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Meet John Rojas

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Rojas.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
My name is John Rojas, and I’m a Colombian-born, yet Baltimore-raised, entrepreneur. I played competitive sports growing up, then started gravitating toward the fitness world during my senior year of high school. My first bodybuilding competition was during my senior year, so I wasn’t the typical high school kid.

I was eating tuna, salmon, chicken, steak, rice, etc. During my high school classes, my teachers knew of my goals so they were very understanding. I was certainly laughed at by my peers during that time, but I saw the bigger picture. I knew I was setting myself up for success in the future. My character, drive, and self-discipline started growing from that point forward.

College was never enticing for me. Coming from an immigrant family, obtaining a college degree is the holy grail for the family. I went through 4 years of college feeling lost and confused as to what I wanted to do with my life. I was raised by two successful entrepreneurs, my parents. Running a business is in my blood. I was working multiple different types of jobs trying to find something that stuck. From bartending to hauling junk, to wearing a suit knocking on doors selling someone else’s product. I finally realized something. I am not an employee. I am an employer.

I became certified as a personal trainer through ACE in 2015 when I was 18. My local gyms in Baltimore would not hire me because of my lack of experience. I finally found a job as a trainer in a commercial gym in Tampa, Florida in 2016. I quickly realized again, I am not an employee. I am an employee. I quit within one week because of the environment of trainers and managers in that gym.

While in Tampa, I modeled for a local fitness apparel brand. That was where I learned about fitness clothing, manufacturing, and marketing. I stayed up till the early morning packing orders, writing thank you notes and drawing up ideas for future marketing campaigns. A lot of people don’t know about this part of my life.

Upon returning to Baltimore from Tampa, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety and depression. Going to therapy once a week for almost two years, I could not get rid of them. Therapy was always a sign of weakness for me growing up. I quickly realized how important it was for my growth. Asking for help is courageous, not cowardly.

In the midst of a toxic situation, I started losing my love for fitness. I did not see myself as a personal trainer or fitness figure anymore. I began taking school seriously in the hopes of becoming a physical therapist. The passion was just not there. Upon leaving my toxic situation, I decided to take my dreams seriously. I hired a nutrition and lifestyle coach to guide me back to a healthy mindset and body. I was extremely depressed and anxious when I first signed up for his program. The gym became my safe place.

I picked a bodybuilding competition for the following year (2019), and did everything I could to win. Still in college, working full time hauling trash and working security, and training 2-3 hours daily; it was definitely a defining year for me. I was still extremely anxious and depressed throughout the year, but I used the gym and my results as a healing source.

In March of 2020, I dropped out of college. It was a difficult decision to make because I knew it was what my parents wanted, but I had a bigger vision for myself that no one could see… yet. I remember vividly, I had about $50 in my account at the time. This decision scared me to death.

During the 2020 pandemic, all of the gyms closed down. I built a gym in my garage out of Home Depot equipment with the help of my dad. People started asking me to train them in my garage. I was hesitant because of my lack of equipment. They insisted, so I eventually caved. I was working full-time overnight shifts at the Amazon Fulfillment Center at the time – my hours were 6 pm-5 am. I would get home around 6 am, then start training clients from 9 am-12 pm.

That was my schedule for about 3-4 months until I decided to start training full-time. I slowly upgraded my equipment, then moved my training into my basement. I tore out the carpet, and added gym mats and artificial turf. Training picked up quickly thereafter. I started to feel like a true rising entrepreneur.

In April 2021, I opened my training studio, Unity Fitness, in Woodlawn, MD. My goal was to create a space for other trainers to build their own businesses. Ever since dealing with commercial gyms, I wanted to give trainers a better option.

In 2019, I started using the phrase “No Cute Reps.” as a way to motivate people to train with true intensity as if no one is watching. The idea is to come into the gym to get better, not try to look cute for those around you. The saying became popular with my followers/friends. During the pandemic, I had shirts made with the saying on them, and they sold out within a week. I didn’t intend on starting a clothing brand. I just needed extra side money at the time.

