The music is pumping, there’s panting and firm instructions rending the air. The mirrors are reflecting sincere efforts to delink from unnecessary body fat. Is it easy? Pretty much for the instructor – she has been at it for a decade now.
The other beauties are making the good effort to catch up…. More panting, sweating and a few intentions to take a break. But NO, indicates Chiki Onwukwe – the fun, easy going, Slim-Possible dance instructor. Good things are earned. So on goes the dance chisel – the call is to keep the rhythm and let dance moves chop off the not so healthy fat. Chiki is not about to stop until her trainees FEEL good in their own skin.
It’s the Chiki KuruKa dance chisel…
Before we lose the trail, the instructor begs to correct that ‘good’ in this case means fit/healthy – not slim. She reprimands a magazine title that went ‘The now slim and beautiful Kalekye’. She agrees with an incensed fan who said, ‘Kalekye Mumo (media personality) has ALWAYS been beautiful.’ “We need to stop seeing women’s fitness as directly related to beauty. The way people speak about women needs to change, to make women feel more secure, allowing them to see fitness as something that’s good in itself. Rather than something that should be done so that men find you more attractive,” avows the fitness instructor. “Kalekye was stunning before her weight loss and she remains stunning now. Her beauty was never a concern, to her own admittance her health was.
Supporting women’s fitness as fitness, is much more sustainable than weight loss goals that can be achieved – and then lost, and then achieved again, and can encourage decisions that aren’t always healthy,” Chiki tells.
Overweight and obesity
On to the health path, World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that a quarter (23 per cent) of Kenyan women aged 15 years and above are either overweight or obese. In contrast, only about seven per cent of men in the same age group are overweight or obese. WHO also points out that 44 per cent of diabetes, 23 per cent of heart disease, up to 41 per cent of cancers and a number of bone issues and psychological disorders have connections to overweight and obesity. Obesity and being overweight are the fifth leading risk of global deaths, it adds. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of these conditions. Diabetes itself affects 3.5 million Kenyans and the number is escalating, raking in younger people.
By January 2014, diabetes medication sold in Kenya was valued at Sh2.5 billion, Daily Nation reports. Those for hypertension cost Sh2 billion. Medicines for non-communicable diseases, which account for half of hospital admissions, were estimated at Sh47.4 billion in 2014. That’s a huge bill for the economy.
So when Chiki, Elizabeth, Zippy and Felister (and others be like) are dancing to break a sweat, and indulging in a healthy eating plan with less fats and sugars and rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, they are busy helping the nation to fight a scourge. And assisting it to redeem its status.
What inspired your move on women fitness? Did you see a gap? And why post-baby mums?
Women’s issue in general gives me inspiration, partly because I am a woman and partly because I feel that society is really tough on women. I am interested in creating something that makes women feel good and strong as a unit.
Any information you have come across on their emotional and physical well-being stemming from their fitness regimen or lack of it?
A lot of women lack the inspiration to work out because either they don’t enjoy it, or they are doing it for the wrong reasons, such as pressure from their spouse or society. I encourage women in my class to stop thinking about weight and instead to start thinking about health and fitness as something we should all strive for. Weight tends to be an aesthetic preference whereas fitness is something broader for us to all strive for.
How about pre-baby ladies? Is there any advantage of being fit before getting pregnant over starting on your fitness after the baby?
There is always an advantage to being fit and healthy at any point in your life. When preparing for pregnancy your chances of quickly bouncing back to your previous form are massively increased if your body is fit and healthy. Additionally when you are carrying another life, you want to create the best environment for that life.
Are there any habits/patterns you have noted in Kenya’s women fitness culture? What stands out?
This is not about women as such, but it saddens me that in Kenyan culture, people who walk are looked down upon as poor, whereas in Europe the middle class and wealthy enjoy walking as a form of exercise that easily fits into their life. I also find that the more money people make, the worse their diet becomes. Chips are the food of the middle class here, whereas in Europe chips tend to be predominantly for people who can’t afford anything else. This needs to change.
What challenges have you encountered in the fitness cause?
The biggest challenge has been motivation. Remaining fit and healthy only works if it’s a part of your overall life. Someone will come to a class, and not return for another month, and yet be surprised when they are not getting fitter.
How about the women at home who cannot afford 6,000 bob for the gym – What can they do to keep fit?
Well, first, they can watch my morning show that takes place on Citizen TV every morning at 5.30 am. That show was for people who either do not have the time, money or energy to go to the gym. At least a 30 minutes’ walk to your destination is also very effective. Or just giving yourself an hour a day at home to dance to your favourite tracks – dance until you sweat.
Must one have a personal fitness instructor? When is it a must and when could someone go about her fitness on her own?
You do not need a fitness instructor to stay fit at all. There are amazing fitness instructors in this country who can motivate and support a fitness regime that ensures a varied and full body workout. So classes are effective for fun and motivation. Online resources could as well help keep you fit. The important thing is to sweat and to feel your muscles (some soreness) the next day. That means you have really worked out.
