Facing the Challenges

“You have no idea the kind of profanities guys shout at you if you try to jog in a place like Van Wyksvlei! People don’t have the luxury to look after their bodies or their health and nobody wants to subject themselves to the verbal abuse you suffer if you hit the streets in running gear.” Van Wyksvlei, just outside Wellington, is not a wealthy area at all, so joining a gym is not an option. “I asked my dad to run with me, but even that didn’t stop the degrading, sexist remarks. It was really unpleasant. I quickly learnt to never run without earphones!” Although she can joke about it now, it is no laughing matter and it is something close to Olivia’s heart.

“I just knew from a young age that I wanted to have my own fitness studio where I can train people to get fit and be more health conscious. What drove me was the fact that so many people in our community were overweight and suffering from related health issues. Even my own family members were facing many health related challenges, and it was breaking my heart because it could have been prevented through better education and more accessible fitness solutions.”

Olivia’s dream was to own a fitness studio before she turned 30, and her parents supported her whole heartedly, but she couldn’t blame even them for doubting the feasibility of her goals. It took much longer to realise her dream than she had hoped. She had no idea how to run a business and didn’t have anyone to offer surety in case she wanted to apply for a loan.

She managed to save up enough to study fitness management at CPUT and this meant that she had to catch the train to Mowbray every day for 3 years. “I used that time to study, because when I got back to Paarl, I worked the late shift (16:00 to 21:00) at a small gym, teaching classes to pay for my studies. And then it was home to Van Wyksvlei with the car I borrowed from my parents, before getting up again at the crack of dawn to catch the early train. It took sheer determination to keep it up.”

We Shall Overcome

“But determination IS my biggest talent. And that’s something everyone can have. You just have to put your mind to it and work hard at realising those dreams. No matter how long it takes.” In the beginning, she went to clients’ homes for private training, but her real dream was to make fitness more accessible and that meant giving group classes that are more affordable. And that meant that she really had to find her own studio.

Her dream finally came true last year after she had saved up enough for a decent deposit and managed to sign a lease for a studio at a brand-new shopping centre in Paarl. Finally, after 8 years of clinging to her dream, she became the owner of LivFit where she can call the shots, employ who she wants and create a sense of community around fitness.

It was never only about fitness. “When someone joins my class, I first meet with them to find out what their personal life challenges are. And sometimes there is a lot of cooped-up frustration. I try to group them together with other individuals who might face similar challenges. So, I have a FitMoms group, BeastMode, AbAttack and a group for teachers. The idea is that they gain self-confidence for other areas of their lives when they achieve small victories in the fitness department.”

So, for members of her LivFit movement, the value lies not only in the physical exercise they get, but in the motivational input from Olivia. They come eager to tap into her positivity and high spirits. As one of her members said: “You changed my life through the things you say, Olivia!”

She believes she has a gift for motivating and encouraging people. “It is because I know how important your thoughts are and how people who come to exercise often need to change at different levels, not just the physical. We’re not in the business of creating perfect bodies, but we want to turn peoples’ lives around. Give them a chance to change their thoughts and get rid of frustrations by overcoming smaller physical obstacles and challenges.”

At the End of the Day

LivFit is involved with a different charity every two months. They collect whatever is needed to try and make a difference. “All the members at my gym are always keen to help and take part in these projects. It’s simply part of what we do and who we are.”

So, what’s next? “I’m busy with my third DVD and I dream of owning my own small holding where I can design an obstacle course as part of a fitness regime. People love that kind of thing. I’m thinking bigger, maybe even hosting a TV show about how people turn their lives around by becoming fit.” This might very well still happen, seeing that Olivia’s not even thirty yet and has a proven track record when it comes to tenacity.

Watch Olivia here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myUYU05IU5E