University of Fort Hare student and fitness guru, Rita Xam, is a multi-talented young star with a bright future ahead in the sport industry.
The 20-year-old, who is completing her final year in the Health Science Department, is passionate about leading an active lifestyle as she juggles being a rugby player and gym instructor.
Growing up, Xam reveals that fitness played a major role in her life as she was always willingly involved in any physical activity at school.
In 2020, she took to Instagram to post workout videos and after receiving positive feedback, Xam dedicated her time to focus more on her journey to share inspiring workout routines.
Speaking with gsport, Xam chats about balancing her busy schedule and shares fitness tips for 2022.
Rita, thank you for taking time to speak to us. Could please give us brief background of yourself?
I am a 20-year-old who will be completing my 3rd and final year at University of Fort Hare in the Health Science Department majoring in Human Movement Science in 2022.
I matriculated in 2018 at East London Secondary School. Finishing my grade 12 in 2018 and not getting a school right after was hard, but that gave me a window of opportunity to explore what I really want to study because growing up I always thought I’d be in the medical field but ended up in sport.
In my early high school life I was bit of an athlete where in grade 8 I received three medals for athletics, but it was never the dream. In high school I was involved in various clubs and organisations.
In grade 11 to grade 12, I was the Vice President of the debate club where we took part in different debate competitions.
While doing grade nine at St Johns Primary School I was part of an interact club where we did charity work around East London.
I never had a luxurious upbringing, but my mom made sure that my siblings and I had everything we needed. That is where I got my drive from because I know that nothing comes easy in life and I have to work hard for things I want.
When did your fitness journey start and what sparked it?
Fitness is something that’s been a major part of my life.
In primary and high school I was that annoying child that would be so active during physical education class. In high school, when we had PhysED class, the teacher would play a workout video for the class to do during that period.
I was literally like the second instructor of the class because I was up in front doing every exercise and checking if everyone was doing everything correctly. I would say that whole environment sparked my fitness journey, the class was like my safe haven to be honest, where I could be myself.
I would say I took my fitness journey more seriously in 2020. I enjoy fitness a lot, but when I started posting fitness videos on Instagram and received positive responses about how people would feel inspired about my fitness and health lifestyle, that is when I knew that the decision of focusing my life in fitness was a wise decision.
We also see that you are gym instructor. Was that part of your future plans?
Being a gym instructor was never part of the plan or anything that I have dreamed about. The degree that I am doing also inspired that because I want to learn about working with different people that have different needs when it comes to fitness.
Working in the gym is hard, but every day I learn how to be there for the client without forcing them to do what they’re not comfortable doing, but actually motivating them to be best versions of who they are.
I enjoy working with people so it makes being a gym assistant a lot easier.
We’re sure it must take a lot of determination, commitment and discipline to live a healthy lifestyle. What challenges have you encountered during the years?
Living a healthy lifestyle is not easy trust me, it takes a strong person to stay disciplined. We have been living a healthy lifestyle at home for years now and it has been a struggle, but in my high school years I used to carry smoothies for my lunch so I got used to eating healthy.
It became boring eating the same thing over and over again, but when I discovered that healthy food can taste good or even better than junk food that’s when I knew that being healthy doesn’t have to be a job, but my lifestyle.
It took a lot for me to remain consistent with my healthy lifestyle as I don’t include refined sugar in my diet. I know red meat is not healthy and I took the decision to cut it out of my diet completely.
I tried substituting with some vegan meals so I can increase my nutrient intake, but it hasn’t been easy but every day is a learning experience. The other thing about living a healthy lifestyle and being a busy university student is not easy.
I try to plan my meals, but every week is a challenge because other days I am way too tired to even think of eating and end up eating cereal but the following day I get up and try to do better than I did the day before.
Do you have any bad eating habits that you also try to fight along the way?
To be honest I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some kind of eating habits, but others do cost people their lives.
Well with everything that I choose to eat, I love ice cream and biscuits to be honest. Those two things are a real struggle, let me tell you it can be raining outside and I would have a bowl of ice cream.
When I do my grocery shopping at school I make sure that my snacks are there with biscuits being one of the many things I buy. It’s not good for me to eat a lot of biscuits, but hey a girl has to get a biscuit or two to get through her day.
You are also a rugby player! What sparked that interest and how are you able to juggle everything?
Playing rugby was never part of the plan honestly, but I have been one to challenge myself and joining rugby was more about challenging myself more than anything.
Rugby is regarded as “men’s sport” and also people often have the stereotype about females that play rugby. I had to choose between tennis and rugby this year and rugby ended up winning. Rugby is a risky sport, but my love for sport made me realise that no sport is easy so the fears that people have about rugby shouldn’t hinder me in joining it and guess what? I ended up loving playing the game and understanding it more.
I’ve learnt a lot in rugby more than just about the tossing of the ball or defending, but when you are with your teammates you become a family on that field and be there for the one another when they’re losing hope, you gain strength from your teammates.
It’s not easy balancing all that I do and trying to be sane, while also trying to have a healthy social life. Truly speaking I don’t have a social life, I can be a bit of a workaholic at times because I want so much out of life with sport being my priority.
Every girl child should know that you can be a leading sport woman whether you’re a player or in management, but that can happen if you try to put your foot in every door that opens your way and that’s all I am trying to do.
Every day is hard because there isn’t enough hours in a day when you’re juggling a job at the gym, being a rugby player, school work, working out and I also try to create fitness content for my social media.
It’s a struggle, but I push through because I know what I want to achieve at the end of the day and that won’t happen if I lay on my back and wait for everything to happen.
Balance is something that I always struggle with and I sometimes don’t see my friends for a good two weeks to a month because of my busy schedule, so I try by all means that every Sunday I have a relaxed day where I don’t work.
Lastly, could you please share three fitness tips for 2022?
- Fitness is not just about your aesthetics, but also about your mental wellbeing. Don’t work out to look like someone else or because you want to impress people but do it for yourself and how it makes you feel after.
- Listen to your body. If you are working out every single day and you don’t rest, you won’t get the results you want and not all exercises will work for your body type. Reaching a plateau doesn’t mean that the exercise is not for you, it means that your body is accustomed to that particular exercise so you need to elevate. Know the difference.
- Ask for help when you are not sure about something. It’s okay to have a personal trainer at the beginning of your workout journey but even if you are advanced in your workout journey that does not mean you will know everything. Lastly have fun, don’t take fitness as a job but as a fun experience.
Photo 1 Caption: University of Fort Hare student and fitness guru, Rita Xam, is a multi-talented young star with a bright future ahead in the sport industry. Photo: Supplied