Creating lions and beacons


LIFESTYLE  Matthew Boccacio and Paul O’Brien of Republic of Fitness promote a holistic approach to the whole area of fitness and wellness. Pic: Conor McKeown

Anton McNulty

IMAGINE going on the television show Dragon’s Den with a new business concept and telling the Dragons that their aim is to make their services defunct after 12 months.
You would likely be told your business won’t last long, but for Paul O’Brien and Matthew Boccacio – the brains behind the recently opened Republic of Fitness – this is exactly what they are aiming to achieve.
Republic of Fitness is not your ordinary fitness studio, where your sweat like hell for an hour and go home exhausted. These two men say they want to empower people emotionally as well as physically, and create a community where people of all ages and ability levels can work towards their lifestyle goals.
“What we are really trying to is change the conversation around health and fitness,” Paul O’Brien told The Mayo News. “Rather than just being a gym where people can just go and work out, we are more than that. We are creating a community really. Our mission is to empower our clients to achieve optimum health in mind, body and soul.”

No barking
A decade ago, the Laois native started the physical-fitness-focused Bootcamp West in Westport, but he soon realised that for people to achieve their lifestyle goals they had to address their mental and emotional health as well as their diet and physical strength.
In 2016, he was approached by Matthew Boccacio, who founded Friendly Fitness in 2015, and they soon realised they had a similar outlook. Together, they created Republic of Fitness, which is based close to Broderick’s Electrical on the Lodge Road in Westport, offering a range of group classes – Jumpfit, Zumba, Strong by Zumba, TRX, Yoga, Body Blast and Bootcamp – all under one roof.
People interested in joining are offered free consultations, and the two men point them in the right direction on which type of class might work for them.
“We encourage people to talk about their experiences not just on social media but when they are in the class. We are trying to get away from trainers and clients scenario; we are a community and we learn as much from the feedback from our clients going forward on what works and doesn’t work as they do from us. This is a different approach from the trainer being god and barking at you for 30 minutes. We offer a lot more,” Paul explained.

Different approach
“We’ve no interest in the hard sell,” Matthew said. He went on to explain how he advised a mother of three children ranging in age from four months to six years that now was not the right time to ‘lose a few inches around the waist’ because she would have the energy levels for a strict training regime.
“I might have got her into the programme, but would I have got a good review afterwards? I know it wouldn’t have been sustainable for her. Stress is one of the main causes of being overweight and being unhappy, so why put the stress on people?”
Paul and Matthew believe that there is a major market in Mayo for what they are offering, and in time, they want to spread the concept around Ireland. They added that they’ll know they’re successful when their clients no longer need their services.
“We want to make ourselves defunct,” Paul explained. “We want to get our clients to a point where they don’t need us. It could be looked as a loss for us, but we don’t look on it like that. They’ll go out into the community and basically be beacons, creating that change in their community.”
Matthew agreed, saying it was not their mission to create ‘sheep who are told what to do’.
“We are trying to create lions. Sheep will just keep following and there are a lot of places who want that because they want the sheep to keep putting money into their pockets all the time. That is not the payoff for us. The payoff is seeing someone with their own power … making massive strides in their own lives.”
Republic of Fitness also operates the franchise for Rinka Mayo which is a programme for children aged three to 12 who are not sport orientated and encourage them to get active. With Ireland’s obesity problem, set to become the worst in Europe by 2025, they say children need to be encouraged to be active.
While obesity is also a problem they are also concerned with the message aimed at young women in particular to have a certain image.   
“More people come to us because they are not happy with something,” said Matt. “That something is put down to what they are told by TV and magazines as the reason for their unhappiness – which is generally their weight. That is what they are feeding women with today; it’s all about image and looking like this celebrity and you need this weight-loss pill or shake.”
“The problem is only getting worse,” added Paul. “Look at teenagers these days – they are tapped into social media the whole time. Their sense of what it means to be successful and happy is pretty much dictated really by what they see in the social and mainstream media.”

Holistic wellness
Empowerment is a major buzz word for Paul and Matthew and they say they want to give the people the knowledge and tools to take control of your own health. Paul is a qualified lifestyle coach and says the fitness industry is changing and moving away from concentrating on just physical activity.  
“I trained with the American Council for Exercise and they have moved to the wellness concept so people talk less about the fitness and more about wellness. All the cutting-edge research is going on over there, Australia and the UK and they realise that there has to be a holistic approach to the whole area of wellness.
“It is all about empowerment and giving people the power to take control of their own health and not be sold the bullshit frankly by the food industry or [suffer the consequences of] a lacklustre government approach. We want to inspire people to take that control back for their own sake and for their children’s sake. Otherwise we are looking down a very dark alley in this country.”
Matthew battled his own demons with depression for over ten years before taking control of his mindset, first through exercise and then by educating himself. Now he wants to pass his expertise to people who need it.
“As I was educating myself on [getting my mind heathy] it led me to decide that there are people out there who need to know this and are not being taught this. It is about that holistic approach and getting the mind, body and spirit singing off the same hymn sheet.
“We wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for the love of doing it. It is a passion we have. We could  both be doing different jobs and earning a lot more money, but you wouldn’t be getting the same satisfaction.
“We want to be the light for our clients, and we want them to be the light for their family circle. We want to spread these beacons as far as we can.”

The official opening of Republic of Fitness takes place in Unit 2, Westport Business Park, Lodge Road, Westport, on October 7, from 3pm to 5pm. For more information, find Republic of Fitness on Facebook, email or call 086 1041040.

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