For Jesse Cleveland, working in the fitness field is not just a job. It’s a way of life.

“I’ve always taught people about their bodies and how to move, but I didn’t think I could get into fitness or personal training because I never thought I was fit enough or strong enough,” says Cleveland, a Baltimore native who lives in Parkton. “When I found Orangetheory — which is more about your capability, as opposed to what you look like — I knew that’s where I wanted to make my career.”

After discovering Orangetheory Fitness, Cleveland, 36, quickly took the necessary steps to begin working as a trainer at the gym. She spent months studying to become a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise, and began teaching classes at Orangetheory Fitness in Hunt Valley. Working her way up, Cleveland will be the head coach at Orangetheory Fitness’ Owings Mills location, which is slated to open this summer.

“I thought about being a personal trainer for a long time, but didn’t think people would take me seriously,” says Cleveland, who attended Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School, the Park School of Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park. “I’ve always been really active and played sports, but I’ve also always struggled with my weight. At first that worried me, but my mindset has now completely changed.”

With more than 200 members already signed up for the Owings Mills Orangetheory Fitness location, Cleveland looks forward to helping individuals reach their fitness goals.

“Being strong isn’t necessarily about a number on the scale,” she says. “It’s really exciting for the community to be able to have a place where they can see people of all genders and body shapes who are strong. Strong looks like so many different things, and seeing that strength looks different allowed me to realize I can be strong, too, regardless of what the scale says.”

Sonrisa Medina, owner of Orangetheory Fitness in Hunt Valley, Harbor East and Owings Mills, agrees. “The scale is an evil, intangible measurement on which many people, particularly women, base their self-esteem, their successes and their worth,” she says. “Everybody is worth something, everybody can change and grow, become stronger, become more capable, and a scale measures none of that.

“It’s not about being skinny,” Medina says. “It’s about being healthy, stronger and more empowered within yourself.”

Founded in 2010, Orangetheory Fitness is a franchised studio focusing on providing members with a 60-minute full body workout made up of cardio and strength sections.

“This workout is for everyone,” says Medina. “We have members with amputated limbs who work out with us; diseases that they have to fight every day to stay strong and healthy; stresses in life, anxiety and depression, age, nagging pains due to injury or wear and tear. And somehow we are all in that room together working out and getting the best workout for our bodies while encouraging each other and motivating one another.”

Growing up, Cleveland spent much of her time around snow sports. She worked as a snowboarding instructor for 16 years.

“I always wanted to be a mom and a snowboarding teacher,” she says. “As a snowboarding instructor and former employee at Burton Snowboards, I would travel to resorts around the country and train instructors on women’s anatomy and how to teach them to snowboard.”

The mother of two — Orly, 5, and Louis, 3 — Cleveland says her attention shifted from snowboarding to fitness classes after giving birth to her son.

“Fitness has changed me for the best,” says Cleveland, whose children attend Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School. “It’s changed how I feel about myself and changed how I can attack situations. I have a lot more confidence, and it’s been wonderful to feel strong.”

While not all clients will necessarily see the same results, Cleveland says they will all be encouraged by a supportive group mentality that she is eager to bring to the Owings Mills community. And Medina says it is Cleveland’s strong work ethic and can-do attitude that made the company choose her for the head coach position in Owings Mills.

“I am still hitting personal records in class, and I have been doing Orangetheory for years,” says Cleveland. “I am still a work in progress, and that is all right. I can still work on myself while helping others. I don’t have to be a finished product to do that.”

For information on Orangetheory Fitness, visit