Sleek: Fitness Revolution 2005

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Forced into early retirement from a reputable boxing career, penniless, and armed with only a high school diploma, Michael Olajide has nonetheless created a commanding resume as a fitness trainer and hasn’t lost momentum!

His training history is laced with fitness workouts that highlight endurance, speed, power, focus and dexterity. His praises are sung on the lips of elite celebrities and fitness gurus: from Supermodel Iman to Actor John Leguizamo. He is highly sought and has choreographed fighting scenes for top movies including Spike Lee’s Subway Stories and Ali starring Will Smith.  His workouts has earned him widespread recognition from Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Shape, Allure, Men’s Fitness, CBS, ABC, ESPN, FOX and Nickelodeon. Now, Michael Olajide a.k.a. Sleek debuts the first and innovative fitness center of the future, the 7,000-square feet AEROSPACE HIGH PERFORMANCE CENTER—100% machine free workout. 
BSN: Hi Michael! You are a former champion boxer and a fairly reputable international fitness expert, so why did you decide to open the AEROSPACE CENTER?
MO: It wasn’t a choice to retire from boxing. I did retire early with eye injuries and I had to retire from boxing. And, at that point, I didn’t have an awful lot of choices open to me. I completed my standard grade 12 and my education didn’t go further than that. But, I certainly did get an education in boxing and out of necessity I just kind of invented this new kind of boxing, shadow boxing rhythmic workout that we put in gyms. And it kind of just grew from there. I was really fortunate that it was really accepted and people really enjoyed the exercise. From there, I was asked to do videos, T.V. programs and news pieces and I just stayed with it. The momentum, it just grew and that’s where we got the AEROSPACE. I never really had the opportunity to develop the program fully and now with the AEROSPACE that’s what we are able to do. We are able to 100% open to its full capacity and really reach its potential.

BSN: Let’s explore the part about, AEROSPACE came “out of necessity.� Explain that?
MO: Yes. I had a 12th grade degree. I graduated high school and didn’t have any education, obviously at the university/collegiate level.  I retired from boxing. I had made some real good money at that time but you know, obviously if you are not taught how to hold on to it, and generally when you are first generation money, [he laughs],  it’s going to be hard to hang on to; if you don’t have the right managers around you. So, I had lost that and so I was absolutely penniless and not being able to make a living the way I was used to, with my hands. I had to find something else to do and that’s what I mean by like the back against the wall; and that’s when human beings are the most creative. [laughs]

BSN: You’ve trained the likes of Supermodel Iman, worked with Actor Will Smith on the Ali movie and so forth. Is the AEROSPACE CENTER meant to attract the average person off the street?
MO: The nice thing is that at AEROSPACE, we don’t have a specific market, we go from like dancers to boxers, everyday individuals—the creative types that want to be challenged, professional competitive athletes, people that used to be athletes in high school, and  . . .  that want to feel that again. You know people looking for challenges and just something different. We attract people from all walks of life.  Boxing is one of those things you can do and it cuts across all gender lines, all . . . racial backgrounds. It’s like it’s a very a well known sport and something that is well respected globally.

BSN: Is this another Billy Blanks Taebo?
MO: I’ve been dealing with [this] for a long time. I kind of like to give the history and go from there. I retired from boxing in 1990, 1991. I developed AERO-BOX and it was the first rhythmic shadow boxing and we got a front page in the USA TODAY. It really set the trend for group fitness like a Marshall Art based program. Then I did a video with Kathy Smith that went to #4 on the billboards chart and that was in 1994. Then I think in 1996 Taebo began doing their thing. I have no other reason but to believe it’s an offshoot of AERO-BOX. All they really did was take out the jump ropes and put in the kicking. . .  I guess I take particular exception when people say it’s just a “Taebo Knockoffâ€? when we were there long before and we are still there. I do consider us a stimulus for them. We could have had the idea at the same time but I know I was out there but not to his point. His sales are ridiculous and more power to him, I thought it was great!

BSN: Most people are used to working out with traditional weights. So, why would anyone be interested in using their body weight as a means of exercise, exclusively?
MO: Using your body weight exclusively, to me, it means you are much more well rounded, there’s a practical application. So many times, the way the fitness world is going right now, I believe, they take your mind, and your soul, your spirit out of the exercise. And anybody that exercises will tell you that if you are exercising with purpose and without distraction, you get that much more out of it. So whether you are looking to just calm your mind or you are looking to really enhance your body, you’d do it so much more so if you do it with intent. . . At AEROSPACE, you take away that distraction and get your body and mind to come together as one.

