Noun.  Passionate devotion to or interest in a cause or subject, enthusiasm, fire, passion, zeal.  Zealousness.  Yes, it`s actually a word!  And one that best describes the spirit of our Zoom-for-Zest Winter Challenge that ended last Friday.  Yesterday was our prize giving ceremony, and although there wasn`t sherry and snacks and funny costumes, there were hats and cheers and smiles.  It was a joyful occasion!

In fact, I can`t remember when was the last time I was so excited to write my Blog and share my thoughts about the outcome of my journey with these 54 inspiring women over the last few weeks.  I guess they were just as unsure as I was about what to expect of an online fitness challenge, but they nevertheless trusted me and none of us were disappointed.

I have described in previous Blogs how the weekly routine has given us all a sense of stability and normality during the frustrating, long weeks of lockdown with its ridiculous rules.  Saturday afternoon, during that last Zoom gathering, my heart just burst with pride – for many women it was a first challenge, but they were all dedicated and committed, punctual, focused and friendly.  I really value their trust in me to share their confidential before and after pictures, their weekly reports of weight and body stats and precious home workout video clips.

There were 40 successful Challenge participants and together they lost a staggering 58,2kg!  Determining our overall winners was a tricky affair, however, because many participants live elsewhere, and I only had after-photos, WhatsApp messages and weekly weight-readings to work with.  Normally, it`s super easy because there are InBody assessments and daily personal interaction…

But, I looked at each participant individually and this is what it came down to:  Points were awarded for number of sessions, improvement in weight and BMI, participation in social media activities, discipline, mindset, punctuality and focus, and how close memberts came to reaching their personal goals they set at the beginning of the Challenge.  I asked myself these questions:

  • What was their contribution to make this Challenge believable?
  • How have I experienced their interaction before and after class?
  • How excited, encouraging and positive have they been throughout these nine weeks?
  • Have they been attentive and mindful to the small things like reading the weekly Blog and watching the weekly motivational videos with hidden extra points?
  • Are they ambassadors for Mirna`s Aerobic studio and have they often chosen our YouTube channel for home workouts when we experienced load-shedding?

So, after much consideration, the winners were announced with fanfare, and here they are – our top 10 participants:

  1. Lilian Maree  (All the way from Carnarvon in the Northern Cape)
  2. Annebie Venter (Ermelo)
  3. Anneri Kannemeyer (Johannesburg)
  4. Juanita Dedekind (Middelburg
  5. Nicole Venter (Pretoria/Ermelo)
  6. Marie Jonker (Ermelo)
  7. Martie Badenhorst (Ermelo)
  8. Carien Bester (Ermelo)
  9. Hannelie Slabber (Ermelo)
  10. Michelle Venter (Pretoria/Ermelo)


The top four participants each received a hamper worth R1200, but many other prizes were awarded, as always, thanks to our sponsors:  Mirna`s Aerobic Studio, Mizpah, C-beauty and Avon.  (Thank you Sonnet, Christien and Carien).  (An extra special thank you, Mari Kruger from Inkbox, for your continuous support with my weekly Blog, the design of our beautiful certificates, Challenge promotions and weekly Zoom schedules.  You are talented beyond words and one of a kind!)

Here are our other prize winners:

  • Aninka de Jager (Strongest finish)
  • Carien Bester (Most sessions completed)
  • Elmi Peens (Weight-loss)
  • Michelle Odendaal (Best improvement from 2019 to 2020)
  • Nicole Venter (Exceptional drop in body fat)
  • Rethia Naudé (Survivor award)
  • Trudie van der Bank (Lone wolf)
  • Annebie Venter (Fat loss award and 12th Challenge)
  • Annalize Breedt (12th Challenge)

(Members receive a R100 voucher when they have completed 12 Challenges, and then again when they reach Challenge number 18, but we should mention the following members who have come all the way since 2014 when we hosted our very first Fitness Challenge – Helen Lengenhager (13), Lizelle Botha (13), Michelle Odendaal (13), Sandrie Marais (13), Melinda du Plessis (14) and Stacey du Toit (14)

  • Anneri Kannemeyer (Weight-loss)
  • Lilian Maree (Second most sessions done and Challenge newcomer award)
  • Juanita Dedekind (Challenge newcomer award)
  • Liezel Nel (Social media supporter award)
  • Michelle Venter (Social media supporter award)
  • Lizelle Botha (Oldest Challenge member at 66, with 66 sessions)
  • Martie Badenhorst (Chirpy Challenge chick)

It`s always remarkable how our members manage to reach their best personal body stats, even after many Challenges:  Annalize Breedt (12th Challenge),  Annebie Venter (12th Challenge),  Sandrie Marais (13th Challenge), Leonie Prinsloo (11th Challenge), Marie Jonker (8th Challenge) and Martie Badenhorst (8th Challenge).  What makes this even more remarkable is that 5 of these ladies are 50 years plus!

The lucky winners of our cash draw (R50 times the number of successful members) were Melinda du Plessis (R1000), Riana Jacob (R600) and Leonie Prinsloo (R400). Ina van der Linde was the lucky winner of the R500 social media lucky draw.

We always love to give recognition to those Challenge participants who manage to reach or maintain a body fat under 20 percent.  We call them our Elite Athletes and  they are: Izelde Zwarts,  Nicole Venter, Michelle Odendaal and Stella Kalp.

…I recently stumbled upon the biography of Judy Blume, the American writer of children books.  What is remarkable about her story is that she only pursued her passion for writing in her mid-thirties, as a housewife and mother of two.  She once said:

“Fear is a tricky thing – it can be helpful, protecting you by telling you to keep your guard up.  But it can be crippling too – in the opportunities we don`t seize, the experiences we we`re hesitant to try out and the stronger, better persons we fail to become…

How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives…”

If I had succumbed to my fear of teaching Zoom workout sessions and backed down after those first two weeks struggling with all the technical difficulties that came with online teaching, I would not have the opportunity to share this Blog today.  I am so thankful for every woman who was willing to blindly follow me on this Winter journey.

I am even more thankful that all our members who have contracted the Covid-19 virus all managed to complete the Challenge…

Judy Blume also said: “Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch…”  More than ever I know that this is my calling, this is how God wants to use me – because our jobs as fitness instructors are about so much more than exercise – it`s about empowering women, inspiring them to be their best, showing them that it`s never too late to change, but above all, reassuring them that we don`t need to be perfect.  We are all flawed, hopelessly flawed, stitched together with good intentions.  

None of us are perfect.  Let us not pretend that we are.  Let us not be afraid that we`re not. 

Happy Women`s Day 2020

Yours in fitness


082 779 0507

PS: Our Summer Challenge starts 7 September.  Early bird fee of only R200 payable before 17 August.  If you are interested, contact me.  We don`t know when gyms will be allowed to open – when we do, the Challenge will continue in the studio, our Zoom members included.  That`s a promise.