photography CAMERON FLAISCH and CHRISTIAN DAVID TURNER
Diet and exercise trends change so often, it sometimes feels like trying to keep up with Usain Bolt while tethered to a dump truck. However, no matter what the latest research reports, some things remain constant. Eating healthy foods, staying active and being educated on what works for your physical and chemical make-up are guaranteed methods in keeping your body in good working order. Also, the help of professionals to guide your steps is a surefire way to achieve your goals and develop a plan for long term success. At Wright Athletic Development, owner Ricky Wright has put together a team of trainers who have the know-how to keep their clients on track and moving in the Wright direction.
Inside, you are greeted by the view of a large patch of artificial turf, medicine balls, tread-mills and a training sled. The scene is that of a personal trainer’s laboratory stocked with all the equipment necessary for a calorie-incinerating workout. But this gym is not just for those who want to lose a few inches or impress the public with a toned figure. At Wright Athletic Development, the goal of each trainer is to form healthy habits and implement real-world exercises that help with performance and injury prevention.
Romans as young as seven and as old as 80 years of age enter the doors of this unconventional gym daily. They push sleds, run agility courses, hang from rings attached to the ceiling and go a round or two with the heavy bag. These goal-centered workouts are designed with purpose and guarantee results.
Studies show that over two-thirds of U.S adults are overweight and one out of every three Americans are obese. Since the 1970s, the number of calories the average U.S. citizen consumes per day has risen by 25 percent to a gut-busting 2,500. The increase of processed foods and the ease of a quick meal from the drive-through have played their due part in the equation. It seems that in some regards, the American lifestyle made us softer than we once were.
But why settle on being just another victim of statistics? Instead, why not work to become the nation known for healthy habits and teach our children the benefits of eating right and staying active?
Ricky Wright, a native of Rome, developed his passion for training as a college student at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He applied to be a personal trainer at a local gym where he discovered a passion for fitness, and an equal love for the teaching elements associated with being a personal trainer. He would then go on to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, an American Council of Exercise Personal Trainer and receive an ACL Sports Metrics certification.
After studying the most effective practices with an already established trainer in Rome, Wright opened the doors to his first location, Wright Personal Fitness, in East Rome. After 11 years, he and his fellow trainers, Gail Cothran and Shields Harris, found that they had outgrown their humble studio due to a growing clientele. So, Wright decided to move to a much larger facility on the outskirts of downtown Rome. Now, with bigger and better space to work, Wright Athletic Development has doubled its staff as well, proudly hosting seven personal trainers at the new location at 215 North 5th Avenue.
According to a recent study, the personal training industry has grown exponentially and will only continue to rise. It is forecasted that by 2020, the U.S. economy will support the jobs of over 300,000 personal trainers. And these personal trainers are not courting the same “big-gains” seekers who desire to train as bodybuilders. Instead, they are offer-ing programs to suit all ages.
“We want to physically grow all ages and aspects of our community and really focus on their individual needs and goals,” Wright explains.
Brian Lovering, a former YMCA coach turned personal trainer, has become a favorite among some of the gym’s youngest athletes. “To be a trainer, you need to be a mentor,” Lovering says. “I can honestly say that God has put me where I need to be to better kids’ lives.”
The trainers at Wright Athletic Development keep the body guessing by mixing different styles of training. “We not only work on the major lifts, but also more functional movements,” Lovering explains. “I really try to focus on agility and game-like situations.”
Their mission is not to focus on the maximum weight lifted on the bench or the amount of push-ups one can rep out. Instead, the goal is to build a total athlete and avoid sports-related injuries.
“The focus of a good personal trainer should not be to simply tell you what to do, but to educate you about why you are doing it,” adds Lovering.
The benefits of working out do not stop at improving your athleticism. According to Crystal Stewart, an International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and Certified Functional Strength Coach (CFSC)-certified trainer at Wright Athletic Development, the benefits exceed feeling better physically.
“Developing a consistent training schedule also reduces stress,” she explains. “It only makes sense that when the body feels better, so does the mind. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), exercise and other physical activities produce endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers which also help the body to properly sleep.”
