Like the Georgia and Southern Golden Gloves boxing champion that he is, Darrel Wright is good on his feet as a personal trainer and boot camp instructor.
But it still took a bit of nerve to leave his steady-paying job at BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia in mid-2014 to launch himself full time into his Wright Way Fitness venture and opening a workout facility at 1100 14th St. in the midtown area of Columbus.
“I was shortchanging myself. I was just afraid to make a move. I was always in that comfort zone,” said Wright, 39, who also gave up a personal trainer and boot camp position at the YMCA the year before that to focus more on his business dream.
The Warner Robins, Ga., native always has been willing to take a turn in his career, while polishing his fitness skills and certifications in preparation for Wright Way Fitness, which he opened on Nov. 3, 2014.
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Since then, the former boxer, track and field athlete and U.S. Army field artilleryman has seen his clientele grow steadily. It now is a mix of blue-collar worker, white-collar professionals, women and men, and both those in decent shape and those needing a major makeover.
In what spare time he has, Wright said he manages the career of boxer Michael Finney, a Smiths Station, Ala., native who has appeared in bouts shown on ESPN and Showtime.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited Wright’s facility recently to discuss his job and how he turns around lives and bodies. On one shelf sits a small plaque with the words: “Sweat is fat crying.” Tools of his trade include weight equipment, stationary bikes, water rowers, ropes and a punching bag.
How busy are you?
I have approximately 10 to 11 boot camps a week. They’re one-hour sessions. The biggest thing I realized is you’ve got to be available. I’m requested as a personal trainer all day.
It wasn’t easy launching the fitness facility?
It was a big jump. People tell you they want your business, but you’re not really sure. It’s a chance, but you just have to take a risk. I read stuff from financial gurus, Suze Orman is one, and Dave Ramsey. They’re great. I just listen to those people and make my decisions.
Running a business isn’t a breeze?
People think it’s easy. It’s not. You can tell anyone to do pushups and situps, but what about the business portion of it? It’s real tough. But I realize I was on my path and everything happened for a reason. It was meant for me to leave TSYS to go to the YMCA. It was meant for me to go to the Y, because when I was there not only did I personal train (people) and do boot camp, but I was one of the top trainers there. I also did front-desk work, so I learned how to do the back-end office and paperwork stuff.
So this is your busy season, just after the holidays?
Typically, it is. For the average trainer it is. I’m not a boaster, but I’ve been steadily progressing. You can tell during the holiday season that you’ll start losing people, but mine didn’t drop off and stuck with me. They’re seeing results. A lot of people stay with me because of their results.
Your athletic background, boxing in particular, helped you succeed?
No sport got me in better shape than boxing. It’s a disciplined lifestyle that you have to live. During one competition, I had to lose 10 pounds in one day.
But there’s more to it. Once you get your personal trainer certification, you’re basically learning the anatomy behind why you’re doing what you’re doing ... I had to learn why am I doing this? Why am I losing this much weight? It’s the biomechanics around it that I had to learn.
Is diet and eating in general your first approach in fitness instruction?
I’m a nutrition consultant as well. You can work out all day, but if you don’t change your eating, you’re going to have problems ... I don’t believe in diets and cutting everything out. I kill all the myths. They tell you about drinking a gallon of water a day and you’ll cut all of these inches. That’s nonsense. They tell you that you can have one cheat day a week. That’s nonsense. I tell people you need to cheat. Eat what you want, but you must know you’ve got to burn more (calories) than you’re putting in. If you’re continuously eating Snickers bars, you’re not going to do yourself justice.
So I’m honest and straightforward with people. If you cut everything out, what you’re going to end up doing is depriving yourself and then you’ll overindulge.
I tell people to count their calories so they will know exactly what they’re putting in their system. Some people say, well, I eat too much, or I don’t eat enough. How do you know if you don’t put it down on paper? ... But you don’t have to continuously count calories because you eventually get an idea of what you’re putting in your system. I tell people to eat until you’re satisfied, but not full. The whole point is to boost your metabolism.
Are boot camp sessions grueling?
They’re physical, high-intensity interval training. But you’ve got to build up to it. And everyone is on different fitness levels. My boot camp is for everybody, whether you’re in shape or out of shape. And you don’t have to get in shape to do boot camp because everything is in moderation. It’s intense, but everything is at your pace. So if you can’t continue on and you need to take a breather, then take a breather. I even pull some people off at times and have them take a seat and a breather.
The key to seeing results also is to cross-train muscles?
I shock your body. That’s the whole deal is to shock your body. That’s why people are like, how in the world am I losing so much weight? I’m shocking your body and keeping it different. Now sometimes it takes time for people to catch on to it and listen. But I tell them, you hired me for a reason. Let me be your trainer.
So taking a leap of faith into your own business has paid off?
Those motivational people I was talking about, one of them said every successful businessman had to take some kind of risk. So before starting this, I asked myself, what kind of risk have I taken? None. Wright Way Fitness is doing well. Blue Cross was doing well. But in order for one or the other to grow, I had to leave one of them. I had to determine, can I go further at Blue Cross or can I go further at fitness? It obviously was the right move.
Do you have anything else going on?
The Wright Way 5 Fitness event will be April 30. It’s going to be a big shindig, like the Country’s Midnight Run. We’ll have vendors. I’m targeting (fitness enthusiasts from) Fort Benning, Auburn, all of the gyms around the area ... I don’t want it to be the typical 5k race. So it’s a fitness challenge. It will be fun, exciting and rewarding. There will monetary awards as well.
If this fitness event goes well, I want to take it from city to city, from area to area. Maybe next year or the year after, why not Macon? But, in the end, I want to keep being who I am.
Name: Darrel Wright
Hometown: Warner Robins, Ga.
Current residence: Columbus
Education: 1995 graduate of Warner Robins High School in Warner Robins, Ga.; received degree in general studies from Chattahoochee Valley Community College in 2001; took exercise science courses at Columbus State University; and has taken sports fitness management courses at Troy University; and is pursuing master trainer certification
Previous jobs: Served three years in U.S. Army as a field artilleryman; worked in customer service, disputes and fraud at TSYS; worked as a coordinator at BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia; and was a personal trainer/fitness instructor at the YMCA
Family: Wife, Brendra, and three children Kay Wright, 22, Kayla, 4, and Brayden, 3
Leisure time: Loves spending time with his family, including taking his kids on outings to the park, and watching movies; and is getting into golf and tennis
Of note: Is certified as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, sports nutrition consultant, and nutrition and wellness consultant