What are those key body places a woman must work on? Why?
There is no such thing. People have their own aesthetic preferences such as wanting a big bum, or abs. Also everyone puts on weight in a different way, there is no one size fits all. As I have said, I don’t buy into aesthetically led fitness. I want people to feel good and be healthy – which is not about working on specific areas. It’s about working on the whole body – things you can see, and things you can’t see.
Some women say fitness is boring. What would you tell the lady who says so?
That fitness is just the aim (intention) and therefore we can’t say fitness is boring. That’s like saying eating is boring. Just as there are many different types of food, there are also many different types of exercise. So you just need to find the right one for you. I like all fitness, but I love to dance – I lose myself in it.
I can dance for 3/4 hours and be sweating like crazy but never once feel tired. However after 40 minutes of doing weights, I refuse to even look at a weight. Get to find what drives you,find a regime that easily fits into your life, so you don’t start and stop. Find something that you love and that you easily see results from. Humans tend to be results driven, so if you find a workout that gives you that extra spring in your step, hold onto it.
How could the government or other leading bodies support the fitness cause? What would be in it for them? A fit nation equals…?
I am actually working with a county government on this issue as we speak. Fundamentally, a healthy nation is a better functioning and productive nation. So it’s in national interest to support the fitness industry. I would say the government can make fitness seem fun, by attaching it to tourism, so it seems like something attached to holidays and good times, rather than things attached to monotony. The government could also support by providing good quality public spaces that trainers can use at low cost in order to reduce gym training costs for lower income families.
Chiki Challenge – Getting back your FIT
What’s the progress on the ongoing Babylove Network Chiki KuruKa Challenge? What’s impressing?
The women in the Babylove Network Chiki KuruKa Challenge have been INCREDIBLY dedicated, supportive of one another and fun. I have encouraged them all to be honest about what is hard for them in our group chat, which really helps with motivation. The women post things such as ‘I didn’t sleep last night because my baby was crying all night, and now I have to work out!!?’
Liz, 33 – Mother of one – Runs a fashion boutique
I had never worked out professionally save for jogging and walking. Then, I weighed 61kg – that is before the baby. I am now at 73kgs. My target is to get back to my previous weight (61kg) within a year.
The most fun part of the four week Babylove Network Chiki KuruKa Challenge was employing the high energy (I never thought I had) on the demanding workouts. Tummy exercises were the most dreadful. They were close to grueling.
Big lesson bagged, ‘Fitness is a lifestyle’. So I take it on first thing in the morning when my five-month old baby is having his morning nap. Thankfully, my husband has been supportive. He wants me to keep going!
Kerubo, 31, mum of two – Procurement officer
Despite never having worked out before, I enjoyed the four week Babylove Network Chiki KuruKa Challenge. I am looking forward to toning up my whole body.
I currently weigh 77kgs and plan to reach my below 70Kgs target ASAP! So I work out for 20 minutes every morning after a 10 minutes run when my 6 months old baby is asleep.
The most challenging bit during the Challenge was changing my diet to more wholesome stuff and having my dinner before 6pm. Working out on my own at home was neither easy initially but it has gotten more fun with time.
Zippy, 30, mum of one – Programs coordinator
I have worked out before – though not as intensely. It has been the best workout session ever. Chiki is a very encouraging trainer. She’ll push you but only to the extent she knows you can get to.
I weighed 62kgs before the baby and I am now at 68kgs. I am not so keen on losing weight but toning up – losing the love handles and toning the thighs – hopefully by December 2016.
The most challenging bit about the four-week Babylove Network Chiki KuruKa Challenge was doing the sprint (running on the spot). The good thing is you really feel the burn from it – and you know the tone up is on!
At home I work out for like 30 minutes every evening. Is it easy? No it hasn’t been easy – it takes a lot. At least I brought home the lesson ‘Keep pushing’. Extras to the fitness regimen have been watching what I eat, taking walks in the evening and taking hot water with lemon in the morning before breakfast to help fight the hunger pangs.
Thankfully, my 8-month old baby loves watching me workout. So the juggle is easy. My husband is also very supportive. It got him to also start a workout program.
Interesting, Challenge saw me make new friends and learn all the Sauti Sol songs!
“His energy is infectious. He oozes with conviction. He is the master of ‘It’s-never-that-serious’. He has perfected the art of retelling his pervious ordeals with wet humour. I would almost say I wish I had met him way earlier in my education…” READ MORE HERE
“The Chiki KuruKa Dance Chisel” was compiled exclusively for The Babylove Network by Brenda Wangwe-Kilonzo. Brenda is a former editor at Pregnant Magazine and a regular writer at The Babylove Network. She is the founder and lead consultant at Media That Transforms (MT2). Catch up with her on her Facebook Page