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From Olympian to Howard County personal trainer

FitnessHoward Community CollegeBeijing Games2012 Summer OlympicsMichael PhelpsUsain Bolt

A professional track athlete representing Jamaica for 12 years, Sanjay Ayre has won a race on every continent except Antarctica.

His medal collection includes a bronze from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, a gold from the 2004 World Championships in Budapest and a bronze from the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, all in the 4x400 meter relay.

Ayre, 32, now uses his world-class experiences in Howard County as a volunteer track coach at Howard Community College and owner of a personal training business.

"I tell my clients, 'Not everybody can be an Olympian, but you can train like an Olympian,' " Ayre said. "My philosophy at MVP Fitness is, 'Train like a champion.'"

Ayre founded MVP Fitness in 2009 and opened a training facility in Elkridge in 2011. He uses his training philosophies and experiences as a professional athlete to create workouts for his clients.

"I didn't learn that at any gym, it's just from experience," he said.

Ayre moved from Waco, Texas, to Elkridge in 2009, wanting to be closer to his then 3-year-old daughter. He began work part-time at Fitness 19 in Elkridge, then later that year at Lifetime Fitness in Columbia. He also started MVP Fitness, in part to be his own boss.

After a disappointing showing in the 2008 Beijing Games, Ayre realized his career was winding down and began thinking about becoming a personal trainer.

"I didn't want to transition into society after I was done as an athlete and not really know what direction I was going in," he said.

Partnering with Ayre to form MVP Fitness was Marcia Ra-Akbar, who has been a personal trainer for 14 years.

Ra-Akbar said Ayre is unique in that he can combine his Olympic experience and goal-driven mentality into training routines.

"Working with him is just a perfect cocktail of success," she said.

MVP Fitness, which Ayre said has about 30 clients, offers one-on-one personal training and Boot Camp training based out of a warehouse facility on Dorsey Run Road.

When not training his clients, Ayre can be found at Howard Community College, where he is a volunteer coach for the track team's 200- and 400-meter athletes.

Howard track coach Errick Henlon, who helped prepare Ayre for the 2012 Olympic Trials, said Ayre brings the same work ethic and dedication he had as an athlete to coaching.

"He's brought a professional approach to training ," Henlon said. "The kids really enjoy having him here, and they feed off of him."

Ayre said winning the bronze in the 4x400-meter relay at the 2000 Olympic Games felt like an experience in "fantasy land."

"It's like a surreal feeling; you're just in awe," he said of taking his place on the medal stand. "The year before, I was in high school. I was a kid."

Ayre and his Jamaican teammates were later awarded the silver medal after the American team, which finished first, was disqualified when one member was caught doping. The silver medal sits in his father's home in Jamaica.

Ayre said he preferred to keep the bronze because it was "more special."

Ayre trained for the 2004 Athens Games, but a hamstring injury prevented him from competing.

The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing brought "great expectations" for Ayre and his Jamaican teammates. He planned to compete in the 400 meters and the 4x400-meter relay, where the Jamaicans were expected to medal.

But Ayre was eliminated in the first round of the 400 meters' competition, and the 4x400-meter relay team finished eighth in the finals.

Despite the disappointment, Ayre said Beijing was the best Olympics he attended, with performances by Michael Phelps, and the excitement surrounding fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt bringing track and field back into the spotlight.

"It was an overwhelming spectacle, but it was a disappointment for me," he said. "I felt like I failed because I didn't come home with a medal."

Ayre trained for the 2012 London Games, but failed to make the team at the Jamaican trials. He retired shortly after that.

Ayre said he retired with no regrets, accomplishing all of the goals he had set for himself.

As a personal trainer, he can remain in the world of fitness and work to inspire his clients.

"Once I retired, I knew that this is what I wanted to do," Ayre said.

Ayre's personal training website can be found at mymvpfitness.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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