By MAKWENA MANAKA
If you’re guilty of binging fast food and tucking into blankets in response to plummeting temperatures, you are probably thinking about making some lifestyle changes. Be it for weight loss, better nutrition or general wellness, a lifestyle change will leave your body feeling energetic as Spring fast approaches.
Covid-19 regulations have resulted in periodic closures and reopenings of gyms, fitness centres, and parks. Many outdoor enthusiasts have been forced to find alternative ways of keeping fit, like exercising from home and connecting with sports clubs, personal fitness trainers, and friends online. The rise in the cost of food due to panic buying, price gouging, and supply chain disruptions due to recent unrest has also made it harder to afford nutritious foods.
The necessity for social distancing has disrupted conventional approaches to people’s wellbeing, and Makhanda’s local fitness industry and amateur sports clubs have had to look for innovative ways to sustain their businesses and organisations and keep their members active. Adherence to the new normal remains essential as we face challenges of vaccination reluctance and continuous spikes in Covid-19 infections.
I visited several stakeholders to explore how spaces concerned with physical wellness have endured the pandemic and reinvented themselves in this testing period. From local gyms and personal fitness trainers to sports clubs and grocery stores, I share this series of stories devoted to recognising the vanguards of health and physical activity in Makhanda and the positive role their services play in the wellbeing of our residents.
If these stories resonate with you and you would like to feature in one of the upcoming series, you can direct your emails at email@example.com.
Summer body goals lift local fitness industry
Abongile Deliwe, 25, is a Sunshine Coast Classic bodybuilding show 1st Lightweight winner and fitness trainer with a decade of fitness experience.
The relaxation of the National State of Disaster regulations to Level 3 has allowed gyms to reopen. Abongile, a Makhanda resident, has seen a rise in clients requesting his fitness training services: “Well, it might be because summer is near and they want to have beach bodies by December but can’t deny the fact that people want to be outside and workout because being indoors is depressing, and field workouts are still safer than being inside a gym in these covid times.”, says Abongile.
Abongile got into the sport of bodybuilding as a teenager: “When I was in high school, I didn’t play much sport. I was just interested in bodybuilding, so I spent all my high school years building my body, then I decided to finally start competing in 2017.”
The National Lockdown of March 2020 forced Abongile to take a hiatus from competitive bodybuilding as gyms closed and bodybuilding competitions were cancelled.
Abongile was able to continue earning an income as a personal fitness trainer, albeit with challenges. “I could only do online training, most people I train didn’t have access to Wi-Fi or data for online, so business was bad, no training no income,” says Abongile.
Abongile fears that a resurgence of high Covid-19 infections could result in a return to stricter Covid-19 regulations. He says, “If infection numbers go up, we lock down, business fail.”
He says it’s important to adhere to Covid-19 regulations and learn to live with the virus. The same way communities have learnt to live with other viruses so that businesses can thrive.
For enquiries into Abongile’s services, WhatsApp 0661260519.
Loyal members get gym through Covid
Rose Palmer is the owner of The Fitness Box with CrossFit Grahamstown on Rautenbach road in Makhanda. The gym opened in 2014 and has provided physical fitness services to the town’s young and old.
Although the gym recently closed for 5 months due to Covid-19 regulations, the gym prides itself in maintaining a large contingent of its clients from adjusting to online fitness classes.
Since reopening, the gym has been divided into sections, with two people allowed in each section. The gym follows Covid-19 regulations, including the wearing of masks, sanitizing hands and equipment.
Rose says the biggest hurdle to her business operation is the limited space and the closing and reopening of the gym due to Covid-19 regulations. However, the continued support of her clients has assisted the gym in enduring the challenges of the pandemic.
“They just love this place. It feels like it’s a family here. Anyone that comes here will tell you. They feel like they can’t lose this place.”
Rose says that the health risk the Covid-19 poses has highlighted the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
“Being call it fit or doing any movement of any type is essential. I think Covid, and the guidelines around it, has emphasised that and not just from physical health but mental health. You know people get to come here and just for an hour of their day just to get out and do something. It’s the one thing that they don’t have to think twice about.”
If you’re interested in Crossfit Grahamstown’s services, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fun and health with Mó Community Health Initiative
“Fun and Health With Mó” is a start-up club by Makhada East resident Mongezi “Mo” Plank. The club was established in 2019 and aimed to better Makhanda communities through sports and events targeting the youth.
