You may have seen him on some videos either for Weetabix or music videos like Wahu’s Yeye. Who is Leon Weche really? Is he a model or a fitness guy? Well, you will find out in today’s Man Around Nairobi. Leon Weche is a ISSA certified personal trainer, nutritionist and healthy lifestyle coach. He has 3 years of experience in the field as a fitness professional and he has worked in the industry for 6-7 years.
Leon says, “Fitness and Nutrition is more than just a job, it’s a way of life. I love what I do because I get to change people’s lives and educate them on ways in which we can all live healthy lifestyles and still enjoy most of the foods we love. Getting fit and healthy shouldn’t be hard and shouldn’t feel like a punishment. That’s where I come in and help people adopt a healthy way of life without having to starve, drop all their favourite foods or feel like it’s a punishment. I also love outdoor fitness and I try to do a lot of Bootcamp style training (I realize not everyone enjoys the gym like I do) to avoid the gym monotony. Like I tell all my clients “give me a space and I’ll get you to your goals.” If it’s a Healthy Lifestyle Coach you’re looking for you’re looking in the right place and also I believe I can be one of the best personal trainers in Nairobi and the sky is not the limit but the beginning for me.”
Leon also works part-time with a company called Something Random which deals with personalized shopping from the USA. Also, most of his business is situated around Fitness and Health and he deals with supplements. He also does nutrition consultancy and he also hopes to have a fitness apparel line coming soon, if everything goes well by 2017 you could be rocking Kenyan-made Leesthetics gym gear.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Yes, I grew up in Nairobi. All my life has been in Nairobi except the time my dad played professional football in Oman for like 2 years. I was too young to remember but yeah Nairobi has been home since day one. I grew up in Madaraka estate, that’s where my heart will always be. It was a nice place to grow up, there was never a day that passed without something exciting happening, and it makes me miss the place sometimes. I was a footballer since I was young and growing up there I just wanted to play professional football like my father of course. Two of my role models growing up were Ronaldinho and Zidane. Sometimes I sit and wonder how I took a whole different path career-wise, but I just laugh because that’s life, things change
As I said growing up it was all about football. Besides that, I’m sure guys from my generation can relate to such games like hookie, cha mama, brikicho, kick-the-can, hide and seek, and police and robbers just to name a few. Nowadays kids just play video games and watch TV. I’m actually quite happy I grew up in the time and place I did. Some of my best memories are in Madaraka, home of the brave.
As I have said before I wanted to be a pro footballer. My love for the gym started when my dad told me I should start going to the gym so I can still be stronger than everyone on the field. I started training and I guess I just grew and grew and my body responded well. During this time, I never imagined working in the fitness industry at all, I just wanted to be large and strong. But then, things happened (a story for another day) and I quit soccer. That’s when my aunt and Uncle realized I have a passion for food and fitness. They helped me with school (Kenyatta University) where I studied Nutrition and Health and with that I specialized in sports nutrition. I got my first job at Trojan Health and Fitness where I saved up some money. With the help of a very good friend whom I consider a brother now – he helped me raise the money for my Fitness, Strength, Conditioning and Personal training courses. Well as you can see the rest as they say is history, and I have never been happier with a career path like I am now. Thank you to everyone who supported me and stood by me this whole time.
- What do you love about Nairobi?
First and foremost, it’s the city I call home, where I have grown up and where I work for my bread and butter so to speak. I love that every day Nairobi is growing and embracing change when it comes to fitness, fashion, arts and entertainment. I’m not an office kind of guy, and the four fields I have mentioned are where most of my interests are. Looking good, feeling good, creating beautiful works of art and talent. It’s good to see these fields growing in Nairobi. Guys are actually making a living and getting into careers that I’m sure the older generation, our parents’ generation would not have approved. I love that Nairobi is a city that embraces change and with that, it’s creating more fitpreneurs and entrepreneurs every day.
