By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
The weather is warming up and what better time than now to get healthy and active. Lose those extra pounds that we all experienced during those hibernating winter months and kick-start your life on a new path. Urban Views Weekly had the great opportunity of chatting with Darryl Ellis, DNA Fitness owner and instructor about the importance of living healthy, feeling great about yourself and getting in a good sweat to make it all happen.
In May 2009, Darryl Ellis started out with one client and a dream to make a difference in the community he grew up in through health and fitness. Almost five years later he is doing just that. Born and raised in the Church Hill community where he still resides, Darryl is a product of Richmond Public Schools attending Woodville Elementary, East End Middle and Armstrong High School. He has grown into a leader in his community and a true role model.
Darryl has been a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Trainer (IFPA) for 16 years, is a 2nd degree black belt in Americanized kickboxing and a licensed massage therapist (2005).
In 2012, Darryl won Central Virginia’s Personal Trainer of the Year by Virginia Living Magazine. The studio has also received numerous awards from various organizations including Richmond Public Schools, Henrico County Schools, KLM Scholarship Foundation and St. Paul’s Baptist Church. The studio hosts fitness challenges to raise money for cancer, SCAN, school supplies, meals for the homeless and toys for children. One hundred percent of proceeds go to each organization being honored.
“My son, Jordan is also a member of DNA Fit Kids.” said Cassandra Gray, two-year member of DNA Fitness. He loves kickboxing. It has taught him self-defense, to be confident and to get out of his shell of being shy.”
Their goal is to empower women, men and children to get healthy and stay fit through exercise and education. DNA recognizes the common excuses for choosing not to work out and has created an environment to counter those reasons. They combine martial arts, traditional exercise and modern dances to create optimum workouts for everyone. Their instructors are certified and passionate about what they do. The classes are designed for the beginner to the advanced participant. You can tone, lose weight and increase your endurance all while having fun. There is a class for everyone, even kids.
“I walked into DNA Fitness on November 9, 2012 with elevated A1C levels.” commented Mavis Wynn, two-year member of DNA Fitness. “I was not a diabetic, but close enough that my doctor threw up a warning flag. My goal was to lose 50 lbs before my 50th Birthday. Darryl said it was doable, but it would take hard work and a team effort. I began as a personal training client because I was too embarrassed and scared to take the classes. So, I did my first six sessions and signed up for another six sessions. I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to take a kickboxing class at DNA. The most amazing thing happened, no one judged me! They welcomed me with open arms and smiles. From that moment on, I knew DNA was the place for me.”
What You Can Expect from DNA Fitness
Urban Views Weekly was able to catch up with Darryl and chat about his childhood growing up in Richmond and now the opportunity to give back to his hometown through his passion for being active and living healthy.
JA: Welcome Darryl! Urban Views Weekly is excited to chat with you about your successful career and the positive way you are giving back to the Richmond community through health and fitness.
DE: You are welcome and I’m honored to be here.
JA: What was your childhood like? What did you want to be when you were growing up?
DE: My childhood was full of sports and I wanted to be Dr. J! I wanted to not just play basketball like him, but also actually be him!
JA: *chuckles* So, when did you realize you weren’t going to be Dr. J?
DE: When I stopped growing, and realized I would not grow pass 135 lbs or be taller than 5’8.
JA: Did you always see yourself getting into the health/fitness industry?
DE: No, not at all. I thought I would own a chain of clothing stores.
JA: Clothing stores? Now, that is a long way off from a studio gym. So, you knew you always wanted to be your own boss? Did anything your parents instilled in you help you to achieve this?
DE: Right out of high school I worked at Cavalier Men’s Shop for several years. I liked seeing the cool guys in the cool clothes and the cool cars. I became good at my job and won several awards for sales and more. Growing up I saw my Mom work so hard, and I knew given the chance to opena business I wanted to work hard to, but work for myself.
JA: How did the idea of DNA Fitness start? What has prepared you to be a successful entrepreneur?
DE: The idea started while I was working for another gym and I thought to myself that I could do this better, if I could do it my way. Listening to what members and clients want and doing my best to implement their suggestions and ideals is one the biggest things I can do as an owner.
JA: When did you decide that you wanted to own your own fitness studio?
DE: In 2009, that said gym gave me what they said would be a “leave of absence”; I say fired! I knew once I walked out that door I wouldn’t ever come back again.
JA: What are some of the challenges and rewards of the business you are in?
DE: The biggest challenge is getting people to believe in themselves again. To not dwell on what they used to look like or could do while in high school or college. The biggest reward is seeing them implement better eating habits and exercising as a lifestyle change opposed to some fad diet, shakes or gimmicky exercise machines or pills.
