There is never a dull moment with Gymbox instructor and creator of House of J, James Lee Dawkins. We caught up with him to find out more about his new role as Gymbox Master Trainer.
What made you want to become an instructor?
I was in marketing and PR for a few years…but it wasn’t working, and I just got to a point where I was so unhappy. I was like “Sod this, I need to find what I’m passionate about, and it definitely isn’t sitting around in an office”. So I gave it all up!
I got a job as a receptionist at Fitness First…Then when I was in the gym working out I began to think “maybe this is where I should be, maybe this is it”. I stumbled across a studio and there was a load of noise coming from it, so I looked in and thought “you guys look like you’re having the best time ever”. I went in and it was a Zumba class. And that was what inspired me!
I became a Zumba instructor, and I discovered that it was the teaching part of things that really inspired me and moved me. That was really the start of my journey. I had never felt so inspired and connected to something.
I’ve been a member at Gymbox since I was 17, and when I first walked into this place I thought “I want to live here – I want to spend every moment of my life here” because of the energy it created. It just spoke to everything in me. So I never would have expected to become a Master Trainer here. It’s ‘pinch me’ stuff!
What exactly does this new role as Master Trainer involve?
I head up the category for Look Better Naked, so all of the categories that fall within that concept: conditioning, strength based concepts, and also a bit of HIIT as well. Everything from high repetition low weights, to get into that burn and conditioning, to working more with technique. If you want to learn how to lift or squat properly before you go out onto the gym floor, one of my specialities is to make sure you feel confident enough to go out there, because it can be quite an intimidating place. So come to me: I’ll give you the confidence and then you can fly the nest!
At 17 I never had someone like that to help me: there wasn’t that person here at Gymbox. But I really fucking care, and I am here for you. That is the reason why I do this job!
A master is someone in a position of authority who can teach and instruct others. Another definition of ‘master’ is ‘to get the better of something’. What is one thing you’re proud of mastering?
When I was a child I got bullied an awful lot, and I had learning difficulties because I was dyslexic. So growing up was quite tough for me, and not many people from the area and struggles that I came from managed to achieve what I’ve achieved.
I had a goal, and I always thought I would make something of myself because I didn’t want to be defeated. I’ve gone through hard times, but it’s always just made me stronger. I didn’t have a family on my back telling me “you’re gonna be something great”. I got to this place because I seriously believed in me!
I would say that’s the biggest thing I’ve mastered; as a boy from East London, I never would have thought that I would be a Master Trainer at Gymbox, training the team, being a leader, or someone who inspires other trainers.
Is there anything you’ve particularly struggled to master, or something you’re currently trying to master?
Interval training - what I give you guys! [laughs]
I really hate it, and I struggle with it, a lot! I can weight train all day, that’s my thing…but interval training?! It’s horrible!
What are you most excited about in your new role as Gymbox master trainer?
One of the things I’m most excited about is creating a team here. I love working with people, and I love helping people on their journey.
I’ve seen so many people grow, go off and do amazing things, and I’m quite humbled. I’m like “I gave you your first class, I gave you your first bit of industry opportunity, I gave you your first something” and that’s so special to me. I guess that’s the most important thing to me, working with the instructors and building that kind of family spirit.
It’s amazing when I see my members progressing, I’m like “we did that!” We’re doing it together; you’re lifting that bar, I didn’t do anything, I’m just giving you something to aid you along your way. And I guess that’s what the master trainer role is. It’s a real family thing.
What advice would you give to anyone who’s struggling to reach their fitness goal?
Be kind to yourself. One of the reasons we start giving up on our goals is because we’re so hard on ourselves. Being kind to yourself is really important in being able to sustain your goal over a long period of time.
You can have ‘on’ days, you can have ‘off’ days. Remember that you are human, remember to be kind to yourself! Just relax, remember what your goal is, and keep constantly checking in on it.
…And if you need a bit of focus, get yourself along to one of my classes! Or see one of the other trainers here who teach under Look Good Better Naked. We all have a similar vibe and a similar goal; it’s all about you. So if you’re struggling with your goals a little bit and are unsure what your direction is, come check out our classes. It might just inspire something in you, like it did for me 6 years ago!