I love the fact that people have started embracing the fitness and health lifestyle and have realized that it’s an important part of their lives. There’s the saying “Health is Wealth” and growing up I didn’t get what it really meant until I got older and I realized it doesn’t matter how much money you have, as long as you’re not in good health it’s hard to enjoy that money you have worked so hard for. In any case man wasn’t made to just sit down and do nothing, we are an active species and movement is an important part of our survival. I am just happy fitness is slowly becoming a part of people’s lives just like going for hospital checkups.
- What would you change about Nairobi?
Well, Nairobi is Nairobi because of the way it is, the people, the vibrancy, and the different cultures all in one city, the energy when you’re just walking anywhere is felt and also seen, and the night life is amazing. One thing I would change is insecurity. For a city that attracts hundreds of investors and supports thousands of businesses and has people from around the world coming to just experience Nairobi, I think in terms of security we have failed. The police force isn’t well equipped or even well paid to be able to find the motivation to protect its people. And sometimes there are days I just want to walk around town at night, maybe dance a little bit down the street, do a push-up or two but the first thing on my mind is “am I safe?” Day or night I think the security issue should really be addressed. Nairobi is a beautiful city and as much as there is nothing like the safest place in the world, I think Nairobi can be safer.
In terms of work, the one thing I would like people to understand is that there is a big difference between a gym instructor and a personal trainer. Sometimes when you give clients your charges they tend to complain (which is funny sometimes) but just like your personal family doctor, that’s exactly what a personal trainer is. It’s a 24/7 contract, this is not the kind of relationship where when you leave the gym I forget about you. Your goals become my goals and your health becomes my biggest concern. So I will follow up beyond the gym.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I am an ISSA-certified personal trainer and Nutritionist which is a career path that I am enjoying and deeply love. It hasn’t been easy trying to set myself apart and it has taken a lot of hard work. Working in Nairobi in the Fitness and Health industry is challenging but it has been super awesome because I can say I found the industry at a time when Fitness and Health is growing and social media is thriving. This has helped me market my brand and get me out there and also set me apart from the rest. The days when people only believed in aerobics only are over and now more are beginning to understand the importance of strength training, weight training, Bootcamp style workouts etc. This has taken the industry an extra step into the future and into an age where a Personal Trainer is just as important as your doctor, lawyer and physiotherapist.
The need for personal trainers and nutritionists is growing and the Fitness and Health industry is changing quickly, and all I can say is for those who aren’t changing with the times the change might be hard. I’d hope most would embrace the change and we can altogether grow this industry into one of the most lucrative and sort after professions in Kenya.
Working with Weetabix has been such a beautiful and eye-opening experience. The Fitbix challenge has helped me meet many new people and also I can say I have been able to get clients because of my involvement with Weetabix. Also, it has helped me broaden my scope of practice and enter the world of corporate fitness which was my goal all along. If I can spread the Fitness and Health lifestyle to big companies and their employees sooner or later this knowledge trickles down to the clients and consumers. Then everyone begins to understand the importance of good health practices and fitness as a lifestyle.
Just like any job, there are many challenges but I would say the biggest one is as personal trainers we don’t have like a regulatory board or club whereby personal trainers can register and set standards for the Fitness industry in Kenya. So you find some who are not as professional charging very low amounts and not giving the expected services a client should get from a Personal Trainer. I’d say the biggest problem is the lack of unity among Fitness professionals in Kenya as a whole.
- If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting?
Hmmm, to be honest, anyone coming to Kenya for holiday has to experience the vibrant nightlife in Nairobi so I would definitely sell them on the Nairobi nightlife is a must even if it’s just for one night.
I’m all about picnics and camping and the outdoors so definitely a game drive idea like the Mara is a must, or even better yet a visit to the only Park in the city.
The third is the food, I mean the food culture in Nairobi is so rich and there are all types of experiences from ‘nyama choma’ at a place in Kenyatta market, to mama Allan’s for chapati and madondo, to the high end first-class dining one has to admit the food culture in Nairobi is too awesome. So for sure the three things I would sell would be the vibrant nightlife, our wildlife and nature experience and the food.
If you would like to interact with Leon you can find him on Twitter at @leesthetics, Instagram, snapchat, and LinkedIn. You can also follow him on Facebook at Leon Weche-Fitness.