“Gym is my happy place”- Mapule Ndhlovu

Images: Supplied, Instagram
Images: Supplied, Instagram

We had a chat with the fitness sensation and trainer on her love for fitness and how she made a career out of it.

Did you always want to be in fitness?

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after matric. There was no money for me to study further. I helped out at my granny’s daycare centre and joined a traditional dance group to keep myself busy. I remember applying for any job at the time – from the air force to nursing to electrical engineering. Then I stopped everything.”

How did you get into fitness?

“I started running for emotional release. But, the roads in Alexandra aren’t user-friendly for runners and sometimes the weather works against us too. So, I joined Vungazi Alexandra Gym. I used to do the aerobics classes there and I remember it was my birthday that year (10 March 2012). That day, my life changed. Members of The Institute of Fitness Professionals came to the gym as part of a corporate social responsibility initiative. They then approached me and asked if I was interested in studying fitness. I took the chance to make something of myself because I had nothing to lose. I had just registered with the institute to study exercise science when I went to attend a fitness forum at Virgin Active in Broadacres in Fourways.”

 How was it finding your feet in the field?

“When Virgin Active in Alice Lane, Sandton, was being built. I applied to be a fitness instructor there as it was closer to Alexandra. I was a fitness instructor at Alice Lane for two years while studying for my personal trainer qualification. Once I qualified, I applied to be a personal trainer. I didn’t make it the first time. It was a blessing in disguise – at times things happen in your life and you know it wasn’t your time I decided to start running to save money I used for transport. The gym opens at 4 am, so I’d leave my house at 3 am to be on time. I realized that my work was a blessing and I couldn’t complain about transport fare. I didn’t want to make excuses for not being at work on time.”

How did you become the Next Fit Star?

“In 2016, I saw Women’s Health magazine had a competition: Next Fitness Star. I entered. My friend told me to start a social media profile. That is how my Instagram presence began. It’s from my name, which means Queen, my love for fitness and my best body part (my butt). Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazing people, who supported me and helped me build my brand. All the things I post are things that I do. My social media identity is an extension of myself. I would write ‘next fitness star’ everywhere: on my mirror at home, on paper in my car. It was all I talked about. That is when I realised that the tongue does create the outcome. Winning the contest gave me fantastic opportunities.”

How has the journey been like?

“It’s surreal how everything has turned out. I am blessed. My family still doesn’t understand my lifestyle or what I do for a living. They worry about me not having kids. But for me the gym is my happy place, where I find most joy. Fitness is a recharge. The first thing I think about when I wake up is gym. It is even better now that I get to inspire others. If you can get someone active, make better life choices and be healthy, you know you are in the right place.”

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