Blacks now hiring personal trainers to help them get fit and beautiful, writes Zenoyise Madikwa

The post-apartheid years have seen growth in the black middle-class. Blacks now make up almost a third of South Africa's middle-class.

The post-apartheid years have seen growth in the black middle-class. Blacks now make up almost a third of South Africa's middle-class.

More and more, the lifestyle trends of black people are changing.

Blacks are now hiring personal fitness trainers in droves. Once reserved for the rich and famous, personal fitness training has hit the mainstream and a personal trainer is now as common as a taxi.

Personal trainers are fitness instructors with a high level of experience and advanced qualifications.

They help clients lose weight, tone up, build muscle, get healthy and achieve fitness goals.

The sessions are usually one-on-one, unless clients are willing to share the trainer. The advantage of sharing a trainer is that the costs are also shared.

Sihle Mabona, 22, a Southgate Virgin Active personal trainer, said he offers a range of services such as exercise testing, postural exercises and helping with habitual behavior change.

Mabona said he develops and maintains physical condition by designing a specialised exercise regimen for each client.

"I set up a programme that meets the personal goals of my clients and I teach them the best way to exercise.

"I also provide individual programmes for clients to enable them to achieve their personal health and fitness goals. I also provide the motivation.

"For example, the upper body exercises are designed to strengthen the pectorals, triceps and frontal deltoids.

"A credible trainer should be able to explain his philosophy of exercise training."

Before he starts working, Mabona assesses the client's fitness and health. This includes basic cardiovascular and pulmonary functions, body composition, strength and flexibility.

This evaluation establishes the client's baseline fitness level and provides Mabona with information he needs to design a personalised initial exercise programme.

"I also address other components such as speed, power, and balance. Training should come from the personal trainer's understanding of what works best for his client and an understanding of human movement," Mabona said.

Mabona said personal trainers most often help people between the ages of 10 and 70 and are frequently hired by pregnant women.

Personal trainers provide weight training in one-on-one sessions. The trainer provides resistance to strengthen the client's working muscles.

This hands-on approach enables the trainer to sense which muscles need more attention. Over time, the trainer will come to know a client's strengths and weaknesses and will add more resistance as the client gets stronger.

But there is need for caution.

"We usually recommend that people visit a doctor before seeing us to establish that they do not have any diseases before we start our programmes," Mabona said.

The work of personal trainers involves:

l Carrying out consultations to determine the clients' fitness levels and health history;

l Setting realistic short- and long-term goals, and devising appropriate programmes to meet them;

l Educating, motivating and coaching clients to help them follow their programmes safely and effectively;

l Advising them on health, nutrition and lifestyle changes on a one-to-one basis;

l Working with clients in sessions, during which the trainer helps them with their workouts, typically using cardiovascular, strength or flexibility exercises;

l Monitoring and recording progress, using methods such as measuring heart rate and body fat.