“My passion for fitness didn’t come right away. I started my journey with the aim to lose as much weight as possible – but then I realised that this is way more than just [about] losing weight and saw the lifestyle part of it,” says Ophela Mhlauli, a 21-year-old student and social media influencer from Joburg.
Fitness is life
Ophela’s passion for fitness started when she knew absolutely nothing about it. She was the chubby child and by the time she hit her teens, she knew a change was necessary. “I would google weight-loss diets, which just left me feeling sick, agitated and grumpy,” she says.
She soon realised that quick fixes weren’t the way to go. Instead, she did her research and started including more vegetables in her diet. “I try to make my meals as balanced as possible and make friends with my vegetables.
My favourites are broccoli, spinach and cauliflower. I like oats with fruit in the morning, a chicken salad for lunch and vegetables for dinner. My favourite snack is yoghurt-coated rice cakes.”
It’s all about balance
Like any healthy lifestyle, there has to be a balance, so Ophela allows herself cheat meals. “I love me some pizza and dessert. That caramel Swiss roll from Woolworths, or doughnuts, but with the body I’m currently working on my cheats are mostly homemade – that way I can control how much of anything I put in.”
When it comes to exercise, Ophela enjoys a combo of weights and body-weight exercises. “I love squats, but with weights like 80kg on the squat rack. I feel so strong and good about myself when I lift heavy weight.
Burpees are great too – [especially] when you jump on a box, then burpee into a jump. Planks are also a fave – I just want to continue increasing the minutes and get my core ripped.”
To avoid boredom, Ophela switches things up. “I focus on each and every muscle to balance my body out. Right now, I challenge myself to run at least 5km every week, train legs twice a week, upper body twice a week and visit shape or Grid classes just for that extra challenge.
In my current routine, I’m trying out all the exercises I don’t normally do or hate because I don’t want to get comfortable. I strive to be better than the previous day and get better at everything I suck at,” she says.
READ MORE: 3 exercises that’ll seriously work your core
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Besides exercise gifting her with a great body, the process has given her confidence. “I remember how uncomfortable I used to feel wearing shorts, but now they’re all I want to wear. I’m so comfortable in my own skin – even my mom gets worried at times.
I can’t wait for people to leave my house so I can chill naked. This is a feeling I can’t share with anybody – one has to experience it to understand it and I wish everyone could get to experience it one day. I want to continue to inspire people around the world to love their bodies and nurture it. It’s the best thing you could do for yourself,” she explains.
“Be ready for anything that life throws at you. Life is always going to be challenging – all you have to do is have back-ups and solutions.”
“Find your balance and what works for you.”
“Take it easy on yourself. You don’t have to get it right the first time, but stay committed and don’t give up.”
“Give your body nutrition and patience – that’s all it needs.”
This article was originally published on Women's Health