Interview: Ciara Madden (Ciara London)

by Ceylan Kumbarji
Ciara Madden of Ciara London

Before lockdown hit, Ciara Madden, known by most as Ciara London, was a personal trainer and fitness instructor for women, training her clients and encouraging them to do their best and push through difficult days. But things pivoted suddenly, and it was time for Ciara and her entrepreneurial spirit to take the next step in 2020 with her online training business. With no gyms and personal training sessions canceled for the foreseeable future, she used this as an opportunity to grow her business exponentially, creating a fun, live, and interactive way for people to still exercise with an expert if they wanted to. With structure and routine lacking for most, this was a time we all desperately needed it.

Fast forward to now? She’s built an online community, Body By Ciara, known for championing positivity, inclusivity, and wellness. Workouts are only one part of the brand – from book clubs to cosy sofa chats to meditation, it’s an all-around self-care community that goes beyond just a place to find great workouts.

As for Ciara herself, she radiates positivity and good energy – with a smile on her face, she brings the sunshine to even the gloomiest workout days, and encourages her loyal members to try their best and prioritize their self-care and mental health. Describing herself as, “honest, energetic, and loyal”, she’s an open book, and has created a positive, safe space that encourages others to share their stories too.

A pioneer who never rests, who has laughed and cried on camera, you’ll never see her give up even if things don’t go her way. That determination and resilience are partly what inspires her community. We spoke to Ciara about everything from her journey as a personal trainer, adapting during difficult times, inclusivity, how she slows down, and her proudest moments.

“It’s been an amazing time in terms of actual personal growth because since doing this, I’ve had to learn to accept myself.” – Ciara Madden

Taylor Magazine: Tell us a little bit about you and your journey to becoming a personal trainer and building Body By Ciara?

Ciara Madden: I’m a bit like a chameleon. I’ve learned that you can plan it all out and it still isn’t going to work out – you fall into jobs and into careers. I actually didn’t start in fitness at all, I studied PR and Events Management with Marketing. I went to university in Manchester, but I didn’t really like it there so I came back and went to university in London. I worked in PR, marketing, and broadcast PR for a few years and then went into recruitment. I was terrible, I didn’t recruit anyone the whole time I was there – I just winged it for about nine months! I ended up going to the gym a lot while I was working there and got gym fever. I was in a really bad relationship, so the gym became my little safe haven. It was that one place I could switch off and feel good, and my brain wasn’t in overdrive.

My friends started asking to come to the gym with me and it got to the point where there would be six of us. So, I thought I’d do a personal training course and try to make some money! As someone going from having a secure job to suddenly trying to do it on your own, that was probably the scariest time. I was doing everything I could and I was slowly building clients. I took the risk and it really paid off. 

Taylor Magazine: Did you expect your business would take off and you’d create this world of fitness with online classes, products, and most importantly, a community?

Ciara Madden: I had a lot of confidence issues. I still do to an extent but it’s getting a lot better. I never wanted to speak on camera, and I was so insecure that I never put my personality out there. It was all pictures and posts that were polished and everything was so pre-planned. It goes to show that your own insecurities can stunt your own growth. The internet can definitely be a scary place – you don’t know what people will say or if people are going to be horrible about you. But I’m online now, reaching people who I might not have reached before and it’s been amazing in terms of actual personal growth. There have been days since lockdown started where I had bad skin for example, and I had to learn to be like, “Guys, I’m hormonal today and I’ve got spots,” or, “I feel bloated today, I’m not in the best mood.” It’s been a process to accept my body as a whole.

Taylor Magazine: What inspired you to start the online workouts and bring that to life? Do you think you would have done that if lockdown hadn’t happened?

Ciara Madden: No way, I would have never done it! I would’ve been too scared. I was already in the process of planning my gym but something online? I just didn’t even contemplate it. I saw myself as a real-life trainer rather than an online trainer. I do think that home workouts have always had a bad reputation and I agreed with that. But now, it’s made a lot of people realise that they can exercise before work, which is why we’re doing a lot of early classes. If you can get results from a home workout, do it! It saves you time in the morning and it saves faffing about in the evening. What I’ve found is that it’s a way of checking in with other people so you’re not just doing it on your own, especially during a time where people have felt isolated.

Before lockdown, I put a post on my Instagram and I asked if we were to end up going into lockdown, would people be interested in live workouts online? Everyone said yes, so I already had in my head that I was going to do that if it came to it and the gyms shut. Then, I was doing live workouts on my page and it all started from there! I knew I needed to start charging to continue making a living, but we started with 6 workouts a week for £15, which is still cheaper than gym memberships. The website actually crashed because so many more people joined than I anticipated – we were honestly winging it! It happened naturally and organically, and it’s been a real learning experience in every sense.

Taylor Magazine: How did you decide to build it into a brand and a whole business with all these different things going on and various classes/trainers?

Ciara Madden: Partly because I’ve done PR, I always thought, “What is your brand?” So, Body By Ciara was already trademarked and I had already done the workout plans and the logo so the brand was already there. But the squad was a whole new leg of the brand. The online, live workout part of it has given me a brand community because everyone can interact. They all have each other.

“Knowing that I’m helping other people is really nice. It’s also nice to be standing in my own light, and to feel like I’m known for me and what I can offer.” – Ciara Madden

Taylor Magazine: What’s the most rewarding and challenging thing about it?

