Defying the odds – and the status quo

Maurice Johnson – fitness pro and motivational speaker. Courtesy Maurice Johnson.

this month, I sat down with longtime fitness colleague and friend Maurice Johnson and I am proud to share his story — a story about living a life in defiance of the status quo and how it’s served him. 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do? 

“My name is Maurice Johnson. I am a fitness professional, inspirational speaker, Spartan SGX coach and racer and soon-to-be husband to my best friend, yoga teacher and business partner Jennifer Netrosio.”

When and how did you get into fitness? 

“I was a chubby kid and had low self-esteem. My fitness journey began when a neighbor took me to a track one day. He had me run five laps with a sprint at the end. During that sprint, I was no longer the slowest kid, the fat one or the least athletic of everyone. During that sprint, I heard the wind in my ears and everything changed. My fitness journey began. That moment sparked an obsession in me for fitness that led to me becoming a fitness professional, a second-degree black belt in mixed martial arts, a natural bodybuilder, a powerlifter and an obstacle course racer. I dedicated my life to fitness and motivational speaking. I began telling my life story through my signature group fitness format — Superhuman: The Class.”

What was your biggest challenge growing up and how did it shape you? 

“I faced many challenges growing up. I grew up in White Plains in a neighborhood that was largely affected by the crack epidemic. I am one of four children, so there were six of us living in a two-bedroom apartment. My mother often took in others as well, so there were seven, eight, up to 12 people living in our apartment at one time. 

“But the biggest challenge I faced was at 9 years old. I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle and it left me fighting for my life. Ironically, the doctors said that me being chubby saved me because I was able to survive the impact. What I remember most from that accident is wanting to go home. I spent one week in the ICU and approximately a month in the hospital. All I thought about was being able to go home.” 

How did that experience shape you?  

“After my accident I went through a really tough time. The accident left me with scars on my face and body and missing teeth. For a time I even lost some of my fun-loving nature and began developing an aggressiveness. My aggression was further fueled by being bullied at school. I hated the way I looked and became depressed. I was poor, chubby and missing teeth. Finally, at 13 years old, after that day at the track, I decided to defy my own victim mindset. 

“I loved watching ‘BodyShaping’ with Kendell Hogan and started wondering if I could do what he did. While getting ready to play football in high school, I lost 42 pounds. I became curious, asking, “What if I can do more?” That curiosity helped fuel me to not only defy the status quo but also to defy the criticism that I was too fat, too slow, that I couldn’t fight, I couldn’t dance, or wasn’t smart enough. Every single thing someone told me I could not do or I wasn’t enough, I defied, and I did.” 

Does your curiosity and defiant spirit help or hinder you in your career? 

“I believe it helps tremendously. When someone tells me that I can’t do something, I have a switch. I automatically want to defy it. If you say I can’t do something, it fuels me to go do it. Someone told me I wouldn’t be successful in the fitness business, but I stayed the course and now I am going on my 18th year as a fitness professional. People have challenged my intellect, so I kept educating myself. Now I have seven professional certifications related to fitness, health and wellness. And when Covid-19 brought life as we knew it to a halt, my partner and I made an immediate pivot and launched a virtual platform.” 

Tell us about your new virtual platform and what makes it special? 

“Superhuman Soul represents the union of opposites, the coming together of both yin and yang energies to create and maintain a life that is fulfilling and balanced. Fitness, yoga and wellness programs are our absolute focus and our schedule is designed in such a way that we encourage students to take advantage of each type of programming. 

“Specific to the classes that I deliver, I end every class with a segment I call the ‘elevation celebration,’ where I bring students to stillness and deliver inspirational messages — encouraging the students to observe the greatness that lies deep within. The greatness that we absolutely must defy the status quo to find.” 

What is your personal mission?

“To inspire people to believe in themselves. To believe that they are worthy of all that they seek and to take that belief and turn it into action. “ 

What is your focus today? 

“I remain curious and live by the acronym A.N.D. — adventure never dies. I continue to ask myself, ‘What if I can do more?” My focus is on expanding my education and honing my craft. My work as a fitness professional focuses on teaching proper movement while incorporating behavior change and health and wellness coaching methodologies. I use all of the above as a way to enhance one’s overall human experience.” 

For more, visit superhumansoul.com. And reach Giovanni on Twitter @GiovanniRoselli and at his website, GiovanniRoselli.com.

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