Nothing stops Lena Gitonga from lifting weights to build muscle, even if she does it with one hand. She lost part of her hand in an accident and she started weightlifting to lift her spirits, trim excess fat, gain strength in the functioning hand and boost her confidence.
“It helps me relax and give me clarity especially after being bogged down by work,” says the 24-year-old research scientist.
Lena grew up swimming and she says she was encouraged by her father to lift weights.
“I have always been a swimmer. I was in the swimming club in high school and university. But my father introduced me to weights because he wanted me to gain strength on my functioning hand,” says Lena.
Now she can comfortably squat with more than 20 kilogramme weights. During her workouts, she lifts both light and heavy weights.
She starting out with three-kilogramme dumbbells and slowly increased the weights.
“Even squats, I would do with the barbell without adding extra weights. Then my trainer and I set goals that seemed ambitious but achievable. I started squatting with weights. In about two years, I have gained a lot of muscle,” she says.
Besides gaining strength, weightlifting has helped shape her legs and arms.
It also provides the much-needed mental boost, she says.
“My body is now shaping itself the way that I want it to and my arms are toning. I love how I have built endurance, pushing myself to do things I never thought I would do. And the fact that I can be able to lift heavy weights makes me mentally strong,” she adds.
Just like many fitness enthusiasts, it was not easy at the beginning.
Lena says she used to get body aches but once she starting pushing past the pain, she boosted her stamina and endurance.
“Weightlifting makes you psychologically stronger and more confident. It transforms your physical appearance and you become fitter and healthy,” she says.
When she is not lifting weights, she runs outdoors.
“Running is my perfect cardio. I do five-kilometre-running exercises, which are like my warm-up workouts every day. If I am too exhausted, I run for three kilometres. To break monotony, I also do the CrossFit exercises and aerobics,” she says.
Most people fail to adhere to fitness regimes. So how does Lena keep up the momentum? She says the best way to is to have a personal trainer who will design a fitness programme that best meets your needs. Also, let the trainer know your limitations.
“My coach tailors some of the workouts to fit me. I never thought I would do dead lift with a barbell but he tailored it in a way that fits my situation,” she says.
Mathew Mathe is Lena’s fitness trainer and together they have developed a workout programme.
Mr Mathe says there are many exercises that can be tailored to fit each person’s needs and help someone achieve their fitness and weight-loss goals.
“She can do almost everything but there are few exercises that I customise to fit her. She is mentally strong and very strong-willed and that makes it very easy for her to do any type of exercise,” says Mr Mathe.