No treadmills, no free weights, no machines. Instead, strewn about the AmenZone fitness center in Scottsdale is an assortment of… tires. Just tires, the kind you’d find on a car or truck. That’s the first hint that this isn’t your average fitness program. It makes sense—Amen Iseghohi isn’t your average fitness trainer. Or average anything, for that matter.
Raised in London, England, Amen was 8 years old when his family sent him to Benin, a small country in West Africa, to stay with his grandmother. It was here that he learned his unique philosophy on physical fitness. His grandmother told him to “Be active, always moving and to keep his mind and body working together as one.” To keep the boys busy, Amen’s grandmother had them stay active with the resources at hand—in this case, a number of rubber tires in the front yard. It wasn’t state-of-the-art equipment that gave Amen his tree-trunk frame; it was his inspiration to be more and accomplish more, with less.
“Enough with machinery,” Amen says. “Just keep it plain and simple. And you’d be amazed.”
At his center in Scottsdale, the former professional rugby player has implemented this minimalist style and used it to create entire workouts using nothing but a few feet of space, some pull-up bars, monkey bars, punching bags, and, of course, tires. The center runs Primal Classes and Boxing Classes for adults weekly, and a Friday afternoon class for kids 7 and up. In each workout, the lessons learned from hot days in Benin are clear: if the athlete has the right mindset, there is not much need for dumbbells and machines.
Accomplishing more with less was the main message of the AmenZone Physical Education Foundation Open House event this past Saturday. At the Scottsdale center, Amen and some of his young protégés engaged in a demonstration of a typical workout. With music blaring, and with each participant armed with his or her own tire, Amen guided the kids through the exercise with enthusiastic shouts. The kids darted around the tires, falling and doing a pushup on them; moved in and out of the middle of the tires laterally; and finished off the workout with a set of static high jumps. Amen moved through, giving praise with smiles and high-fives. The positive energy was high, which is one of the cornerstones of AmenZone’s foundation.
The kids’ workout was a demonstration of what Amen wants to implement all across the Valley. His non-profit, AmenZone PE, is set on giving grade school students a way to stay active and stay fit. The William J. Clinton Foundation reports that 92 percent of schools do not have year-round physical education classes. AmenZone PE, its website says, “is passionate about eliminating the devastating effects of low self-esteem in children by providing children with the inspiration, tools and knowledge necessary for making healthy lifestyle choices.”
To combat the health issues and emotional problems that come along with childhood obesity, Amen aims to empower kids by getting them active and improving self-esteem through his program. Where lack of self-esteem can lead to low confidence, poor grades, crime, and even suicide, high-self esteem enables individuals to reach their full potential, the program asserts. Through the holistic program, kids are taught about fitness, healthy lifestyle choices, and positive thinking and self-image.
AmenZone PE has partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, and the Native American Basketball Invitational. So far, 86 Arizona schools have expressed interest in incorporating Amen’s Primal Education into after-school programming.
“I know that I can accomplish anything,” said Andrew Haight, 12, from Scottsdale, an avid student of Amen’s. The classes “made him more secure and more confident.” Letters from students at Tonalea Elementary School lined the walls of the center, thanking Amen for the fitness and confidence that the workouts bring. From the program, kids gain both physical and mental strength. As Amen says, “The physical and spiritual are connected. There has to be a balance.”
For more information, class times, etc., check out Amen’s website, letsgetprimal.com. — Robert T. Balint