By Siyamthanda Ndinisa & Mbali Ngulube
In the bustling corridors of NRF-SAIAB, where ground-breaking research often takes center stage, there is a dynamic force reshaping the culture of the institution. In the heart of NRF-SAIAB, Lulama Makana is not just an Administration Support Officer/Receptionist; she is the driving force behind a growing fitness community that has transformed the workplace into a hub of health and well-being.
Lulama Makana: NRF-SAIAB Administration Support Officer/Receptionist, Certified Indoor Cycling Instructor, Advance Aerobics and Step Instructor.
Lulama embarked on her fitness journey during her teenage years, finding her rhythm in the world of ballroom dance in high school. Post-school, she continued her quest for a healthy lifestyle through LoveLife, a community youth development initiative that introduced her to the refreshing world of aerobics.
“I grew up as a petite girl. When I was approaching adulthood, I started gaining weight, and that didn’t sit well with me. I looked for ways to practice fitness as I was no longer part of ballroom dance. That’s when I joined the LoveLife program, leading to me introducing aerobics at NRF-SAIAB,” shared Lulama.
Joining NRF-SAIAB in 2015, Lulama not only embraced her role but also brought her passion for fitness to the forefront by becoming an integral part of the institution’s wellness committee. In the same year, she pioneered a ground breaking program under the committee – aerobics sessions held every Wednesday at 16:30 in NRF-SAIAB’s lecture hall.
“When I arrived at NRF-SAIAB, I was anxious when I realised the working hours didn’t allow me to go to the gym at Rhodes. So, I then came up with aerobics at NRF-SAIAB as part of our wellness program. I also wanted to show the workers at SAIAB, especially the scientists, that there is life outside work and the lab,” added Lulama.
NRF-SAIAB employees during the aerobics Wednesday sessions in the SAIAB Lecture Room.
Over the years, Lulama’s dedication has seen the NRF-SAIAB aerobics community flourish. “When I started introducing the aerobics sessions, people did show interest, and as time went by, more young people joined SAIAB, which grew the attendees’ numbers,” she noted.
Lulama’s fitness journey has not only seen her as a participant but also as an instructor, and indoor cycling enthusiast. Reflecting on these moments, she shared, “I never thought I’d be an instructor. Also, I am so proud of seeing some of my attendees grow within the fitness and aspire to be gym assistants”. She has also partnered with Makana Aerobics, a division of LoveLife, where they host fun runs, aerobics marathon and annual races.
Indoor cycling session facilitated by Lulama Makana at the Rhodes University Health Suite.
Her love for fitness is a reflection of her personality and values. “Fitness requires discipline, and I am proud to say that I am disciplined. I love how it is infectious to people around me,” she concluded.
In a world where deadlines and research projects dominate, Lulama Makana’s story stands as a testament to the transformative power of personal passion, bringing a wave of health-conscious energy to NRF-SAIAB and proving that, indeed, there is more to life within the walls of a workplace.