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Meet the Maestros | MJ

BY Emma
published 18-11-18

“I had to follow my heart and make my passion a career.” – Maestro, graphic designer and ex-teacher, MJ. After a move to London 8 years ago and working as a teacher for 4 years, our Maestro MJ took a leap of faith and found a way to blend his love of inspiring others with his love for fitness by becoming a cycling instructor. Read on to get to know MJ and learn how he became a cycling convert, his top tips for staying healthy and his favourite song to cycle to (that you’ll likely hear in class!)

Tell us a bit about yourself
I am 31 years old and originally from Northern Ireland. I moved to London 8 years ago to study my teaching degree, and I have lived here ever since. I worked as a High School Art Teacher in London for four years, before leaving this career to work in the fitness industry.

How did you get into the fitness industry?
I got into the fitness industry accidentally. I went to my first ever spin class in my old gym, and I remember my friends had to convince me to go. I really didn’t want to, I didn’t see the appeal of it at all. I sat near the back of the studio, expecting the worst. But at the end of this class I was hooked. The instructor was so inspiring, I just remember thinking ‘wow, I bet she has so much fun doing that as a job’ and I was in awe of how she made a room full of people feel so amazing. That same instructor approached me a few weeks later (I had now moved from the back of the studio and had become a front row rider - I was loving it that much) and she asked if I would like to do instructor training. I was shocked, flattered, excited and took the offer with both hands. A month or so later I was up on that podium on the same gym teaching two classes a week.

At this point I was still school teacher and I was starting to notice that I wasn’t excited or motivated to get up and go to work at school, but I was jumping out of bed to go teach my cycle classes twice a week. I knew I had to make a change in my life. I had to follow my heart and make my passion a career. So I handed in my notice to my school, signed up for a personal training course and now I’m here.

Why did you want to become a cycling instructor?
Because I wanted to make other people feel the way I did when I did my first cycle class and be the person that motivates others. I wanted to teach at FirstLight because of the mindfulness side to the classes. For me, mental and physical health are equally important and teaching here allows me to inspire my Risers with my the words I say.

When do I feel most empowered?
I feel most empowered when I’m up on the podium teaching a class because I know I’m making a difference and helping people. In every career I have chosen, I’ve chosen to do something that helps other people. I chose to be a teacher because I wanted to help children that were going through bullying (as I got bullied as a kid) and I always felt empowered when I knew I was making a difference in a child’s life, or helping them with their problems. I feel the same now, but this time I’m helping adults.

How do you stay balanced?
When I’m not teaching classes at FirstLight my other career is design. I’m a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. So this keeps my work life varied and interesting. I am currently working on illustrating a children’s book that I have written with my friend.

With balancing two careers, what keeps you so motivated?
Music motivates me. Music is always the answer. If I’m having a bad day, listening to music always helps uplift me. I also can’t workout without music, it just doesn’t feel right.

Top tip for staying healthy?
If you’re a beginner to fitness you should have an open mind and try lots of different class types... until you find the thing you love! When you find something you love, you will get hooked, and working out will no longer feel like a chore.

Top three ways you love to sweat?
1. Cycle - I enjoy going to other people’s classes and being the student instead of the teacher. I also love the community element of riding together as a team.
2. HIIT Training - I love training fast and intense, and I love everyone’s least favourite exercise... burpees!
3. Walking my dog Suki - I consider this exercise as it’s time for me to take some quiet time in nature which helps my mental health.

Favourite song to ride to:
‘Rhythm Nation’ by Janet Jackson is my ultimate favourite song to ride to. It has a strong beat that empowers me and it was always one of my favourite songs growing up.

Best place you've travelled to?
I love Los Angeles. I’ve been twice and I feel so at home there. I would love to move there some day as it has a nice balance of city and beach life. I love its fitness scene and obviously the sun is amazing!

Something you can't live without?

My dog Suki (her Instagram is @sukiandthecity). She is so important to me––I treat her like my daughter. She gives me unconditional love everyday and my life has been enhanced so much since she came into my life 4 years ago.

Ready to rise with MJ? Book into class with him here