Stewart offers programs from boot-camp style and barre classes to functional strength training, and specializes in helping ladies achieve their personal fitness goals. Having previously worked at other more convention-al gyms, she easily pinpoints the things that make Wright Athletic Development unique.
“It is common to see up to 75 percent of new gym members without personal trainers only last a few months,” says Stewart, “because people start out with the best intentions and life gets in the way. We want to implement healthy lifestyle changes that our clients practice outside of the gym and help them stay the course. One of my clients lost 95 pounds over the course of a year. But, that’s not how I judge success. She now runs half marathons, plays tennis and has improved her overall quality of life. She seems really happy about the new things she can enjoy in her life.”
However, the trainers at Wright Athletic Development offer a source of accountability that is much more personalized. “All of us who staff the gym have a specific reason for everything we do. This is a direct result of the personal fitness goals of the client,” she says with a smile. “If my client wants to be able to do a pull up, then we’re going to find many ways to work on all of the required muscles. We can achieve that.”
Though the job of a personal trainer is certainly a fulfilling career, it is not an easy one if done correctly. Corey Pitts, a former fire fighter who is now offering his own train-ing services he’s coined as “Corey Micheal Pitts or CMP Training,” is a true example of the devotion a career as a trainer requires.
“I start at 5 a.m. every morning and end at 7 p.m. in the evening,” Pitts says. “I know that getting motivated can be hard and a personal trainer serves as an accountability partner.” With his personal philosophy – “Your performance will tell” – Pitts has helped clients ranging in age from 7 to 92 achieve their personal fitness goals.
Pitts has a personality and smile that will light up the room. His light-hearted demean-or brings a sense of fun and energy to his workouts. Major Pitts, as some of his clients have nicknamed him, is known for taking to social media to show off the hard work during his classes. But don’t let the smooth taste fool you. Just as sure as you’ll see your reflection in the pool of sweat on the floor during his “resting” plank position, you will feel the burn and see the results.
According to Pitts, one of the most fulfilling aspects of working as a personal trainer is seeing clients far exceed their own goals. He has helped those who have rarely worked out to run their first 5K or hold a plank for over a minute. He has also trained local stand-outs like Mike Dean, Jermaine Spivey and Marcus Dixon.
Pitts was instrumental in helping Dixon excel before he played for the several teams in the NFL, including the Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. Pitts believes that fitness is in direct correlation with performance. “Many people call themselves trainers, but here we strive to be great,” Pitts says. “When I say, ‘Your performance will tell’, this is exactly what I mean. We work hard at getting the results you set out to achieve. It’s never too late to think about getting healthy and many of my clients are surprised at how far they come when they push past their comfort zones.”
“You must first and foremost have a pas-sion for others,” Wright says. “While you can have a passion for working out in your own life, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have that same passion for improving the fitness of others and continued education is huge.”
He adds that every four to five years there is always a new trend. “Looking over the past 25 years, it is amazing to see what we used to do and what we are doing now,” he says. Where once machines were all the rage, now personal training heavily uses body weight due to the more practical and everyday bene-fits it delivers.
Wright, who has a special certification in ACL Injury Protection, is a strong promoter of strengthening his clients using methods that will help prevent injuries outside the gym from occurring. “Research shows that even a simple warmup alone can reduce injuries up to 70 percent,” he says.
He tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who has injured her knee twice while playing soccer. He works with her to reduce the risk of re-injury. “I will communicate with the physical therapists to provide the best training regimen and get the athlete ready to return to play,” Wright explains. “Even if clients come to me wanting to alleviate lower back pain, we can help them by using proper core training techniques. Many of my older clients have expressed improvements in their quality of life which motivates them to continue to take a more active role in maintaining their overall health.”
Even the simplest goals are not too small to tackle for Wright and his dedicated crew.
Whether you want to rid yourself of bothersome aches and pains, lose six inches off your waist or charge the net to return a drop shot on the tennis court, there is a qualified professional at Wright Athletic Development who is ready and waiting to help you achieve your goal. So if fate, or your own personal desire to get in shape, leads you down North 5th Avenue, be prepared to work hard. If you are going to train, do it the Wright way.
For more information about classes and membership, call 770-546-0596 Find them on Facebook
Connect to trainers at: