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Middletown Life

Helping others achieve lasting health and happiness

Apr 02, 2019 01:18PM ● By Steven Hoffman

In the summer of 2017, Jessica Cracco and her husband Brett were living in the Virgin Islands. They had both moved there for jobs and for a new adventure—she was working in sales and he was a sales manager for St. John Brewers. Jessica and Brett had known each other when they were both growing up in the Middletown area, and had started dating while they attended different colleges in North Carolina. As a couple, they lived and worked in Baltimore for a time, and then came the opportunity to move to the Virgin Islands. It was a fearless move, and one that held the promise of some fun adventures and new professional opportunities for the young couple.

Then the Virgin Islands and other nearby areas suffered a devastating one-two punch when Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria delivered widespread damage with fierce winds and punishing rains over the course of just a few weeks. Jessica and Brett were unharmed as the hurricanes battered the Virgin Islands in quick succession, but their Virgin Islands home suffered catastrophic damage. They moved home to Middletown to chart a new course.

Jessica and Brett are both fitness enthusiasts, and that would turn out to play a big part in their lives when they returned to Middletown.

But, first, a little background:

When Jessica was growing up in Middletown, she played softball and field hockey, and was pretty athletic. She always had an interest in how the mind is connected to the body, perhaps because her brother battled depression. As she grew up, she became interested in learning to help others relieve their anxiety or stress. So when it was time to go to college, she headed to Elon University to study psychology. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in neuroscience, and then started working in IT sales.

After spending some time in a high-stress office environment, she started exercising more as a way to relieve stress. She gained a greater understanding about the correlation between exercise and good physical and mental health.

“Exercise was really therapy for me,” Jessica explained.

While still working in a full-time sales role, she became certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise in 2015. She continued in sales, but she was moving closer to a big decision. She found working with people to improve their health to be very satisfying.

“I knew that I really wanted to help people,” she explained.

When Jessica and Brett returned to Middletown following the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria on the Virgin Islands, one of the things she wanted to do was to find a good place to work out.

Jessica said that she worked out at several different gyms in the Middletown area to see which one fit her needs best. After working out at the Village Gym, and meeting the owners, Joe and Christy Pisapia, she knew that she had found the right place to reach her own fitness goals.

“I think it’s a great gym,” she explained. “There are a lot of gyms around Middletown, but the Village Gym is family-owned, and it’s a family environment. They have the absolute best training.”

One day when she was working out there, Jessica mentioned to the owners that she was certified as a trainer.

Brett took a job as a head brewer for Blue Earl Brewing in Smyrna, and eventually, Jessica decided to transition to become a full-time fitness trainer.

“The Village Gym was really a perfect opportunity,” Jessica explained. “Our gym really goes above and beyond. We evaluate where a person is, what they are willing to commit to, and then we develop a plan based on that.”

Each trainer at the Village Gym has a different area of focus and Jessica fit right in as a new addition. She teaches individual exercise and small group classes, as well as regular boot camp classes.

Jessica really enjoys working with clients who want to use fitness as a holistic way to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. She trains clients one-on-one or in small groups.

“I’m about teaching long-term habit change through strength and conditioning,” she explained.

Jessica’s goal is to help people build lasting, healthy habits to look and feel their best. She has made a real difference in the lives of the people she has worked with.

Kelly Johannsen, a resident of Middletown, said that Jessica has made a real difference in changing how she views working out.

“I am so glad I made that first initial step to join the gym and then to sign up for the boot camp classes,” Johannsen explained. “Jesse has made a difference in how I feel about working out at the gym.”

Johannsen explained that she has been dealing with weight fluctuations for most of her adult life. At first, she blamed the issue on her thyroid. Eventually she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and started taking medication to control sugar levels.

 She explained, “I watched what I was eating and I exercised, but I didn’t feel good. The medication was making me sick to my stomach.  This past year, I tried two different gyms and it just wasn’t working like I expected.  I wasn’t losing the weight.  I decided I needed a different direction, so I joined Village Gym.  I met Jesse and told her exactly what I wanted to gain from exercising.  I wanted to get healthy and get off the diabetes medication. And of course lose weight, but I didn’t make that my priority.  I signed up for six weeks of boot camp classes that were offered at the gym with Jesse in a small group setting.  The classes were challenging and kept me motivated to keep going.  We worked on upper body, lower body, and cardio.  I had never been so sore in my life, but I knew that this was going to get better and it did.  This was working for me.  I started to see results.  I felt better and was losing weight and inches.  Then I decided to move to one-on-one training with Jesse. I wanted to learn to lift weights.  I wanted to gain muscle and to lose fat. Jesse is all about form, doing the exercises correctly, and challenging me to reach my fullest potential.  I work out five days per week at Village Gym, with one of the days training with Jesse.  In five months, my diabetes medication was decreased in half and I have lost 22 pounds.  I am halfway to my goal of being off the diabetes medication and weight loss.”

As a trainer, Jessica is really enjoying herself. She really enjoys helping others develop lasting, healthy habits and to reach their fitness goals. She is currently studying for a nutrition certification that she expects to complete in a few months. One of her longterm goals is to partner with a psychologist at some point to create a program that will help change people’s lives by incorporating physical fitness as a way to improve not just physical health, but mental health as well.

Helping people like Kelly Johannsen and Nikki Almeroth live their best lives is very gratifying.

Almeroth, a Townsend, Del. resident, started taking a kickboxing class to decrease anxiety. She was soon exercising regularly and really loving the results.

“Joining the Village Gym has been like joining a community, a family,” Almeroth explained. “It has helped build my confidence, strength, and endurance. I've also decreased my anxiety and have a healthier mental attitude on a daily basis. It's awesome to get through a really tough workout with a smile still on your face.”

Those smiles mean a lot to Jessica. If people are enjoying the experience of working out, they are much more likely to stick with the program.

“I try to get them to the point where they don’t want to miss a class because it feels so good to work out,” Jessica explained.

For more information about Jessica Cracco and some of her classes, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.

SLUG: Jessica Cracco

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