Meet Maci – ‘Everybody sweats the same’

Meet Maciela Culliford: Mother of 2, Personal Trainer and #Badass. Maci was born in Guatemala, has worked in the States and is currently based in London. I sat down with her and discussed her athletic journey…

Define an athlete.
Someone determined that works hard to accomplish a specific physical goal. Someone that takes their fitness to another level and pursues that as a career.

How did you get into Sports?
I was doing Ballet from the age of 4 – 12 and I’ve always been active. I was never particularly good at anything but had the obsession of trying out specific skills. So I would learn it and try my best to get better at it and then once I felt like I achieved what I wanted to do, then I would switch to a different skill. So I was just trying different things all the time, first Ballet, and then I transitioned to Cardio Barre which was a mix of Cardio and Ballet, then I got into Running and a bit of Volleyball.

Did your family influence your interest in Sport?
I was never really girly and I have 5 sisters and 1 brother. No one in my family was into sports at all, but I think for me it was just a good outlet where I could release my energy and I could stand out if I put in the work. Especially because I’m dyslexic, school was never really easy, but I knew with exercise or any physical activity if I put in the effort I would always achieve a goal. And that’s what I love about sport, it gives you that confidence that you can achieve personal goals if you try, practice and focus.

Who was your role model as an athlete?
…Most of the time I would say it was either my trainers never someone in particular that I could relate to. I needed to visualise something that was achievable, I felt like there was always someone who inspired me in a way but I never really looked up to that high. That’s why I would say I looked up to the people that were teaching me a skill, because they knew how to do it and I didn’t, and that was inspiring enough.

What made you become a Personal Trainer?
It was a career change because I actually studied Psychology, started in Guatemala and finished in New York. Then I got married, had kids and was a stay at home mom for 7.5 years. By the time it was time for me to get back to work all I had been doing was exercising, that’s all I really knew and felt that I was good at. My highlight of my day when I wasn’t with my kids was always working out so I felt that was the direction I needed to go in.

What would you say is your main Sport now?
I love calisthenics and boxing the most. But I tend to get bored easily so I switch it up to a little resistance training, HIIT training, Tabata or Yoga. The only sport that I like to watch is boxing or gymnastics.

What music do you play when you’re working out or in your classes?
It’s really bipolar; I might drop some Reggaeton and then play some Limp Bizkit or Korn. I also like a bit of House too.

You were based in NYC, LA and now London, what are the differences of being an athlete here and there?
Oh, massive! New York is very diverse; it has smaller communities so you can always find a place where you fit in. LA is very segregated, its kind of like high school in a way, you have to find where you belong. I think in LA being Latina, when it came to working out and teaching in different places that was always cool, but at the same time if I went to the mall with my workout clothes then I would look like I was the babysitter of my kids, and people would treat me differently. So I kind of needed to make more of an effort and prove myself more. But when it came to exercise, and this is the beauty of it, everybody sweats the same, people are treated more fairly, it’s about the effort that you make rather than how you look. And in London although we are pretty much a minority compared to the US – I mean I only know one other Guatemalan person since I’ve been here, it’s still always felt like I belonged because I have my husband’s family here.

Do you think your cultures diet and lifestyle makes it harder to be an athlete?
Not really, I think you can put in your head any obstacle and achieve what you want. It doesn’t really matter where you come from, although my love for rice definitely comes from my mum and can be a little bit of a problem! I can never say no to a Tamal either, my mum always said ‘you go to the gym and you know you’re never gonna look like the instructor, but you buy your tamales and you know you’re probably gonna look like this woman selling those tamales.’

Why do you think you don’t see as many female athletes of ethnic minority?
Well I think to be on mainstream media you have to really stand out, no matter how great you are. Magazines and newspapers and stuff tend to focus on white people, so you have to have that extra something for people to notice you.

Have you ever been a victim of gender or race discrimination in your line of work?
Yea, I remember this one time because I had never ever felt like that before. Where I used to work all the cleaners were Latin, and even though I was a professional I felt like people were climbing up the ladder and weren’t giving me that chance. So I used to think, oh maybe it’s because they don’t like me and I was so in denial, until I heard someone say ‘I don’t want Maciela to be answering the phone because she has an accent.’ I was thinking, but I speak perfect English… it didn’t make me feel bad about myself or where I come from but I just couldn’t believe in this day and age there were people so ridiculous and ignorant.

What advice would you give to young atletas?
Just find your passion, and stay focused, deep down you will know. People or things will put you down along the way but you have to fail a million times before you get something right. So just don’t give up on it if its what you love.

Maciela has been a PT for 3 years and was recently featured in Women’s Health Magazine UK. She’s petite, strong and fierce. You can find her teaching in KOBOX London or follow her on Instagram: @MACIELA_PT

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