On a cold and cloudy afternoon, we make our way to Thogoto, Kiambu County. The purpose of this visit is to meet 31-year-old Kevin Munamunyi, a health and fitness instructor at Cloisters Fitness Centre.
For a moment I think I am lost ascending the many steps to the gym, but he tells me I am on the right path. By the time I get to the seventh floor of the building where the centre is located, I no longer need my jacket despite the cold weather.
“The stairs are just a short warm-up,” Kevin remarks as he bids us welcome with a hearty laugh.
He begins our conversation by noting that fitness has always been a passion for him, and he was lucky to study it as his undergraduate degree in Physical Education from the University of Nairobi.
“In high school, I was quite active in sports. I played rugby as well as handball, and I was the sports captain for a time. So, when I went to the university I knew this was something I wanted to advance in, and that is exactly what I did.”
After graduating, he went to Eldoret where he was working in a gym, until the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The biggest flaw that Covid-19 exposed was the need for people to have more active and fit lifestyles, especially those over 40 years.”
Kevin’s sentiments indeed align with our purpose here today; losing weight for people between their 30s to their 50s.
“So when the country finally started opening up, I partnered with the owner of Cloisters and opened this centre in August 2021.”
Creating a lifestyle
Kevin notes that most clients come to him either looking to lose weight or just to stay fit.
The first thing he does before developing a workout plan is have a conversation with them to get a background about the nature of their work and daily lives, as well as their expectations coming to the gym.
“I know you have probably heard this told over and over again, but it still needs repeating; the gym is not a miracle centre. You will not get instant results, sometimes it takes months or even years for some people, and getting my clients to understand this is very important so that their drive does not wane somewhere along the journey. I also encourage them to view exercise as a lifestyle rather than a short-term goal, so that they continue even after achieving desired results.”
He also adds that he also takes note of any medical history that may affect the workout regimen, for instance, women looking to lose baby fat who gave birth through C-section, other surgeries, or previous serious injuries.
“I have four main workout plans for my clients, and what I recommend for each person depends on their goals and history. For someone who has never been in a gym or exercised before, then we start relatively easier as compared to those with more active lifestyles, and then build the intensity as we progress.”
The four workout exercise categories are; HIIT (high-intensity interval training), circuits (full-body workout plan), running (either on the treadmill or on the road), and strength training (using weights or body weight).
For those looking to just lose weight, Kevin uses a combination of HIIT and running exercises, as well as some sessions of circuits.
For those looking to tone their bodies or gain muscle mass, then he will get them on circuits and strength training exercises.
However, he says the age of the client will also play a role when determining the best training regimen.
“As we get older our metabolism slows down. For someone in their 50s looking to lose some weight, for instance, I will recommend strength training exercises to increase metabolism, before introducing them to the other exercises. Each individual’s case is unique and different people’s bodies respond to exercises varyingly, thus I am able to make adjustments based on observations I make within the first few weeks of exercise.
On the question of working out at home, Kevin says, “Workout requires a lot of discipline and at home, there are a lot of distractions. Therefore, I always recommend that beginners start out at the gym. As one progresses and creates a routine and enough discipline, then they can work out on their own at home.”
Starting at the gym, he says, also gives one an opportunity to clients to learn from a fitness trainer which exercises are best for them based on their goals and challenges them in a way they might not be able to challenge themselves at home. It also builds morale.
The question of food
“In achieving your goals, the gym will be 49 percent of the effort needed and the food you eat will be 51 percent. One must therefore be much disciplined with this.”
Kevin says the way to go is not by not eating some foods, but by portioning meals, and by being conscious of the calories in each food item you eat.
“If you are looking to lose weight for instance, then you need to burn double the calories you take in a day.”
He adds that in cases where clients struggle to lose weight due to indiscipline in their eating habits, he develops a strict meal plan for them, usually on a monthly basis.
He is also adamant that starving oneself is not the solution, as this might lead to weight gain in some cases when the body tries to replenish its fat reserves which are burnt as energy while fasting.
“I also do not recommend food supplements to my clients, unless in cases where one is not able to meet the basic nutritional requirements. I find proper dieting and portioning of meals to be just as effective, even for those looking to add weight or build muscle.”
Kevin concludes by noting that working out and achieving the desired results greatly depends on one’s mentality, and therefore having a positive outlook is the starting point of succeeding in creating a healthy and active lifestyle.