Young Upstarts

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A Conversation With Calgary Entrepreneur Ali Ghani: How Commitment To Health And Fitness Benefits His Work And His Life

Ali Ghani, a Calgary-Alberta based investor and entrepreneur, has an extensive history of investing in and working with companies in a diverse range of industries including real estate. A graduate of SAIT Polytechnic with a diploma in electrical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in Applied Systems Technology, Ali spent several years working for several major corporations in the information technology sector. Then, in 2000, he shifted gears and founded a successful commercial property development company.

Extremely passionate about health and fitness, Ali says he always makes time to stay in shape, whether at home, in the office or on the road.

We spoke with him about how his love for business and commitment to fitness intersect.

As an entrepreneur, you put in lots of long days. How are you able to stay healthy and fit even when things are extremely hectic?

Ali Ghani: The thing about entrepreneurship is that it teaches you about discipline.  You know you have to do A, B and C to reach your goals and you have X amount of time to complete tasks.  The same can be said about your fitness routine and goals. Even when it might seem impossible to fit time in for the gym, setting a specific appointment can motivate you to go.  If you put your name down for the 6 am boxing class, you are more likely to attend.  Or – if your time is really limited, just do a short burst of high intensity exercises.  Grab your tennis shoes and go outside for some sprints.

How does having a strong commitment to fitness benefit you from a business standpoint, mentally, physically and emotionally?

Ali Ghani: From a business standpoint, fitness creates stronger problem solving, creative skills and collaboration capabilities. Mentally, physical activity and exercise have significant positive effects in preventing or alleviating stress and symptoms of depression.  Training and exercise helps you  cope with stress and it can strengthen your self-esteem and social skills.  If you’re feeling anxious, exercise can alleviate it and leave you with a clear mind.  All good things.

What is your daily fitness routine? Do you ever miss days, and if so, how do you compensate?

Ali Ghani: I rotate my fitness routine.  One day I may focus on cardio – going out for a run in Alberta or using the treadmill – and then the alternate days I focus on weightlifting and endurance.

From the time I first began working out and over the course of time, I went from 26.3% Body Fat to 7.9%.  It has changed my lifestyle, so even if I do miss a day, I can’t wait to get back at it.  You almost become addicted to it.  It makes you feel so much better though, if you start your day with a workout.

What advice would you give a fellow entrepreneur or business leader looking to have a healthier lifestyle? 

Ali Ghani: Make exercise part of your daily routine, eat as healthy as possible, take time to unplug, and learn how to manage your stress.  The last one is most important.  If you can’t learn how to control your stress, it will consume you and lead to health problems – anxiety, headaches, poor diet, insomnia etc.  Entrepreneurs will always face stress.  It is the nature of the beast.  But you can’t let it take over.

It takes a lot of dedication to build a successful business and it also takes a lot of dedication to commit to living a healthy lifestyle.  Determination is key.

How do you spend your downtime or weekends? Are you always looking for new fitness adventures? 

Ali Ghani: I’m always trying to find new ways to balance between the mind, body and soul. To that effect, I actively pursue various spiritual growth avenues.  On the fitness front, yes, I’m always up for an adventure and am willing to try anything!  If I’m not at home in Alberta or I’m travelling, then I’m busy exploring a new city.  Whether it’s taking in the local culture, checking out the local coffee shops and restaurants or enjoying the outdoors, I always make it a priority to add fitness to my itinerary.  That can simply mean going for a run in the downtown centre or even signing up for a fitness class.  I like the change of scenery and it is fun to incorporate fitness into my travels. 

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Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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