Why you should sweat it - Times LIVE
Thu Mar 30 22:31:53 SAST 2017

Why you should sweat it

Yolisa Mkele | 2014-01-06 00:01:38.0
MAN VAN STAAL: South Africa's first home-trained world record holder and Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh at the University of Pretoria gym Picture:

The festive season has left most of us with a few extra kilograms clinging to our waistlines.

It has also triggered a number of New Year's resolutions that are adhered to for just as long as it takes your new gym card to lose its shine. But recovering from a long party season is not impossible.

I went to the High Performance Centre in Pretoria to chat to Olympic gold medallist swimmer Cameron van der Burgh and physical fitness experts . The HPC is a one-stop sports facility for sporting champions, sports professionals and enthusiasts. There is no reason we can't all train like athletes and see real results in about six weeks with these professional guidelines.

Mind over matter

Your mindset is the single most important tool for getting into athletic shape or for losing weight.

According to Monja Human, a psychologist at the HPC, you need both motivation and commitment.

"There is a big difference between commitment and motivation. Motivation is a simple desire for something. Commitment is doing everything and anything possible," she said.

Set realistic and specific goals

Set achievable and specific goals using smaller ones as route markers on your way to the larger goal. Writing down these goals will increase your chances of success.

Support system

Athletes do not work in isolation. Every athlete has a gaggle of coaches, trainers and assorted support staff dedicated to getting the best out of them. Find like-minded friends who will give you the support you need.


What and when you eat will have a demonstrable effect on your body's performance and its ability to shrink. Set yourself a target and eat towards it.

Nicki de Villiers, resident dietician at the HPC, says: "Identify the problem area in your current eating pattern. In general it can either be that you're eating the wrong type of food or you're eating too much of the right type of food."

Set specific times to eat and develop a routine

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What you eat in the morning will affect how your body behaves throughout the day.

"I would recommend 4 to 5 meals a day because it makes portion control easier. Make supper no bigger than the other meals during the day," says De Villiers.

"A lot of our problems come from not eating enough vegetables and substituting them with something else."

Eating to a schedule means you turn it into a habit.

"If you schedule your meals you can condition your body to get hungry when you have time to eat. If you stick to it, it will take about three to four weeks to condition your body," says De Villiers.

It's not all about protein

There's no recent research that indicates that more than 25g of protein at a given time is doing anything beneficial.

Regularly eat small protein portions.

This will create more anabolic periods, which is what you need to build muscle.

Eat in and around your training

"Eat before you go to gym and as soon as possible afterward. Depending on what you are eating, it is best to eat about an hour before you go to gym," De Villiers advises.

Food types

Control your portion sizes and eat the right things at the right times. The right things are more or less anything that is not processed, overly oily and likely to increase your chances of a heart attack. Once you get into a routine this should become easier.


Training is the toughest part of working towards looking like an athlete. Van der Burgh trains for up to 30 hours a week, six days a week.

His daily programme includes anything from intense race simulation and short distance, high-gradient hill running to Olympic-style weight-lifting and 5-6km of swimming. His routine typically includes two sessions in the pool and one in the gym per day.

The programme you decide to follow depends entirely on your goal. A good place to start is to chat to head biomechanist Dr Helen Bayne and head of Sports Science Shona Hendricks at the HPC. They run tests designed to identify your weaknesses and improve your performance.

Among the tests that Bayne does is one called a Functional Movement Screen, which rates one on a range of seven basic movements.

Hendricks does a number of tests to gauge athletic performance. These include testing endurance. Testing allows specialists to tailor a workout programme specific to your goals and abilities.

It is crucial that you speak to a health and fitness professional before you begin any intense workout programme. Buff cousin Jacques with the tribal tattoos and short temper does not count as a specialist.

  • For more information, contact the High Performance Centre on 012-362-9800


A typical Cameron meal plan

  • For breakfast, eggs on low-GI toast with a little avocado on the side or yoghurt with muesli, nuts and honey and a protein shake.
  • A smoothie after the morning training session.
  • At around 11.30am, a white chicken breast with asparagus and half an avocado
  • Almonds just before training at 1.30pm.
  • A protein shake after afternoon training session
  • For dinner, fish or chicken, sometimes red meat with vegetables like broccoli or a salad.


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