Ciara Madden: The most rewarding is the messages I get from people. I’ve had people asking me if they can send cards or bracelets because it’s helped them physically and mentally. Being online has become my new best friend! Exercising helped my mental health, so knowing that I’m helping other people is really nice.

The hardest thing was just getting it up and running, and trying not to have a breakdown! It was so stressful – I was crying so much because I’m a people pleaser. If something goes wrong or a workout gets taken down, I spend 5 hours trying to get it back up. But it’s a business and I’m learning. It’s just figuring out how to stay on top of everything. 

Taylor Magazine: What would you say has been a career milestone that you’re really proud of?

Ciara Madden: Some of the press that I’ve had has been amazing, and it’s been so nice to stand in my own light. I feel like I’m known for myself and what I can offer.

Taylor Magazine: Do you feel any pressure to keep coming up with new ideas, new guests, and new classes? Or do you just try to go with the flow?

Ciara Madden: I try to go with the flow on it and put out content that I think people will really enjoy. It’s also about reading the room. There are times when it’ll be appropriate to have music sessions, other times when we’re focusing on self-care, or times where it’s a space for learning, growing, and development, depending on what people need. For example, I’ve had a singer doing a live session and a black female doctor talking about racism in the medical industry. We have a very diverse community and I’m proud of that and I love that. I can’t play black music, enjoy black artists and expect black females to pay for my subscription but not be down for their cause. I want everyone to be represented and I want to make sure that we’re a space where everyone feels welcome and comfortable because we’re all on the same team.

Taylor Magazine: Speaking of that and wanting to make your platform as inclusive as possible, tell me a bit about the importance of using your space to talk about things that are important to you… specifically about inclusivity?

Ciara Madden: I think it’s so important. I’ve always been outspoken and if I say something, I mean it. What has been nice is that people have been so willing to learn and actually really educate themselves. These are important conversations that are long overdue, and we should have been having them on this scale years ago. Self-reflection, being vocal about injustices and challenging things when we see them are all things we should be doing genuinely, not just so people are ticking a box to look like they care. The world is changing but it needs to move faster. I do think this has been a really interesting time to sit and figure out yourself and what’s important to you, what your morals are, your work ethic, what you stand for. The more people who have an audience or who are influential speak on it, the better. There’s wrong and there’s right – you’re either on the right or the wrong side and it’s as clear as that.

Taylor Magazine: If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?

Ciara Madden: I’d say honest, energetic, loyal.

Taylor Magazine: What have you learned about yourself during lockdown?

Ciara Madden: I’ve learned that some of the things we thought were so important just aren’t. It’s been a really interesting time to assess where your priorities are. In normal life, I leave my house at 8am in the morning and I often won’t be home until 10pm at night. It’s always go, go, go! It feels like we’ve pressed a pause button, which has been nice. With everyone in the squad too, it’s been nice to feel like we’ve all had each other’s backs in a time where it was quite lonely and isolating, and I’ve really appreciated my family too. It’s nice to just sit in my mum’s garden. I feel like we’ve all sort of been through something together in a weird way. I’ve also learned to take feedback and criticism, but it’s been a massive learning curve and a combination of knowledge, research, comfort, growth, and development.

“I’ve learnt that some of the things we thought were so important just aren’t. It’s been a really interesting time to assess where your priorities are.” – Ciara Madden

Taylor Magazine: What’s something people don’t know or wouldn’t know about you that’s random or a fun fact?

Ciara Madden: I was in a Nickelodeon TV advert when I was 8! I went to a Saturday theatre school so I did loads of TV adverts.

Taylor Magazine: You have such a great work ethic and you’re always working to create something new or take things to the next level. Do you take much time for yourself?

Ciara Madden: For me, it’s quite impossible. I’m “Mrs. Trying To Do Everything All The Time”, so no matter what, I’ll always find something to do. For example, when I have a rest day, I find it harder the next day to get back into it. I could work out every day! In general, I don’t like not feeling productive. Some people can switch off, but me and my parents aren’t like that. My family are all very hard-working, so I don’t know any different.

Taylor Magazine: You’ve talked a lot about your journey to becoming vegan, how has this been for you?

Ciara Madden: Currently I’m actually a pescatarian, so no meat or dairy but I eat fish.  Physically, I don’t get stomach fat the way that I used to, and I always used to find that dairy sits on the body so now I definitely feel more in control of my body. Veganism is the next step, my diet is 70% vegan but I’m not quite there yet.

Taylor Magazine: When things are really busy or stressful, what do you do to wind down?

Ciara Madden: I’ll put on a chilled playlist and just tune out, switch off my phone – music makes everything better! Exercise is my way to destress, but I also like CBD oil because it works and it’s natural.

Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

Ciara Madden: Stop focusing on toxic relationships and friendships. I always used to be upset over guys when I was younger. I’d definitely say focus more on yourself. It’s a worth thing and a self-respect thing – nobody is getting me out of my house past 10pm unless it’s an emergency now!

Taylor Magazine: What’s next for Ciara London? Anything exciting brewing behind the scenes that we should be looking forward to?

Ciara Madden: For the online squad, we’ve got the app now which is really exciting and as long as people want it, I’ll do it. My goal is to grow it and make it so valuable to people so it’s something that they don’t want to leave. Lots of people have learned a lot about form, exercise, and their own bodies, so I’ll 100% be there for anyone that wants it. I’m in the process of finalizing my own gym, which has been really exciting but very difficult. My goal is to have my own space that is all focused on fitness, wellness, and lifestyle.

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