Shubnum shaikh
independent, talented and proudly Muslim!

We chat with Shubnum Sheik about her passions, art and exercise, and rising above the stereotypes which surround women of the Muslim faith

“I hope to shatter the mostly negative generalizations that surround Muslim women and instead celebrate my diversity.
All too often, Muslim women are seen as weak, powerless and subjugated.
I wanted to reverse those stereotypes and portray myself as an independent and strong woman who is able to thrive in a male dominated industry.
However, many women aren’t aware of their Islamic rights and there are still many women who have not been given their rights because of a lack of education, but things are changing.
My passion is to create an awareness of the importance of fitness and good health and to age disease free. “

Shubnum has completed a higher diploma course with the internationally accredited institute HFPA in Personal Training and is currently running her own business at the La Lucia Virgin Active as a Personal trainer for the last two years.
The Personal Trainer

At the age of 27 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis which is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease.
Having Rheumatoid Arthritis means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in the affected parts of the body. RA mainly attacks the joints and usually many joints at once.

Being a young mother, diagnosed at such an early age as well it affected my daily lifestyle where basic chores turned into challenges and the list of chronic scheduled drugs gradually grew longer.

Over time my conditioned worsened and not even alternate healing therapies/medications were able to assist.
As a result, my range of mobility decreased and the medication I was on brought on side effects such as bone degeneration which brought on the onset of Osteoarthritis.
This is where the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time and brought on further deformities in my hands and feet.
By the age of 47 my condition had worsened to point where I had to undergo a total hip replacement. In this procedure the deteriorated bone is surgically removed and replaced with a prosthetic for the joint to function normally.
My surgeon advised that with my osteoporosis my bone density was so low that the chances of a complete rehabilitation was unlikely.

Grappling with the reality of the situation as a wife and mother of 4 children and the risk that I may be confined to a wheelchair or walking with crutches took a toll on me as I was diagnosed with depression.
After going through with the operation, I was determined to get back on my feet and decided at the age of 47 stepped into Virgin Active as member.

As a total novice on the gym floor an experiencing an anxiety attack, I caught the attention of the fitness manager Pitso Tsekiso who supported my rehabilitation process.

This was a huge turning point in my life!

With each passing month my health improved, and symptoms decreased.
During my fitness journey I learnt that there were different styles of training and curious to learn more I joined another personal trainer who focused more on functional training.
Although I started with health being the primary focus, I noticed that my mom body started transforming and this inspired me to clean up my eating habits understanding that nutrition needs to support my training.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Ameer Khan who is an accomplished body builder introduced me to strength training.

It was a mindset shift to understand that training with weights does not make a lady look big and bulky.
After I opened myself to the opportunity, I found immense personal strength from seeing the strength that my body was capable of.
It was in those moments that I realized that I was no longer a victim of the conditions that m
de me a victim.
I took back control and found my passion and niche.
After three years of consistent training and good nutrition the benefits were astounding:

  • I reversed my osteoporosis and improved my bone density which surprised even my doctors.
  • My bone density is now above the average of a normal person (despite going through menopause and still being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis)
  • My chronic medication reduced by half
  • I was no longer dependent on anti-depressants
  • My hip mobility and range of motion was back to normal
I soon realized the training I did helped me prepare for my next operation at the age of 49, when I underwent a shoulder replacement.
Using the skills that I had learnt and leaning into my network of personal trainers and physiotherapists I was able to be in control of the rehabilitation process.

I successfully gained full mobility of my shoulder after the operation in less than a year.

It was during this period when I noticed a lot of information on female health and fitness was very biased. Health is not a pill or a fad diet or 30min to your perfect body, it’s a full-time commitment to your health and body and many articles failed to recognize the value of strength training.

At that point I was training with SA IFBB champion Sandesh Moothee Ram who encouraged, motivated and inspired me to study Personal training. At the age of 51, I was convinced through my personal experiences that fitness was the ultimate solution towards mental and physical well-being.

I am passionate about empowering other women through my experiences and leading them confidently into the world of fitness and healthy living. Determined to make a difference I qualified as Personal trainer and I launched my career at the Virgin Active La Lucia. My ambition is to help women become healthier, stronger and more loving towards themselves. We need to overcome the unrealistic images shown on personal media, change our perspective and expose women to other successful strong women. Nothing is more empowering than having self-confidence. Being proud of the bad-ass women you see in the mirror every morning is a feat many try hard to attain but few experience. Women can be both strong and beautiful.

My goal is to help people recognize that most diseases are preventable, and I want to help my clients reduce the chances of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis etc simply by changing their lifestyle choices.

I want to educate women that even when exercise is the last thing on their mind, it can be the key to getting through a bad day and can give you the little boost to feel that you have control over your life and emotions. I hope to break mental barriers women have towards fitness which will impact the world as women realize their full potential with a solid support structure. Finally, I pray that my journey and experience will someday inspire others to not be a victim of their diagnosis.

The Artist

I am a born and bred Durbanite, with family that have had deep roots in the artistic and musical fields.
My grandfather being a renowned poet/cartoonist/portrait artist and sketch artist.

I obtained a diploma in the Art and Science of Fashion Design at the ‘Reinier Academy of Fashion’, and progressed from being a clothing manufacturing merchandiser to being appointed as the head designer in a large chain-clothing manufacturer.
My design career spanned 10 years in the fashion clothing industry and I received accolades for my various clothing designs and ranges.

For the last 15 years I’ve focused on the painting aspect of my creativity. What started out as a hobby has become a fully fledged passion.
Painting, to me is visual poetry and music.
I share my thoughts and expressions through my art, to brighten the art and exemplify the beauty of God in creation.

I create inspirational artwork that focuses on love, and texture filled paintings that awake the inner senses.
The creative position of the artist is a humbling one, wherein he/she is the channel, and this cannot be more obvious than in abstract expressionist art.
Abstraction indicates a departure from reality, with the need to produce and be part of something other than the ‘real world’.
Whilst immersed in the moment of art, the artist is often unaware of what he or she is creating and exploring. Emotions and uncertainties- all play out on canvas. My paintings are a natural growth out of a need which I express on canvas.

As a professional artist, I has captured the attention of my peers and colleagues alike with my natural ability to portray various situations. My use of vivid colours, very much inherited from my Indian background, truly displays my talent in colour co-ordinations and usage.

I have run art workshops at the Musgrave Shopping Centre for a year in conjunction with the Department of Art and Culture KZN. I also participated in the Art and Wine evening hosted by the Musgrave Centre.
Currently I am hosting an art exhibition at the Pavilion Mall Social Gallery on the Roof top. It is in conjunction with the Department of Art and Culture KZN.

To view more works by this Shubnum, simply click on the icon below.
For personal training, you can find her at Virgin Active La Lucia, or reach out to her via her Instagram prodile!