Pardon the cliché, but Amen Iseghohi is reinventing the wheel. In the age of more fitness whizbangs and gizmos, Iseghohi’s gone simple, building an entire fitness regimen around a standard rubber car tire. From that tire, he’s built a DVD series, a nonprofit organization, and a line of gyms—all focused on a simplistic fitness philosophy he discovered while growing up in West Africa with his grandmother. His fitness franchise, Amenzone, proves that with the right personality, an uncanny ability to drum up inspirational quotes on cue, and with some sales know-how, you can sell anything—even a rubber tire. Granted, it’s a rubber tire that just might get you shredded.
When did you first become passionate about fitness?
My fitness passion started back in Africa. I was raised in London, England, but my parents wanted me to have a great understanding of where I am from, and they wanted me to have a good appreciation of my culture. My dad used to have a saying: “If you know where you are from, you have a better appreciation of where you are headed.” He sent me to Africa to live with my grandmother who was an ex-athlete. All we had in Africa were just tires; we didn’t have any of the mega gyms or any of the conveniences I had in London. We were taught to do more with less. That’s where my relationship with fitness started. I learned that you can do a whole lot more with just a simple object like a tire.
How many exercises or moves can you really do with a single rubber tire?
My grandmother started with showing us some basic moves, just some basic stuff to get us moving. Her whole idea was movement is life—you have to keep moving. When I decided to create a whole fitness concept around it, we took it from the few exercises my grandmother taught me, to now, I think, we have almost 900 exercises that you can do with just one tire.
But still, why a tire? What about it can get you in shape?
I think personally everyone has their own unique perspective on it, so why it is successful, why people resonate to it, it depends on who you speak with. But for most people, it’s really the whole idea of putting your hands to the ground and getting dirty, going down and coming back up, fighting your challenges.
The philosophy with working out is, everything you need is within. We don’t allow any mirrors in our gym. If you go to any locations instead of mirrors you find inspirational quotes, so the first impression people get when they walk in is where are the mirrors? Where are the machines? Where are the weights? Well you find nothing like that. You don’t push a button in any of our places to work out.
When did you first think you could build a business around working out with a tire?
It started with kids. My whole inspiration here in the States started with working out with kids; it wasn’t working out with adults. I was working in corporate America and I noticed whenever I turned on the television that there were all these new fitness gadgets out there. There is always something new. I felt even with all these new gadgets, all these new machines, the health of America is getting worse. I figured, you know what? Maybe it’s time we just go back to basics.
I remembered the way that my grandmother worked us: It was simple enough that it worked. So I started with one kid and one tire. I went to the park with one kid and one tire and I used the simple workouts and inspired the kid as I worked with him. I kind of related some of the workouts to life—you can’t quit because you faced a challenge. You have to keep fighting to overcome that challenge. You need to be empowered. You might find a workout hard today. Tomorrow it will be easier. Simple messages like that have inspired these kids. It went from one kid to everybody else. It wasn’t just about a workout when you hear them talk about it, they talk about how they are empowered and inspired. That just resonated and grew, and eventually more kids came and then their parents started to come. And with their parents came athletes, and Amenzone just expanded from there.
Where did you get all the tires from initially?
When I went to a tire dealership to change my tires, I realized that just by speaking with the tire retail store they have to pay to get rid of their tires. We thought we could recycle these tires. It doesn’t cost them anything. If anything it saves them money to give us the tires. So we got the tires for free.
How many people do you think have now made a tire workout a regular part of their regimen?
Thousands of people. Any location can have 500 members. There are so many people and so many kids that we have met with, it’s really more of a question of how many more people can we touch? And that’s infinity. We want to go across the nation and hopefully international.