Courtesy of Siphiwe Baleka
You might say Siphiwe Baleka had a tough time figuring out what he wanted to be when he grew up. After he missed making the 1992 Olympic swimming team by eight-tenths of a second, the world-class athlete who studied philosophy and physics at Yale University went on the road. “I traveled around the world as a bum for fifteen years,” Siphiwe says. “I visited six continents before I got tired and burned out and ran out of money. I got into trucking by default.”
A friend convinced Siphiwe to try truck driving as a way to suit his nomadic lifestyle and make some money while he tried to figure out what to do next. The future presented itself almost immediately.
“I gained 10.7 percent of my body weight in the first two months of my driving career,” Siphiwe says. “I realized that if I didn’t start taking responsibility for my health and wellness, I was going to end up like 86 percent of America’s truck drivers who are overweight and 69 percent who are obese.”
Siphiwe realized there were nutrition and fitness programs for everyone in America except for the unique environment presented by long-haul truck drivers. “I decided there was a real need and a real business opportunity, and I would create such a program,” he says. He fine-tuned his fitness system over the next three years while completing his truck-driving lease contract with Prime Inc., headquartered in Springfield.
“When I finished, I brought it to Robert Lowe, who is the founder and owner of Prime, and basically showed him my system and how it worked,” Siphiwe says. “He created the Driver Health and Fitness Coach position for me, and that’s how we got started.”
Siphiwe’s system is a voluntary thirteen-week program in which drivers receive training, guidance, and digital health equipment to help them exercise, increase metabolism and energy, and drop weight. “For thirteen weeks, they are exercising every day for fifteen minutes, no more,” Siphiwe says. “I show them how to get the benefit of a one-hour workout in fifteen minutes. They log their food—everything they eat or drink—and I use the information from their workouts and their food log to coach them. I show them the things they are eating that are doing the most damage to their metabolism and tell them the quickest and most effective way to fix that.”
The program has achieved a 63 percent success rate and the average weight loss in thirteen weeks is 19.3 pounds, or 7 percent of the participants’ body weight. “I actually outperform Weight Watchers,” Siphiwe says. “Technically, it’s the number one weight loss program in the country.”
The program has been so successful that Siphiwe has taken it outside of Prime to benefit anyone who might have a sedentary lifestyle. Simon & Shuster will publish his book, 4-Minute Fit: The Metabolism Accelerator for the Time-Crunched, Deskbound, and Stressed Out, in March. The author will be at Springfield’s Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 3055 South Glenstone Avenue on April 1 answering questions about the fitness program and signing copies of his book.