB snatch at 40# so I did box jumps instead.
Which threw me pacing-wise and I went out way too fast.

Got 7 rounds plus 22 reps.

First 4 rounds unbroken and then I wanted to die.

2 rounds
30 x DU (unbroken)
15 x GHD sit-ups

Some DU practice.

In other news, I got 3 x consecutive C2B pull-ups in my warm- up!! This is kind of a big deal for me as I usually get so excited when my chest hits the bar that I forget to push away, but today I did it!!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Great write up! JB (Jesse, J-Bro?)has been a solid addition to the CFSBK team. It's been great to watch her become such an integral part of the community.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFox

Thanks for sharing your story with us JB! You've been a great friend over the past two years and I am always humbled by your insane feats of athleticism. Plus, you always help out when I need my horrible writing edited by someone with skillz. ;)

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJenny M

JB! Thank you for sharing!! Great story, great person, great coach. We love having you.
Awesome job Josh on the write up!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLauren S

Such a great write up Josh. Such an inspiration JB! I also like how your energy weaves your interests and your people together a la the education affinity group that you put together. Let's keep that kind of stuff going! I'm always glad to be in the same space with you whether it's over barbells or beers!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

Great write-up on our own JB. The only person I've ever hired who wasn't a member beforehand!!! Very glad to have her as part of our CFSBK Family.

Extended DROMS

2 Sets: Cross over symmetry WYs x12 / 12 GHD Hip Extensions

2 Rounds
8e OH Rev Lunge 40lb DB
4 Pull-Ups
16 DB Swings

DEADLIFT: 255x6x3
HSPU: 2" Deficit 12 reps, each set done as 6-6. Very happy with how these felt today.

Power Clean + Push Press 115

That was harder that I thought it was going to be. Felt like I was training at altitude today!

Reverse Hyper: +95lbs x15x4
Shrugs: 230lbs x10x4

September 6, 2016 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

yay team JJ.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Great write up on JB, thanks for sharing so honestly, and always coaching with with a positive attitude and a smile.

DL: 160 x 5 x 3 - kinda soft according to Whit, not feeling 100% today
C&J + Burpees in 21-15-9 fashion: 52# with Push Jerk in 11:10, same deal here

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkristincaps

JB! You are the mitochondria of CFSBK!!! Thank you for sharing your story openly with us. It does make your powerhouse abilities even more impressive. And, thank you for all of the coaching and blend of PT and Active Life advice.

I promise to cheer gleefully the next time I get to partner WOD with you. Promise. Not resting is character building. It is an honor, really!

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAsha

JB, thank you for being so brave and sharing your story with us. I'm always amazed watching you throw around all the big weights! Great piece, Josh!

DL: 180x6x3
HSPUs: 3 sets of 6 reps broken up 3-3 with 2 ab mats. Haven't been pushing myself on these. Need to step it up.

WOD Rx'd in 9:47

All C&Js done in sets of 3 with ample rest and chalking in between sets. Wasn't able to push hard on the burpees today. Really wanted to get in the low 9s but happy with this on only 4 hours of sleep and not eating well today.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKLove

JB!! thanks for sharing your story! You're inspiring on so many levels! Very glad to know you! Great write up, Josh!

Deadlift: 170 5x3. Unbelted! Thanks to the encouragement from whit.

WOD: 11:17? 73#. the round of 15 became bailed singles... Jerks add up on your shoulders!!

Fun AR class!

Fun AG class! Worked up to a 25# weighted pull-up, then did 12.5 for the 4 pull-up emom. Had to break these up in the third round. Then took it down to 10# for the last two rounds :(

WOD: 7: something. Box jumps were fast and sit-ups were fast until the 30s.

September 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAllie B

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>