South African online fitness programmes

Can cyberspace help you get into shape?


With the advent of a new contingency of South African online fitness programmes and communities, it’s suddenly become less excusable to join the ranks of those included in the shockingly high national obesity statistic (a figure which has been on the rise according to a 2010 GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) report).

As nearly 9 million South Africans have Internet access, virtual exercise regimens and online workouts - which you can access anywhere, at any time for free or at a portion of the cost of most other fitness memberships or group classes - are undermining the usual heavyweight excuses:

  • I can’t afford to keep fit (meaning, gym memberships, personal trainers, etc. are too expensive)
  • I don’t have time to keep fit

“I tend to do one to two workouts a day: one in the morning and one in the evening. It sounds like a lot, but in reality, it is quite attainable, as each workout is short (between 10 and 15 minutes), but very intense,” says Alana Johnstone, the founder  of  REVOLfitness (revol.co.za), a little slice of cyberspace devoted to sharing innovative workouts and nutritional advice.

If her figure is anything to go by, her sporadic, high-energy sessions pay-off, and as she further explains, “my workouts provide more benefit than a two-hour stint at the gym because you will keep burning energy even a couple of hours after you’ve finished.”

Needless to say, by eliminating the need for long treks to a workout facility and by crafting short, sweet regimens that even corporates with 80-hour workweeks can slot into their schedule,  Alana’s online exercise programmes make getting fit convenient and accessible. Not to mention, the equipment she uses is environmentally-friendly;  she came up with the idea to produce innovative, hard-to-find fitness equipment made from recycled products, such as sailing cloth and old climbing ropes.

On a similar note, even those who plead personal trainer poverty can find an equitable (and affordable) solution thanks to an online community started by Elan Lohmann, a man better known as SleekGeek. His virtual platform provides individuals the opportunity to sign-up for an eight-week weight loss or toning challenge at a price. Meaning, participants pledge a certain amount of money to the community, and if they win the contest at the end of the two month period, they take home a significant cash prize (~20,000). More importantly though, the community offers a level of motivation and support similar to what could be provided by a qualified professional.

“Our Facebook page allows individuals the opportunity to ask fitness or diet related questions and to share tips, and it is an excellent tool for establishing and maintaining important contacts with similar-minded individuals,” explains Elan.

Having quit his high-powered corporate position to start the SleekGeek online community, Elan is as passionate as Alana (and as countless others) about fitness; and luckily, CapeTownMagazine.com had the pleasure of sitting down with both trailblazers to find out more about why exercise jumpstarted by virtual platforms gets their heart racing.

CapeTownMagazine: Where did your inspiration for online fitness begin?

Alana:  When my husband and I adopted our two huskies, we stopped having the time to do our usual outdoor activities. I was forced to come up with an effective way to stay fit at home. I did extensive research online, and gained plenty of inspiration and information regarding fitness, diet and correct postures during exercising.

From there, I started to develop my own exercise programmes, which my husband Rory filmed and posted on the REVOLfitness website. The name comes from our goal of instigating a fitness revolution, and also means a person who is a LOVER (REVOL spelled backwards) of fitness. The website has snowballed significantly in a short space of time, and we couldn’t be happier. 

Elan: I didn’t start out as a fitness fanatic. I’m a corporate person and worked in a high-stress environment for over 12 years. There wasn’t really enough time for me to go to the gym or to worry about a healthy diet. Late nights and take-aways was a way of life, and it eventually took its toll on my health. One day, I wanted to get into shape for a holiday, and I had only six weeks in which to attain my goal weight. As a way of motivating myself, I decided to challenge my friends on twitter to join me in a weight-loss challenge. All participants had to put forward R500 in order to join, and the person who lost the most weight in the given period won the money. I roped in the help of a friend who is a gym fanatic to help judge the competition. In the end, it received so much attention online that I decided to start SleekGeek: an online community where individuals can sign up for an eight week weight-loss or toning challenge at a price. The winner of each category can receive up to R20 000 in cash, as well as some amazing prizes from sponsors. Participants can do anything to attain their goal; some individuals prefer doing exercise outdoors, while others prefer to work out in the gym. Whatever you can do to achieve your fitness goal is up to you; it just needs to be sustainable, and that is why I have created this online community as a support mechanism, and I lead by example. As for the name SleekGeek, it refers to the balance between body (sleek) and mind (geek) in fitness.

CapeTownMagazine: Why did you choose cyberspace as a platform to start your business?

Alana: These days everything is online, and I find that – thanks to social networking - it is the most convenient way to reach your audience. REVOL.co.za  is ideal for people with a busy schedule; all of our videos are available on our YouTube channel and website, and there are also printable versions of the workout for future use.

Elan: I’m a digital professional, so it seemed like the obvious choice for me to use my knowledge of online technology to reach my target market. The Internet also allows me to reach a large community of people at a low cost. It is a great tool for participants to engage in conversations with me and each other.

CapeTownMagazine: What has the response been so far from the public? 

Alana: The response has been overwhelming; from all over the world people tell us how much they love the workouts, and they often share the amazing results they achieve in such a short space of time.

All this inspires us too to make even more amazing workouts in order to show people that you don't need fancy or expensive equipment or gym contracts to get yourself in the best possible shape and health.

Elan: We have enjoyed amazing exposure since starting the site earlier this year (2012). Because of the impressive results from past winners and past participants, we have seen an exponential increase in the number of visits on the site. Readers can see how the SleekGeek challenge has managed to change an individual’s life with before-and-after photos posted on the site, and we find that the visual impact of these images also serves as an important word-of-mouth marketing tool.

CapeTownMagazine: Can people utilise your site as a tool to ask fitness related questions or get motivation from you or others?

Alana: Definitely! If you ask questions on our Facebook page (REVOL), myself or someone else can share their experiences regarding fitness or diet. I also try to motivate people to visit the site and see what my times or reps are for the workouts- I find that people don’t push themselves that hard if there is no time or rep challenge to beat!

Elan:
As I mentioned earlier, we regard ourselves as a community aimed at motivating and providing support to each other in our fitness quest. Our Facebook page allows individuals the opportunity to ask fitness or diet related questions and to share tips, and it is an excellent tool for establishing and maintaining important contacts with similar-minded individuals. I am also constantly in contact with past and present participants. It is always so rewarding to get feedback from individuals whose lives have been dramatically changed by the SleekGeek program.  

CapeTownMagazine: What are the future plans for your online fitness website?

Alana: We hope to get people excited about fitness, and to ensure they achieve a healthy shape that won’t take up a large chunk of their day, or money.

Elan: My goal is to motivate and transfer 100 000 South Africans towards a healthier lifestyle. I also want to start cooking classes where you can learn how to cook healthy meals and move away from bad habits, such as buying and eating convenience foods. Right now we are preparing ourselves for the Summer 2012 Challenge. It starts on the 1st of September, so participants still have time to enter.

---By Adri de Kock

If you still prefer to get your fitness fix the old fashion way, take a look at our list of top gyms in Cape Town.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle and check out our Pinterest boards for updates. 

 

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