Slice of life: Team work makes the dream work

For the past seven years I have played touch rugby, it was a spur of the moment decision that looked like fun and gave me something to do after school. I didn’t know the sport would lead me on a long but rewarding journey.

Three years ago, I was selected to play for the Gauteng Ladies side, an experience that has taught me more in that short space of time than my 12 years inside a classroom.

Our coach, Steven Knoesen, demands perfection in every aspect of the game, for defense to be as tough as the attack, and for us to memorise every move but to improvise when needed. The past three years under his watch have broken and subsequently moulded me as a player. Three years ago, I was an average player that sailed through most games on natural ability, a bit of pace and a lot of heart. However, when you’re coming up against the best touch rugby players in the country you’ll need a lot more than heart and pace to beat them.

Finally, after years of practice, fitness training week in and week out, running the same moves a hundred times and then a hundred more, learning from defeat and building a strong team bond; we made it to the Ladies final in March this year. Obviously, our opponents would be none other than KZN, leaving us feeling like we were thrown to the sharks. Thankfully, we succeeded! We won 4-1 and came home with our first ever gold medal.
The feeling of finally succeeding after years of tireless work is indescribable. Success is built on a foundation of hard-work, heart and the pure drive to achieve regardless of the circumstances. In anything that you attempt in life, you will always be more successful if you work hard and give it your all.

There is no ‘I’ in touch rugby. I have learned that it takes six people to score a try and it takes the same to defend against one. There are moments when individuality is important but nine times out of ten, a team will be better. You need a team, whether on a sports field or in a newsroom. A team that will go again and again until they succeed. Team work is an interesting concept in the fact that everyone must work just as hard the person next to them, you will only truly succeed if there is no weak link.

I have a Ladies team that is dynamic in ability as well as people from all walks of life that put everything aside once they step onto that field. The sense of camaraderie in sport is unrivalled, friendship is an integral part to personal growth. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is crucial, they will push you to be the best version of yourself.

My three year slog to gold was a process that taught me that in everything you attempt in life, you need to put in equal part hard work to equal part heart and it is always better with a team next to you.


Bhakti Yoga Society: ‘It’s so much more…’

Exhale: Students in position during a Bhakti Yoga session on Wednesday afternoon.                                                                                                 Photo: Tendai Dube

EXHALE: Students in position during a Bhakti Yoga session on Wednesday afternoon.          Photo: Tendai Dube

As you approach the elevated building, DJ Du Plessis, you overlook a scenic garden of trees and a mini-waterfall that flows through rocks into the little pond Witsies know to be on West Campus – a more secluded part of Wits which goes perfectly with the serenity that is needed to do yoga.

Through the doors, you’re welcomed by multicoloured yoga mats and on them are bodies bent and stretched over in unconventional positions.

This is what you can expect from one of the Bhakti yoga lessons. Their classes run four days a week, from Monday to Thursday depending on the level of yoga you chose to partake in.

You can also learn about the philosophy of yoga during lunch on Thursdays. According to Sibusiso Nhlabatsi, coordinator of the Bhakti Yoga Society, “A person’s life is like a whole package, first the body, is like our immediate home so anyone who likes their home, wants to keep it clean. Yoga then is allowing our bodies to be clean and to be fit.”

Nhlabatsi is mostly known by his community as ‘Savyasaci Das’, his Sanskrit name. He is a monk who has followed this spiritual path for about 13 years.

The society has signed almost 300 members this year and has won best Civil Society Organisation.

“Since I joined yoga, I’ve been sleeping better, feeling fresh in the morning, I have enough energy to get through the day without feeling worn out and my body is more flexible than it was before I joined,” said Rebotile Masera, 2nd year BAccSci.

Savyasaci said some of the benefits the students gain from yoga are that they feel their muscles working and that “some people are just happy that they can finally sit and touch their toes.”

