If you're looking for inspiration to stay focussed on your training, and want to push yourself into new fitness territory, then Jess McKee is your girl. She's trekked across the Sahara for charity, and is now training for her first London Marathon. Jess, we salute you!
Hi Jess! How do you feel about profiled on the Gymbox blog?
At first I was like, 'really?' I'm not that interesting! Gymbox is a huge part of my life, and I give a lot of time, energy and love to the company. There are so many instructors and VPTs who feel the same as I do, so it's really cool to be chosen. Thanks!
Pleasure. Tell us about the classes you teach at Gymbox
I teach high energy, fun and sweaty classes such as Pound, Zumba, Bunny Bootcamp, Thigh High and FightKlub. I love them because each class is an effective workout with an injection of fun.
You've trained as a dancer and actor. How have these skills helped you as an instructor?
It's helped not only for the obvious reasons, like knowledge and technique, but also because every class is like a mini performance. You have to keep the audience engaged for up to an hour, and you want them to leave feeling satisfied. It doesn't matter what's going on in your life – you have to give 100% to the people who attend your class. People say I'm very animated when I teach and make "lots of faces". This is unintentional, but I'm guessing it's the actress inside me!
What are your current training goals?
I'm currently training for the London Marathon. For me long-distance running is a new skill. I like dancing, lifting weights, doing circuits and interval training – basically anything that doesn't involve long-distance running! I'm always rushing around from one thing to another with a busy brain, so to run constantly for hours is really challenging my mental and physical endurance. I'm running for a really great charity though, so it'll be worth it.
You once trekked across the Sahara, tell us about that
Like many people cancer has affected my life in a big way. I've had friends who've had it, or have battled it, but when my Mum got diagnosed with multiple myeloma it gave me a real fire in my belly to become more involved with fundraising and charity work. A friend was trekking the Sahara for Marie Curie, so I signed up too. My training involved walking everywhere. I live in Stratford, but would walk to classes in Holborn. I would even walk Westfield to Westfield! I did Bikram yoga also to help with heat preparation. It was an incredible experience, and I enjoyed every step! The most challenging day of the trek was when it was stupidly hot, and there was no shade for miles. We were running low on water and it really hit me that I was in the middle of the Sahara. We got told to keep walking until we reached a tree in the distance. The tree kept getting further and further away! I've never been so happy to touch a tree! Since then there have been many days where I've been under the weather or injured, and had a class to teach, so just got on with it. Unfortunately my Mum passed away the day I landed, so she never got to hear of my adventures. But I managed to raise nearly £3,000 to help other suffers. I would recommend this trek to anyone!
You're so brave! What skills does an instructor need to be great?
I think to be great at anything you do you, you just need to truly care about it and have passion. The rest will come. The classes aren't for the instructor, they're about the members. A great instructor should have an interest in every single person in the room.
What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?
Making people feel alive! I enjoy helping people with their long term goals, but also it's so satisfying to see immediate goals like giving someone an energy boost at lunchtime, or putting a smile on their face on a Monday. Most of my classes connect to the music which I believe encourages individuals to keep going, and is a distraction to the discomfort I'm putting their body through. Getting fit or maintaining fitness is a tough job, and sometimes very gruelling. So it's nice to deliver high energy classes with a bit of fun to keep members on their fitness journey.
What have been your highlights of working with us at Gymbox so far?
Meeting so many great people!
All the fun photo shoots
Creating a class and getting it on the timetable
Becoming trained in fresh and innovative fitness concepts
Do you have any future aspirations?
I hope to continue working for Gymbox, presenting at fitness conventions and spreading the joy of health and fitness. Besides, of course, surviving the London Marathon! I think the next challenge will be Kilimanjaro. I'm addicted to personal development so I'm always challenging my body or brain. I'm also working on an exciting project at the moment involving women's confidence and fitness, and also focusing attention on a super cool fitness concept from L.A. I don't like to jinx things so can't say much, but watch this space!