BSN: How exactly does the AEROSPACE CENTER bring the mind, body and soul together as one?
MO: Well, we make [clients] extremely aware of what they are doing and without the distraction of let’s say like a cardio theater and machines that are doing the work for you. You become very in tune with the body. Our bodies were meant to exercise and the reason why America has the issue with obesity and high blood pressure is because we no longer move our bodies; and so this is how our bodies react when we are sedentary. To get your mind and body to  . . . get used to that activity and not just like constant one level activity, that explosive activity something that really gets your heart rate going. What we call working in your anaerobic and working in your aerobic and your resting heart rate too. And that is through forms of meditation and yoga and that is what we really want to accomplish. To bring people back to their bodies and it isn’t about the machines. The body is the machine and at the end of the day, that’s what you live with . . .

BSN:  There are so many fitness gyms out there and they are also, arguably, tapping into the mind, body soul concept with yoga, pilates, tai chi and so forth. So, how do you, for example, attract these people to your YO-AERO class?
MO: Your use of Yo-Aero is a good example. It’s almost like a blend of philosophy. It’s tying in the boxer concept to like the yoga concept. The disciplines are different in that one is explosive and one is not. But, both are physically demanding and both take a lot of mental focus and dedication. And there is a way to blend those two together  . . . it’s almost like marrying the two concepts. We are not trying to change the foundation of yoga. We are just coming from a different angle that we think will be attractive to our membership. . . For instance, being a boxer, yoga for me would be extremely hard. I don’t know what it is but something psychologically or mentally about it, at this stage in my life, does not allow me to do it. But, I’d love to get the benefits of it. So, how could I get the benefits of yoga and still have the strength, power and flexibility without having to do a traditional yoga class. So, that’s what I’m trying to develop here.

BSN: Walk our readers through a short preview of your AERO-JUMP class?
MO: The AERO-JUMP class goes anywhere from 30-60mins and it could be non-stop jumping or it could be intervals. So, we start with weights and sculpting maneuvers. We would start off with a little warm up and a stretch and then it starts off with basic jump ropes and segways into something a lot more like involved and intricate. So, at any point   . . . just like anything, you start off easy, go a little hard and you do what you can do. You learn at your own level and our teachers are trained so they can make sure you are getting the best workout. They can come and help you with a maneuver. At any time during the class, the hour or half hour class, you can say, 'okay, that’s enough'. And then take that challenge the next day or the next week. Every one learns at their own pace and has their own little way of executing things and that shouldn’t change because that’s the individual. That’s the individuality of boxing and you are putting it in a group setting.

BSN: If you have injuries, would you need a medical release for 30-60 mins of intense jumping?
MO: [laughs] Well it’s interesting because jumping actually has less impact on the joints than running.  . . . It’s really a misnomer that jumping ropes are bad for you. I actually think the way in which a person jumps is important if the mechanics are put down properly.  . . . You have to run 5.6 miles an hour for 30 mins to equal the benefits of a 10 mins jump rope program. . . If people have injuries, there are always alternatives. There is AEROBOX, AEROSCULPT . . .there are other ways to get cardio and great core and fat burning workout without using jump ropes.

BSN: What is the client experience that you want/should be associated when people visit the AEROSPACE CENTER?
MO: That’s the key word, “experienceâ€?. I want people to have an experience every-time they come in. I want them to feel like  . . .  they just finished setting the record for an indoor mile or something.  [laughs].

BSN: How can our readers, not based in New York, benefit from your AEROSPACE workout techniques?
MO: I do have some videos right now and they’ve been doing really really well in terms of the ratings and being accepted in the community.  . . They are a departure from the regular fitness videos that are in the market right now, and have been for more than 20 years. They are more challenging, more athletic and they require different attributes of people.  They can get them on the website  . . . I have one right now called “Killer Abs and Backâ€? and it’s really burned up the charts. It has been the dubbed the “Best Ab video of the year.â€? 

BSN: Nice! Thanks Michael.
MO: Thank you.

Ms. Uduak Oduok is The Black Star News's Health News Editor. She can be reached via [email protected] The AEROSPACE CENTER is located at 332 West 13th Street, N.Y., N.Y., 10014. (212) 929-1640. For more reports, you can order the newsstand edition of the The Black Star News by clicking on “subscribeâ€? on the homepage or call (212) 481-7745.

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