Zaakirah Khalek

Saturday, September 06, 2014


"They are urban predators that attack the urban jungle, like the black panthers of the amazon" - Lebogang Nape

"Someone who specialises or does parkour" - Sipho Ngozi 

I just think they are people who feel their streets through their feet. If anybody looks good running it is Zaakie, she makes it look effortless. When I grow up I want to be like Zaakie, Zaakiefierce. She kicks off the "x THE STREET RUNNERS" series. 

Q. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do for a living?
A.   My name is Zaakirah Khalek, also known as “Zaakz” “Zak”, for those who struggle to pronounce my Arabic name. I work at Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys and no, I am not a Lawyer. I completed my degree in Bcom Industrial Psychology in 2010 (am I giving away my age) and I am currently studying toward a Diploma in Exercise Science.

Q. How do you balance your exercise regime and your professional life?
A.  Although it is sometimes difficult to maintain a “work-life balance” I do believe that it is very important. Sometimes juggling work, studies, family time is extremely difficult, but I always emphasise the notion of quality of life. I make an effort to get to the gym/road no matter the time of day, or how tired I’m feeling or feelings of stress from work. If you focus on your health, and place an importance on it, you will always make time to get to the gym/road.

Q. What does your weekly fitness regime consist of?
A.  My weekly fitness routine consist of a combination of weight training and cardio. I train 5-6 times a week. While I am focusing on muscle strength and development, I believe a healthy heart is equally important. I try and balance it out. When I am trying to gain more muscle I cut down on my cardio to twice a week, as opposed to when I am trying to lose body fat I ease up on my strength training and add more cardio. I also play some soccer and head down to the track for some sprints. I enjoy aerobic training a lot more than strength training, so it is quite difficult to say no to good ol’ run.

Q. When and why did you start running?
A.  I have been running since a young age (preschool to be exact). Throughout my early childhood to varsity years I was a sprinter (100, 200 and 400m) I stopped sprinting due to my studies and thereafter started road running. Roughly 3 to 4 years. I sprint on a more casual basis.

Q. What motivates to go out there, when you do not feel like it?
A.  I tell myself that running is my form of therapy. No matter how tired I feel, how demotivated, or how lazy, I’ve got to suck it up and just do it. If you have the correct mind-set you can overcome any obstacle. I also tell myself “A slow run is better than no run”

Q. What is the longest distance you have ran?
A.  21kms.

Q. What do you love about running?
A.  I love the feeling of achievement. On days where I am really amped to hit the road, I time myself. There is no greater feeling than improving your speed, or conquering a hill that scared you. No one has ever regretted a run. Once you finish a run you feel a sense of accomplishment and for me, that feeling is good enough!

Q. What do you hate about running?
A.  Not much, although the injuries that come along with road running can be a pain in the ass.

Q. What gives you the confidence to run in the streets?
A.  The sense of freedom. Ever run on a highway and felt completely free? Sounds dumb, but you feel a sense of freedom.

Q. How do you think running can empower women?
A.  Any type of physical activity can empower women, not only running. There’s this misconception that women are not strong enough, or not fast enough or can’t carry too much muscle. It is all FALSE. Women can be powerful in their own way. Running and gyming has given me a boost in my confidence. Those hills that I thought I could never conquer, I have conquered. That heavy weight that I thought I could never squat or curl, I have done it. Running makes you feel strong, accomplished and powerful. More women should get out there and run the streets, no one cares if you are a beginner or an elite athlete. The biggest respect comes from having the initiative to try!

Q. What would you like to achieve in the future in terms of running?
A.  I would like to try at least one marathon.

Q. How do you envision the future of running?
A. More exciting races to come, more roads to conquer. The culture of running is gaining momentum, it is just a matter of time before every 2nd person you meet will be an athlete in their own way!

Q. What do you think about the lack of exercise among the youth?
A.  I think that there is a general lack of running amongst the youth. I have noticed that many of our youth are becoming increasingly motivated to gain muscle at the gym but they don’t realize that having a healthy heart is equally important. The efforts made from Nike has been paramount. The RunJozi / MoveJozi runs are aimed at the youth, from varsity students to high school students. This has helped create a culture of running amongst the youth.

Q. What was your best running experience?
A.  My best running experiences has to be the Nike – RunJozi and the Blackop warrior races.

Q. What was your worst running experience?
A.  None that I can recall. Apart from getting injured at one of the warrior races, all the running I have done over the past few years have been great!

Q. How do you push through the pain?
A.  I motivate myself. I tell myself “well, you are already on the road, you might as well finish”

Q. What is your favourite shoe to run in?
A.  Nike Lunar Glides.

Q. What can you not run without?
A.  Music, especially when I get to a hill, I switch it up to “Eye of the Tiger” lol

Q. What advice can you give somebody who wants to start running?
A. At first it is going to be tough. You will want to quit, your mind will give in before your body does. BUT if you overcome the first 2 weeks of running you have made a breakthrough! It takes roughly 2 weeks for your body to gain fitness. Long term consistency is more important than short term efforts.

Q. Which Social media sites are you on and how can one follow you?
A. Facebook – Zaakirah Khalek, Instagram – ZaakirahKhalek

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