Fitness practitioner, Phelo Mfini, 26, is gaining a cult following in the local wellness industry and continues to find new ways of advancing wellness in this digital era.
Compiled By: Blacklight writer
Images courtesy of Phelo Mfini
The rugby-player-turned-fitness-coach is one of the few wellness practitioners that have successfully transformed wellness into a lucrative career. Through his work, he has amassed a loyal audience on Twitter: @mfinifittt, Instagram: @mfinifit , and YouTube, and helps to transform many into the best versions of themselves.
While some may label him a fitness influencer, he is quick to denounce the title: “My duty as fitness trainers is to turn fitness into a lifestyle and not just a trend,” he tells Blacklight.
The entrepreneur and certified body transformation specialist is known as the “Mr. Miyagi of Fitness” and wears the title like a badge of honour.
He is overzealous, passionate, and has an unmatched drive. He hopes to use himself as a reference for those who wish to turn fitness into a sustainable development goal.
“We should never settle in our comfort zones because comfortability is not always a safe zone.”
When the country went into lockdown, I was in distress for a few days, not knowing what was going to happen, but then I got busier than ever before. Luckily, I was ready for the digital era because I had already been working within that space before the pandemic. I do this is to help people, and this was the perfect time to be of service to people. I had to be creative so I came up with fun and engaging ways to stay connected with people while adhering to the social distancing regulations. I started hosting Instagram “IG: Live” fitness sessions, I had guests like Siya Kolisi, Maps Maponyane, professional athletes, and media personalities. I built on that momentum, and I got to work with a few reputable brands and also got featured on the Men’s Health cover.
“I focus on changing people’s lives, not just their bodies.”
I come from a very academic family, but I decided to follow my own path, and pursue my dreams. I dropped out of varsity to do what I wanted to do, not what everyone wanted me to do. I disappointed a few people in my life just so I could pursue this dream, which nobody understood at the time. My family was worried about whether this career was going to be financially rewarding. I went to study to be a fitness trainer, and eventually, I became a full-time fitness trainer. My focus is on changing people’s lives, not just their bodies. A person can always gain the weight back or lose it again, but the real challenge is achieving a holistic change that will impact them internally and psychologically.
“Training helps us to be more resilient and open to life.”
Growing up, I was a rugby player. I was very serious about the sport, and my dream was to play for the Springboks. Unfortunately, I had to quit the sport due to injuries. I was a consistent player, but I just kept getting injured. Everytime I suffered an injury; I would start acting out and engaging in disruptive behaviour, like drinking. Eventually, I had to start exploring my alternatives, and that’s when I started hitting the gym hard as a self-care method.
I began to see the positive outcome of leading a fitness life; how it was able to transform my entire life. I was able to perform at a higher level in my day-to-day life, consistently. I wanted to share this world that I had discovered with other people and help them to transform their lives while also earning a living. When I turned 24, I achieved that dream. Now I guide and help people to achieve the best version of themselves, so they can go out into the world and make a change.
“Fitness is not just about the body; it’s also about the mind and spirit.”
A lot of people use fitness to destress and to tackle stress, anxiety, and depression. When done right, training can be a happy place where we can completely let go of all the worldly-matters and refocus on self. Everything starts in our minds – whatever the mind does, the body follows. If we don’t change our mind-sets, there is no body transformation that can happen. If we have negative thoughts about the health and fitness process, then we will not be disciplined enough to achieve consistency. We must also be able to take whatever we learn from the process and apply it in every aspect of life. During the lockdown, I was working with a lot of clients who were in distress, and after three to four months, they had transformed mentally and physically – now they are more positive and optimistic. That is the power of training; it shifts your mentality. The good thing about this pandemic is that many people have realised the importance of their health and fitness. We have seen an influx in people running, exercising, joining the gym etc.
“We need to rethink the way we think about fitness because it is more than just about gaining or losing weight.”
When we use the gym as a way to purge ourselves of negative thoughts and emotions, we gain access to the positive hormones, the endorphins, which enable us to be more positive. Sweating also helps to release any form of stress and tension. I have days when my spirits are low, and I use training as therapy. The gym is my happy place. I enjoy the pain that comes with exercise. I enjoy sweating, the high and the tiredness after an intense workout. Fitness is all about our overall well-being. Trainers have a responsibility to change the perceptions around fitness and help people to see fitness as a self-care tool. We have to lead this revolution. If we can be that generation that looks beyond the body and redirect our attention to our mental health, then we live more balanced lives.
“Social media has opened up the fitness industry, but there is also a growing trend of people who are doing it just for clout –to get followers.”
Through social media, fitness has become trendy, but many (fitness) influencers don’t realise that as trainers we are dealing with people’s lives. Many are playing with lives because they lack the education and knowledge of how human bodies truly work. That makes me angry because people are being fooled by people who are not qualified fitness practitioners. That is because, in this digital era, anybody can be a fitness practitioner, all one has to do is post a couple of pictures on social media, get likes and followers and that’s it. It’s unfair to the general population that certain people are seen as influential simply because they have great bodies – that’s not how life works. It takes hard work, education, and passion to gain credibility. On the upside, the digital world has also helped to create a good and positive community that promotes health and wellness. We need more fitness motivation, especially in the black community. Our duty as fitness trainers is to turn fitness into a lifestyle and not just a trend. We can only achieve that by implementing a more holistic approach and not focusing on just getting chiseled or toned bodies. We should be that generation that does not have to be told by the doctor to adopt a healthier lifestyle. And we should not have to wait until we have a life-threatening disease for us to make our health a priority.
“Sustainable fitness is about adopting a healthier lifestyle rather than acquiring a flawless physique.”
I always tell people that adopting a fitness lifestyle should be a personal decision and a long term goal. People should create their own goals and not be influenced by other people because our processes are different. We also don’t have to overdo it and go to the gym every day – start slowly and make a natural progression from there – this includes diet. You also don’t have to suddenly make drastic changes to your diet, start slowly and cut off a few things with time. Take it one step at a time and start building positive habits. Think of it as a form of therapy, where you can purge yourself of any emotional burdens. It does not always have to be hard-core; it can be a simple walk, a hike or sports. Incorporate the things you enjoy into your fitness routine, whether it’s sports, running, cycling, cross-fit, swimming, because that makes it more enjoyable. The trick is to discover the things that work for your body. Do not follow trends; create your own trends – long-term trends.
For more info on Mfini, go to: mfinifit.com