Philly Proud: Fitness instructor uses painful past to help others

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For many people, exercise can be a helpful coping mechanism when dealing with stress or trauma. A Philadelphia fitness instructor is one of them.

Jessica Wayashe is a fitness instructor at the Fitler Club in Philadelphia. She runs her very own personal training business on the side.

Oh, and she's a runner.

"I feel like running is a big mental sport, you just build that mentality of grind and toughness and grit," she said.

Over her 17-year running career, she's completed three Boston Marathons and two ultra-marathons across Haiti - which, by the way, is 200 miles in a seven-day stretch.

But where did she find the motivation?

"I'm somebody who has had personal experience with domestic violence and partnership abuse," she said. "I used distance running to help myself cope with that. It was a good healthy outlet for me to turn to."

Since her experience, it's been her mission to help others heal from traumas and to simply bring people together using fitness.

That's how the April Run Challenge was born.

"I thought about a way to keep the run and fitness community-engaged since we can't show up for our run groups or anything like that, would be to spell out thank you from lines across the entire city of Philadelphia," she said.

Each letter is one to two miles long and, after the runners complete this interactive scavenger hunt, they will piece together all of the letters for the final reveal.

But wait, there's more: Each runner that joins the April Run Challenge donates $50, and a portion of the proceeds are going to a non-profit charity called 'Women Against Abuse," a cause very close to Jess' heart.

"I know when you spend a lot of time at home around the holidays, these kinds of crimes come up in scale and you get a lot more attention around that. Right now when we're quarantined to our homes, people don't have the option of leaving for an extended period of time, there are women and children out there who can't leave their abuser," Jess said.

"We're all doing what we can do right now, it's really cool to see the Philly fitness scene come together," she said.

We're proud of you, Jess!

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