Still I Rise


AJ Poua, creating a cool community vibe at her Great North Road gym

Poised to begin a Personal Trainer course in 2016, AJ Pouoa’s intentions were cut short when an accident left her paralysed. While still in the spinal unit, AJ was determined that being in a chair was not going to beat her. She returned to the course graduating from Fit College as Student of the Year.


Three years on, AJ has been nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in the national Attitude Awards, to be determined at a Gala event in November. The nomination acknowledges her work as owner of Wheelie Active – a PT business she began after her accident to assist other spinal-unit patients to get fit, build confidence and participate in para-sports. Several have gone on to represent Auckland and New Zealand in wheelchair basketball, table tennis, waka ama, athletics and others, with their eyes on the Paralympic Games.


Last year, AJ won the Pacific Health and Well-being Award at the Pacific Awards for the same work, an award won by David “Butterbean” Letele in 2017.


Now, at 38 years old, AJ brings her message to Avondale’s doorstep, having bought over the gym at 1852 Great North Road and rebranded it as Ryze – a name befitting of her work for clients of all capabilities.


“After a debilitating event,” says Pouoa, “it’s so easy to fall into a deep dark hole of depression. My advice is, ‘Don’t stay there!’ You’re going to feel alone and like life isn’t fair, but it’s not always going to be like that. Opportunities present themselves in the most profound ways, like they did for me. You have the opportunity to create a whole new life. Just be patient with yourself and take as much time as you need to heal and try new things. Wheelie life isn’t what you think it is, there’s a whole community out there and so much support. ”


It’s a message that is relevant to all; and just one reason the culture at the gym is so engaging.


Amongst a growing membership, Ryze is proud to host Kia Toa – a group of domestic violence survivors; Community Approach with kick-boxer Scott Aitken - training at-risk youths; as well as a number of sports clubs, consisting of regional and national athletes.


If you’re looking for a family-friendly fitness environment, Ryze Fitness is for you. Look out for the BBQ Beat Down – a Ryze block party later this month.