At 26, Celine Onyango can lift 320-kilogramme weights in a gym at a go. Seven years ago, Celine says she was slender and weighed just 50 kilogrammes.
‘‘I did not feel good in that small body,’’ she says at Tiger Fitness gym in Mombasa.
Weightlifting has helped her add 10kgs, gain strength, toughen her weak back and shape her legs and arms.
To strengthen her back, she does barbell squats that involve lifting weights while squatting, followed by bench presses. She lies on a bench and lifts 20kg weights.
She tones and toughens her arms with dumbbell curls, dumbbell one arm row, face pull and crop push-downs. She finishes with leg press where her legs push 180 kgs weights.
Celine started exploring the world of weightlifting and body-building four years ago. She bought books and started reading about fitness.
‘‘Friends and relatives warned me that I would get bulky and look manly,’’ she says.
She ignored the naysayers, downloaded a picture of a chiselled woman from the Internet, and embarked on her fitness journey.
“The woman from the Internet had perfect abs, strong legs, arms and a toned body. I was convinced that body building was the only way I could get such a physique,” she says.
‘‘Within a year of lifting weights, my body was responding well. When I look at myself now, I smile because I love my body.”
Having achieved the look that she wanted, she started participating in bikini athlete competitions two years ago.
“Bikini competitions are about being feminine but also being muscular. You must have a round waist, toned skin with no cellulite. With weightlifting, I had developed a round butt, healthier hair and strong thighs and legs, which made me stand out,” she says.
Celine who is also a trainer says that besides exercising, she eats a balanced diet and takes lots of water.
“I started eating food with high protein and low in carbohydrates. I opted for indigenous foods like arrowroots and sweet potatoes. I drink five litres of water per day,” she says, adding that if one does not watch what she eats, it is hard to build muscles.
The most challenging time for a weightlifter is a few months after starting training.
‘‘You get all kinds of food cravings. Also, women get hormone imbalance, which affects their menstrual cycle,’’ she says.
Celine who is now training for an upcoming competition exercises for one and half-hours every day besides training other people.
The fitness industry in Kenya is picking up so fast opening opportunities.
Celine’s friend, Priscillah Ibalai, is a confidence lifestyle blogger. The 29-year-old ventured into body-building three years ago.
Before she started doing the dead-lifts, squats, she was anaemic and after every four months, she was in hospital.
“At first, I kept fit by dancing and stretching. Then I started lifting weights. Body building has helped me manage the anaemia and also keep fit,” she says. But her fitness journey has come with many challenges including mockery and high expenses.
Priscillah says her father initially said body-building is tantamount to parading nakedness, but when she won in a bikini competition, he was the first one to congratulate her.
‘‘He even told me I should start focusing on international competitions,” says Priscillah who is also a choreographer.
She adds that a toned body gives her confidence.