Fitness in Accra

By: Maggie O’Neill

ACCRA, GHANA— A handful of young men of all ages train to be boxers at Sonia Sports Academy in Jamestown, a neighborhood of Accra, on weekday evenings between four and six pm.

On Monday afternoon, cloud cover hid the sun, the air was still muggy. The boys sweated profusely as they performed boxing exercises, droplets flying off their boxing gloves each time they hit the punching bag.  Their fitness trainer, George Steward, had no sympathy for them as he directed their exercise.  “I’m their psychic conditioner,” he said through a grin before he lined up a group of limbered boxers on the floor and dictated their ab workout.


Steward, an Accra native from the Wato neighborhood, trains the young men at Sonia Sports Academy once or twice a week.  He’s worked at the gym for three years.  He is also a fitness trainer at the US Embassy and at the Canadian High Commission. Before he became a fitness trainer, he dabbled in massage therapy, holistic healing, and sports modeling.

Steward’s passion for the boys he trains is evident.  “When he’s fighting, the whole Accra comes to watch him fight!” Steward exclaimed, as a 22-year-old lightweight boxer approached him at the gym.

But Steward stumbled into his training career somewhat on accident.


“It’s an amazing story.  I was working out at one of the top gyms in the country, and these ladies from Mexico and Columbia–they were friends, they trained there as well–they saw me training and they came to me.  They said, ‘Can we ask you a question?’  I said, ‘Yeah!’  They said, ‘We see your workout is entirely different from anyone else in the gym.  Are you a trainer?’  I said, ‘Yeah!'”

Even though he’d never trained anyone before, the two ladies who approached him became his first two clients in 2001, and he’s stuck with it ever since.