Rachel Leistra

Age: 24
Lives: Johannesburg 

I am a qualified Biokineticist, currently doing my Masters in Biokinetics at the University of Johannesburg. I am also a qualified level 2 athletics coach and children’s development coach. I am an animal lover. When I am not training or at the gym doing strength, I am either at a client, coaching, or working on my Masters. I absolutely love helping people. I have a variety of different people I see, from young children to sports people, to general fitness to elderly patients. Every person is different and as a Biokineticist, one of the most important aspects of the profession is to treat every patient as unique individuals. That is what I absolutely love about my job – everyone is so beautifully unique. I am an SA athlete and focus on events such as the 5000m, 10,000m, road 10km and cross country. I am a vegetarian and love eating clean and being conscious about what I put into my body. 

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How does fitness fit into your lifestyle?

As long as I can remember, I have always loved keeping active. I fell in love with running at the age of 7 and started competing competitively at the age of 17. In 2019, after suffering a huge setback in my running career due to an injury, I had to take a step back and was forced to take time off from running. As a competitive athlete, this was extremely tough for me, but I had to look after my body and my mental space too because the injury was affecting me both physically and emotionally. I took time off and started focusing on other things, like my career and, most importantly, getting my body right again. I started from scratch and worked on the small things runners usually neglect. During and after studying Biokinetics, I learnt that there are so many more benefits of exercise than just being fit and looking good or running fast and being skinny. Looking at your body as a whole, rather than just working on one aspect of it (eg. cardiovascular fitness/running) through exercise is therapeutic. And to be a good athlete or a strong person in general you need to be mentally strong as well. I learnt about the benefits of exercise on a whole new level and it only grew my knowledge and helped me be a better athlete and teach others about this too. Another very important factor is strength training. I did not incorporate this into my training as much as I should have. This is extremely important to do to prevent injuries and be a stronger runner.

What are your personal fitness goals?

I would like to run for South Africa again. It is my biggest dream to represent the country at a higher level. If that doesn’t happen, I would love to compete at something new, whether it be CrossFit, obstacle course races, duathlons, or triathlons. I want to build a strong base for myself, from the ground up. I want to work on myself holistically and be strong in every aspect, not just running. I want to be strong and I want to be healthy and happy. Even if I don’t end up running competitively, I want to show and teach other ladies that it is not just about looks or being skinny, it is about being functionally able, being strong, healthy, powerful and, most importantly, happy. You can do so much if you just believe in yourself and have people who believe in you.

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