How Nishalen Govender Bulked Up And Ditched His Skinny Frame

Nishalen Govender recalls being that skinny kid on the rugby field. Now, a decade later he's transformed his physique completely and built impressive muscle.


Thaaqib Daniels, Photography by Garreth Barclay |

Diary Of A Skinny Kid

Being a scrawny guy on the high school rugby field isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Your peers and teachers look on, waiting for you to be crushed by the bigger boys; the first aid team’s attention is diverted from the rest of the game to you. Nishalen Govender recalls being that skinny kid. Back then, he never imagined he would train at the Sharks academy, wear a Blue Bulls jersey, or build a body that any rugby player would be proud of. Now, a decade later, the 28-year-old is a qualified sports conditioning coach.

Nishalen Govender

  • Age: 28
  • Location: Johannesburg
  • Occupation: Sports conditioning coach
  • Weight Before: Under 60KG
  • Weight After: 90KG
  • Time To Goal: 10 years

Growing Gains

“I was always the tall, skinny kid growing up,” he tells MH. “My peers made jokes about me being very thin. Although I was very active, I never had a body built for sport. I entered high school with my skinny frame, and couldn’t fit into my blazer.

“I wanted to play rugby, but I didn’t physically match up to the other boys. Being in a rugby environment and being skinny wasn’t easy, but I wanted to prove myself. My mother signed me up to gym when I was about 15. I didn’t know much about training or nutrition, but I knew that taking this step would bring big positive changes to me physically and mentally.”

Related: The Science Behind How Weight Loss Actually Works

Head In The Game

“First, I had to break that mental barrier of being around people who’ve been training for years.
I knew I couldn’t compare my journey to theirs. I was there to become better, and only compete with myself.”

Stick With It

“I realised that this wasn’t a short- term thing. If I wanted to see change, I would have to put in the hard work and be consistent, over a long period of time,” he says.

“I struggled to increase my size at first, which was disheartening. But I started to learn more
about nutrition, recovery, and different training techniques. By continuing to learn, I became a better athlete.”

Related: This Bodyweight Training + Meal Plan Gets You Shredded In 12 Weeks 

Make It A Lifestyle

“After high school I spent two years at the Sharks Rugby Academy in Durban, which was
a great learning experience. But one of my proudest moments came in 2015, when I became the first Indian to wear provincial rugby colours for the Blue Bulls,” he adds.

“I have finally built the physique I envisioned as that tall, skinny kid. But I’m not done yet. I’m still learning and improving. Working out is now part of my lifestyle. As proud as I am of my physical improvements, I’m even more proud of my mental growth.”

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