How TV’s most positive presenter Maya Jama is channeling lockdown frustration into her fitness routine.
Maya Jama is probably the most energetic person on TV, and never has her infectious positivity been so needed. She’s kept us going through lockdown with her appearances on Saturday night’s Save Our Summer and, when we’ve needed a laugh, it’s been her Instagram stories we’ve turned to.
Her spirits are just as high when she joins Strong Women on a video call from her home. Despite having been on a shoot all day and has just completing a home workout with her Adidas team, she doesn’t seem anywhere near ready to winding down.
So it’s no surprise when she tells us that, as someone who lives their life at 1,000 miles an hour, she’s struggled with the nothingness of lockdown. “I am naturally hyperactive, and I’m used to being busy every day and always having something to do, jumping from one thing to another. When it initially went completely silent I was like, ‘what do I do with myself?’. There was a huge part of my brain that just wasn’t working,” she tells Strong Women.
As with all of us who have dived into plank challenges or taken up running since lockdown began, exercise has also been Maya’s saving grace – somewhere she can channel her seemingly never-ending energy supply. “I just think [working out] helps your mental health so much anyway – there’s a difference in how I feel if I go out and do some exercise versus just staying in bed all day. I notice how it impacts my brain and how I’m feeling.”
Using exercise as a way to blow off steam isn’t new to Maya though. In fact, she used to sneak out of the house late at night for a run around the park before bed. “I needed to burn off energy before I could sleep at night, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it,” she laughs. “My mum was horrified when I recently told her I used to do that and it was probably quite dangerous, but I just needed to tire myself out”.
However, she generally prefers lifting weights than she does running around the block. “I love feeling strong, but I’m not naturally like that. From an early age I’d be trying to use my mum’s weight to do deep squats and build bigger legs,” Maya says.
This long-term love for working out could be what led Maya to joined the Adidas Ultraboost Energy Crew, a new WhatsApp service delivering motivational boosts across London, to give inspirational shout outs to those who could do with a dose of Maya’s energy. The role of supporting others during their workouts fits her perfectly, given that she herself finds training with other people way more motivating than doing a solo session. “I like being the hype man – the loud one cheering others on,” she laughs.
“In the first lockdown, I lived with friends and we all worked out together. It was good because when one person wasn’t feeling it, the others would get you in the mood,” Maya adds. “It’s harder, now I’m on my own.”
Without her workout buddies she relies on a good playlist (“right now I’m listening to Kings of Tomorrow – they have soulful, house music vibes”) and joins virtual workouts with Ciara London on Instagram. “I actually like the Zoom environment where everyone is working out together. It keeps me from wanting to stop.”
Maya also doesn’t believe that exercise has to be rigid – she prefers to just move, rather than feel wedded to a strict fitness routine. “I’m a go with the flow kind of person,” she says.
Once a week, she programmes her own home workouts. When she does, she keeps them simple. “I usually just do three exercises back to back and then repeat that three times round,” she says. Her favourite circuit to do at the moment is this full-body strength session, which not only builds the muscle she loves in her lower body but also helps with her self-proclaimed “weak arms, which I’m really trying to work on right now”.
- Medicine ball squats
- Medicine ball Russian twists
- Tricep extensions
To give Maya’s go-to workout a go, try performing each move until failure before moving on to the next, or set a one minute timer for each exercise and rest for a minute between sets.
Otherwise, she’s all about making exercise fit into her whirlwind life. “Every morning I put good music on and dance around my bedroom or run up and down the stairs. I’ve found wearing ankle weights really useful, putting on thick socks and weights while I do my daily activities for some extra resistance. And I’ve got a bike in front of my TV so I can jump on that when I’m watching something,” Maya says.
Now if that’s not a workout routine we can get on board with, we don’t know what is.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).