COOL KID: Tiisetso “gym girl” Lephoto

Tiisetso Lephoto came second at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin as the best researcher in South Africa/Africa. Photo: Bongiwe Tutu

Tiisetso Lephoto came second at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin as the best researcher in South Africa/Africa.                                                                                                                                Photo: Bongiwe Tutu

While most people know her as the “gym girl”, Wits PhD student Tiisetso Lephoto (25) is also a One Young World ambassador and a Wits Golden Key member. Recognised as one of the new young and upcoming researchers in science by the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development in 2013, she secured second place at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin for the best researcher in South Africa/Africa. Lephoto is a Wits aerobics fitness and training instructor and founder of TiiMoves.

What research are you working on for your PhD?
My project is based on trying to come up with ways to reduce the use of chemical pesticides. Since 2011, when I started with masters, I’ve been trying to discover nematodes; microscopic worms which can kill insects. So, instead of spraying harsh chemicals which can make us sick because our food has been highly contaminated, my project wants to come up with ways of reducing or eliminating the use of these harmful chemicals, and find biological control agents. That’s the healthier way of killing insects without harming people or animals in any way.

What influenced the role you play in aerobics today?
I joined an aerobics community programme. They taught us almost everything, and it became fun, like a dancing routine, so I incorporate everything into my aerobics routines. And it’s more like a God-given talent, that’s how it feels, I just think of steps in my head and I execute it.

What is the most fulfilling part about being an aerobics fitness and training instructor?
I started an NGO called YesWeAreMoving in 2011. My aim was to spread the culture of healthy living, so I started to organise aerobics marathons alongside academic tutoring under a programme called Katleho Pele Education. We help grade eight to 12 learners in Soweto maintain their studies and health. We have a marathon this Saturday at the Squash Complex on West Campus from 9-11am. I organise the marathons to donate and fundraise for orphanages. This year is aimed at collecting food, toiletries, and clothes. And with my own personal training company, TiiMoves, I encourage others, and help people to put nutrition together with exercise, and feel good in their own skin.

What is most central to your life’s philosophy?
I give back to the community, this is my philosophy; I believe the higher you go, you have to find a way to lift other people with you. I like seeing someone happy, it’s very fulfilling to share knowledge, to help someone, and then see them succeed. I always think, with so many things that I do, ‘God where will you place me?’ I’m passionate about science and I’d like to be one of the leading young researchers and discover something to save the future of agriculture. So, the future holds me continuing to research, help other young people, encourage them to pursue what they love, and maybe to do science. Everything needs to just be well. Wellness is everything.

BMI not a one size fits all calculation

BMI Drive: Karin vander Walt, senior catering manager calculating student’s BMI to make them aware of the health implications of the food they eat. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

BMI Drive: Karin vander Walt, senior catering manager calculating student’s BMI to make them aware of the health implications of the food they eat. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

by Pheladi Sethusa and Nqobile Dludla

A Body Mass Index (BMI) drive by RoyalMnandi was launched on Monday in an effort to raise awareness among students.

BMI drive 

“BMI is basically the ratio that you use, if you’re a certain height you should ideally be a certain weight,” said dietician Neroshnee Govender.

“We weigh their weight and measure their height, we take that down and use a calculation method and then we let them know whether they are within the normal range for their height or whether they are overweight, obese or underweight,” she said.

The testing left Witsie Sannie Baloyi smiling at the paper holding his results.

He said learning a BMI could be “traumatic”. Though Baloyi was happy with his results he said would still try to improve his lifestyle.

“It’s [BMI] somewhere along the lines of being accurate but it traumatizes people. Now I’m going to try eating healthy food and I’m going to start exercising.”

Royal Mnandi liason officer Bontle Mogapi said the health awareness drive was put in place to provide students with information and the means to lead healthier lifestyles.

While students were queuing, waiting to be measured and weighed, Zazele Mabaso expressed a different opinion as he dodged the weigh-in.

“It’s a waste of time really. What do I gain from knowing my BMI?” Mabaso asked.

[pullquote]BMI “doesn’t look deeper” because it doesn’t give an accurate reading of muscle mass and body fat.[/pullquote]

Is it useful?

