But you don’t have to be in the gym every day
What do a runner in his 20s, a nutritionist in his 30s, a fireman in his 40s, and two physical instructors in their 50s and 70s have in common?
They all agree that whatever your age, you should be exercising and being mindful of what you eat but that it’s not essential to be in the gym every day, or to deprive yourself of the occasional treat.
With June being International Men’s Health Awareness Month, I chatted to five men about their views on fitness and nutrition – and making these a priority in their busy lives – and as the world faces the coronavirus pandemic.
The theme of this year’s campaign is taking action against Covid-19, and as infection rates continue to increase, the most important weapons we should all have in our arsenals are a strong immune system, and a healthy body.
The guys featured are adidas Runners captain Ndyebo Mapekula, dietitian Adrian Penzhorn, the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Jermaine Carelse, my former boxing coach Romeo Brand who worked on Box Anywhere with me, and Pilates instructor Richard Borrett.
The Captain: Ndyebo Mapekula
Exercise of choice: Running
Sort of like a puzzle, each small piece is unique and forms part of the bigger picture.
“It is easy to think that you are healthy just because you look healthy,” says Ndyebo Mapekula, 26, who works in public relations and is the captain of adidas Runners (AR) Cape Town.
“Physical exercise is essential for everyone, no matter who you are or what you do. It doesn’t have to be a daily thing, but you have to keep active. Regular moderate intensity exercise is beneficial for immunity, especially in times like these.”
While Ndyebo advocates goal-setting, he emphasises that they must be realistic. “It’s good to set goals, realistic, attainable goals, especially when you’re a beginner so that you don’t lose interest or get discouraged when you don’t reach them.”
When it comes to nutrition, he adds: “I don’t have a diet I follow, however, I try to eat as clean as possible, sometimes going on a plant-based diet just to detox. You really do feel a difference in your physical activity when you prioritise nutrition as much as you prioritise training.”
The Nutritionist: Adrian Penzhorn
Exercise of choice: Trail running
What we put in our mouths will make or break any health goal.
Adrian Penzhorn, 35, a performance nutritionist and dietitian agrees that nutrition and exercise work hand in hand. However, he says, there’s a third pillar – sleep.
“One without the others will never be as effective,” he says.
And when it comes to eating , he says: What we put in our mouths will make or break any health goal.
If you think there are major differences between what men and women should be eating, think again.
“The main change will be portion sizes, but this is a generalisation based on body size. A bigger frame needs more fuel so portions are bigger to support this.”
However, he adds: “Males should be consuming more protein because of their larger muscle mass, sufficient fiber is needed for gut health and certain nutrients are linked to health outcomes (lycopene from tomatoes can reduce certain cancer risks).”
Owner of The Performance Kitchen, Adrian consults with elite athletes and teams on nutritional programming, education and applications. He is also the nutritionist at JEFF Fitness and responsible for nutritional programmes and coaching clients.
I asked Adrian to explain the concept of “performance nutrition” and how it can benefit “everyday people” wanting to maintain a fit and healthy body.
“Performance is not just on the sports field and I like to try and translate the methods and learnings from athletes into how we can all perform better in our day to day lives, at home, in the office or in our own exercise goals,” he explains.
“It really just means using nutrition to influence how well we can do tasks. Good nutrition is not just important for weight loss, which is unfortunately the only time many people pay attention to it, it offers us so much more.
“For most of us that is in the form of a good relationship with food, understanding how much we should be eating, when we should be eating and what foods help us or if there are others that hinder us.”
The Fireman: Jermaine Carelse
Exercise of choice: Running and cycling
A healthy body harbours a healthy mind.
For Jermaine Carelse, 47, a firefighter and spokesman for the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services, maintaining his physical health plays a vital role in ensuring his mental wellness and agility.
His work as spokesman requires him to have his finger on the pulse at all times and be available to respond promptly to media enquiries.
“The old adage that a healthy body harbours a healthy mind resonates strongly with me,” he says. “I believe that being physically well impacts positively on your mental capabilities. This is particularly important in my line of work where you are often required to think on your feet and make split-second decisions which can have long-lasting effects.”
