From hanging upside down in a fitness hammock and pulsing in a plié to answering emails and chatting with clients, it’s all in a day’s work for Jessica Smithgall, owner of Buckhead’s new fitness studio, DEFINE body & mind. The Atlanta native returned home from New York City, where she was working in education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, to open DEFINE’s first Georgia location. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Jessica as our FACE of Atlanta.
Be honest, as a little girl, did you have dreams of becoming the next Jane Fonda?
Actually, I wanted to be a professional horseback rider. Unfortunately, horses are very expensive, and I didn’t get far before deciding to set my sights on another career.
So how did you end up in the fitness industry?
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I moved to New York City to pursue a career in the music industry. That’s where I discovered yoga, barre and indoor cycling—I was hooked. Fitness classes became my escape from the daily stresses of city life, allowing me to take time out of my day to disengage, meet new people and achieve balance, both mentally and physically. I shifted careers from music to working at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition while earning certifications in holistic health coaching, yoga and mind-body medicine.
What made you take the leap to opening your business?
I wasn’t planning on opening my own business. It wasn’t until I was visiting a friend in Houston and was first introduced to DEFINE that it just clicked. I fell deeply in love with the brand and the rest was history.
What has been the scariest part?
Everything! It has been absolutely terrifying and, at the same time, incredibly gratifying and fulfilling to invest so much time, resources and energy into something I love and wholeheartedly believe in. Fear is a great motivator. It’s been a roller coaster ride and I continue to learn something new every day.
Who has been your mentor?
My dad is by far my greatest mentor. Growing up watching my dad’s career and success as a franchisee inspired me to want to follow in his footsteps. His advice has been invaluable in opening my studio.
What advice would you give someone looking to open a business?
Stay persistent! I can’t count the number of times that I have achieved something simply because I refused to give up. Learning is often painful! I feel that persistence might be even more important than brains.
How do you think Atlantans’ fitness routines differ from people elsewhere in the country?
Atlanta has done an amazing job with urban planning over the past decade. Biking, running and walking around outside have become much more convenient. However, we still spend too much time sitting at our desks and behind the wheels of our cars. Finding time to work out is both a necessity and a challenge. DEFINE is a great option for Atlantans looking for a convenient and highly effective workout.
Okay, shifting gears, where did you enjoy your last best meal in Atlanta?
Umi. It’s the best sushi in Atlanta!
When you’re not working, what do you do to relax?
I try to spend time meditating or reading every day. I love a hot bath and a glass of cold sake. My boyfriend, Michael, is the best at helping me unwind by making me laugh every day.
What fall event that is coming up are you most looking forward to?
The Turkey Trot (Atlanta Track Club’s Thanksgiving Day half marathon). Each year, my brother and I run it together here in Atlanta. We’ve been doing it since 2005, and my dad and sister sometimes participate, as well. Its been a fun, healthy, family bonding tradition before our big feast.
If money was no object, where would you most like to travel and why?
I would love to travel to Japan someday. I am fascinated with the culture and love the food.
If you weren’t in the fitness industry, what would you likely be doing?
Working with a nonprofit. I almost moved to Southeast Asia to teach English before opening DEFINE.
Name three things that you absolutely can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
Sleep (one of my favorite things!), my laptop and Whole Foods Market
Jessica, thank you for helping improve our bodies and minds. And a gigantic thanks to Catrina Maxwell of CatMax Photography for today’s fantastic photos.