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Smithfield facility will ‘earn your sweat’

Smithfield’s Raw Fitness is rightly named.

If you connect with owner and trainer Jay Riddick, he likes to say you’ll earn your sweat, because he’ll keep it real with you on your performance and effort. The Smithfield business has been open for about a year.

“Comparing us to other gyms, we tend to be different,” he said. “We are a judgmental zone. When you step out everyday into the corporate world, you’re being judged. I don’t want to paralyze you and say ‘This is a judgment-free zone and go ahead and feel comfortable being unhealthy.’ You don’t want to feel comfortable being unhealthy.”

But the judgment comes out of a sense of duty to challenge and coach clients — not from contempt.

“I wanted to show Smithfield there’s a whole different world of fitness that hasn’t been tapped into because people are afraid to go the distance. … There are no shortcuts to healthy. Transformation hurts. There are going to be days you don’t feel like doing it. But that’s why you hire one of my trainers or myself. We’re here with you. We’re going to go through that ride right along with you.”

By the third week of the new year, many people have already given up on their resolutions to get healthy. If you’d like to try again, Raw Fitness is hosting a special event to introduce people to the bodybuilding and fitness training community.

The center is hosting Iron Sharpens Iron Bro Day from 8 to 11 a.m. Jan. 23 at 1807 S. Church St. It’ll offer a brief opportunity for people to meet some of the region and industry’s top athletes and take a glance at the facility if they haven’t visited before. However, out of consideration for everyone’s health and safety, although the doors will be open, the number of guests will be limited.

If improving your health seems insurmountable, Riddick’s personal story of perseverance may inspire.

“I was born premature, at a real early age,” he said. “I had open heart surgery also. Doctors gave me a life expectation of 18 years. I’m 36 years old now. They told my parents I wouldn’t be able to run, jump or participate in any extracurricular activities.” But Riddick, a Suffolk native, went on to play football, basketball and run track, and later, got into bodybuilding.

Riddick, who has participated in and won multiple bodybuilding competitions, said the hardest thing to impart to clients is that you can’t change your health overnight. It’s not that easy, but Riddick said the effort is worth it.

“You only get one chance at life. And your body is not a car you can trade in or a house or something you can buy new. Once it’s done and burned down, that’s it. There’s no bringing it back.”

Riddick said his business has persevered through the pandemic. He credits his faith for helping him get through a year of unprecedented challenges and experiences. Business has still been good, due in part to how the fitness facility operates.

“Being that this is a training facility and not open to the public per se — you only get in through appointments — you minimize the chances of bringing coronavirus in,” said Riddick, who added that they still follow a thorough cleaning and social distancing protocol during daily operations to maintain everyone’s health and safety.

Charles Wade will be among the training professionals participating on Jan. 23. He met Riddick at a bodybuilding competition and they’ve built their professional relationship, friendship and their physical bodies over the years.

Wade said he’s eager to connect with people at the event and to share some insight into bodybuilding.

“A lot of people have a misconception that all we do is just throw around heavy weights,” Wade said. “That’s far from it, especially to be a coach. You have to be smart and intelligent. I’ve got people’s health in my hands. You’ve got to know what you’re doing.”

His hope is that everyone who decides to connect through the event “is just to give people a different outlook on health and fitness overall.” His advice for people who are trying to make a change?

“Don’t be scared. You’ve got to take a chance on something. Why not take a chance on your health?” Riddick “is absolutely family-friendly and family-oriented,” Wade said. “His establishment is for any and everybody, whether it’s from age 8 to 80. It’s that friendly for anybody.”

Riddick is also proud that strong bodies support kind hearts that also work to strengthen the community.

Raw Fitness supports multiple charitable organizations. They include Big Dog Little Dog, a mentoring program for young men, and Straighten Up and Fly Right, a nonprofit that’s backed by the Washington NFL team and the Baltimore Ravens. Riddick has also sponsored and participated in charity events — runs exceeding marathon length — to support family, friends and community members and donated 100% of the proceeds to support their causes.