The beautiful friendship between personal trainer Javeno and Brenda, the OAP doing 100 squats a day – Manchester Evening News
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The nation’s physical and mental health continues to be put at risk by coronavirus.
But, doing his best to transform the lives of his community is a local gym owner and dad-of-one from Blackley.
Former professional cricket player Javeno Mclean, 36, is the proud owner of award-winning community gym, J7 Health Centre.
Like other gyms and health facilities, the doors of J7 have had to close their doors to comply with government restrictions.
But Javeno’s gym is different.
Many of its most loyal customers are pensioners, like Brenda Simpson, who came to him after having two hip replacements – and is now in training for a 100 squats a day challenge.
To support his ‘oldies’ – the elderly customers at the heart of what he calls his ‘J7 family’ – Javeno and his team have been buying and collecting bags of essential items, and delivering them to their homes so they can keep safe during the pandemic.
Javeno said: “OAPs have taught me so much. It’s my favourite class and I’ve been training some of them for over 10 years.
“I’m old school – I don’t know if it’s the Jamaican heritage but they’re your aunties and uncles. It doesn’t have to be your blood auntie – it’s a sign of respect.
“If you come into my gym, you will see pictures of my oldies that have passed away – loved ones that I’ve lost.
“I lose a couple of them every year and it’s heartbreaking.
“All my oldies were in the main category of the people most likely to get coronavirus and they were scared. They were petrified,” he added.
“But they were also stubborn and said they needed their independence and would still be going to Tesco.”
Javeno’s kindness soon triggered other members of the J7 family and the surrounding local community to do the same – and before he knew it – half of the floor of his gym was covered in shopping bags ready to be dropped off.
Javeno credits his first pensioner customer, Brenda, with changing his life, and she credits him with changing hers.
And, almost a decade after they first met, and until coronavirus restrictions kicked in, ‘Queen Brenda’ was still attending J7 every week.
“He does so much for the community and I support him 100 per cent,” she told the M.E.N.
“When we first met, I’d just had two hip replacements and I couldn’t do anything – I’d never done any exercise.
“But he started me off gently and gradually built me up and now I can do things that I couldn’t do when I was younger.
“I’m 74 and I’m training for a squat challenge for the Teenage Cancer Trust – it’s 100 squats a day!
“All the lads at the gym, led by Javeno, are fantastic. They look after me, they know my limits, and they adapt things for me so I can do it to the best of my ability.
“I just can’t say enough about Javeno, I love him so much and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.”
Javeno was working as a council sports coach when he first met the woman who would help him build up a successful business.
“When I was with Manchester City Council, I started exercise classes with my team, Active Lifestyle,” Javeno said.
“I had this one class in a school in Miles Platting – it was me and Brenda.
“For four months it was just me and Brenda – and she loved it. Every session, I trained her like it was her last one.”
Javeno was adamant that he didn’t want to advertise his classes through flyers through people’s letter boxes.
He believed that the best way to achieve success was through word of mouth – and that’s where Brenda, now 74, unknowingly lit the fuse that would spark Javeno’s long-term, future success.
“After four months, Brenda told one person how great she thought the session was,” he said.
“One person became two… two became four… four became eight… nine… ten… and before I knew it, there were 20 people attending my classes.”
He had to move facilities to St Matthew’s High School – but with news of his class spreading like wildfire, he soon had to move premises again.
From St Matthew’s he moved to Oasis Academy, and from there, to Our Lady’s.
Surpassing 100 people, Javeno said at one point he had 137 members in one fitness class, believing it had to be one of the busiest classes in the UK.
As his popularity grew, Javeno decided to make the leap and open J7 Health Centre, which is currently situated on Old Market Street, Blackley.
“When I finally opened J7, I was so blessed that I had such a massive following in the community – I had 100 members straight away.
“It was me and Brenda for four months by ourselves in that cold room.
“If she didn’t stick with me and then tell her friend – I wouldn’t have gone on to have so much success.
“She’s royalty – Brenda is J7 royalty. When anyone refers to Brenda at the gym, we say ‘Queen Brenda’.
