This month we celebrate World Move for Health Day, and there’s no better advocate for activity than the vibrant Khethiwe Mlangeni – a mother and co-founder of PopUpGym, a lifestyle brand aimed at the health and fitness of women and children.
Entrepreneur Khethiwe Mlangeni (38) is a proud Diamond Vitality member whose health – and career – took off when she started prioritising a more active lifestyle. We caught up with Khethiwe to hear how practising positive habits changed her life.
Q: What made you decide to get serious about your health and fitness?
A: For many years, I wasn’t active, and my eating habits were inconsistent. I cooked and ate without putting much thought into it. I was a seasonal weight gainer, especially after winter and after the festive season. When I was pregnant back in 2006, I weighed 85kg. By 2011, I was down to 65kg and was on holiday with my family when my then-6-year-old said, “Mommy, are you going to have a baby? Your tummy looks like you’re going to have a baby.” At the time I thought I was pretty much ok, because I had lost the weight from my last pregnancy. The shock that my child could see me as out of shape was what motivated me to change my unhealthy ways.
Q: When and how did you start changing your lifestyle?
A: It freaked me out so much, I started changing my habits right away – from no activity to five days a week. I just knew that’s not how I wanted to be, and that drove me. I joined a gym, found a personal trainer and started running. I even signed up for the Two Oceans marathon, and just a year later, I completed a 56km! But you know, although I was training a lot, I was still eating badly. I thought, I’ve worked so hard but I’m not seeing results. That’s the reality if you don’t get the food right.
I then consulted a dietitian, who helped with understanding healthy portion sizes. I wanted to keep eating foods that were culturally familiar, so I had to explore how to cook the meals I’m used to in healthier ways – maybe change my normal white rice for a healthier type, maybe air-fry my chicken instead? It was a journey, but once I married healthier eating with exercise, the results started to show. For example, during my 2006 pregnancy, I picked up an extra 35kg, but during my 2018 pregnancy, I picked up just 17kg. The difference was that I was much healthier.
Q: As a busy working mom, how did you make time to stay fit?
A: I started keeping a ‘fit-schedule’ on my phone calendar, which is a personal appointment I make with myself. I set aside an hour daily for exercise, and I change the activities weekly to keep it exciting. This week’s ‘fit-schedule’ is GRID at gym on Monday, a 5km run outdoors on Tuesday, yoga on Wednesday, a different 5km route on Thursday, and weight training on Friday. This has really worked to help keep me motivated and accountable in my training.
Q: How do you prioritise fitness in your family now?
A: Health and fitness have become a lifestyle in my home. My husband caught onto it a year after I started and we all play basketball once a week at our local park. My husband and I discuss our activity plans for the week and we always keep ready-packed gym bags in the car. The kids have caught onto this too. Last December, we were packing for a holiday and my 12-year-old asked if he could pack shoes for when we go running. My heart just smiled.
Q: Tell us about PopUpGym – how did it start?
A: Letshego Zulu and I started PopUpGym out of a desire to help people get fit in a fun way. Our aim is to prove that you can enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle anywhere, anytime. We want to get South Africans moving and show people there is so much variety when it comes to physical activity.
Q: How does Vitality motivate you?
A: I feel I get rewarded for doing the right thing. Weekly smoothies and healthy meals are a great bonus to keep me doing what I love, but my favourite benefit is the 35% saving on flights that you get on Diamond Vitality status. It makes a HUGE difference! I also like that you can add friends to your Vitality Active Rewards leaderboard and track each other’s progress. This way, you’re accountable and you can be a source of inspiration to your circle.
Q: Finally, what are your tips for others?
- Have a goal – do you want to be fit, lose weight, or run your first 5km?
- Have a plan on how you want to get there – give yourself a year, not 12-week quick-fixes.
- Explore different exercise options – boutique gyms, dance fitness, running clubs, the list is endless. Try different things to see what it is you like.
- Invest in your eating – Try keeping a food journal for just seven days – record everything you eat or drink and decide at the end if they are good for your body.
- Have fun with the journey – Create or join a circle of like-minded friends. The power of a WhatsApp group is amazing!
Enjoy getting active in a variety of ways with Vitality
Did you know that people of all ages and fitness levels can participate in a Walk, run, cycle, swim, golf, race ... Vitality offers you many ways to get fit. Join a health club, link a fitness device to track your activity, take part in race events and join Team Vitality, our running and cycling club.
Like to hit the gym? Save up to 75% on your monthly gym fees and boost your savings up to a 100% with Vitality Active Rewards Gym Booster, or head outdoor and earn points for walks and runs.
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