Written by: Thandiwe Ngubeni
I started my fitness journey in school a long time ago as it was compulsory. Unlike some of my friends, I loved school sports. The five-days-a-week practices and matches. The camaraderie between the team and coaches. And the sense of eliteness found in being in the top team.
But like all things, school came to an end and I found myself at university where, three-days-a-week practices were as rare as getting rid of acne in a day. And slowly but surely I stopped doing any form of sport or exercise. And for about three years I didn’t do any sports or workouts. That is until one day I decided to join a friend at a gym in Cape Town and immediately signed up with a trainer.
Within the first few sessions I found myself unable to do simple movements that I had mastered in my heyday. One of the moves that motivated me to keep going however was the plank. I couldn’t even hold it for 30 seconds (which for my standards was low). I wanted to get back to a healthier and fit version of myself and so I persisted.
But even though my motivation was coming back, I realized that my body was in a lot of pain when I worked out. More so than usual. This is when I decided to see a chiropractor who informed me that I had dislocated my spine from stress. FROM STRESS, can you believe it?!
From that moment on I decided to make an effort in realigning and building my body. I joined a pilates studio and a yoga studio and continued with my private sessions at the gym to help heal my spine.
Yoga for me was difficult in the first few months as my muscles, tendons and fascia muscles were stuck together. And some of my major muscle groups were underdeveloped from years of incorrect use. 6 months in however, I got bored and despondent towards yoga and gave it a rest. This was when another friend of mine introduced me to boxing. I did this for about 5 months until I moved back to Johannesburg and couldn’t find a gym that could suit my budget.
Having just gone through a break up, I decided to dive back into taking care of myself by working out and going to yoga. Because I was not familiar with my neighborhood yet, I did my practices at home on my balcony. Instead of joining a studio, I joined yoga challenges on instagram where you have to post the various asanas (moves) that are required of you daily or weekly.
I found a challenge by two African-American women who had similar journeys to mine and I was inspired by how far they had come over the years. I also liked the fact that they also tackled the issue of diet and nutrition. Which let’s face it, is a nemesis for most of us.
As I said, I get bored easily, and so I fell off the yoga wagon again, thinking that I was just being lazy. But, in actual fact, I found that yoga is not my primary form of physical care and so as soon as I accepted that, it opened me up to other forms of exercise. Exercise’s like Dancing in Heels run by Takkies. This only happens once a week but it adds fun to my repertoire of different forms of physical activity.
I like being physical but I also know that not everyone is the same. I think it is important for people to find the exercises, gym, or studios that work for them. After all, health and fitness isnt a one size fits all. The most important thing is to find something that makes you sweat, keeps your muscles engaged and stretched.
People always ask how I started and how I found what I like. And the answer is always the same. You have to look and listen out for things that sound interesting to you and give it a try. But it is also important to REALLY take it easy in the first month if you haven’t exercised in a long time (like 3-5 years). As your body needs to readjust to the new routine and the use of your muscles.
For those who cannot afford to go to gyms or studios, youtube is a great source of information and education.
Remember, the first step is to start.