JA: For those looking to kick-start their fitness routine for the spring, what do you suggest?
DE: Get out and walk! Enjoy this great weather and scenery that Richmond has to offer. For the beginners who might be intimidated by gyms or even fitness studios I suggest you join a running group that offers all levels from novice to pros.
JA: What makes DNA Fitness so special and different? What can members and visitors expect?
DE: We are different because we are nonjudgmental and family oriented. All members and visitors can expect awesome classes with fun and professional instructors who will treat you like family with positive encouragement and motivation with all exercises in each class.
DNA would not be possible without my members and my trainers. My trainers Cheryl Lockett-Oliver and Dashawn “Kimbo” Boatwright have grown this business with me, and have helped make DNA who we are and what we continue to grow to be.
“[DNA] has a caring group of trainers that aren’t just telling you how to get fit, but standing and working alongside you.” said Carla Williams – Ingram, member of DNA Fitness. The journey has been so much easier and more fun for me because I’m not doing it alone. My support system and family has grown 10 fold, with the DNA crew. We work out together, we have fun together and we’re all getting results… and that’s why I’m here! It’s a great place to be.”
JA: What do you think is the hardest thing for people to get started living healthier and more active lives?
DE: To make time for themselves! With work and kids activities, parents tend to use lack of time to not exercise or eat right. You have to take at least 45-60 minutes a day for yourself.
JA: Why is good health and physical activity so important in the African American community?
DE: African Americans are at the top of the list in all the major categories that’s killing people, and good health and physical activity are really small and simple changes to our lifestyle. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity are destroying our community and all of these ailments can be prevented with better eating choices and at least 30 minutes of some type of physical activity.
JA: What do you love about Richmond?
DE: I love the scenery, the hills and parks. Nature’s obstacles courses are way better than anything man can build.
JA: What do you do for fun?
DE: I don’t really have hobbies, but I like writing and scribbling on index cards and post it notes.
JA: What is your favorite pre- or post-workout meal? Now, I know you do not cheat, but what is a great cheat meal for you?
DE: My favorite pre-meal is oatmeal with three boiled eggs, and I take the yolk out of two of them. My favorite post-workout meal is a grilled chicken or veggie salad.
Now, who doesn’t cheat? I cheat all the time! My weakness is doughnuts. My car cannot even drive past a Krispy Kreme. My favorite cheat meal would be a pasta, like chicken alfredo.
JA: Why do you love what you do?
DE: I love to witness people do what they thought they couldn’t do, and do it from start to finish. From doing their first 5k to a 10k or half and do a full marathon, it is all about progression. Or, fitting into that dress they never thought they would get back in. It is a physical change, but it is also a mental change and growth. I have witnessed people in the DNA family walk in the door thinking they could not achieve what they can now, and now some of these people are personal trainers, running coaches or wellness trainers. Their achievements make me proud!
JA: What is your motto?
DE: We fight! Never give up!
“My favorite classes are cycle, boot camp and bodies in motion.” commented Gray. The first time that I attended cycle and saw that we were flipping tires, doing push-ups and burpees, I was hooked. The members welcome you with open arms and make you feel right at home. Darryl pushes you to do the best that you can. He makes you go beyond your comfort zone to get results. DNA is not your typical gym to work out and get your body in shape and then you go home. It’s a place where you get to meet new friends, work out, get encouragement and support for not only your physical needs but all your needs. DNA is my extended family.”
JA: Well, DE, Urban Views Weekly appreciates the time you took to speak to us today. Where can people find out more about DNA Fitness?
DE: Check us out online for our classes at www.dnafitnessstudio.com. Our studio is located at 1582 Mountain Road Glen Allen, VA 23060.
JA: Well, is there anything else you would like to communicate to our readers? What exciting things does DNA Fitness have coming up?
DE: If you are looking for a family friendly and non-judgmental fitness studio with a variety of classes with positive encouragement I welcome and encourage you to give us a try. Our spring and summer schedule is upon us and that means a lot of outside activities! Boot camps, Bodies In Motion and Strength & Conditioning classes are much better in an environment that encourages you and is there with you every step of the way! We’ll be celebrating our 5 year anniversary in May and we have some amazing events planned. Come join in on the fun!
“I did not lose the 50 lbs by my 50th (lost about 25), but I lost inches, and my bmi drastically dropped and my A1C levels are now normal. I am stronger, still run at the pace of a turtle in peanut butter, but I run. I gained a group of people that I consider to be family, and I am humbled to know them all. The members of DNA are a big family when one is hurt/sick, we check in, we suit up, we fight!” said Wynn.