Making it: Michael Olajide Jr.
This former boxing champ turned fitness guru will whip your body and mind into better shape.
Mon Jan 5 2009
The first thing I notice about Michael Olajide Jr. is the sculptural gold eye patch dressing his right eye, blind from an old boxing injury. After experiencing Olajide's personally designed workout at his gym, Aerospace (332 W 13th St at Hudson St; 212-929-1640, aerospacenyc.com), that image seemed a fitting metaphor for his workout's combination of deep physicality and grace; pain and pleasure. After an hour of bodily mayhem, my thoughts wavered between, Damn, my body hurts, and Damn, I feel amazing.
Olajide rose quickly through the boxing ranks after leaving his home in Liverpool, England, for Vancouver. He perfected his style by training with his father, and went pro in 1981. Four years later, Olajide moved to New York City, earned a contract with Madison Square Garden and was ranked in the top 20 of middleweight contenders worldwide. "Boxing started as a personal challenge," says Olajide. "Interestingly, not being an aggressive character actually provided me with an advantage by allowing space to develop—an intelligent style in the ring. I loved Ali and in 1976, I saw the Olympic team with Sugar Ray, Leo Randolph, Howard Davis Jr. and all the greats. I remember them winning the gold medal and knew that same courage was in my blood."
At the top of his game and a fight away from fulfilling his ultimate potential by becoming middleweight champion of the world, Olajide (then called "Silk") suffered the blow that left him half blind. Instead of giving up, he decided to enter the New York fitness world. "In the beginning, I taught at one or two major clubs in the city—Equinox and Chelsea Piers—that's it," he says. "I kept it exclusive and really hard. I wanted the workout to be as pure as what we do in boxing. In 1994, I did a fitness video with Kathy Smith called Aerobox Workout. It did really well and put me on the path to realizing my dream gym."
Aerospace, Olajide's gym, which he runs in collaboration with former ballerina and design expert Leila Fazel, is sparse and airy, dotted with punching bags, special private training pods and a public workout room. There are no machines, and routines are scrawled on the glass walls with a Sharpie like a mad scientist's algorithm. "Leila and I make sure that we maintain the purity of the gym," says Olajide. "It will ideally remain an energy center for anyone that wants to come by for a real workout."
Aerospace also refers to the boxer's punishing workout—an intense-as-can-be combination of shadowboxing, rope jumping, squats and push-ups set to very loud dance music and led by an ever-graceful Olajide. It is an astounding and brutal routine, notable for its rawness: a gutsier alternative to more comfortable aerobic styles (Tae Bo, I'm calling you out). With his new Aero Jump/Sculpt DVD—subtitled C.T.B.S. (cut the bullshit)—a recently opened satellite gym at the Gramercy Park Hotel, and an eclectic clientele that includes senior citizens, preteens, supermodels, celebrities, Wall Street executives, advertising leaders and even sissy writers like myself, Olajide is cementing his place in the ever-evolving fitness world—especially in NYC. "Our style is so New York," concludes the fighter. "People come in and get a unique energy—that's what is so great about this city. You can go to a restaurant, a nightclub, a store or even someone's home and it's totally unique. My workout and space is our visualization of that unique and perfect club."
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Tips for success in business—and getting buff
Keep it raw and as real as possible. Always be authentic and hone your mind to realistically achieve your goals.
Keep it simple. Fancy machines and technology aren't always necessary.
Trust your mentors and coaches. You can't get to the top if you're unwilling to listen to those who are wiser than you.
You don't have to be aggressive, but your goal has to be in your blood.
Turn your weaknesses into strong attributes.
Always challenge yourself. A great workout is like life; it should never become static.
Maintain a connection between your body and mind. When you are in shape, your outlook turns more positive. Don't forget there are benefits in the activities that pump your adrenaline and get those endorphins flowing. Humans have a connected body and mind.
Olajide's career timeline
Born in Liverpool, England
Moved to Vancouver
Started career as an amateur boxer
Became a professional boxer
Ranked in the top 20 middleweight fighters worldwide
Fought for the middleweight title but lost by decision
Retired from boxing due to injuries sustained in the ring, and began fitness instruction in New York City
Released his first video entitled Aerobox Workout
Met future business partner and collaborator, Leila Fazel
Opened the Aerospace gym compound in the Meatpacking District
Released Aero Jump/Sculpt DVD to rave reviews