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Ayana John isn’t ready to throw in the towel


Ayana John isn’t ready to throw in the towel

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FELOSHADE JOHN PUT on her gloves and began throwing jabs. She is shadow-boxing for the photographer so he can do some practice shots. John is fit like a beast. She is toned, has energy to boot and an envious six-pack.

But just a little over three years ago her reality was totally different. Though John, who is better known by her stage name Ayana, was far from being considered overweight, her problem was that, she was what some people call “skinny fat”. Hers was a body type that was slim but had almost no muscle mass.

Taking a break from a routine training session at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in Wildey, St Michael, to engage in an interview with EASY magazine, John admitted to being inactive and very out of shape back then.

Granted, she was able to maintain an hour-long performance on stage, but after it was over her body sometimes felt like “pure hell”, she said, laughing. On top of that, she had painful migraines, having been diagnosed a few years earlier with cluster headaches.

Although her singing career was soaring and had taken centre stage, Ayana was stuck – stuck experiencing migraines, stuck avoiding everyday activities, and stuck constantly making excuses. What compounded the situation was that she was stuck feeling lazy, having little to no energy and never really knowing where to get the motivation or a plan to make a change.

This was an unimaginable position to be in, especially for a woman who began dancing as a child.

Around age 17 the Harrison College alum took up pageantry and was successful prior to her transition into singing. It was John’s superb vocals in the then highly rated Rising Stars singing contest which helped her gain regional recognition at just 19 years old.

That experience catapulted John further in the music business and she went on to release her self titled debut album with hits such as Guns And Roses and Paper Chase that featured LRG.

John’s singing career was taking off and so popular had she become that she was even teaming up on tracks with heavy hitters like Buggy Nhakente.

Any aspiring artiste would gladly and wholly welcome this type of success and indeed the Christ Church resident was no different. However, in so doing, it affected other parts of her life.

Her relationship with dancing, which began at the tender age of 11, was now suspended.

“Music was my life,” she recalled. “Music just took over. Music came to the forefront and dancing just went to the back.”

That was until 2013.

The Bajan Story singer reminisced about always feeling tired, lethargic and unable to complete her days. So much so, that in May of that year, with no improvement, she visited her doctor to ascertain what was wrong.

“Basically, I was so tired that my body crashed. Then I had to be rushed to the emergency room and I was admitted to the hospital. They had to check my blood and what not. Apparently, it was problems with blood circulation. I knew then that I needed to get into activities so that my body would generate good blood flow so that I would feel energetic and that I won’t get sick a lot,” John said.

The 30-year-old decided the best way to get healthier was to begin an exercise regime, but it had to be something she enjoyed. And similar to Tom Hanks’ character Forest Gump, one day John decided to go for a little run and she just kept going.

“I started running on my own at the [Wildey] Gymnasium every morning at six for an hour and in the evening at six again for another hour. The first time I started with half-hour. What I would do is take a lap then take a break, run a lap then take a break, and then I would do two laps and take a break and two laps and take a break and now I do 17 laps.”

Getting back in the groove wasn’t as easy as it may sound. John may have had raw energy when she was younger but that didn’t mean she was able to translate it at an older age.

“It was difficult training your body to breathe properly . . . to get into a discipline of going both morning and evening and to train your muscles to get into a new rhythm because they were accustomed to being just stationary. Sometimes I woke up in the morning and said, ‘No, I cannot do it today’ but I had to because that was a promise I made to myself.”

That promise was to get better.

“I suffer from chronic headaches . . . largely due to my lack of B12 in my diet because I’m a vegetarian bordering on vegan, and I started to get painful, painful headaches so running was the only way that the headaches would go away. And I would run and run and run and I would also take B12 [supplements]. I had to get into activities in order to get the migraines to go away, so I started to discipline myself morning and evening . . . . I promised myself I would run and then I kept running all the time. I never missed a day,” she boasted while dutifully continuing her training even as the skies became grey and it began to drizzle.

But John wasn’t done there.

A few months ago she met Barbadian boxing veteran Christopher Shaka Henry and he took her programme to another level.

Evidently, he held classes by the Gymnasium and was so impressed by her discipline that he invited her to his boxing classes to work on toning.

It didn’t even cross her mind how dangerous the sport could be.

“I was like if I am going to do it let me do it all the way. I think it is kind of regressive to think about all the negative things that could happen; it is important to think about what you can get in the long run. Boxing gave me muscles. I just used to be skinny and it actually has created muscle tone and because of that I fit into my clothes better,” John said.

It may sound contradictory but boxing is very soothing for her.

“There is just something about letting out your frustrations in a way that is not negative like shouting at somebody I love or that I care for. If I feel really stressed I know I can go and do the activity and leave it there and basically I can disconnect and deal with the rest of my life.

“In terms of being on the stage it [boxing] forces me to explode and I can keep on that whole level for an hour’s performance. The running helps me, especially with the pace. It creates a rhythm and whatever rhythm I do when I’m running I carry over to the stage. Boxing is definitely something I would recommend to other women,” she added.

John’s music is still a huge focus, particularly since she has a new band called Steady Rockin’. Nonetheless, she is learning to balance her life.

Though she said she hasn’t reached the point of training for a boxing competition, John noted that was her next step.

She was of the opinion that there were too few females in the sport, and not being one to go with the grain, she hoped to be among those numbers and possibly spur other women on as well. (SDB Media)