The Highs and Lows of Namibia’s Fitness Industry

Alvina Kandenge

Fitness coaches don’t all start out as slim, healthy 20-somethings.
Some have also had to overcome obesity and mental illness.

This week, considers the journey of a few fitness coaches who have gone from being couch potatoes to fitness junkies.

While suffering from chronic depression, Nelago Nuunyango says every book she read encouraged exercising.“The journey began due to a growing desire to live,” she says.

Nuunyango created a platform called Inyenga, focusing on encouraging people to exercise for better mental health.

“I would share progress photos of myself at the gym, and pose the simple question: ‘Did you move today?’ I would reach out to my friends and everyone who would listen to please exercise for mental health,” Nuunyango says.

She says exercise is not only about losing weight. This is accomplished by eating healthy, while mental health is achieved by being active.

“When you’re mentally fit, you’re able to achieve emotional health and physical fitness. A mentally fit individual has no issue getting up to go to the gym,” she says.

After successfully running ‘Inyena’, Nuunyango saw an opportunity to branch out to supplying gym gear.

She now sells branded gym clothing.

“I saw ladies in Namibia working out in regular bras and not sports bras or actual activewear. That’s when I decided to supply them with classy, sassy, and comfy gym clothing.

“We have grown, and the reception both here in the United States and in Namibia has exceeded my expectations,” she says.


Nuunyango says she was suicidal at a young age due to being overweight.

“I was tired. Everything became dark, and I didn’t think there was a way out. The feeling of being sad all the time is debilitating. I wanted to die.

“Luckily, I was rushed to the emergency room, and this is where I count myself fortunate. I was able to see a psychiatrist, and I was admitted to a psychiatric ward.

“That’s where I underwent a psychiatric evaluation and received extensive counselling,” she says.

Nuunyango says she advises people to join her movement programme, as it is an ongoing process.

She says especially in Namibia significant stigma is attached to mental illness.

“Let’s openly admit that we are a people who have inherited trauma, and we continue to be traumatised and struggle. We are a people in need of healing.

“A fit person is confident, can better manage stress, and is able to enjoy overall health.

“Life will continue to be challenging. But you want to be equipped, and that comes from exercising. Also, your clothes fit better,” she says.


Nuunyango is not the only personal trainer with a powerful life story.

Fitness trainer Ester Hipondoka says bootcamps remain the best thing to do.

She currently trains at ’247 Fitness Bootcamp while doing an online fitness course.

Hipondoka says she started her fitness journey in 2011 when she realised she had too much time on her hands.

She has now grown from an intern to a professional fitness trainer training almost 20 people.

“I wanted something to do to kill time in the afternoons. But it didn’t really come as a surprise choosing fitness, because back in high school, I would participate in almost all sport activities.

“Not long after, fitness turned into a hobby,” she says.
At the peak of her fitness journey, she says she was more focused on staying fit than eating healthy.

“As years went by, I realised I was gaining weight while still exercising. My motto was that I could eat anything I want, I’d burn that fat off anyway, and boy, was I wrong.
“I started eating healthy and exercising, and saw positive changes in the long run,” she says.

Hipondoka says she has always been inspired by fitness trainer Nelson Sakaria.

“I looked at how young he was and how he would transform people’s lives through fitness. He inspired me to do the same. Having trained with him for years, I’ve decided to take up a personal fitness course to make my dream come true.

“In the process of studying, I did my internships with ‘247 Fitness Bootcamp,” she says.

She plans on venturing into something different, though, Hipondoka says.

“The fitness business is more like a heartbeat. It can look good some days and some days not. Winter times, for instance, people hardly show up.

“Consistency is one component lacking in the fitness world. And I must say it’s unhealthy,” she says.

The founder of Vii’s fitness club, nutritionist Alvina Kandenge, also known as Vii or Viin, says she has left her full-time job to pursue her passion for health.

She holds a certificate in business administration, but focuses on fitness and nutrition coaching.

Kandenge says although business is currently flourishing, the biggest challenge remains the inconsistent income.


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