Innocent Choga Fitness
One needs to consider several factors carefully when selecting an ideal gym and an effective instructor. I have had numerous enquiries from people who want to join a gym and would like to know which gym to join and whether they should engage the services of an instructor.
Selecting a gym depends on one’s goals and intentions; we all have different aspirations. Some people would like to exercise just to maintain their fitness, or gain strength and power for other sporting disciplines. Others wish to build their bodies, some to lose weight while others do it for rehabilitation purposes or for post rehabilitation fitness.
Personally, I think for fitness, weight loss and body-building any gym will do. A bar, weights, a pair of dumbbells, a bench and a squat stand can be enough. I started gym training in Mufakose and after a year and a half of training my friend, Oliver Sabau, and I were offered free training at a classy gym (in those days) in town called Hercules on the basis that we had potential as body-builders.
That was after we placed well in junior tournaments. Later on even after winning the national championships I would still train in Mbare, Matapi, Dzivaresekwa and many other high-density gyms.
Even though I did not live there, I enjoyed the variety of training in different environments and sharing notes with others as there was a lot to learn from these guys. It is sad though that most of the high-density facilities are now run down.
For specialised training, one has to scrutinise the equipment and other facilities as the state of machines is very important.
For example, soccer players, rugby players, sprinter and marathon runners are interested in strengthening the area above the knees and conditioning the hamstrings, therefore there are two machines that are very important for them, the leg extension and the hamstring curl machines. So they have to make sure these are in good working condition.
Run down and wobbly machines can cause injuries or further aggravate injuries for those intending to exercise for rehabilitation.
For me, modern equipment is now a must as I am getting older and I have to be careful to avoid stressing joints. Instead I should be conditioning them, so I like the comfortable machines. A sauna and or a steam room are a must for me; they are like a massage after a workout.
But this is me, I am spoilt I have trained in many gyms including the worst and best. I would rather jog and exercise at home than train with run down equipment.
I recall suffering a knee injury at a certain gym. I was not the only person affected. After discussion with other gym members we discovered that a machine was the culprit and we decided to omit it in our routines.
The gym does not have to be equipped with a wide array of machines. One can improvise where there is lack of equipment. An innovative instructor or athlete can come up with numerous exercises on a machine that is designed for one exercise.
An important criterion is affordability. This will ensure sustainable and continuous use of exercise facilities while avoiding financial stress.
Another main criterion for selecting a gym is proximity. The gym could be close to one’s work place or home. This ensures easy accessibility, therefore reducing the chances of skipping workouts.
One might want to look at the management and customer services of the gym. From my experience, some, if not most of the gyms in Zimbabwe do not pay close attention to the maxim “customer is king”. I am not implying that they do not handle their clients well, but they do not put an extra effort in customer services, customer retention or market expansion strategies.
I stand to be corrected, but there is one gym that has taken a lead and is much ahead of other gyms in terms of marketing. They even have radio programmes and they are promoting athletes and instructors who train at their gym. I thought other gyms would follow suit but it is taking a long time.
Internationally, most gyms now have customer relations managers. Since I stopped training at certain gyms I have never received a call to find out why I stopped. They seem happy to just lose custom and leave it at that without trying to find out why one has dropped and if they can be convinced to return.
Space and ventilation should also be considered. If say one is asthmatic, a high roof and large spacious training areas are ideal. Because we sweat, breathe fast and when it is hot a cramped area makes it difficult to exercise well.
The exercise programmes offered like aerobic classes are also important. Other members go as far as scrutinising the instructors involved, we will discuss this issue in a separate article.
Some gyms have multiple exercise disciplines to their advantage for example karate, judo or even swimming pools under one roof.
Being a serious jazz fan, I could not miss the honour of talking to one of my favourite Zimbabwean jazz musicians Prudence Katomeni Mbofana who sometimes trains at one of Harare leading gyms.
Prudence cannot remember when she started training at the gym but judging by the name of the gym she mentioned it must have been a long time ago.
Prudence said she has always been an active person. She participated in numerous sporting activities at school though not competitively.
Among the sports she participated in are swimming, tennis, (diving though it is a dying sport in Zimbabwe now). Her father was an avid fitness fanatic and he did a lot of swimming since they had a swimming pool at home.
Prudence defies her age in appearance, she is a mother of four boys who are eighteen, sixteen, five and two and half years old.
Prudence said although she started way back, exercising is something she took for granted and only started appreciating as she grew older. She finds it energising and it helps her to handle the stress associated with her work.
Her tours to overseas countries in particular the French tour which she said was very intense made her appreciate her fitness lifestyle as she was able to handle the stress with ease.
Prudence said: “These days I am very busy I am not going to the gym. I will definitely go back when I find time, but I exercise at home. I run, I use the skipping rope and we do have a few light weights at home which I sometimes use. I do my exercises following the principles that my trainer at the gym taught me. My children find it funny and they join me at times especially when I skip the rope. As for dieting I only do that when I am working out for a project, otherwise I like my food, although as a family we try to eat well.”
Prudence says she is grateful because she is enjoying good health at the moment. She says her visits to the doctor are mainly for check-ups.
She also advises: “It is ideal that those who can exercise should do so in these times when diseases are wrecking havoc. I know not everybody can afford to go to a gym, but one can just access the internet and find some exercises that they can do at home.”
Historical perspectives indicate that initially exercising, sport and recreation were a preserve for the affluent, since they had access to facilities and had leisure time to engage in such activities.
The lower classes would be too busy working. That has since changed but there are some individuals who still confuse physically induced stress and weariness for fitness.
To them only the affluent need to exercise since they have access to labour saving gadgets and plenty of processed foods, but that is not true. Everyone is falling prey to non-communicable diseases due to overworking and unbalanced diets.
Therefore we all need to unwind and reinvigorate ourselves through exercises.
Innocent Choga is a six-time National Bodybuilding Champion with international experience. He is studying for a science degree in Physical Education and Sport.