His son’s interest inspired Mo in sport and participation in extra-mural activities. He was concerned about the lack of recreational activities for his son outsides of school and feared he would be exposed to harmful activities.
“Kids are going out of their community looking for role models; they look to TV and social media and Celebrities flaunting booze and drugs. But they’re not showing that hosting parties are part of brainstorming and hard working. I would like our kids to start looking to Father’s and parents as role models.”
The club has weekly training sessions that include bodyweight training and running. Members train Monday to Saturday at 5:30 pm. The club hosts long runs and boot camps at Fingo Square (also known as Soccer-city).
The club members plan to register the initiative as a non-profit organization.
“This will allow us to benefit from the Department of Sport and Recreation (Arts & Culture) via equipment and medals when we are hosting events and other sources that can support.”
The club has managed to sustain itself through the monetary contribution of its members, private and local business donors, including Oasis, Just Milk, and Major Frasers.
Mo says Fun and Health With Mó got off to a shaky year and a half due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The need for outdoor facilities such as Fingo Square to exercise made it impossible under Level 5 regulations, and attendance declined despite the relaxed regulations.
The club, however, managed to host two events, including a run from Grahamstown to Bathurst. The club aims to make it an annual event and set a date to host it in October at Fingo Square to promote a clean Makhanda.
“Before winter, the plans were to establish an under-14 runners and netball club. We want to take kids off the streets and help boost confidence through sports discipline. Keep them busy and active to stop minds thinking drugs and alcohol abuse.”
Mo says the club’s registration will give members access to the local sports centre over rainy days and winter months.
“We have dedicated kids and parents who want to keep exercising through bad days as much as good days.”
If you’re interested in joining the club or donate to the initiative, contact Mo on 0635482903
Karate kicks the Covid bore
East Cape Shotokan-Ryu is a karate dojo is located on Hill Street in Makhanda. The dojo was opened in 2004 by head instructor Gary Grapentin.
The karate sensei was introduced to Judo when he was six years old and transitioned to practising Karate in East London in 1985.
After attaining a black belt, Gary moved to Port Alfred in 1995, where he was asked to take over instructor responsibilities at a local dojo.
Gary moved to Makhanda in 2004 and describes his move as a natural progression.
“I think being a bigger centre, there are more schools here. The pool, if you like, for more students is much bigger.”
Gary’s dojo attracts primary and high school learners, adults, and instructors at Rhodes University. He also gives lessons at Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea.
He says that teaching in Makhanda attracts people from different backgrounds to come together to learn Karate.
“I think one of the things I really appreciate about Karate is that whatever your station is in life, one is always respected for amount of effort and hard work in their training. So I think it’s a great way to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.”
As school sports and sports clubs are forced to close due to Covid-19 regulations, Gary says parents are looking for alternative spaces for their children’s physical activity.
“I think from a parent’s perspective, the self-discipline which Karate gives young people is one of the primary reasons parents bring their children here.”
“I think for me personally, although the self-defence aspect is essential, it’s more about the development of character and quite a holistic approach to life in general. Making one’s self stronger and resilient in difficult times.”
It is this resilience to adapt the dojo to Covid-19 regulations that it has seen many beginners join.
The dojo ensures that its students are screened and sanitized upon entry and encouraged to bring as few items as possible to the dojo to prevent cross-contamination on surfaces. Students also maintain a distance of 1,5 to 2 meters, and partner work is prohibited.
“We are very fortunate in karate because we have got something called kata, which are forms that we practice and there’s a strong focus on key and basic techniques, so we still get to give our students a good workout and good training despite not doing contact work at this point.”
Gary remains concerned about the threat of the Covid-19 Delta variant on Makhanda and his business. This comes after it was forced to close for four months in 2020. Gary says having a permanent venue was the difference between closing for good and reopening. He is, however, optimistic and hopes vaccine rollouts will assist in the fight against Covid-19.
Gary encourages physical activity and emphasises its connection to mental health.
“There’s a strong link between physical and mental health as well, and people have realised being in isolation that social activity and physical activity are essential to good health. So I think people are looking for alternative ways to exercise, and I think Karate is one of those.”
For more information on East Cape Shotokan-Ryu, email email@example.com or call 0733460059.