From left: Thuli Sithole, Christean Mahlelehlele, selby Sithole personal trainers at the Virgin Active Maponya Mall Gym Soweto 11.06.2012 Picture:Dumisani Dube

Helen Grange

Personal trainers, once an indulgence of the affluent, have become part of the mainstream health and fitness world.

For people with specific weight-loss or fitness goals in mind, a personal trainer is often the first port of call.

Putting someone through their paces is not as simple as it may seem, however. Personal trainers have to have knowledge of human anatomy, nutrition and sports science, as well as be thoroughly up to speed on exercises targeting various parts of the body.

But among the most challenging aspects of their work is the individual, whose level of commitment might not be ideal.

Verve chatted to five personal trainers to get an insight into who they are and the challenges they face.

Christean Mahlelehlele

26, based at Virgin Active Soweto

Personal training is Mahlelehlele’s full-time job, conducted only at Virgin Active Soweto – he makes no house calls.

He studied personal training as part of a sports management diploma course. “After I got my diploma I jumped from job to job, then ended up at Virgin Active as a fitness instructor. I fell in love with the fitness world. I started training clients one-on-one, and I just love it,” he says.

Mahlelehlele charges R150 an hour a person, or if people comes in pairs, it is R100 a person. He also takes group training sessions (six people maximum), charged at R60 a person for 30 minutes.

Mahlelehlele says Sowetans tend to be hesitant to opt for one-on-one training, but the concept is growing.

His clients – 60 percent are women and 40 percent are men – mostly ask him for all-round body training.

“Losing weight is always the number one goal, followed by toning and fitness. Muscle gain is always the last thing they ask for,” he says.

Candice da Matta

26, based in Krugersdorp

Da Matta travels to people’s homes all over Joburg to take clients through their paces. “It makes it comfortable and convenient for people to get regular, often daily sessions,” she says.

Da Matta specialises in weight training and endurance, having qualified with the National Federation of Personal Trainers. She also has a personal trainer certificate from the American Aerobics Association.

“Health, fitness and sport has always been my passion, so choosing it as a career was a natural progression,” she says.

Da Matta charges between R220 and R250 an hour, depending on the regimen of exercises. On average, she sees about 40 people a week, with an equal distribution of men and women.

She focuses mainly on abdominal and glute muscles (primarily around the buttocks), though a full body workout ensures the best results, she says. Her clients’ main priority is a combination of losing weight, firming up and “just getting healthy and feeling great”, she says.

Thuli Sithole

35, based at Virgin Active Soweto

Sithole also earns her living solely from personal training, which she conducts at Virgin Active Soweto, charging R150 an hour a person.

She studied personal training at the Institute of Fitness Professionals.

Her story resonates deeply with many of her clients, who are mostly women. “I was obese myself, which resulted in lots of complications and illness. I weighed 109kg and wore a size 42.

“I got a personal trainer and started a strict diet. I even designed fitness programmes for myself. Early last year, after eight months, I reached my goal of 56kg (size 30) and have not weighed more than that since,” she says.

Obesity is a major problem among Sowetans, she says, and losing weight is by far the highest priority among her clients.

She trains about 14 people a week, and gives them exercises targeting mostly the abdominal areas, thighs and arms.

“One-on-one training is not a popular service in Soweto yet, but it is growing.”

Marthinus Erasmus

39, based in Saxonwold

Erasmus works full-time from his home-based gym, so clients go to him.

At 19, he bought his first gym in Pretoria, and at 22, he became the World Fitness Champion and received an award for his contribution to the development of sports aerobics.

“I combined all these skills and experience to run a large gym of 1 000 members for 12 years, but realised that I preferred one-on-one training. It offers a more personal touch and more rewarding results for the client,” he says.

He charges R145 to R340 a session, depending on the number of clients.

“Each session is tailored to the individual needs of my client and can include cardio, Pilates, boxing, stretching, weight training and callanetics.”

He sees about 25 clients a week. Female clients concentrate on inner thighs, quads, glutes and triceps, whereas men focus on increasing their upper body size and obtaining a ripped stomach.

Selby Sithole

26, based at Virgin Active Soweto

Sithole, who works at Virgin Active Soweto, has a degree in sport and exercise technology from the Tshwane University of Technology.

He charges R150 an hour. He hasn’t done any home-based training yet, but says he would charge between R350 and R459 if he were to travel to someone’s home. “It is not easy for Sowetans to pay these fees, but we do offer discounts as well,” he says.

Sithole has always been passionate about soccer, and he coached teams while at school and at university. His clients, split between men and women, come to him for all-over body workouts that tackle abs, thighs and arms, their goal being primarily to lose weight and get fitter.

One of his biggest challenges, he says, is getting people to change their diets. “Sowetans love junk food, and many of us live with other people who eat sweets and fatty foods, which makes it especially difficult to stick to a healthy diet. I find it hard myself, because I live with family.”


Looking for a personal trainer? Visit to search for one in your area.

l Virgin Active Soweto: Call 011 941 2100 or visit

l Candice da Matta: Call 076 316 5230 or e-mail [email protected]

l Marthinus Erasmus: Call 082 293 9572 or e-mail [email protected]