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.

Old gym gets makeover

Over R900 000 is to be spent on renovating and replacing equipment in the east campus gym during April.

Wits Sports Administration signed a contract for the renovation of the east campus gym on January 31.

Senior manager Marius Henn said R12 000 worth of spin bicycles and a great deal of other equipment, was to be installed. Over R100 000 would be spent on new weights.

Tshepo Mmakau, senior manager of Horizon View Virgin Active said all equipment should be replaced immediately after their warrantee has expired. A maintenance book and staff should be present at the gym at all times according to Mmakau. The east campus gym has neither.

“The presence of old and not properly fitted equipment is both dangerous and unethical,” added Mmakau.

The east campus gym currently has two exercise bicycles and three rowers, which are in poor working condition. The weights available at the gym are not clearly marked.

Mark Tatham, a 2nd year BA student said, “I had to make do with the equipment the gym had.

Most of the weights are in pounds and, during my first year at the gym, I had to bring a calculator with me to convert the weights from pounds to kilograms.”

Rael Williamson, a 3rd year BSc student, said conditions at the gym had been the same since he started using the facilities three years ago.There are currently no lockers for east campus gym members or proper training mats.

The renovations are in line with plans to make the east campus gym more user-friendly for its female members. The lightest weight at the gym at the moment is 10kg.

Henn said the renovation formed phase one of a two-phase plan to improve the campus gyms. The second phase involved renovating west campus gym. Catering mainly for female students, it has never had a treadmill or free weights.

A petition to have the gym renovated was signed by over 400 members last year.

Henn said a lack of funds had held up renovations. Students and staff pay an annual membership fee of R350. A total of 3 320 students are registered at both gyms.

“We plan the upgrade to start in the April vacation. Then another week, maybe towards the end of April, when the supplier will install the new equipment.”

During the closure, members must use the west campus gym. Notices about the planned renovations will be put up in March.