Personality: Ricky Martin
Spotlight on Fit2Give founder’s goal to reduce health risks in underserved areas
2/3/2022, 6 p.m.
With COVID-19 resulting in more sedentary lifestyles for many Richmond area residents, Fit2Give founder Ricky Martin believes that his nonprofit organization can help offset some of the health disparities likely to have increased in underserved communities during the ongoing pandemic.
“Though the world is experiencing a pandemic, our local communities are still suffering from epidemics like pre-diabetes and many obesity and health-disparity issues,” Mr. Martin says. He adds that the quality of life in the city’s West End differs from the quality of life in the city’s East End, where the life expectancy of residents can be 20 years lower.
“The need for parity in just being able to live is blatantly obvious,” he says.
While Fit2Give was conceived at the pandemic’s start and was just designated a non-profit last year, Mr. Martin says its origins go back much further. A native of South Carolina who now lives in Chesterfield County, he was driven to form the group after serving years as the co-creator of Fitness Warriors, where he prepared volunteers to lead free group fitness classes in the Richmond area’s underserved communities.
Now, he wants to expand his efforts, separate from the SportsBackers group that Fitness Warriors operates, with a focus on personal training and pre-diabetes prevention coaching, all accessible to those typically unable to afford it.
“I saw how our efforts since 2014 have had an immense impact on the Richmond-Tri-Cities area,” Mr. Martin says, adding that the effectiveness of the free group fitness programming convinced him that free personal fitness training could also help provide a better quality of life” for those most in need.”
Currently, Fit2Give has partnered with the University of Richmond to facilitate training for coaches who would help those with Type 2 pre-diabetes, and to support outreach in Petersburg. In the months ahead, Mr. Martin plans to start up a Type 2 pre-diabetes prevention cohort, with a search for viable candidates already underway.
Those selected will be assigned a trainer for six to 10 sessions, where goals will be worked on and daily routines developed that can continue beyond the training. The hope is to “provide education and facilitate behavior change,” says Mr. Martin.
It’s an ambitious goal for a new nonprofit, but Mr. Martin believes it’s one that fits well with the potential for positive change and growth that exercise and healthier living can bring.
“Exercise in all its forms has been my therapy, my best friend, my meditation, my avenue and pathway into myself, my catalyst for revelation into my history as a human being,” Mr. Martin says. “Exercise showed me how I could change myself and help others change also, in not only physical cosmetic ways, but internal ways of better self confidence, patience with self and others.”
Meet a local organizer bringing exercise and better living to all, Ricky Martin:
Volunteer position: Founder, Fit2Give.
Occupation: Owner of Fit To Go.
Date and place of birth: May 5, 1956, in Charleston, S.C.
Where I live now: Chesterfield County.
Education: Attended Skidmore University from 1975 to1977; also attended New York Community College, LaQuadia Community College, Highland Community College. Certificates include: Athletics and Fitness Association of America Certified Personal Trainer, American Council on Exercise Certified Group Fitness Instructor, ACE certified Sports Nutrition Specialist, CDC T2 Pre-diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach, Performance Stretch Therapist, certified with Performance Stretch Systems, certified Crystal Reiki Master Teacher with Powers Reiki.
Family: Wife Nichole Martin, and daughters Zyon, 18, and Serenity, 16.
Fit2Give is: A nonprofit organization providing free personal training and pre-diabetes prevention lifestyle coaching.
When it began: We received our 501(c)(3) status last year, 2021.
Where I got the idea: As a community health professional for many years, I have seen the need for health and wellness programming of all sorts in underserved communities. I am the co-creator of a health initiative, in partnership with SportsBackers, called Fitness Warriors. We train volunteers to lead free group fitness classes in underserved communities. I saw how our efforts have had an immense impact in the Richmond-Tri-Cities area since 2014. It was a natural progression to seeing how free group fitness programming can help communities by providing free personal fitness training and seeing its impact on the quality of life of those most in need.
Mission: To provide free personal training and pre-diabetes lifestyle coaching to those who need it but cannot afford it.
