Prince Tunde Salawuadeniyi. Courtesy of Ilekan Athletic Club

Prince Tunde Salawuadeniyi often reminisces about his days as a young athletic kid in Nigeria who hoped to succeed in international football. He couldn’t imagine how that goal would later transition into him as an accomplished fitness coach and body sculpting guru.

Salawuadeniyi is the Co-Founder of Houston’s first Nigerian owned gym called Ilekan Athletic Club, which means ‘One House’ in his Yoruba dialect. Him along with this brother, Tolu planted the seeds to open a gym location where people can gather together for one common goal to transform their “mind, body, and spirit.”

The Prairie A&M University alum grew his personal brand on campus training more than 400 students over four years providing free fitness classes and hosting seminars to create awareness about the health disparities that impact the community. Now, he continues to take things to another level and hopes to expand his mission.

The Defender spoke with Salawuadeniyi about his journey into the fitness industry and what the community should expect from Ilekan.

Defender: What do you want our audience to learn about you?

Salawuadeniyi: I’m a young man who consistently strives to improve himself and others. I love to have fun with everything I do. I spread great energy and I am a positive person. Even through adverse circumstances, I see the good in everything and I channel that into my work.

Defender:  What was your journey into the fitness industry?

Salawuadeniyi: My journey started all the way in Nigeria. We didn’t have access to everything we have now, but for me, it all started from having a strong desire to play soccer at a world-class level. Down the line, there isn’t enough support for such a goal. I was told it was too late for me to play. I was probably 10 years old at the time. I took it personally, and that was one of the driving forces for me.

The second driving force was seeing my parents struggle with diabetes, high blood pressure. African parents don’t like when you put their matters out there but this is real you know? I feel like it’s not just for me but for others. So, as I got older, I wanted to do everything I could to prevent that from happening.

I got more into training people while I was training myself. While I was on my journey, a lot of people asked for help. That was where I found my purpose. I went to school for mechanical engineering [and eventually] focused on fitness and never looked back.

Defender: What are your goals as a fitness coach?

Salawuadeniyi: My goal is to impact one family. If I train one person, that person will go around and impact their own families. I want to encourage others to set a new foundation for themselves.  

Defender: What were some of the major obstacles you’ve face 

Salawuadeniyi: One of the challenges was when I was a mechanical engineering student at Prairie View A&M University around 2017 to 2018. I was a junior. I realized that with all the requests I was getting, how was I going to balance it all. I wasn’t the smartest in engineering school. I struggled.

I was consistently working all day and night. And then I was spending the little time I had on extracurricular activities on teaching classes for free to help sharpen my skills, while making ends meet. I worked as a sales rep at Coach in an outlet mall. I was doing so much and had not time. I had big vision that kept me going, and that phase I was going through was not permanent. 

Defender: Why is advocacy of Black health and wellness in the community important to you?

Salawuadeniyi: We never realize the life we’re missing out on until we actually get into a health journey. There are so many things that we are faced, lack of energy, depression, poor eating, and if we became much healthier these things could reduce a lot.

Fitness is one of those things that helped me out. I use to self-sabotage myself. I use to have low confidence, but fitness gave me the affirmation I needed. In the Black community we don’t take our personal health seriously. We put it aside. What happens over time is the body shuts down, so dies the metabolism, and the immune system. 

So, by the time you start to realize you need to make change, the person is going through challenges. We pass that mentality down to the children. We need to break these generational curses. The way to start correcting these things is for us to start improving ourselves.

Defender: Talk about the cultural aspect to your programs and events. 

Salawuadeniyi: I’m speechless because we have people who are Hispanic, American, and all different parts of the world being a part of something that they might not know about. Seeing people enjoy African culture, Afrobeats and vibes is an amazing experience. Our Afrobeats Bootcamp is a good example of this. Dance is not performative, it’s transformative. It’s a program where the number one agenda is to have fun.

Defender: Is focusing on “Mind, Body, Spirit” your approach to holistic health?

Salawuadeniyi: Ilekan means “One House,” and that is my approachIf one of them detaches from the other, we aren’t operating at our best. The goal is to align my body, mind, and spirit to work as one. I can confidently say that if you apply all three to your life, you can apply all three to your everyday life.

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I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...