Peloton's Jess Sims Is the Rescue Dog Advocate the World Needs
"Well alright, before I go…," says Peloton's Jess Sims as she grabs her phone while wrapping a recent Zoom call with Shape. "The pictures of them at their shoot today — look at this, you'll die at how sweet. They're the most photogenic dogs ever!"
Sims is proudly gushing over her canine babies, 4-year-old Sienna Grace and 10-month-old Shiloh. Sims, who is also an in-arena co-host for the WNBA's New York Liberty, adopted her two Kentucky-born pit mixes through Muddy Paws Rescue in New York City. While Sims adopted Sienna as a 10-week-old puppy in 2017, she's developed just as much of a maternal instinct toward Shiloh, who joined the family six months ago.
"I've always been a lover of the underdog, always," says the beloved Peloton instructor. "My dad says when he writes a book one day which I doubt he ever will, the title of my chapter will be 'Jess: the Lover of the Underdog.' That goes from human beings to I guess dogs. These dogs need to be given a chance, they need to experience love, and proper care, and structure, and routine." (Related: These Benefits of Having a Pet Will Have You Adopting a Furry Friend Before You Know It)
Sims says she "fell in love" the moment she saw Sienna and had "wanted to get another dog for her," which is where Shiloh came in. And in true pandemic fashion, Sims initially met the pup over Zoom. "The foster parents just held him and he literally just stayed there in their arms the entire 20 minutes I was on the phone with them," recalls Sims. "I was like, 'he's so peaceful and so calm, that's the exact Yin to Sienna's Yang, I need this dog.'"
When ACANA Rescue Care for Adopted Dogs reached out, the partnership was a no-brainer. Sims soon learned that ACANA (whose name was inspired by its birthplace in Alberta, Canada) produced the first-of-its-kind dog food in the U.S. formulated specifically for the transition of dogs from shelter environments to their new furever homes. "I think that's incredible because there's such a need," she says. "There are so many dogs that need to be rescued, and I actually adopted because we are the ones who are rescued by our dogs."
ACANA sent Sims some food, and Sienna and Shiloh turned out to be big fans. Though Sims was intrigued, she knew she wanted to help spread the word about the brand's Forever Project, an initiative created to give newly adoptive pet parents the best start for their furry friends with premium pet food. While ACANA relayed stats to Sims during their early conversations (such as the brand's recent survey findings that 77 percent of dog owners say they have a stronger bond with their pet now than before the pandemic), there was one particular piece of research that grabbed her attention. (Related: Dogs Are Trying to Tell You They Love You When They Do This One Thing)
"There are so many cool statistics ACANA has run, but one is that 72 percent of dog owners have reported they've become more active after rescuing a dog," says Sims. "Just think about the trickle-down effect — if you rescue, you're getting a dog off the street, so you're saving a life, and you are becoming more active as a result of that. It's a win-win situation."
Sims has personally experienced a boost in physical activity since taking in her two canines. Though the lifelong athlete regularly spends time in the Peloton studio, teaching treadmill, strength, and bike boot camp classes, cohabitating with Sienna and Shiloh offered a new kind of opportunity for movement. (Related: More Proof That Any Exercise Is Better Than No Exercise)
"Yes, it's my job to work out, but when I'm with the dogs, I take them for four walks a day," she says. "I wake up super early, I take them for a morning walk, they come in and eat, then I take them out again mid-morning. Then they come in and nap for a little while — I usually have meetings, do my programming, my playlisting — and then I take them out in the afternoon. I usually teach three nights every week, and I walk them when I get home."
For Sims, however, the real payoff of those walks isn't in the physical movement. "It's for my mental health," she says. "Especially in the last year, where we're stuck inside and boundaries have been really challenging to maintain because we eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, work in the same space, it's my time to get out of the apartment and be outside in nature. I don't like to take my phone out — I leave it in my pocket and I'm just very present. I like to watch the night squirrels [aka New York City rats] with Sienna and Shiloh and just see the world through their eyes and just try to stay super, super present. Specifically, in the last year and a half, I've been really, really extra grateful for them."
Given Sims has a demanding workout schedule of her own, she says introducing Shiloh to the apartment has helped to occupy Sienna, making it easier to sneak in a midday workout. "They have each other," she says. "But I tire them out — we'll go for a long walk and then as soon as we come inside, I give them a little treat and that keeps them busy and then I hop on the bike or I hop on the tread or I do a strength workout. It's pretty easy to close the door and say, 'this is mommy time,' because they're tired, they got their time." (Related: You Don't Need a Peloton to Crush This Full-Body Workout By Trainer Jess Sims)
To help other dog lovers learn how to incorporate their pups into their own healthy routine, and in honor of National Dog Day on August 26, Sims co-hosted a live-stream class with ACANA through the company's website, focusing on how pet owners can build a strong bond with their dogs. And while Sims says that engaging with other pet owners is exciting, the Forever Project is something she is particularly happy to be a part of. "The other thing I absolutely love is with the Forever Project, ACANA partnered with Best Friends Animal Society (a nonprofit organization that operates the country's largest sanctuary for homeless animals) and they're donating 2.5 million meals," she says of the donations to the animal at Best Freinds. "That just makes me so excited because I just care so deeply and I would love to use my platform, which already seems like a dog haven. Everyone's like, is this a fitness account or a dog account? I'm like, 'that's a great question, I guess it's a dog account.'"
Judging by the enthusiastic comments from Sienna and Shiloh fans among Sims' 348,000+ Instagram followers, it seems no one is complaining about the canine content.