“There’s nobody at J7 who doesn’t know who she is – when she comes in she gets more love than I do.
“She’s the only person at J7 that’s got a lifetime membership.”
Javeno was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK when he was six-years-old.
He went on to play cricket for Lancashire and Worcestershire, eventually moving to Bangalore, India, to play for Karnataka.
It was during his time in India, filling in for an injured cricket conditioner, when the former athlete experienced a ‘turning point’ which triggered him to give up his professional sporting career and dedicate his life to training others.
Javeno said: “The coach asked me to fill in as the cricket conditioner for two months – I accepted.
“And I got more out of conditioning in those two months than I ever did as a cricket player.
“I got so much more satisfaction out of seeing what I could do with other people rather than myself.”
Shortly after his experience, Javeno suffered a serious Achilles injury which only cemented his decision to leave the sport for good.
He returned home to North Manchester, and with the excitement of discovering his true calling at the forefront of his mind, he began to reshape his life.
Recalling a key moment in his journey, Javeno revealed that he had a ‘vision’ while sat down at his mum’s house in Crumpsall with a pen and paper in hand.
He said: “I wrote it on a blank piece of paper – it’s still at my mum’s house now.
“My vision was to create a facility called ‘J7’. It was all on one floor – one room that was the gym, and the other room that was the studio.
“One floor, one way in, one way out – where everybody has to interact.
“I wanted it to be filled with energy – a place with a ridiculous amount of contagious love.
“Gyms can be a lonely place. How many times have you been inside a big corporate gym and, even though there’s loads of people and machines, it still feels like an intimidating and lonely place?
“I wanted to create the total opposite.”
At this point, Javeno had already began working for the council – where he’d stay for the next 12 years.
He made the decision to put his dream plan on the back burner while he built his experience and saved money from working various council jobs – from sports coach to exercise specialist.
It was during the first few months of his employment where he met Brenda Simpson, his first and most loyal client.
J7 Health Centre, the gym that Javeno built up with Brenda’s help, has for the past two years won the Corporate Livewire Prestige Awards ‘Community Gym of the Year’ – beating 21 other Manchester gyms in the same category to the title.
Javeno said: “If it wasn’t for members of my community, J7 wouldn’t be what it is.
“I’ve got a responsibility to them all that I’ll never, ever neglect.
“Whether it’s a Saturday or Sunday, whether it’s 10pm at night – if they need something, I have to give it them.
“Sometimes it interferes with family life a little bit – my Mrs says, ‘You’ve got to stop working’.
“But it’s not work to me – it’s just helping people that have helped me, and giving back to the people that have allowed me to create and make my vision a reality.
“I’ll bend over backwards for them, because they’ve bent over backwards for me.”
Until he can get back to training people in person, Javeno hosts exercise classes on Zoom and also creates shorter motivational workout videos that he posts to his 11.3k followers on Instagram.
Speaking the closure of gyms during the pandemic, Javeno said: “Obviously, you’ve got to take note and understand what’s going on – but it baffles me.
“A health facility in this time right now – if it’s run correctly with everyone listening to the rules and guidelines – would save so many lives.
“There’s so many people mentally breaking down and going to horrible places, it would build so many people’s self esteem and confidence.
“So to say that a health facility or gym – such powerful tools to help people – is deemed as non-essential is baffling to me.
“A facility can stop people from committing suicide, it can stop people from thinking dark, horrible things and doing dark, horrible things, yet we’re considered ‘non-essential’.
“But the thing is, you can’t please everyone – so if that’s what we’ve been given, the only thing I can do is what we’re doing now and keep doing it to the best of our ability, and help as many people as we can until we get back to J7.”
Javeno continued: “When you do fitness and health the right way – taking a family approach – it’s the most amazing thing.
“We’ve got people like Brenda, a 74-year-old woman, in the same class as an athlete – in the same class as my own mum!
“That beautiful mix of age and abilities – there’s no other place that I know that does that.
“I want people to see that it’s possible to have a whole community active and we can all do this together as long as people have the passion.”
To keep up to date with Javeno and the J7 family follow @j7healthjaveno and @j7healthcentre on Instagram or visit
This content was originally published here.