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How 76-year-old Queen B is helping to inspire a nation to exercise

A former professional cricketer and award-winning gym owner is challenging the nation to spend five minutes with him to fall in love with exercise. And he’s hoping his biggest fan, 76-year-old Queen Brenda, will help him achieve his ambition.

Javeno McClean, who played cricket for Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Worcestershire and Karnataka in Bangalore, India, owns Manchester-based J7, a gym he founded in 2017 which now has more than 11,500 Instagram followers.

The 36-year-old has launched the J-7 five-minute start-up sessions on Zoom, to get people off their sofas and on the exercise path to a healthier lifestyle.

The bitesize sessions are aimed at anyone, from five- to 95-year-olds. And his inspiration for setting them up is one of his clients, who he calls his ‘queen’, 76-year-old Brenda Simpson, one of his biggest supporters.

Before he set up the business Javeno worked for Manchester City Council running exercise sessions in the community. At first there was just one attendee, Brenda, and the pair worked together alone until the sessions took off.

But Brenda spread the word among her family and friends and more people started attending. Eventually Javeno’s classes sizes grew to 130 and they had to move to bigger venues twice.

After four years Javeno left the Council and set up J7, Brenda and the others followed him and that’s where he says the J7 community was created.

He now wants to take what he’s built in Manchester to the nation by urging people to try out his bitesize virtual sessions while the gym is closed because of Covid restrictions.

The dad of one said: “Brenda has definitely inspired me. She started training with me from day one after having two hip replacements and is now doing a 100 squats a day challenge to raise money for charity. If you need proof that you can start exercising at any age and fall in love with it, Brenda is it.

“Brenda’s support and the people she introduced to me who have also been attending our classes from the start have helped me create the J7 family, because that’s what we are at the gym. We’re different to others out there. We’re intergenerational, support each other and our classes are aimed at all ages. You won’t see me posing on Instagram with my top off, that’s not the kind of guy I am. I’m not about making classes trend online. I just want to inspire people to fall in love with exercise.

Brenda said: “Javeno and the rest of the team at J7 are just fantastic. They look after me, they look after everyone and tailor the sessions to peoples’ abilities. They call me Queen Brenda here and have even given me a lifetime’s membership which means so much but more than that they’ve given me a love for exercise and a place that feels like home. It might be closed for now but I can’t wait to go back once gyms are allowed to reopen and I know all our other members feels the same.”

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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