And as a long-distance runner and cyclist, Jermaine says, sometimes in tough race conditions “it’s your mental fortitude that you’ll need to carry you across the finish line.”
“Age creeps up on us all and whether we like it or not, the body’s abilities change as we get older. Currently my right knee has been giving me some troubles, affecting my performance, particularly over longer distances, like full- and ultra-marathons at 42,2 and 56km.
“In my last race the pain became almost unbearable around the 26km mark, forcing me to walk most of the remaining 16km. This I completed a week after having participated in the Cape Town Cycle Tour and I believe it was mental fortitude – rather than physical ability alone – that carried me across the finish line.
“In addition to this, the determination not to see those dreaded three letters -DNF (Did Not Finish) – next to my name always drives me to complete any race I compete in.”
The Personal Trainer: Romeo Brand
Exercise of choice: Boxing
Don’t get too technical, this is where most of us fail.
Personal trainer Romeo Brand, 50, learned the importance of moderation after suffering two heart attacks and a third “cardiac episode”. Having started out as a body-builder, his focus now is on functional fitness and boxing.
His exercise advice is simple: ” Don’t get too technical, this is where most of us fail. Find guidelines you can relate to and run with them. Maintain three sessions per week depending on the type of training you do and be creative with meals.”
Asked whether he takes a different approach to training men, he says: “While I cannot be blind to the physical differences (between men and women), all I need to know is what I’m working with not necessarily who I am working with.”
And for his male clients, the most common “problem area” is the waistline. “As you get older it’s not that easy to train for a few weeks and see changes no matter what you eat.
“Our metabolism gets slower and testosterone levels drop. These are all factors that have an impact on our anabolic state. If these levels are where they should be, gaining weight around the mid-section will not be a big deal.”
Asked how his own training has changed as he got older, Romeo says: “Injuries have forced me to do a total turn around on my own training. Surviving two heart attacks and one heart failure episode also had a great impact on changing my training style.
“When you are younger you are invincible, but as you get older, trust me the invincibility fades quicker than a sunset. I am always mindful that you must be aware of what you do and why you do it. If it serves your purpose, then go all out within your boundaries of what you are capable of. “
To check out Romeo’s online coaching, follow @strikefitexpress
The Pilates Instructor: Richard Borrett
Exercise of choice: Pilates and spinning
I buy my foods every day or two to take advantage of freshness.
It also took a health scare to encourage Pilates instructor Richard Borrett, 73, to start living more healthily. “I used to be very irregular with my exercise – and it showed – and then I ‘fortunately’, had a serious medical issue at age 50,” he says.
“(Now) I make a point of getting regular medical check-ups with my personal physician and a full blood work-up every year. Regular exercise is a must.”
Richard also believes that everyone can benefit from Pilates, no matter what their age.
“So many of Pilates exercises are functional. They are designed to assist us in living life at an easily attainable and suitable level,” he says.
“Strength will be increased, flexibility improved, mind and body connections established and improved and breathing begins to be unconsciously improved. Any chosen other sport will also improve!”
Richard doesn’t smoke or drink – and also doesn’t weigh himself. Instead, he has a simple test: “Do my clothes fit comfortably or are they starting to get snug? Then I revisit my diet and adjust accordingly.”
When it comes to nutrition, his focus is on fresh food and he avoids sugar and processed foods – “anything that man and industry has mixed together, such as pre-made foods, sauces, soda drinks and instant meals”.
* Since the publication of this article, Richard has sadly passed away.
The impact of lockdown
Asked about the impact of lockdown on their lifestyles, all had found ways to continue incorporating workouts and healthy eating into their routines – no matter how stressful the current situation.
For Jermaine who, as an essential worker continued to work during lockdown, this meant bringing his two passions – running and cycling – indoors, and setting up make-shift gyms at home and work.
For Romeo, the lockdown provided him with the push he needed to accelerate his plans to take his personal training online, and Richard took the opportunity to upskill himself by doing online Pilates improvement classes.
Ndyebo, on the other hand, has learned the value of doing strength training to improve his running while Adrian kept in shape doing online workouts and shuttle sprints in his garden before restrictions on outdoor exercise were relaxed.