Amen Iseghohi, a 37-year-old father of five, spent summers on his grandmother’s farm in Benin, in West Africa, where he and other children played with the tires they found around them. The former professional rugby player came to the United States in 2003 and became a sales executive with a flooring company before he founded Amenzone Fitness, a franchise gym company that focuses on a back-to-basics approach using tires. He also founded Amenzone Foundation to help fight childhood obesity and encourage self-esteem.
All you need is some trash and some inspiration, says Iseghohi.
As a kid, he worked on his grandmother’s farm, played sports and ran. He grew up to be an executive. But then, one day, “I saw a kid considered overweight, and I thought it was a pity,” he says. “He looked like he lacked self-esteem, the way he walked.”
And thus an idea was born: Iseghoni would bring what he learned from his grandmother to the gym. As a boy, he was taught by her to use what you have. And so, improbably, recycled tires are the basis of Amenzone Fitness, Iseghohi’s growing chain of studios. “My friends and family thought I had completely lost my mind,” he says.
The first studio in the L.A. area opened last year in Manhattan Beach. There aren’t any mirrors or elaborate machines. But there are plenty of tires and inspiration, including messages on the exposed brick walls and a saying at the end of class. It’s a high-intensity workout that uses the tires as weights and steps and obstacles. (There are also classes for children.)
Words that describe your approach to fitness?
One piece of equipment?
Whom do you admire?
Billy Blanks [a fitness professional and martial artist], who opened the doors.
Biggest mistake for newcomers?
They need to remember why they started when it gets challenging. There are going to be hard times.
How open-minded the public is being. People are not usually accommodating to change.