I decided to start working at my father’s gym in Kinshasa, D.R.Congo for the holidays. I planned on going back to my routine as fast as I could; which involved waking up early, exercising for about an hour before starting work at the reception. I have to say; my first session gave me more material to write than I’d hope for initially.
It is imperative to draw attention to a new research paper which states that "pumping iron five times a week can reduce type 2 diabetes by a third". (Dillner 2012).
I stepped into the gym on a Tuesday morning and was directly assigned a trainer. After explaining to him that I’m now more focused on toning and conditioning, we came up with a fitness and diet plan specific to my needs. First thing first, stepping on the treadmill, there is nothing I hate more than running on a treadmill, I once read someone who said that she felt like “learning to walk all over again” on that machine. I know where she is coming from without a doubt. After a short 12 minutes sprint, I was on the spinning bike for about 15 minutes. Having warmed up, I started lifting weights.
Without exaggerating, I literally had to beg the trainer to give me more weights. Between my cousin lamenting that I’d probably won’t have children because I was “working out like a guy” and the trainer treating me like I was some porcelain doll, I realised that the fear of seeing a girl with “heavy” weights scares people here in Congo at a deeper level than I’d say I’ve noticed in England.
Basically, it wasn’t only just about the typical “a girl should not have man muscles”, as my cousin expressed she was literally scared that I’d not be able to have children later on. Now she’s Congolese and has a bachelor in Economics. In such cases, I’d usually quickly lose patience thinking that she should know better. However, it is cultural thing. The coaches told me that women are just misinformed and are scared to step out of their comfort zone.
Knowing how diabetes for instance is rising in sub-Sahara Africa, it is a shame that working out on a regular basis is still not considered a proper female behaviour in some countries, let alone lifting weights. The latter can help reduce fat, strengthen your core and thus make you healthier and consequently reduce your chances of getting some types of chronic diseases.
Therefore, let’s spread the word and tell women, especially in Africa to break down those cultural barriers and care for their health first.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Engage Africa Foundation's Staff.
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