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In this feature, VICTOR AYENI writes on how the thriving fitness culture in the country has provided a cover for men and women to engage in intimate affairs, sometimes leading to sexual harassment in the gyms

Isaac Madu’s legs swayed in excitement as he chugged on his smoothie and relished the taste of grilled chicken set before him.

His light brown eyes dimmed each time he laughed; his fingers intermittently fondling his long thick beard as he leered at some ladies who passed by the pub at Surulere, Lagos.

Madu, a 29-year-old native of Orlu, Imo State, works part-time as a gym instructor at a fitness centre on Lagos Island.

He cut the picture of a Hollywood hunk, with his fitting black shirt and trousers which made his bulging caramel arms, well-toned and muscular thighs quite apparent.

The graduate of International Relations waxed eloquently with our correspondent about how his profession regularly brings him in touch with enlightened people, a privilege he admitted had changed his outlook on life.

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However, there is often a salacious, even lewd currency of exchange that often takes place with certain learners – some of whom he unashamedly admits are married women.

“I am not a bad guy and I don’t go all out seeking to have sex with my clients,” Madu told Saturday PUNCH with a wry smile on his face.

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“I respect boundaries and understand what unwanted sexual solicitations can bring. But in my profession – shall I say the location too plays a big part – there are women who come to the gym not just to be fit but also to fulfil their sexual needs.

“Such ladies come to the gym because they are bored with their relationships or marriage; they want some spice in the bedroom. They want someone younger and athletic to take them to new dimensions if you get my drift. Gym instructors like us are their easy choice because they come under the guise of the desire to be fit.

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“One of them always described her husband as ‘old and fat,’ and, maybe as a reflex, she didn’t hide her motive for coming to our gym from day one.”

When our correspondent asked for more details, Madu initially declined and looked around carefully to be sure no one was eavesdropping.

“The devil is in the details,” he said with a giggle, as he brought out his phone which had been beeping in order to respond to his messages.

After a while, he continued, “There was this Lekki babe who registered and started coming to our gym. And as an instructor, it’s my job to figure out what is the best way forward from wherever you are starting and I like motivating people I work with.

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“I told her to start slowly on one of the treadmills which she struggled with it for a while. So, I was always there to guide her. From there, I began to see just how beautiful she is, her curves and contours were well set. But I tried hard to focus on my work and not give her undue attention.”

He dived into the details.

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“One day, while taking her through some deep stretches and beginner-friendly exercises, she looked at me in the eye with a seductive smile and smacked her lips. I caught the code but there were other people in the gym so I acted like nothing happened. But from that day on, we would give each other lusty eye contact even when I am with another guest.

“I would make her bend over while my hands supported her and put pressure on her lower back, and as she writhed in pain it would send a rush of blood down my system. It became a routine. I deliberately wanted to take things slow with her.”

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From there, Madu told this reporter in graphic detail what started out as a workout session but eventually became a full-blown sizzling sexual affair.

“Sometimes, she came to the gym in the evenings and we would start right there if no one is around. There are times we use a hotel and sometimes she spent the night at my house. Our affair lasted for more than a year until she relocated out of the country. She is now married,” he added.

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Thriving fitness culture

There has been a burgeoning global awareness of the need for stable physical and mental health, and Nigeria is not left behind in this regard.

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More citizens, both young and old, have adopted different regular exercises to keep their bodies and mind in good shape. Also, organisations encourage their staff to engage in physical activity to stay healthy.

In Nigeria, many fitness centres or studios have sprung up, especially in the major cities and highbrow areas, and like magnets, they attract enlightened citizens who have a high consciousness of physical fitness and can afford it.

The thriving fitness culture has created a viable space for fitness enthusiasts to work as trainers, helping women who feel insecure about their physique and weight as well as men who hit the gym in order to regain their confidence.

A biomedical scientist, Nnaemeka Duru, told our correspondent that going to the gym was one of the best things to happen to his body.

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He explained, “I used to be physically flabby and had low self-esteem but since I hit the gym and have been consistent in going, I now feel good about myself and my body confidence has increased. Working out is one of the best things I did for my body.

“Within a few months of workout, I notice I have greater stamina and better self-esteem. I learnt that physical exercises naturally boost testosterone and I must say, even in the other room, the story has changed.”

Another fitness enthusiast, Emmanuella Mnena, described it as a lifestyle that more people need to adopt in order to improve their well-being.

“When I started out in the gym, I would wake up the following day with body aches and I almost gave up but the gym instructor was very patient, always encouraging me, telling me ‘no pain, no gain’. That motivated me to continue and now, I see it as a health-boosting lifestyle that more people need to adopt,” she said.

Commenting on the benefits of physical exercise, a physiologist, Ifeolouwa Ojo, told Saturday PUNCH that regular exercise helps to lower the risk of developing chronic conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

He said, “Exercise is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle, and engaging in regular physical activity has several advantages. The beneficial effects of exercise on cardiovascular health are among its most important advantages.

“Regular exercise can assist to increase blood flow, lower blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, it may be helpful in boosting muscular strength and stamina, which can enhance overall physical performance and lower the chance of injury.

“Exercise can be good for your physical and emotional health in addition to being physically beneficial. Regular exercise has been shown to lessen the signs of depression and anxiety, boost mood and encourage sound sleep. In addition, it can help in lowering stress levels, which may have a big effect on general well-being.”

He stressed that a healthy lifestyle must include regular exercise, which everybody could benefit from.

He added, “Regular physical activity has numerous advantages and is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle. It can help to strengthen and sustain muscles, increase energy levels and lower the chance of developing chronic conditions.

“Increased energy and decreased weariness are two additional advantages of exercising. Regular exercise can assist metabolism, which can result in more energy and better overall health.”

Gym sexpreneurs

The monthly registration for gyms in Lagos falls between N15,000 to N80,000, depending on the location, fitness regime involved, and the type of facilities available.

Some fitness enthusiasts, however, tend to spend more money to hire personal trainers and fitness coaches to meet their specific workout needs.

A number of gym trainers are professionals who are often reached by clients through mutual contacts or social media, while others work part-time as club bouncers, personal escorts, and ‘hook-up’ guys.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines hook up, as “to begin a romantic or sexual relationship with someone.”

On a broader perspective, hookup culture is one that accepts and encourages casual sex encounters, including one-night stands and other related activities, without necessarily including emotional intimacy, bonding or a committed relationship.

Far from leading clandestine lives, many Nigerian hook-up men and women meet their clients via social media or are mediated through an adult agency.

A ‘hook up’ bouncer and gym trainer whose Instagram name is Donatus (surname withheld) admitted to our correspondent that he receives much patronage across several states from both women and men.

He stated, “I am a fitness trainer and I work as a bouncer. I tend to meet more beautiful and high-class women when I am doing my bouncer job than in the gym. You know, in clubs and parties, these women openly approach me and tell me they want me. They could send their drivers to give me their contact or they give me personally.

“It is a matter of negotiation. We talk about what they desire and we get busy; we are adults. Transactional sex is nothing to be ashamed of, except in a hypocritical society like ours. Some men too approach me, though some just admire my body and keep it moving.”

When our correspondent inquired if he also has sexual liaisons with ladies who come to his gym, he added that it could come with conditions.

He stated, “If I like her and she really wants us to have fun, fine, we do it. There is usually no transaction involved. But if she is wealthy and she can afford my service, I am game. There are women who actually come to the gym to find men that will satisfy them and we do satisfy them, even with threesomes sometimes.

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