Whoopa! A chat with Jump Start Jonny

Jump start Jonny– aka Jonny Stewart- has a mission.

His mission is to get kids fit. 

As a child, Jonny found it difficult to concentrate. The lack of concentration would affect sports too, however Jonny did become successful in squash. After discovering a love for group exercise Jonny became a fitness instructor, a change from the original plan to become a primary school teacher.

Jonny has Tourette syndrome. Despite the obvious obstacles, this hasn’t prevented Jonny from being successful in his field, and this has also improved his life with Tourette syndrome. 

The first question I’d like to ask is regarding tics when exercising. You have stated that exercise has helped to burn energy and control Tourettes. When did you realise that tics reduced during exercise? 

I wasn’t really aware of how exercise helped me with my Tourette’s until I was in my early 20s! I’ve always been active, especially through playing squash as a junior, but it wasn’t until I really understood my Tourette’s in my 20s that I became conscious of the effect exericse had on me! It took me years to fully understand my tics and what was going on, but when I finally understood it, I noticed how exercise helped.

Has there been any tics that have disrupted dance/exercise routines?

Great question! I’ve never had any tics that have fully stopped me doing a dance routine. Being so focused on the choreography really helps control my tics! However, I do sometimes tic during my dances, though these might only be minimal things like eye rolls which don’t actually disrupt the dance. Sometimes I get a MASSIVE SURGE inside me that makes me want to do something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to what I’m meant to be doing (like run around and scream!) but I control it so it doesn’t disrupt the dance. Although saying that, sometimes I do let these kid of tics/impulsivities out if I’m in the right situation, such as when I’m teaching a class with familiar people, because I know they won’t judge me or mind if I do it!

Regarding diet, have you also found a correlation between a specific diet or foods that make tics better or worse? I do understand however that this can differ from person to person! Many people including myself are still getting familiar with what triggers tics, so this would be interesting to know.

Great question! I eat a really healthy diet and I definitely think this helps to keep my tics under control. I only drink coffee if I have an event I need an extra bit of energy for (such as when I have to dance on film for about 12 hours!), and I’ve noticed the coffee DOES make me tic more, so I avoid stimulants altogether and eat a super clean diet mostly of chicken and veg! It’s probably boring for most people but it works for me and keeps my blood sugars steady and doesn’t get me hyper, which would stimular my tics!

With regard to things that stimulate tics, I find that my biggest stimulants are occasions and events where I get excited or anxious. For example, if I have a film day coming up, then I will be really excited, and I’ll tic more than I usually would, probably because the excitement revvs up the nervous system and tics are driven by the nervous system. Similarly, if I’m anxious about something, like an audition, then I tend to tic more. And I tend to want to tic more when I know I shouldn’t, such as if I’m performing on stage! In this case, I have to really control myself, which I can do because I’ve had 3 decades of practise!, but it’s still hard, though I find that once I settle into it, such as a performance, then I’m distracted and my tics go. I think one of the keys to controlling tics is to being really zoned in on something!!!

With such a huge view count across your YouTube platform and public routines, have you had feedback from people with Tourette? With estimates of 1 in 100 schoolchildren having Tourette and some of them having tics well into adulthood, it would be lovely to know if some of the Tourette community have took part in your performances and seen the benefits of exercise with Tourette.

Yes, I have had some lovely feedback from parents of children with Tourette’s who have said how my videos have really helped their children and this is always so wonderful to hear!! Parents often say that it’s the really energetic dance moves I do that help the children most – it just lefts the enegy out and helps keep the nervous system under control!

But it’s not just parents of children with Tourette’s who reach out. I often get messsages from parents of children who have other disabilites, whether they be things like ADHD or sometimes even physical disabilities, who say how much my dances have helped their kids both physically and mentally! I got lots of messages in lockdown, of course, when chidren were stuck at home and feeling anxious. The videos helped take the children’s minds off the strange thigns that were happening and gave them something uplifting to put a smile on their face. Exercise and music combined is so powerful and it helps in limitless ways, whether that be helping to control tics or picking you up after a rubbish day. I think everyone should do some energetic dancing to music they love – just feel the beat and let loose! I reckon the world would be an even more amazing place if everyone did! 🙂

Jonny 🙂