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Nashville Series: Interview with Jessica Clarke

You ran Cross Country at Ole Miss. How was your experience as a student-athlete? Did you consider running at a Tennessee school *cough cough* University of Tennessee?

I did! My experience as a student athlete was actually really challenging. The more I have talked to other female student athletes, the more I have learned that what I thought were challenges unique to me, actually are more common. As a competitor, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best. This is great when you’re racing, but not so great when you are competing with teammates for a travel spot, or dealing with recovering from injuries.

My constant desire to be the best and comparing myself to others led me to develop an eating disorder in college. I constantly got stress fractures and tested dangerously low in bone density, so ultimately not taking care of my body caused too many health issues for me to justify being an athlete all four years. I quit actually my sophomore season to try and focus on my physical (and mental) health.

I actually was super close to going to Belmont University in Nashville! I never considered University of Tennessee, though...orange isn’t really for me.

 

What has been the best part of having a growing fan base on Instagram?

I think the best part for me is being able to share my story (mainly body image, identity, etc.) and see how so many other people can relate to it. It really feels like a fun community of friends. Truthfully, I forget that it’s not just my friends that follow me, so most of the time I just post what I would be saying to a more intimate group.

I have a pretty strong and dry sense of humor so I’m not sure how it comes across to people that have never met me, but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone too badly. That was a long winded way to say, it’s fun to still have people follow me when I really am just being myself and sharing what happens in my life.

 

How does Nashville compare to other cities you have been to/lived in? Are you planning on staying?

Nashville is the BEST. Actually, I am planning my wedding right now and I was dead set on doing a destination wedding. I looked at every city in the country and every venue in those places it feels like. After weeks of that, I decided that Nashville is the perfect place. It checks all of the boxes on what you look for in a city: central, clean, things to do, four seasons, goooood food, etc.

I think that anyone who visits Nashville can see themselves living here. It has the most “homey” vibe out of any city I have been to. I’m not just saying that because it’s my home. My fiance lives in Denver and he says that Nashville feels like home to him, so I know I’m not totally off base. We are going to move to Denver next year after we get married just for a little bit to establish ourselves away from both of our families, but we can see ourselves moving back.

 

Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind Coffee Shop Talks and Sweat Net?

Coffee Shop Talks came from conversations I had, mostly in coffee shops. In college and post-college I used to meet with women that were younger than me, older than me, or at the same place in life as me and just chat. That’s actually how I became so comfortable talking about eating disorders and unhealthy body image. I always left those conversations wishing that I could share what I learned from the other person.

My grandmother actually encouraged me to start like a YouTube channel or something like that, but I wanted to do something in person for the human connection. I was able to arrange two “get togethers” of women before Covid happened. Once we were quarantined, I felt really sad and almost purposeless without my individual coffee shop meetings and the gatherings that had taken place.

I owned the domain name for almost a year and decided now was as good of a time as any to launch a website and newsletter. It’s been the coolest thing I’ve ever done and I’m so glad that I took it virtual actually. I will definitely go back to smaller gatherings when it is safe to do so, but I will always have a website because there are too many wise and incredible women with stories to share to just keep them to myself.

SweatNET was actually started in Charlotte, NC and my friend Meghan O’Rourke licensed it to Nashville. She brought me on as events coordinator last Summer, then I became a co-owner along with Becca Mitchell. Now the three of us own the SweatNET license for Nashville and Denver. That’s been another cool way of creating community! The group workout events we were able to do (again, pre-COVID) were really amazing. It’s so fun to be surrounded by people that share the same passion as you.

Now that things are virtual, we host IG Live workouts on our Instagram and there are stream-able workouts for our members on the website. It’s a $10/month membership fee and then you get access to workouts, yoga, meditations, recipes that are on-demand. The real kicker is that with that in addition to all of those free resources, we also have hundreds of business partners that have given us exclusive discounts like a free smoothie, a discounted facial, free classes, and so much more!

 

If you could have lunch with any living person, who would you choose and why?

Honestly, Beyonce. I think she carries herself in a way that demands respect that is really cool and empowering. She brings significance to every type of person and I think her response to issues is spot on. I would just like to be around her and learn from her mistakes and her beliefs.

 

Bonus Question: What's your favorite non-tourist food spot to eat in Nashville?

Frothy Monkey for breakfast, always. Burger Up for the fries, Gray’s on Main for a nicer dinner or Herban Market for a quick bite (I am not good at choosing favorites).

 

Be sure to follow Jess on Instagram:

@JessClarke_

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