What started off as a hilarious sight and source of crude jokes for commuter omnibus drivers and passersby alike seeing two women jogging on the side of the road in the early hours of each morning has turned into a new fitness and health phenomenon across suburbs in Bulawayo and beyond.
When Rudo Sibanda and Maggina Hamooga decided to shed off a few kilogrammes of weight by jogging on the side of the road in their home suburb of Nketa suburb, little did the duo know they were setting a new trend in fitness and exercise.
Tired of the conventional gym methods that would require them to attend training sessions at gyms located in the city centre, Sibanda — a dental nurse — convinced her friend Hamooga who is a businesswoman to ditch the gym.
The alternative was to exercise on their own and take exercise to the outdoors.
With busy work schedules and family commitments that made religiously attending gym sessions impossible, the two women found an alternative in group exercises.
“We started off just the two of us and we would wake up early in the morning, jog for about two kilometres and then stretch afterwards. Some people, especially kombi drivers and touts would laugh at us but we were determined to continue. It seemed funny to some people seeing two women jogging on the side of the road every morning,” explained Sibanda.
Over time, the two-member fitness group started getting inquires from other female fitness enthusiasts to join what came to be known as Team Nketa.
“What attracted other women to our group was that despite being professionals we still made time to exercise. As a group we determine the best time that suits us. We encourage each other to keep going because we all share a common goal,” she said.
The group, which now boasts of more than 20 members ranging from nurses, teachers and bankers, does not restrict their exercises to jogging only.
“We meet every Saturday morning at the Ascot Race Course for a variety of training exercises like resistance running, relays and tug of wars. We are now assisted by a fitness coach,” she said.
The fitness group soon caught the attention of other women outside of Nketa suburb.
Other fitness groups started mushrooming in other parts of the city.
A social media platform for the ladies to share their experiences and challenges was formed on social site Facebook.
The Eastern Stars is a group of businesswomen that meets three times a week for a variety of fitness programmes.
Kumalo, Barham Green and Morningside suburbs also have fitness groups.
Amanda Sidambe formed Eastern Stars a few months before her wedding day.
“I started my journey in July last year because I was getting married in September and wanted to look perfect in my wedding gown. It was the best decision that I have ever made,” said Sidambe.
She has never looked back since then.
“After that it became a way of life, eating healthy and exercising. I run a butchery with my husband. Our training schedule is designed to leave time for our families since most of us are married,” she said.
To test their fitness levels, a total of seven groups from suburbs dotted around the city competed in a fitness camp that featured a guest team from Harare at the Heath Streak Cricket Academy earlier this month.
Each group comprised 10 members.
Susan Chipamaunga from Greendale in Harare, a high blood pressure patient, said since joining a fitness group she had lost significant weight and had even stopped taking medication for the ailment.
“I needed to change my lifestyle and so I started exercising with a few ladies and we train four times a week, it became really helpful because I started losing weight,” Chipamaunga said.
She explained that her group specialises in exercises outside the gym.
“Our training methods include jogging, rolling tyres, sprinting short distances and relays. Most of our exercises are done in open areas,” she said.