Why Fit2Give is needed in Richmond: Part of the training that we provide for our volunteer group fitness instructors is based on the statistics regarding health disparities in the Richmond area. We show how life expectancy can change within just a few miles in various Richmond communities. The quality of life on the west side of the city or in areas that have a higher standard of living, compared to the quality of life on the east side, in areas experiencing a lower standard of living, shows a 20-year difference in life expectancy between a distance of only 5 miles. The need for parity in just being able to live is blatantly obvious.
Who benefits from Fit2Give: People who cannot afford to pay for professional fitness instruction and the community at large. Better overall health outcomes reduce the strain on our already strained health care system.
HowFit2Giveworks: We will identify candidates for training from requests and referrals. We will assess the needs of each potential candidate. Selected candidates will be assigned a trainer for six to 10 sessions. The trainer will work with the individual on their goals and help them develop a daily routine they can continue beyond the training. The idea is to provide education and facilitate behavior change.
Fit2Give and COVID-19: Fit2Give was basically conceived and formulated at the beginning of the pandemic when quarantines were in place. With time on my hands from a greatly reduced workload, I was able to begin the process of putting the board and nonprofit together. With the help of some very dynamic board members, we have been able to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and still focus on the solutions for our community. Though the world still is experiencing a pandemic, our local communities are still suffering from epidemics like pre-diabetes, obesity and other health-related issues.
How to connect with Fit2Give: We can be reached on our website at www.Fti2give.org.
Fit2Give partners with: We are presently in partnership with the University of Richmond, which provided training for the CDC T2 Prediabetes Prevention Lifestyle training, along with funding for targeted outreach in the Petersburg area.
Ways to support Fit2Give: We are looking for operational funding to cover our present budget for the next year. Donations of any size are welcome. We also offer merchandise on our website, and we are seeking in-kind support for fundraising, technology, administration and marketing.
Upcoming events in 2022: We are planning a T2 Pre-diabetes Prevention cohort to begin in March of this year. We are seeking candidates who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or who have the risk factors like a A1c level of 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent indicating pre-diabetes, family history of diabetes or have a doctor’s recommendation.
A perfect day for me is: Home with my family, sitting next to my wife watching TV in front of the fireplace.
What I am learning about myself during the pandemic: I am learning that I can establish a pattern of self care that is disciplined and caring at the same time. Being able to practice and schedule self care creates an ease to the discipline of being active, refueling and resting. That awareness came after I experienced anxiety attacks, underwent therapy and began to change how I view myself and the world.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love playing the guitar and learning new songs to accompany myself while singing.
A quote that inspires me: James Baldwin: “To be a Ne- gro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
My friends describe me as: Passionate and fiery. Knowledgeable and brave.
The top of my “to-do” list is: Getting folks into the free T2 pre-diabetes prevention cohort starting in March!
Best late-night snack: Almond milk and a FEW Oreo or choco- late chip cookies.
The best thing my parents ever taught me: How to cook, clean, sew and hold down a job. All the basic self-sufficient things you had to do as a Black male, like get there extra early, dress really well and use proper grammar.
The person who influenced me the most: A local counselor and friend, Larry Everette. He once gave me the assignment of looking in the mirror and saying all the bad things I did not like about myself. This was at a very low time in my life. He then asked me to say good things about myself. I found it hard to do and wept. That started the process of rebuilding my self esteem.
How exercise has changed my life: Exercise in all its forms has been my therapy, my best friend, my meditation, my avenue and pathway into myself. It is my catalyst for revelation into my history as a human being. Exercise showed me how I could change myself and help others change also, in not only physical cosmetic ways but internal (intrinsic) ways of better self confidence, patience with self and others.
Book that influenced me the most: “Conversations With God” by Neal Donald Walsch.
What I’m reading now: I have five books to study for my yoga instructor training. “Light On Yoga” is the current assigned reading by B.K.S. Iyengar.
Next goal: To get the T2 pre-diabetes cohort started in March and obtain funding to provide physical therapy to five or more persons. I also will finish preparing my 10th class of trainers to graduate from my instruction so that they can provide their own exercise classes, which will be free of charge.