QA: Chantel Menziwa drops the kilos and hits the road

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Chantel is a mom, firefighter and long distance runner who now has her eyes set on completing her first Two Oceans Ultra Marathon and The Ultimate Human Race.

Both she and her husband Graham are doing the Sleekgeek 8 Week Challenge and we are really looking forward to seeing their results.

Profile:

Name: Chantel Menziwa
Age: 39
Location: Cape Town

What do you do?
I am a firefighter at Cape Town International Airport since May 2007. Before that, I worked in the SANDF as a firefighter for 7 years.

What else do you do?
I don’t have any other hobbies besides running. So on my off days, I try and spends as much time with my kiddos as possible.

YOU AND SLEEKGEEK

How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
I’ve been the group for a few years on and off. I was just a spectator.

How did you find Sleekgeek?
One of my friends added me, I left the group and was then added by a different friend. I really started being interested in Sleekgeek last December 2018.

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
The amazing support, motivation, inspiration and the tools that are constantly available to reach one’s goals.

YOUR TRANSFORMATION

Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
My first weight loss journey started years ago when joined the SANDF in January the year 2000. I weighed about 84kgs when joined.

The “sluk nou kou later” system and constantly being on a double march, ensured I went down to 64kg in 3 months.  Another 3 months later my basic military training was completed.

I did my firefighter training and in 2001 in started working as a firefighter at the Oudtshoorn Military Base. I gained all of that weight back again. A few months later I started feeling constantly tired, urinating frequently, being sluggish. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I was treated with tablets,  exercised only when forced to and struggled to lose weight again.

Then in 2003 I joined SANDF Military Athletics Club. I started doing race walking the whole of 2003. I got tired because by the time I had finished walking the runners were refreshed and showered. I started running in 2004 and making better eating choices. I ran to improve my health, faster times and realised it’s so de-stressful. So I kept on running, losing weight and improving my times.

The year 2006 I remember I ran my best times ever. My 10km PB was 50 mins( KKNK 10km), 21km 1h57(Meiringspoort 21km)and 30km 3h15 (Tygerberg 30km).

In 2009 my son, Luniko was born, I struggled again with my weight. I was pregnant again in 2013 and had a miscarriage.

In 2014 my daughter Emihle was born. I still kept on running as it was my lifeline. In mid-2016 I started having stomach issues, went to the doctor. Nothing was found.

I lost a lot of weight but thought it was due to running. In January 2017 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodskins Lymphoma stage 4 as it has spread to my bone marrow. I went through chemotherapy and was cleared at the end of August 2018. I have been In remission ever since

What ignited your initial motivation to change?
I gained weight again. The more I ran, the more I ate. My motto was: I run to eat.

In mid-December my husband Graham weighed himself in at 97kg, he was like: “Hell no we need to do something!” We vowed we would start on 1 Jan 2019.

We decided to enter the 8-week challenge joined the amazing TEAM UP and TEAM UP 2.0. The amazing team and team leaders supported us and inspired us to where we are today. Taking part in the 8-week challenge was the best thing and investment we made for ourselves.

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?
I am able to say to bad food choices. I love the gym now. I used to avoid it, even at work. I can go to the gym alone and not need anyone to join me.

What are some of the things that the new you still struggle with?
I am still running, but since the challenge, I have lost my way on the gym side.

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?
I need to keep at it as I still have hard work ahead. I have lots of loose skin to tone and tighten and it will not happen by itself.

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
Yes, I did. During the challenge, we had two birthdays in the family and eating cake comes with birthdays! I learned that if you overdo it, you can gain weight.

What is better since you got healthy? 
My sugar levels have improved. I am insulin dependent and I am using less now.

TRAINING

What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]
Everybody that knows me will say running, running and more running!

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I started off as a race walker in 2003. I started running in 2004.

What does your typical workout look like?
It will either be hill training, speed training or a long slow run to increase leg mileage.

Favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
My favourite distance is a 10km.

Least favorite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
Burpees

How does exercise make you feel?
Like I can do anything I put I mind in to. 

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I can train alone or in a group. If no one is available I am that person that can get up and go alone.

Most embarrassing training moment?
Yoh! It’s more frustrating than embarrassing. There are actually two.

My husband and I drove all the way to Stellenbosch to take part in the Winelands 21km in 2017. I used to wear my slippers to races and just pack my takkies in my bag. I got to Stellenbosch, walked around, went to the bathroom then got back to the car only to realize my running shoes were not in the sports bag. I had pre-entered the race already. I was already dressed, ready to go run, but dololo tekkies. I was heartbroken!

That same year I went the to the MSA 10km race. I packed my tekkies in, only to realise that I had packed a trail and a road takkie and both were two lefties.

Needless to say, on both occasions, I ended up playing photographer.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?

  • A towel (I must still buy me a Sleekgeek one)
  • Water bottle
  • Sweatband or buff

Your next training goal?
I am slowly working my way up to compete in my first Two Oceans Ultra Marathon 56km and the Ultimate Human Race 87km.

I also want to do the Comrades in 2020. My next big goal for this year is the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (42.2km). This will be my 4th full marathon.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]
It has changed my life. I used to suffer from low self-esteem and it has boosted my self-confidence, I am who I am because of running. I came out of my shell.

NUTRITION

What’s your favourite meal?
Breyani and macaroni and cheese. Now that I’ve adjusted my eating lifestyle, I will probably eat them as a side dish and not as a full meal. As much as I love it, I refuse to undo all my hard work

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
Lettuce wrap with chicken, mixed pepper strips, carrot strips.

Favourite protein? 
Chicken, red meat and eggs. It has to be eggs I suppose, as I can eat them every day.

Favourite fat?
Avocado.

Favourite carbohydrate?
Sweet potato.

What’s your nutrition philosophy/approach? [If you have one]
I lost all of my weight through Banting, it has done wonders for me. I went from 83kg to 73kg.

How many meals a day do you eat?
I eat 3 times a day, also depending what my sugar levels are doing. My insulin demand has decreased, which I am very excited about. 

Do you have a cheat meal/treat strategy?
I don’t have a specific cheat meal strategy. I have lost my weight through Banting. Before I lost weight, I completely avoided the baddies. Now that I’m maintaining, I will have a baddie now and then but in moderation in order to not feel too deprived.

MINDSET

Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?
Running the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (42.2km) in 2016.

It was my very first marathon. I never imagined I would ever be able to complete a full marathon. Now I am dreaming of competing in the Comrades Ultra Marathon 87km in, hopefully, 2020. God willing.

Favorite quote?
“What you have to decide… is how you want your life to be. If your forever is ending tomorrow this be how you would have spent it? Listen, the truth is nothing is guaranteed. You know that more than anybody. So be afraid. Be alive. “
Sarah Dessen- The Truth About Forever.

Favourite book? 
I don’t read much. I used read a lot growing up but at the moment I don’t have one.

What inspires and motivates you?
Running.

For what are you most grateful? 
I am grateful for every day that God allows me to open my eyes and spend it with my family and friends. I am grateful that I am able to work. I am grateful that I am still able to run. I run for those can’t.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
Don’t wait to start, just start. Stop saying tomorrow. Prepare your training gear already in the evening before and take that leap.

What are your top 5 tips for anyone starting on a healthy journey?

  • There is no quick fix. 
  • Nothing worked hard for was ever easy.
  • Try to get your family involved if possible.
  • If you fall off the wagon, get up, forgive yourself and start anew the next day.
  • Do an accountability post, so when you are struggling and feel like giving, that will motivate you to keep going.