“Carrying the Olympic Torch through Sheffield 2012 was one of the best days of my life”
Josh McGill still remembers everything about the day he carried the Olympic Torch through Sheffield in 2012.
“I'll never forget running into Chapeltown, where 5,000 people had packed in and were cheering and waving flags, it was the most incredible feeling,” says Josh, who was just 18 at the time.
“I’d walked down that street, Cowley Lane, thousands of times before in my life, but I'd never seen it like that. The sense of community was amazing, people beaming with pride and all coming together to mark this international occasion I posed for pictures, and chatted to friends and neighbours. It was the one of the best days of my life so far."
Josh owes the memory to a number of young people in his home city who'd nominated him to carry the torch, after listening to one of his motivational talks in local schools.
“I’d always been a confident kid, and as someone who’d always been very active and prided himself on being healthy – and seeing the effect physical health can have on mental health – I felt I had some things I could pass on to kids who were younger than me,” explains Josh, of High Green
“I was in college at the time, and decided to approach some local primary and secondary schools about going and speaking to pupils about health, happiness and mental body image.
“I’d only done a handful of talks by the time I received the nomination in 2012. It was so nice as I ran through Chapeltown that day, to see hundreds of the school kids I had done talks for had turned out to greet me. I felt extremely proud to represent my country in my own community.”
And since then, John has kicked the motivational speaking up a notch. Now aged 25, and a qualified personal trainer, Josh speaks regularly at schools, colleges, universities and businesses in the region on topics from targeting social media status, and realistic body image goals, to audience engagement, and mental health awareness.
“My goal continues to be to help young people in Sheffield, the catalyst for this being the loss of many family members due to health related issues, mental and physical,” he explains.
“I’ve spent the past seven years working to break down the misconceptions of what it means to have a healthy mind, body, and soul, utilising my knowledge as a personal trainer, GP referral specialist, and as an ambassador for the fitness industry.
“I’ve also gone on to become a UK champion fitness model, being named Miami Pro World Male Fitness Model Champion in 2013, which has helped me to talk further on body image goals in young people.”
And while his young age could have been seen as a hindrance, in a career where experience would appear to be key, Josh reveals his youth has actually been a blessing.
“Especially for my work in schools, I’ve learned that kids are more likely to listen to somebody who looks and talks like me, than somebody two or three decades older,” says Josh, who says he has tried everything from mixed martial arts and running, to swimming and athletics over the years.
“I love building up a rapport with these kids, and seeing them engage with what I'm saying, and the weight of the message. I mean, if you want to get a message across about the benefits of looking and feeling good, it helps if you can stand up there with a six-pack," he laughs.
“I encourage young people to push themselves, and to express themselves. Kids really respond to the little things they can do to make a difference, so I like to encourage them to do things like get off the bus a few stops early and get some walking in, and committing to smiling and being happy – young kids really respond to that, and I get a lot of big smiles coming back at me.
“Plus I'm at the right point in my life to talk with knowledge about social media, which there's a big demand for, and from my time fitness modelling, I can talk with authority about fake profiles, what's been edited and photoshopped , what’s real vs what’s fake.”
Josh now works at a gym in between his talks, and was recently taken on by School Speakers – a UK speaker agency created by entrepreneur and Apprentice TV star Claire Young.
As well as being a published author – with articles featured in national newspapers and magazines – Josh also has qualifications in PE, sociology and business, and has received awards for his motivational speaking from Sheffield Council.
“I love what I do,” he says.
“And I really love getting to make a difference to young people in my very own city.”