Mariska Grace James
MARISKA GRACE JAMES is the owner and head trainer of We Train Revolution, which is an obstacle, boxing and strength training facility, for children, level one beginners as well as elite athletes. Her role is to oversee the facilities, create programmes, run classes, liaise with clients, provide massage treatments, and to give obstacle course racing coaching.
Mariska comes from a South African netball back-ground and reflected that she had trained hard and been excited about pushing boundaries.
We Train Revolution was started in 2009. Mariska says that she could never have gotten to where she is today without the people in her life who supported her dreams and believed in her.
She explains, 'I was on a journey looking for some-thing new. I was in decorating for ten years and had reached a quiet patch. A friend asked me to train her. Then another friend asked and within six months I had 70 clients. From there the dream just built, and I studied to be a personal trainer." At that time Mariska only had six yoga mats, and she went to her clients' houses for one on one training. Unfortunately, she got very sick during this time and had to change her strategy.
"Instead of one on one training, I started looking for venues to do group training. I found a venue and my business just grew from there." Mariska ran five venues, from Ballito to Hillcrest, offering weight training, boxing and strength train-ing. She has since downscaled and operates in only one venue but has increased her services to offer obstacle course racing training.
Obstacle course racing
Her husband, who was one of her clients, introduced Mariska to obstacle course racing as a sport after she had been ill and was on the mend.
"I entered the Warrior Race and was hooked. I knew that I wanted to incorporate my passion for obstacle course racing into the gym and wanted to build my own course." Initially, Mariska struggled to find a venue with the space that was needed to house an obstacle course. "Once I had found a venue, construction started slowly as I had no money to start building the course. I asked on our internal We Train Revolution group if anyone had gum poles lying around and the construction project took off from there."
Mariska ascribes her business success to her members who have become friends. "My members have shared my dream, believed in me, and stuck by me, especially through the many changes when I was sick. We Train Revolution is a true fitness family."
A strong mental fortitude
In reflecting on who has inspired her, Mariska says that she feels inspired by the people around her who believe in her and her dreams. "I believe God puts dreams in my heart, and I make sure I stay within God's calling each day. Once I have a dream, I set goals for myself and because I have been gifted with a strong mental fortitude, I get to where I want to be."
Commenting on whether women must have a different approach than men to be successful, Mariska says that she thinks it is natural for women to have a different approach to business than men. "Women and men deal with people differently based on their perspectives and bring a different dynamic to business. We are more sensitive, but also have more of a fighting spirit, and we just make things happen. No matter how we feel, we get the job done."
Mariska says that she is very grateful for what she has accomplished so far which she would have not done without her support base. "Every accomplishment is a gift that I don't take for granted." However, she would like to obtain more exposure for the course as well as her gym by growing her 'fitness family'. "We have this incredible course and I would love to see more clients as well as more trainers enjoying the use of the facility. We are so welcoming to any new person of any fitness level."
Mariska would also like to increase the number of people participating in the races - obstacle wars - which are held there.
Enjoy what you do
Commenting on her efforts to achieve a work-life balance Mariska says that she has learnt the hard way. "I believe I was previously so sick because I had no balance. For four years I was sick, unable to exercise, which is my passion, and I had to re-evaluate my priorities in life." Now Mariska tries to rest during the day and remembers to unplug in the evenings after classes. "As you are dealing with people, work-life balance is crucial in this industry, you can't be tired or have a bad mood." In addition, having a personal assistant also helps in taking some of the workload off Mariska.
What advice would she give her younger self if she could in this moment? "I would say that you are good enough and that you can't please everyone and its ok. Your life is filled with a lot of different personalities and sometimes you must just accept that you tried your best. Remember, to enjoy life and enjoy what you do. Not everything needs to be done in one day and accept where you are at presently and live in the moment."