The Challenges of Building an 'Unsexy Business'

If I had to stand up at a moments notice in front of a crowd, and give a 30 second pitch about ACLAÍ, it could possibly start something like this:

'Hi my name is Ainle, and I run an incredibly unsexy business….' 

I am sure you agree that we live in a fast world these days. Fast food, fast results, fast communication, fast travel. Everything is fast and getting faster. Fast is sexy. Unfortunately, everything is getting faster except for our evolution towards being a healthy and vibrant species of animal. On that front, we are going backwards, and the only thing fast about our collective health is the size of our waists, hospital waiting lists, andmedical bills. It’s a funny thing, because you would think that with the amount of 'revolutionary', 'ultimate', 'Xtreme', and 'world renowned' training programs and superfoods out there these days that we would be fitter than ever! Alas, this is not the case. The faster we get, the more our overall health declines.

Of course, the food industry has a lot to answer for here, but lets talk about the fitness industry for the time being. The large bulk of what's out there promises to blast one undesirable area of your anatomy or another into oblivion in quick-time. 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 week, whatever. Miracle diets are everywhere with promises of beach abs, and marketing is built around photo-shopped images, fitness models, and unrealistic claims. It all fits perfectly into our world of speed and efficiency, and also plays straight into the hands of our faltering health. The unrealistic claims push us to extremes to try to achieve the beach body, the extreme diets put on a very restrictive path of eating, limiting our enjoyment of both exercise and food, and ultimately resulting in a backlash once the 'diet', or 'program' is over.

The fast world even influences what we actually do to stay healthy. People get qualified in quick-time. A few weekends of study here and there, and the latest world renowned expert hits our social media newsfeed. Because we want our results like yesterday, we need to train like demons. High intensity is the order of the day to make up for the hours of sitting down we do each day. Furthermore, because the fast mentality is so appealing, everybody wants a piece of that pie, so the market kindly obliges. What we are left with is an abundance of fitness centres kitted out with the latest high-tech machines, that present minimal risk to the user, minimal instructional requirement, and most of all limited results at best, and long term damage at worst. It isn't really any wonder that most people lack the motivation and enthusiasm to sustain a regular pattern of going to places like this, is it?!

ACLAÍ is a step away from this whole mindset, and getting one up on the fast world is no easy feat. We would probably have a bigger membership if we advertised 'beach body in 6.3 weeks'. In reality, what we do, what we offer, and what our members get, runs much deeper than the superficial advertising that dominates the world of health and fitness today. It is the opportunity to reconnect with you body, and build lifestyle habits that will sustain you for years to come. At the core of our facility is the restoring of the function of the body, and this is no small achievement given the sedentary and seated nature of our day to day living. We build training program to suit your current level, and help you expand on your current abilities over time, and we try to integrate the softer sides of health such as learning, reading, and socialising. Our approach is to challenge, engage, and empower our members. Its not exercise, its movement, and as Frank Forencich say's in his book 'The Exuberant Animal';

'Exercise is a habit you break, movement is something you do forever.'

The Exuberant animal is a book that I can recommend to everyone, as it gives a great insight into many aspects of our 'modern' style of living, and strongly advocates the slow fitness philosophy;

'Slow fitness is a philosophy that emphasizes sustainability, pleasure, participation and quality of movement. The idea is to develop health and performance gradually over the course of years and decades, enjoying ourselves along the way' 

Of course to me, our coaches, and hopefully our members, the above long term philosophy is infinitely more appealing and meaningful than blasting out a high intensity circuit of poorly thought out exercise while being screamed at by a military style instructor, or mindlessly running on a treadmill. It gives us something to get stuck into, that speaks to the primal human inside of us all. However, being an outlier, a weirdo if you will, in a fast and furious world of instant gratification has its own problems when it comes to the promotion and growth of our movement based training. Photoshop and marketing speak do not fit with what we are about, and therefore we are often second in line for the attention of the masses. The positive side of this however, is that we get to work more closely with a smaller group of people, and help them build a sustainable practice, healthy mind, and healthy body. Maybe someday the general approach to our health will change, and we will step away from the quick-fix mentality, and hamster-in-a-wheel type of exercise into a more meaningful form of movement that provides us with the joy and passion to fuel long term participation and in turn health. Until then, we will continue to be the weirdo's.

This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.