The calculation of BMI is contentious and there are different views of its validity. The intentions of the calculation, to correct unhealthy lifestyles is not in question but the methods of the calculation are in dispute.

For example, a rugby player who weighs 100 kilograms and measures 1.8 metres tall has a BMI score of 30.9, which would fall on the obese side of the BMI scale.

The calculation fails to factor in muscle weight, which is much heavier than fat, so people who are fit and muscular are not catered for in the calculation. “The body mass index becomes worthless when it is used on a general population,” said sport science lecturer Marc Booysen.

He suggested making use of other measurements like hip to waist ratio, in conjunction with a body fat caliber to measure such a diverse population.

He added that BMI “doesn’t look deeper” because it doesn’t give an accurate reading of muscle mass and body fat. Given the example of the “obese” rugby player, he said it would be more accurate to measure body fat in that situation with caliphers.

In a case where the population group being measured is fairly similar, like a soccer or rugby team, the BMI could then be useful because those people have a fairly homogenous BMI score said Booysen.


“You should go see Josh”


AT HIS BEST: A now healthy and strong Joshua Irwin at the Wits gym.
Photo: Sibusisiwe Nyanda

Joshua Irwin had been overweight all his life. During his first year at Wits, his weight reached the point that he was forced to use the disabled parking area.

He remembers the shame of being “effectively disabled” by his weight. At his heaviest, Irwin weighed 130kg.

But two years ago, the third year Psychology major took matters into his own hands and, on his own healthy eating plan, Irwin lost 55kg in eight months. And this year, the self-confessed former sugar and carbohydrate addict took his quest for health a step further.

He is now a nutritional coach and personal trainer. The business idea came to him after he joined the Wits gym and saw “most people doing stupid things”. He became the “go-to guy” after people heard about his success.

He has since landed 13 clients, eight of whom are fellow Witsies. A former anthropology major, Kirby Randall, lost 12kg on his plan. Irwin claims another client lost 9kg in two months and that his own mother lost 12kg after taking some of his nutrition advice.

Irwin’s approach to nutrition goes against some well-known theories about how to get healthy. He argues people don’t need six meals a day to function, especially because most people underestimate the portions they have.

He fasts 16 hours in a day and stays away from carbohydrates and sugar. “By accident I didn’t have carbs once and I decided to go a few days without.”
He says the cravings for unhealthy foods “disappeared” when he stayed away from bread, grains and sugar.
He also doesn’t believe in using food as a reward.
A friend once told him: “Never reward yourself with what you’re trying to recover from.”
At 77kg, Irwin has come a long way from the first year who couldn’t walk from student parking areas.
“Walking uphill and downhill from East to West Campus can be incredibly painful when you’re overweight.”

For a long while, he tried to lose weight but would gain it back. He saw nutritionists for help but felt their “cut and paste” eating plans were impersonal and out of date. Irwin said his confidence had taken a beating.
“I was just tired of it and it hurt. You get overlooked often. You’re not even in the friend zone – you’re just not an option because you’re not desirable.”
He enjoys being able to be more sociable now. “I remember feeling I was extremely visible for my weight, not because I was a nice person or because I was smart … It was just, you know, that fat white guy with long hair. People would have preconceived ideas about you.”

He believes being thin is linked to how well people deal with their past life experiences.
Nutritionists miss this point, he argues, and this leads to their clients not being able to conquer weight problems successfully.
Irwin plans to do his Honours and Masters in psychology, focusing on behavioural and eating abnormalities. He feels the person-centred approach of therapy will help develop more meaningful relationships with his clients.
He wants to be the “go-to guy” for fitness and health in Johannesburg and has his sights on famous South Africans.
“I want celebrities who have had weight problems to be able to tell their friends: ‘You should go see Josh’, because of my work.”

INFOGRAPHIC: Get that summer body

By Nokuthula Manyathi and Pheladi Sethusa 

As summer creeps on in, health and fitness are key to looking and feeling good all season. Wits Vuvuzela put together a few health and fitness tips that can help out with getting back into shape.

Summer Body (1)