People started asking me to make more shirts, so obviously I entertained it because I needed it. After making the second round of shirts, I decided to start an official company name. Tuff Love Apparel.

We are now focusing on spreading awareness for mental health with the hashtag #MentalHealthMatters. As someone who’s struggled with anxiety and depression for many years, spreading awareness that it’s okay to need help and it’s even more okay to ask for help. It is something that is overlooked in today’s society, especially in the fitness community.

Mental Health Matters.

Why Tuff Love?

I was raised by the two most hardworking, impressive people in my world. I call them Mom and Dad. My parents brought me and my 3 older siblings to the United States from Colombia in 1998. My dad was in the same boat as me. He would work any job he could just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our mouths. Eventually, he and my mom started a cleaning business together, and our problems slowly started getting solved. We weren’t sleeping with cockroaches at our feet anymore. We weren’t eating fast food for every meal anymore.

If my siblings or I weren’t living up to our potential, he would always let us know. He was direct, yet loving. He showed us, Tuff Love.

I show my clients and friends Tuff Love. No one in my life is going to slack on their goals without hearing it from me. If you aren’t eating correctly, training efficiently, or if you’re just neglecting your own goals, then I’m gonna let you know that you’re wasting your time, my time, and your potential.

At the end of the day, it’s all love.

My mission for Tuff Love Apparel is to create apparel that will inspire the person wearing it and the community he wears it in. I want people to see the clothing and think to themselves, “I should work harder today.” It is Inspiration You Can Wear.

I use the same ideology for my clients on TeamNCR (Team No Cute Reps). My online program is a mix of nutrition, mindset development, and training periodization. TeamNCR is a supportive community of athletes that support, yet push each other. We show each other Tuff Love every day in our group chat. It is my family of people trying to better themselves.

In 2021, I started taking my coaching education even further. I’m specializing in hormonal function/regulation, nutrition, women’s health, men’s health, thyroid health, mindset development, and the list goes on because I don’t plan on stopping my education anytime soon.

My goal with TeamNCR is to guide my athletes to a state of independence and freedom in terms of training and nutrition. I want my athletes to be able to face their fears/weaknesses with the utmost confidence. Whether it is being surrounded with sweets, going from a commercial gym to a bodybuilding gym, or even just taking pictures in their bikinis. I want them to stop feeling trapped by their fears. I help my athletes build their dream bodies by improving their relationships with food, educating them on efficient training, and building their self-confidence.

Now, I am fully self-employed and focusing on building my business. Going into 2022, I want to reach more people and continue serving the community. Our community shapes the world. If we can all help to uplift at least 1 person a day, then we can make our community a better place one day at a time. In today’s society, it is important to remind those around you that there is still hope in humanity.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not a smooth road. There were many struggles like going 1-2 years with only a handful of clients, working full time while working on my businesses on the side, and even finding a space for my training studio. They are all part of the process.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a Lifestyle Fitness Coach specializing in nutrition, hormonal regulation, and mindset development. I’m most proud of my team of athletes and my clothing brand, Tuff Love. My goal is not necessarily to be known for my name but to be known for making a difference. I am proud of the difference I have made in people’s lives.

I think that is what sets me apart from others. My clients come before me in my business, and I’ll do everything in my power to make them successful. I was training and coaching people for free before I started these businesses.

The only difference now is I’m fortunate enough to get paid for it. I dive into my clients’ lives and figure out what other aspects are holding them back from reaching the body they’re dreaming of.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
My biggest advice is to make sure you are making a difference. If you are making a difference in people’s lives, then money follows. If you only chase money, then you’re sacrificing the value you can provide others. What I always tell people is, you should love your job enough to do it for free. I

used to be so worried about how much money I was making and whether I could afford the car I wanted or not. Now, I only worry about whether I’m making a big enough impact on those around me. My mindset toward life has changed ever since.

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Image Credits
Aerol Abance

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