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Amaechi Okobi

This Space is For Sale

This Space is For Sale

Amaechi Okobi

Sharon Anne Adigbe

More than a corporate communications professional, Amaechi’s love for two wheels and asphalt is well known. He took out time to share his fitness story with us.

Origins

He has a story you’ll want to read. The corporate cyclist started his career in the Big Apple at cosmetics giant Revlon, and was on the marketing team that managed the Ultima II brand. “It was there I discovered my love for brand marketing (and Halle Berry who was one of our spokesmodels at the time). Then 9/11 happened. And it hit me: There’s no place like home. I did my Youth Service and joined Nigerian Breweries as the Gulder Brand Manager. After four Gulder Ultimate Search seasons; the launch of Gulder Draught, then Gulder Max; the execution of several crown promotions; and a repackaging, we had succeeded in putting what was considered an ‘old man’s beer,’ on the path to being considered a beer for young Nigerian men in search of the ‘Ultimate.’”

Amaechi spent some time with Globacom, where he managed the Events & Sponsorships desk. He then moved to Diageo, brand managing Smirnoff Vodka and then Johnnie Walker Whisky.

In case you’re wondering if the word for that incredible brown spirit is spelt with or without an ‘e’, here’s the secret: Whisky that’s distilled in Scotland is spelt without an ‘e’, while whiskey from Ireland or anywhere else gets the ‘e’.

Then the big one. He says, “One day, I got a call from Access Bank and made the transition from consumer goods to financial services. At the end of the day, my journey so far has been about projecting brands and managing perception of same in the minds and hearts of the consumer. I’ve been blessed to work on some truly iconic brands. Still am.”

Motivation

You can’t have a discussion around  Amaechi without asking how he stays motivated. For this, he was quick to say, “Life keeps me going. I’m a firm believer in the fact that life is beautiful. The promise of a new day (though not promised) makes me smile. Specifically, though, they’re a few key things I focus on.”

Interestingly, many people would argue his belief that life is beautiful. Many times, there’s a subconscious withdrawal from the belief that a Supreme Being controls everything for good. 

But Amaechi puts God and his faith first saying, “in this crazy world we call home, we all need a little more God in our lives. Prayer works.”

This conversation wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the role of family and friends. He says, “Their support, sacrifice, counsel, love. The endless list of what they do for and with me definitely keep me going.”

That’s not all. “The thirst for success in my professional life also plays a role in getting me out of bed every morning. I work for and with the most incredible people and, we have set ourselves some big hairy audacious goals. Being a part of the team that will achieve those goals excites me.”

On Becoming A Cyclist

What could have inspired anyone to take up cycling, not just now and again, but a consistent fitness routine?

Cycling is more fun (though harder) than you think; you only have to jump right in – mind, body and spirit. 

He tells us how he began. “It started with a desire to be healthy. Healthy enough to withstand the Sturm und Drang of day to day life. It wasn’t always this way, but as one gets older and reads about all the ailments one could be afflicted with as a result of unhealthy habits, fitness and health is a no brainer. I was driven by a desire to look and feel good. Somewhere along the line, something snapped and cycling became a thing. I started cycling for the sake of cycling. My day was incomplete if it did not start or end with cycling. Health and fitness became a beautiful side effect.”

Imagine if everyone paid this much attention to their health. Hospitals would definitely be emptied out. 

His Routine

“I’m a cyclist. During the week, I wake up in the morning, get on my steed and we do 34.4km. It usually takes an hour but on a really good day we can bring it in under 57 minutes. It’s short and sweet, but it’s also fast, intense, and always involves elevated heart rates. On weekends, I join members of Cycology (my cycling club) and we do group rides. Rides that are longer and a lot more interesting than my solo rides because of the camaraderie and the competitive spirit that comes to bear when you put all of us together.” 

Fitness Meets Work

It’s sad that we tend to forget how pertinent fitness and wellness is to our lives. It helps us stay healthy to do every other thing with ease – high performance (mentally and physically) at our workplaces being on top of the list. 

 Amaechi says, “Fitness, and more specifically, cycling has taught me a few lessons that are applicable to my professional life and life in general. Learning to push past your mental boundaries, to stick with something to see results, to be okay with feeling uncomfortable so that you can grow — these are all important lessons that you can practise during your fitness journey.” 

He helps spread the message: ‘fitness should be a constant process’ and adds that there will good and bad days just like in the workplace. “Your strength and endurance will always ebb and flow, and it’s not going to change overnight. Your first ride might be a total disaster, but if you keep at it with dedication, discipline and consistency, you’ll get better and stronger. In a few months, memories of that first day will just make you laugh. It’s no difference with work or professional projects you engage in: Your job might be tough, but perseverance and patience pays off.”

Not Too Busy To Do It

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The millenial lifestyle, with all the noise and supposed 100% focus on work, work and more work keeps too many people away from paying attention to  their health. 

But that’s not it with Amaechi. He naturally has a busy but an organised schedule that leaves enough time for his routines. “As I usually get my ride in before going to work, my busy schedule hardly ever interferes. If for any reason I miss my morning ride because of an early meeting, I try and make it up in the evening after work.”

Fitness and wellness routines can come in simple forms – stretches, something Amaechi says he does more often at the office. “Your legs, back, arms, and neck all get stiff when you stay in one position for prolonged periods of time. I also walk as often as possible. Get out of the building when I can. Take the stairs. When I travel for work, I ensure that my hotel has a gym. Stationary bikes are a good, albeit boring alternative.”

How busy are you? Work it out! 

The Fit Professional 

Amaechi has experienced enough of the benefits of fitness to become an evangelist, particularly to his colleagues who would be much more productive if they embraced exercise and fitness. “I would certainly like them to take fitness seriously,” he says. 

He continues, “Everyone should take fitness seriously. Numerous studies have shown that you are better able to put in your best and perform at optimum levels when you are healthy. Enhanced creativity, sharper memory, and improved concentration, are a few benefits of a healthy lifestyle. So much so that many companies actively drive initiatives to promote the health and fitness of their employees. At Access Bank, for example, we have a well-equipped gym and trainers for employees who prefer to engage in dance or aerobics. Our work life, and life in general can be extremely stressful on the mind and body – a healthy lifestyle prepares you for battle.”

Professional Cyclist?

When asked if he could have been a professional cyclist, Amaechi is emphatic about this. “Absolutely not. Aside from boxing, where your opponent is actively trying to separate your head from your body, I think cycling is one of the toughest (if not THE toughest) professional sport there is. Maybe I am a little biased but when I think of the discipline, commitment, and physical fitness required to participate in the Tour de France (3,500km+ over 21 days with ascents that would make one’s nose bleed), for example, my heart skips a beat. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart. What I do on my bike is child’s play compared to what professional cyclists get into.”

Other Fitness Interests

“I’ve tried my hand at basketball, tennis, track & field, racquetball, squash, table tennis, swimming and I even completed the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon (twice).  If I had to choose, squash would be my second option after cycling.”

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