Sphephelo Nzula is a motivated fitness instructor who has dedicated his time and effort to keeping individuals in the community fit and healthy, especially during South Africa’s pandemic lockdown. Nzula has built up an entire fitness class based on motivation and perseverance despite the lack of access to fitness facilities and equipment available. PDBY sat down with Nzula to speak about his progress, achievements and his innovation during this difficult time.

What does your fitness programme entail and what is its intended purpose?

My fitness programme entails aerobic, muscle, strength, endurance and flexibility training and exercise. Its purpose is to serve those individuals who are weary of going to the gym because of the pandemic, and also those individuals who do not enjoy going to the gym.

What inspired you to begin this fitness programme?

I love the ability to be able to personally interact with people and get to know them, and their reasons for wanting to be fit. Fitness is the primary reason, but I love to learn about people and engage as well as develop a personal relationship with them.

How did you get your fitness business started?

Honestly speaking, I was motivated by all my friends who have been asking for fitness advice, nutrition advice, and if I could put together individual programs for them. I remember clearly that it was a Saturday morning and I had just wrapped up a full body workout for myself, and someone asked for advice with reference to weight loss. After that, I was on my computer making him a program but I realised that he was not the only one who could benefit from this. I was then looking up different ways to make a logo, opened a WhatsApp group and added my immediate neighbours who I also asked to invite anyone they would think could benefit from my program. Shortly afterwards, I had a fitness group established.

Can you see improvements from the time you began to now?

Yes. Considering the fact that I only began with one client, numbers have grown to 31 in our group with 14 regular attendees at our classes. What stands out to me is the energy everyone has and that they portray at our training. I cannot remember someone complaining about sore muscles except maybe a little stiffness here and there after we kicked it up a notch from the previous month’s programme. I have also had quite a few testimonies. One that stands out to me is one of my clients came back and told the entire group how she had received positive comments and compliments about how she looks, even though she hadn’t mentioned that she works out to her colleagues and friends.

How have the implications of the pandemic affected your fitness programme and how have you overcome the challenges?

In terms of my client base, I have not been able to reach as many people as I would have liked to, due to social distancing practices and restrictions based on the pandemic. Although online classes were something I considered, it just does not feel as personal as it would if they were training with you personally. Consider how you would try to comfort someone if they were crying and you could not put your hand on their shoulder or look them in the eye and tell them, “It’s going to be alright” or give them a hug.

What does your fitness programme follow and include?

My fitness programme includes aerobic exercise. This is an activity that involves large muscle groups being active in a continuous, rhythmic fashion for a sustained period of time. It also includes muscular and strength exercise and endurance conditioning with a bit of flexibility exercise. Most importantly, I observe my clients and how they respond to each month’s program. The things I look for are for their overall cardiovascular ability and if it is improving or not. I also look at their muscle and strength ability, if they are getting stronger and when certain exercises should become easier as we progress. Lastly, with reference to their range of motion, especially in doing the exercise and doing it well.

How do you motivate yourself and others who sometimes lack dedication?

In terms of motivating myself, it’s never been difficult, because I am always thinking about when my next workout is and what I need to be doing for that workout. I try as much as possible to pass on that ‘gene’ to my clients during training, and also by posting regularly on our WhatsApp group. Reminders and motivations are at the top of the list in terms of what I post on our group. I always want to let my clients feel like they are engaged, and in control of how their program works and our workouts.

What do you do for yourself to stay active and fit?

I work out at the gym and at home depending on what I am doing that day. In terms of training at home, I involve a lot of intense workouts which push my heart rate really high. At the gym I focus on muscle hypertrophy, which promotes muscle strength development. Being fit is a huge part of my life, and my day does not feel complete if I do not engage in physical activity, which is a very important part of my day to day activities.

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Photo: Caitlyn Walsh

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