A former Big Brother Naija housemate, and the Chief Executive Officer of Pure Fitness Africa, Ekemini Ekerette, aka Kemen, tells BLESSING ENENAITE about his career and other issues
What influenced your decision to become a fitness trainer?
I was influenced by my decision to safeguard my health. Before I became a personal trainer, I used to work at a very hazardous company. Instead of looking for another job, I felt I should use the opportunity to take care of my health, because my former workplace had a bad care system for its workers. My way of helping myself after leaving that job was to embrace fitness.
I used to be skinny, but when I started working out, I started gaining weight, and I got stuck with it. I love what it (keeping fit) does to my body and mind. It gave me a new found love. I never liked the regular 9am to 5pm job. Despite the fact that I was working at a 9am to 5pm job and I was successful, I never found happiness doing my job. In the process of attending to my health, I found what I loved, and the rest is history.
What are your notable achievements as a fitness trainer?
My most notable achievement is being able to change people’s lives for good. Also, I am giving people a reason to ‘create’ better versions of themselves in a way they never thought was possible. The fact that people entrust their lives into my hands and trust that I would stir them in the right direction is an achievement for me.
My other achievements are achieving financial security. The people I have met in my line of duty are secondary for me. The endorsements that come with it are secondary for me. My primary achievements are the impacts of my work on my clients, being able to employ people, and being responsible for other people’s livelihood. I have also got some awards, and recognition for my works. In addition, I am a certified master trainer for a company that sells equipment and digital technologies for fitness, sport and health.
What are the challenges you face in discharging your duties and how do you overcome them?
First, the terrain is a challenge. The fitness business is still growing in Nigeria. I did not move into a structured industry. It is our (fitness trainers) responsibility to structure it.
Also, because it is not a very structured industry, a lot of people do not have respect for trainers and what they do. So, one needs to work extra hard to gain the respect that one deserves in one’s field.
It will be hard for some people to skip their doctor’s appointment, but very easy for them to skip their gym appointment.
Another challenge is doing business where one needs to be directly involved with people. One needs to work on a lot of things, including man management skills, which has to be top notch, because many humans are difficult to work with. My work is something I am passionate about, and I see it as an adventure.
Is there an association of fitness trainers in the country?
There are a couple of bodies here and there. We are hoping that we will be able to structure ourselves in a way that covers the entire fitness space.
What were you doing prior to your participation in Big Brother Naija in 2017?
I was a fitness trainer then. As a matter of fact, the reason I went to BBN was to sell my brand in Lagos. I was in my hometown in Akwa Ibom State. I had a small space for what I wanted to achieve then.
In what ways did participating in BBN help your training career?
It gave me visibility. Participating in BBN made me know a lot of people.
What are the things you do before engaging in a fitness routine?
First, one has to check if one’s client is medically, mentally and physically ready. One has to check if one has cardiovascular issues, and also check one’s capacity level. Besides, a fitness trainer has to know the level one has to stop. It all depends on what one wants to do.
Nigerians do not exercise due to their busy schedules. What do you have to say concerning this?
I think that has changed in recent times. As a gym owner, I can tell you that Nigerians take fitness very seriously. My gym opens at 5am and closes by 11pm. By 5am, when the gym opens, many persons are already there. By 10pm, people still come and squeeze out an hour to work out before going to sleep.
Also, it is a matter of knowledge and priority. (In this context), knowledge is the understanding of the importance of fitness. Priority is creating time for what one understands. We are hoping that more people will understand what fitness can do for them if they are able to prioritise it. Everyone creates time for what is important to them.
It is believed that keeping fit helps one against falling sick. What is your experience in this regard?
I have not had any reason to visit the hospital for as long as I can remember. Keeping fit does a lot of good to one’s body.
Who are some of the notable personalities that have engaged your services?
I have worked with a lot of entertainers, footballers, athletes and corporate people, including Timaya, Iyanya, Toni Tones, Beverely Naya, Nancy Isime and Oghenekaro Etebo. I have worked on projects with Kate Henshaw and Kaffy too.
You trained a popular chef, Hilda Bassey, aka Hilda Baci, in preparation for her cook-a-ton which broke the Guinness World Records for the longest cooking hours by an individual. How did you feel when she attained the feat?
I was excited when she got loads of support. We were there together from day one. It was encouraging. Now, we are even more excited that all those efforts were not in vain.
There are certain persons who look down on people like you who are not doing white-collar jobs. Have you ever been in a situation where people looked down on you because of your job?
That is a Nigerian thing, because the fitness business in Nigeria is not one that people have grown to accept. In the past, if one said one was a photographer, some people would assume that one was just looking for money to feed. But now, people have come to see photography as a multi-million naira business.
Some people also have that perception about the fitness industry. But, it does not bother me because I am not broke (laughs). It also puts less expectation on me when people think I don’t have money.
Who are your mentors?
I have worked with CEO of top brands, and they have influenced how I think and do things. I admire some people, but they are not necessarily my mentors.
The CEO of Interswitch, Mitchell Elegbe; and the CEO of Black Pelican Group, Michael Owolabi, are my mentors. In recent times, I have come to see a few of these persons in the corporate world as my mentors, because I have worked closely with them and their ideologies influence me. Now that I am a CEO of my own business, I have realised that a lot of things I do now, I am able to do because I sat on the same table with those people and heard them speak about how they handled certain situations.
What are your other areas of interest?
I won’t say I am boring but I have only a few things that interest me. I love travelling. I also like to hang out with friends.
I won’t say I love to watch movies. I watch them because I choose to. Also, I am not a nightlife person, because I love my bed most of the time, but I go out too. I am not someone who is drawn to a particular set of activities. I just go with the flow at different times. However, I love to live life and be happy.