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Sep 5

Medley of moves keeps fitness ace focused – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Subject: Jessica Matthews

Age: 33

Residence: Ocean Beach

Before she turned 16, Matthews already was teaching group fitness classes in upstate New York and thinking about her long-term health.

I came from a family where I witnessed firsthand, since I was a child, the effects of chronic illnesses, primarily type 2 diabetes and heart disease, she says. I watched that consume members of my family, passing away at young ages, 50s and earlier.

Her loved ones werent active and ate too much. As a teen, she vowed to take a different path. Plus, she would help others.

She studied physical education at Coastal Carolina University and earned a masters in the same subject at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. (while working as a fitness instructor and certified physical trainer). After college, she taught middle-school P.E. Soon she was hired as aquatics director at a hospital-based wellness center, which led her to San Diego in January of 2006 for a job as an educator and writer with the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Today, Matthews who teaches kinesiology and integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University remains dedicated to her own well-being while spreading the word about the benefits of activity and a healthy diet.

She practices and teaches yoga (a variety of styles), walks, lifts weights at home and the gym, does stand-up paddleboarding with her husband, swims, uses elliptical machines, runs, hikes and enjoys taking fitness classes (her latest fave: Zumba).

She calls herself a dabbler who tries everything and will decide each day depending on how she feels what her activity will be.

I like that element of being in the moment, she says. What do I feel is best serving me now? Sometimes it is that intense workout, and sometimes its doing something like a restorative yoga class.

The two activities at the foundation of her exercise program are yoga and walking. She practices yoga almost daily. She walks at least 90 minutes every day, either around town in Ocean Beach or to exercise her three dogs.

I love it. Its great to be outside, she says. Theres a meditative aspect to it.

She even incorporates activity into her social life. Instead of meeting a friend for coffee, theyll meet for a hike. She and her husband have their own stand-up paddleboards and kayak, and regularly get in the water.

Nancee E. Lewis

Jessica Matthews strikes a pose at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs, where she teaches a weekend yoga class.

Jessica Matthews strikes a pose at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs, where she teaches a weekend yoga class. (Nancee E. Lewis)

When she first took up yoga at Coastal Carolina she says she had zero flexibility. Shed been focused on strength and cardio, but her balance and ability to stretch were nonexistent. It was very humbling, she says.

She loves yoga for its mental as well as physical benefits, and shes limber. In 2016, her book Stretching to Stay Young was published.

She preaches easy-access exercise, at home or outside, for busy people, and she needs that approach with her own schedule of teaching at PLNU and Miramar College, working for ACE, teaching yoga, running her own wellness-education business (which includes speaking and writing) and working on her doctorate in behavioral health through Arizona State.

At 12, she gave up red meat for Lent. She hasnt eaten it again. Shes been a vegetarian since and transitioned to what she calls a plant-forward (vegan) diet a year ago.

I have a science brain, a research brain, and the evidence really does support, from a health standpoint, a predominantly plant-based diet, she says.

She sees food as medicine. Her diet gives her energy and mental clarity.

One is to look at what it is you enjoy doing. Theres no right or wrong way to exercise, just different ways, she says. And, get creative. Instead of thinking of exercise time as gym time, get active outside or dance for 15 minutes to your favorite music.

Also, she counsels to shift from the all-or-nothing mentality. If you dont have time for a 60-minute workout, run or walk, exercise in 10-minute chunks. Every little bit counts, she says.

Williams is a San Diego freelance writer.

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Medley of moves keeps fitness ace focused - The San Diego Union-Tribune

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