SA health and fitness platform helps families around the world cope during lockdown
The unprecedented measures implemented in a desperate bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus had the Cape Town fitness expert and businessman concerned about his well-being and that of his loved ones.
But the countrywide shutdown also meant that the internationally acclaimed sports conditioning specialist and performance coach could no longer operate his coaching and training enterprise, as the pandemic forced gyms and fitness centres around the world to close indefinitely.
Then an unplanned and authentic family moment streamed online gave Meintjes, who has worked with some of the country’s top athletes, a new platform to help transform people’s lives.
On the first Monday morning of the lockdown, he and his wife Julie decided to share their impromptu workout online. But their Facebook Live session was unintentionally interrupted by their daughters, aged 2 and 4, who instead decided to run riot as Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen.
“The first sessions were so chaotic. The kids were running around, we didn’t really know what we were doing from a technical point of view and we were still figuring this whole thing out,” Meintjes told The Saturday Star this week.
But this appeared to resonate with people from all walks of life who all flocked to subscribe to Meintjes new online fitness movement, called Johno’s eFitness Faculty (JEFF).
“I think people enjoy relating to and connecting with us because we're so open and authentic,” Meintjes said.
“We bicker during the workouts sometimes, the kids run wild and knock over lights, and it’s something everyone can relate to.”
After just eight weeks, the online health and wellness platform managed to attract 40000 people from 99 countries.
JEFF now employs around 40 people, many also fitness coaches.
Some of the funds generated from the paid classes have been donated to the Solidarity Fund, that assists citizens and businesses to contribute during the national disaster.
JEFF offers a range of daily fitness classes at different times to suit the schedules of all its subscribers, requiring minimal equipment. They include 30 minute live sessions, more intense high intensity training, guided runs, yoga, workouts for youngsters and even cooking classes.
“Prior to lockdown, we used to offer the one-on-one coaching programme as our primary product, with great success, but when Covid-19 hit, we saw the opportunity to help keep South Africans fit and healthy in a supportive and fun way,” Meintjes said.
While there are countless online exercise regimens for people to engage with, as most fitness centres around the world remain closed, Meintjes believes it is JEFF’s ability to connect people during trying times which sets them apart.
“Connection is everything,” he said.
“We exercise in order to get fitter, stronger and healthier, but everything associated with those results comes down to connection, and that’s what we provide within our community.”
One of the most popular JEFF sessions is their Live Daily Workouts, which are interactive and allow people to engage with each other.
“We're seeing friends and families separated by continents taking part in workouts together and connecting over a shared experience,” saidMeintjess. “The stories coming out of this community are really inspiring.”
While Meintjes is new to the online fitness community, he is no stranger to the industry as a whole.
He is qualified in sports science and conditioning, has international sports coaching experience and has owned a string of gyms.
Meintjes has also helped rehabilitate, and has designed workout programmes for, some of the country’s top sport personalities,
His fitness experience includes touring with Cricket South Africa and preparing the SA Women’s Hockey team for the World Cup, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
Meintjes has also worked extensively with rugby officials in the country, including the SA Rugby Sevens team, where he developed and ran their preparation programmes for the Rio Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
“I've always had to think out of the box and be able to plan, especially when adding travel into the mix.
“‘Adaptability is key.”
With his widespread exploits in the fitness and training industry, Meintjes believes he is well positioned to “change people’s lives” and help them cope during the Covid 19 pandemic.
“I think my best experience with dealing with big personalities and sports stars is realising that everyone is normal,” he explained.
“If you are a high-profile sportsman, you need to be at your best all the time.
“Being able to connect to someone on that level, to get the best out of them, is something that's put me ahead of the pack, as I've adapted this approach to, for example, single or working moms.
“Everyone is the same, but they need to have a unique approach to getting to their best.”
As he continues to juggle fatherhood, being a husband and growing his new business, Meintjes is determined to help as many people as he can during these stressful times.
“We are truly changing people’s lives and this is what keeps us motivated and inspired.”