Erik Ackner

The co-founder of UrTurn & SHIFT describes his weekend in the ‘Du
Erik is a talented event organizer from Germany that brought global events such as the Fête de la Musique, Startup Weekend and the Global Citizen Festival to Chengdu and is now working on his newest baby, SHIFT, a fitness platform that aims to create Chengdu’s biggest active fitness community, championing brands that promote health & lifestyle in China’s South West. 

Erik Ackner, what a fox!


My daily motto: “Step out of your comfort zones!”

People from Chengdu say that once you arrive in this city, you will never want to leave again. Well I’m here for my third time and third year: first as an exchange student, then an intern, and finally as a master-student who came here with the daily mission to organize something cool in this city. For me Chengdu is similar to Berlin actually, its pace is slow and relaxed, which allows people to be creative. This creativity is now transforming Chengdu’s hip hop, music, dance and art scene into one of the best all over China.

Why I love Chengdu

For me Chengdu has some kind of food-fun-freedom magic that binds me to the place. Despite all the small and big obstacles that are thrown at me daily; the beep beeps, toot toots, haalloooos, push you here, yell at you there and whatever else is there to test your patience, I love this city! Chengdu forces and helps me to get out of my comfort zones by constantly creating new ones, mostly better than the ones I was used to before! Lately this means for me: strive for a healthier lifestyle; now let me tell you how.


My weekends

In fact, I devoted my life in Chengdu to building communities. Be it to help entrepreneurs realizing their star up-dreams; pushing people to mingle and culturally exchange at events, promote talented artists at local music festivals, raise funds at charity events or simply provide opportunities to meet and share the happiness of doing something good. This of course affected also my weekends which I usually spent attending or organizing events on Saturdays or Sundays, joining meetings or sitting in my office to work on the next ones.

“I believe in the power of communities and people, helping to bringing them together makes me happy as then seemingly individual small steps can turn into big movements when done together. I call it “events for a good cause”.


Erik at a UrTurn Event
Erik at a UrTurn Event


In the evenings you could find me at one of my favourite bars like The Beer Nest chatting with friends or business partners over some beers. To be honest this lifestyle was highly unhealthy, I gained weight, lost my physical fitness, drank too much alcohol and was mentally tired as I rarely took a break for myself. When thinking back, just two years ago I was running a 50-people sport club in Berlin that weekly sport events ranging from climbing, canoeing, archery to golfing or Zumba, we wanted to try everything. I ran half-marathons, participated in long-distance swimming contests, marched 30-40km day-walks, joined CrossFit clubs and helped a Berlin startup called JoinEasy to create a social network focusing on sportsmen – and women. I needed to change.


My new healthy comfort zone – aka weekends spend to improve and promote fitness

After realizing that I can’t go on exploiting my body and health I introduced a few healthier habits. My weekends since are spent without alcohol, mostly sitting on my bicycle bought from Natooke discovering cool places in Chengdu together with my girlfriend. I’m participating in weekend warrior challenges, meet with sports people in Chengdu and learn about healthy food, fitness and workouts. This change was further fostered by a conversation I had with my sporty and good friend Ruby (who is running “Welfare for Animals”) in Peters Tex Mex, together with the king of self-defense Matan from MixMe Lifestyle & Health about how cool it would be to promote a healthier lifestyle in Chengdu. All of us knew that there are plenty of great businesses and people trying to offer solutions for people here, but there is no active platform and community in Chengdu that can help them promoting these. The idea of SHIFT was born; we wanted to create this platform and once again counted on the power of community. Part of this is the organization of SHIFT day’s offering sports, healthy food and workshops for people in Chengdu. Coming Sunday is the launch of it.

Erik and his girlfriend touring Chengdu by bike
Erik and his girlfriend touring Chengdu by bike


My Saturday – setting up for SHIFT day

This Saturday I will head to Frasier Suites who are hosting the first SHIFT day early to prepare the event for Sunday. Hidden behind the curtains of all events lies a lot of organization and preparation work, this is what turns a good event into a great one! People actually won’t see this, but they can feel it! So Saturday together with the other co-organizers – Matan (MixMe), Robby (Chengdu Bujinkan Budo Taijiutsu) and Shaz (AFN/CPD nutritionist) will be busy setting up the venue. This includes health and safety checks, sound and technical equipment checks, venue signage, preparation of dust bins, setup of reception counter as well as sport and workshop spaces, prepare the food & beverage area und instruct all helpers and volunteers for the event. Check lists help to make sure that nothing will go wrong at the last minute. To take time for myself I’m also going to Taijitsu training in the afternoon spend time with my girlfriend Cress doing what we love, which is touring Chengdu by bike.  We plan to drop by Joy City to visit our friends Pete and Lulu at Jogurtwerk for some of our favourite German style frozen yoghurt.



My Sunday – managing Chengdu’s first SHIFT day

Sunday I will arrive at Fraiser Suites early, In between the busy madness of running an event for over 200 people, I will be sure to grab something healthy to eat from one of the great food stands; Healthy Gourmet, InFit Granola , Hurom, Ethos or MixMe Healthy Kitchen and probably a dessert from Cheescake Love. I will also try and join some of the great activities and workshops run by our partners (Fraser Suites, Bujinkan Budo Taijiutsu, MoreFun, Sinostage, Cooltrip, GreenMonday, ADG Dental and Global Doctors) and will finish off with a grand finale – the Natooke bike sprints!

We thought the best way to build a fitness community in Chengdu is by offering a platform where people interested in a healthy lifestyle get access to this city’s best specialized businesses, trainers and professionals in areas like sports, health, food and beverage, traveling and so on. It’s a win-win situation that helps to grow this great industry on the one hand and improves the lives of people on the other hand.

Join us this Sunday at Fraser Suites, because SHIFT happens.