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Fabulously fit and influential

The transformation that is Morati Sethabela is almost unbelievable judging from her before and after pictures.

The 35-year-old, originally from Sebokeng, in the Vaal, could be mistaken for the bulky and sexy Serena Williams with her strong physique.

Her Facebook and Instagram pages are lit with her exercise videos and inspirational messages.

But she was not always a gym bunny.

"I actually started exercising in 2010, after giving birth to my son, but I was clueless about what I was doing because I focused too much on cardio-exercise. I lost weight but I was what we call "skinny fat". It means not enough muscle and too much fat," says Sethabela.

She also participated in road running but it wasn't something she enjoyed.

"I just did it to maintain my weight and it was also a perfect method to slim my thunder thighs."

She explains that her proper fitness journey kicked off two years ago.

"After giving birth, I had FUPA: fatty upper pubic area, an excess of fatty tissue or loose skin located on or directly above the mom's pubis. I didn't like how I looked and I was overweight. I decided to be active, that's when I started using a very small gym at work and entered races. But I've only been lifting weights for six months," she says.

Sethabela, who now has arms of steel, says when she first started exercising it was painful and almost deterred her from continuing.

"I am the kind of the person who gives everything when I start something. Now I've developed [a] passion about fitness. Seeing my body change is the biggest motivator for me. I love muscles."

As a deputy-director at a government department, she prefers to go to gym in the morning before work.

About her fitness social media pages, she said it came as a request from people who asked her for tips. "I started both pages last year. People would send inbox messages and ask me for tips, I thought I might as well start a page where I'll share tips and exercise routines with other ladies to help them with their fitness journey. I also share my meals on Facebook. The ladies love it. I have about 275 members to date," she says.

Her only rest day is on a Tuesday. Weekdays are for the gym and on weekends she goes hiking and offers High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) one-on-one sessions.

"My trainer, Tony, helped me devise an eating plan. I start by taking creatine, then oats with mixed berries and almonds with black coffee. Post-workout: I usually have eggs, avo, tomato/sausage or tuna in salt water with crackers.

"Lunch is usually chicken breast and salad, fish with veggies, lean red meat with veggies or brown rice. I don't snack but when I do I'd have plain yoghurt with mixed nuts or protein bar or fruit. For supper I have protein and veggies or protein shake. And I drink two or more litres of water daily and zero fizzy drinks." On cheat day she enjoys a glass or two of red wine, chocolate or skopas.

Ophela Mhlauli

Ophela Mhlauli, a 21-year-old student at the University of Johannesburg, has gone from an insecure overweight teen to a fabulous fitness influencer. She's also a regular on the pages of fitness magazines.

"My journey started six years ago while I was still in high school, I was not happy with my body at all," she says.

She started by jogging once a week, then twice a week and before she knew it she had become a full fitness bunny.

"I looked at the pain as progress - if it hurts then I'm definitely doing something right and a little bit closer to my dream body. If you train once a week then you are going to feel that pain every day and every week but if you train every day, eat the right nutrition and get enough rest then your body becomes used to it and you start seeing results. Plus I really enjoy it," she says.

She was inspired to start her fitness brand, Fit_Ophela, last year after seeing many people trust and believe in her work.

"Just by posting my own journey, many people - men and women - asked me to train them and questioned how to get fit and healthy."

Wardah Hartley

Wardah Hartley, a former sports presenter on eNCA, quit her TV job to indulge in her passion for fitness.

Recently married and having given birth to her first child, Hartley started her fitness journey and business almost four years ago.

"I left traditional media to pursue my passion in fitness and helping people be the best version of themselves. I am not too focused on money. I am in this profession to change lives, not to make loads of money."

Having qualified as a personal trainer, she now provides exclusive one-on-one personal training, on-line training, and a FABUFIT 12-week Lifestyle Change programme.

But before this, she too went through trial and error to get the right formula for a wholesome lifestyle right.

"I succeeded after trial and error and learnt so much chatting to different experts. I wanted to create an information hub that was everything health and wellness that people could turn to as a resource to help them not make the same mistakes I did on my transformation journey."

She says her first taste of satisfaction was in 2011 when she took on HIIT classes at a boutique gym called SWEAT1000 and seeing results.

"Since then, I have diversified my training."

Take a leaf out of these fitness fundis' books

  • Singer Thembi Seete started a fitness page on Instagram this week.

        In a space of a few days she has more than 13,000 followers as she promises to              teach them how she achieved and maintains her six pack - this so soon after                  having her daughter last year.

  • Mali Ramara is an inspiration. Despite suffering from Lupus of the brain she is determined to stay fit and motivate others with terminal diseases.
  • Mapule Ndlovhu, better known as "Queenfitnass", has more than 125,000 followers worldwide.
  • Tabia Majors is an international plus-sized model who insists that even big girls can be active, healthy and fit.

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