Welcome to Woman Crush Wednesdays
...aka #WCW. Since I'm doing quite well with this whole website/blog thing, thought I'd get a bit more involved, more amongst it and do regular features. I know #WCWs are very popular and to be fair I have a LOT of pretty wonderful women friends, all completely gorgeous with stunning souls to match! So, let's kick it off with this little ray of sunshine, Miss Jessica McKee!!!
Meet My Mate Jess
Jess and I have been friends for a fair few years now. We met when she would come to my Booiaka classes at Gymbox, bright eyed and bushy tailed. I was thrilled when she said she was doing her Exercise To Music and couldn't wait to take her under my wing and give her a leg up into the fitness industry, a platform from which she could shine and after a while I invited to be part of my team in a former venture, RaunchUK (the predecessor to School of Strut). Jess became one of my "Master InStrutters" for Stiletto and held the fort for me on many occasion, notably when I broke my foot. (No, I was not wearing heels!)
Since then she has gone from strength to strength, becoming a master trainer in Playboy's Bunny Bootcamp and Pound Fit and has also been working on a new project, "Something To Shout About", which is the coming together of women to workout, train, take part in classes, supporting each other and after a set amount of time they put themselves out of their comfort zone and do a catwalk in a theatre where their friends and loved ones can applaud their hard work. Jess premiered this last Saturday at the Stratford Theatre. Here's what she has to say...
Me: I was so proud of what you achieved on Saturday with "Something To Shout About". Can you tell me about your motivation for the project?
Jess: Awwww thanks Zoe! I was extremely proud of the girls involved!!! Since recovering from my eating disorder at the age of 23 I have always wanted to help women feel good about themselves and love themselves. I hate to think of women thinking how I used to. I believe it is so important to have goals and absolutely strive to be the best version of yourself but don't beat yourself up every step of the way instead celebrate and recognise that right here and now you are something to shout about. There are many group weight loss programmes out there and diet plans but I don't want to sell products I just want to educate people a little better and provide support for a happy and healthy lifestyle. There are also many beauty pageants out there but I wanted to provide that feeling and a platform for women who may not feel comfortable with the pressure of a mainstream catwalk at this point in their life. I have access to so many great fitness concepts and fitness professionals that I wanted to make accessible for people. Basically it is all about celebrating female health and fitness and giving women the chance to feel amazing!
Me: I've known you for a few years now and I know you've been through a lot! But the vast majority of people you meet wouldn't have a clue about your story: you're so upbeat and smiley all the time. How do you do it?
Jess: WOW these questions are deep Zoe I was expecting 'whats my favourite food' kinda questions lol. To be honest I really struggle to answer this question without writing an essay! To put it simply what is the alternative!?! I love the job I do so that genuinely makes me happy and upbeat and I am fortunate to have very good friends, boyfriend, brother and sister in law. I set myself goals like the London marathon and other charity work and keep busy. Don't get me wrong I do carry a very heavy heart and miss my family every minute of the day but when your world stops turning and there is no one there to pick up the pieces you have no choice but to make it start turning again. I have no parents or grandparents to fall back on for support, my boyfriend has been on tour during the bulk of the hard times and my brother, his wife and my friends live 2 hours away, I have learnt it all boils down to me and my mindset. It is tough I'm not going to lie and there are some pretty crazy things that have happened in the past three years, and not many people would have a clue about it all as you said, but I am also very aware that everyone has a story and everyone has hard times, some moreso than others but that's just life. I think it's important to remember everyone has a story whether it shows or not so be kind to everyone - you never know who is struggling. I have recently invested more time in meditation and mindful practice which also helps a great deal. I think this is such a great thing to practice especially when living in a crazy, fast paced city like London. Just taking time out to stop, connect and breath. I'm a massive advocate of looking after your mental wellbeing and I believe it should be prioritised just as much as any other sort of training or physical maintenance. That was intense lol - my favourite food is avocado, sweet potato and nectarines ;) (Me: LOL!)
Me: You're now the Master Trainer for Pound Fit. Tell me about it. What is it? How did you get into it? Who would enjoy it? And how can some one find out about how they can a) join in a class and b) become trained in the concept?
Jess: Pound is an amazing workout from the states that uses lightly weighted exercise drumsticks and rocking playlists with everything from Iggy Azalea to Rage Against The Machine. It was created by two great girls, Kirsten and Cristina. The girls are amateur drummers and fitness enthusiasts and combined drumming, cardio and Pilates to come up with Pound. I fell in love with it after one class. I just found it such a good workout but also absolutely bad ass and enjoyable. Because every Pound technique can be modified to suit the individual it really is something for every age and ability, I have a big mix in my classes. There have been participants with Parkinsons who have got so much from Pound and also individuals with sight impairments as you can also hear your workout and hear your effort. I really would say everyone should give it a go. Anyone interested can check out the website www.poundfit.comto find out more. You can also search for classes via the website and find information on instructor trainings. My personal Facebook page will also say when and where I will be presenting Pound etc.
Me: You crossed the Sahara to raise money and for Cancer victims. Tell me about that.
Jess: I trekked the Sahara to raise money for Marie Curie. My mom was fighting multiple myeloma at the time so anything that supports patients or loved ones of terminal illness is really close to my heart. It was the most extraordinary experience of my life. I trekked with the most amazing group of people and I genuinely loved every minute - I won the 'bubbliest' trekker award. Don't get me wrong it was HOT and challenging but AMAZING. I remember the day that nearly broke me it was stupidly hot and there was no resbite for miles, no trees or dunes just flat land. Everyone was low on water and struggling with the intense heat and that's when the reality of what we were doing really sunk in and how we were trekking in such an extreme environment. We were told to keep walking until we reached a tree in the distance but the tree looked like it was moving further and further away! A lot of people were crying and some were really low and it was really tough seeing people you care about like that. Getting to the tree was the best feeling ever and we were greeted by shade, food and water. There was so much stuff to love about that trip - the stars at night, the company, the food, making music around the campfire at night, no mobile phone, no make up, feeling free and alive! It is a bit bitter sweet the experience now and I don't think about it as much or as positively as I should. It was just such a brilliant thing to do and I was on the biggest high of my life but a few hours after getting back to the UK I got the call that my mom was on life support in America but had no chance of survival. I went from an extreme high to an extreme low and was just in shock.I never got the chance to tell her I was back safe or tell her anything of the trip. I wrote her a letter talking about it what I did out there and that I was home safe, a loved one read it to her at hospital before she took her last breath so I hope she heard it. I would recommend the trek to anyone, I might even do it again someday.
Me: What advice would you have for your teenage self?
Jess: Don't over pluck your eyebrows!!! (Me: I'd say the same thing!!)
Me: What advice do you have for other women in the fitness industry or in general?
Jess: Work with each other not against each other, just because you blow out someone else's flame it doesn't make yours burn brighter! Be genuine, avoid ego trips, we are all a team! Remember whatever goal path you are on is wonderful but also enjoy each day and each step, praise the positives and learn from the negatives - talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend. Jon Kabat-Zinn says "if you are breathing there is more right with you than wrong with you" celebrate how special you and your life is right now! You're all amazing :) xxx
Me: Thank you, Gorgeous, wonderful words!! Anyone reading this, if you have questions for Jess, leave a comment below. Find her on FB and like her page Something To Shout About. Maybe you want to join her project and see what everyone is Shouting About!!