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How Jay Johnson Became the Fitness King of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

The Celebrated Trainer Talks Tenacity, Discipline, and Just How Hard Those Hopefuls Work (Hint: HARD)

Think being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader is all youth, pep, and sass?

Think again.

If you, like the rest of the world, found yourself completely engrossed in this season of CMT’s hit series Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team, then you saw firsthand the rigors of training camp and the arduous and sometimes grueling process these women endure in order to become part of the most recognizable dance troupe in the world.

So how do they do it? How do they survive endless rehearsals with countless choreography and intense exercise regimens?

To answer that we went straight to the source: Jay Johnson, founder of Jay’s Soldier Fit and official trainer of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and quite possibly one of the most motivating men in the fitness industry.

“They train hard, so hard,” Johnson said of the girls during a recent chat with CMT.com. “It’s every day. I mean, it’s a lifestyle.”

During episode six of season thirteen, we saw just how serious Johnson’s commitment to the hopefuls is as he introduced the girls to a portion of what their workouts would be like in order to keep up with the demands of the season.

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To some, it was a challenge they were willing to accept. But to the ones who giggled their way through the crunches, well, we saw how well that worked out for them…

(Hint: it didn’t.)

Because a commitment to the standards of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders is first and foremost a commitment to one’s self and wellbeing.

“We have a fitness culture that cannot be denied,” he said. “I know in the 70s, 80s and in the 90s, we weren’t really seen as athletes. Now, there’s no mistake about it.”

“They are role models. Not only for women but for other people out there,” he continued. “You know, someone that at that age has adopted that type of work ethic to get where they need to go—that’s why the show is so popular. Because it shows the struggle. And it is a struggle.”

A very rewarding struggle, even for Johnson, who not only trains the girls but sits on several deliberation panels and an integral part of the decision-making process when it comes down to cuts. He’s proud of the work the girls put in and celebrates their victories with them.

And if he catches you speaking negatively about them? Then, look out.

“You want to laugh at something?” he asked. “I’m sitting in the stands at the old Texas Stadium and I’m listening to a conversation behind me. And someone said, ‘Yeah, they’re all fake.’ Why did they say that? So, I turned around, and I’m like, ‘There’s no one on there that’s fake. I’m a judge, okay? That’s all work out there.”

Work that starts with a mindset: a mindset set that sold DCC Director Kelli Finglass from the moment she met Johnson for the first time and heard his approach to training the girls.

Johnson, a former Drill Sergeant, had been a part of the training community since retiring from the Army. But he quickly found that the training of his new world wasn’t like that of the military.

“Immediately when someone comes to you and said they want to get in the best shape of their life—they want to look like this, they need this, you take them on their word. That’s 20 years in the military,” he said. “If you’re talking to me—an adult’s telling me what they want, my thought is, ‘well let’s find a path to get there, okay?’ And we do it . . . I want everyone to make it, but I know it’s a hard road. It’s a hard road for what they want, and a lot of people can’t do that.”

But they—we—can, according to Johnson. He knew his plan could deliver if only his clients could change their mindsets to the belief that they could achieve their desired results. And just when his discouragement was mounting, fate stepped in.

“I met a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader,” he confided.

“I asked, ‘Hey, do you guys have a trainer?’ And she said, ‘No.’ And I’m like, ‘Who do I talk to? So, I arranged a meeting with Kelli, told them everything that we can do, and hey, 18 years later…”

Eighteen years later, he’s part of the family.

“You know, they gave me a probation period,” he joked. “I walked in and just showed them, ‘Hey, here’s the program. And if it’s good for 4.2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, it’s good for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, because it’s based on their age and their gender. Everyone’s competing against an established standard. Not each other, okay?”

And the DCC family loved it. Such a teamwork mindset has created such camaraderie between the women, which is such a huge part of the organization’s legacy. These women are in the trenches together, preparing for a starring role for America’s Team which requires the utmost focus.

“There’s just something in it that you can’t even describe, that type of mental discipline and the focus that’s required for these ladies,” he said.

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But sadly, as we saw this season and the seasons before, not all hopefuls make it on their first or second try. Many veterans have been sent home during a re-audition. But no matter the circumstance, Johnson wants to make it very clear that he, along with Finglass, choreographer Judy Trammell and the others want the girls to succeed and return again and again until they do.

“I’ve never heard them say a bad word ever about a candidate,” Johnson said. “They want you to come back. They are so pumped that you’ve come back, no one says, ‘Here she comes again.’ No. We’re like, ‘Okay, this is her fourth time, let’s see if she’s made any differences, if she’s done something to her hair, her body looks better, etc.’ We want you to make it, okay? We really do.”

We believe him. And if you’ve got Johnson in your cheering section it’s hard not to be motivated to give it your all, first audition or fourth. Because that’s one hell of a pep talk, isn’t it?

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.