January 22, 2021

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Remaining healthy, creating neighborhood and combating ‘COVID handles’

Chris Edmonds, a Woodland High School graduate and former NFL player, teaches fitness lessons to...

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Chris Edmonds, a Woodland High School graduate and former NFL player, teaches fitness lessons to a chronically underserved populace in Braddock, Pa., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Write-up-Gazette by way of AP)

AP

Chris Edmonds says Pittsburgh saved his life.

He arrived here 26 decades in the past as a significant university junior, in search of refuge from the unforgiving streets of East Place just outdoors of Atlanta. His mother, a Pittsburgh native boosting him by yourself, despatched him back again to her hometown to stay with his aunt on Highland Avenue in Turtle Creek. It transformed the trajectory of his daily life.

On his very first day at Woodland Hills High College, he encountered famous Wolverines head coach George Novak, who coaxed him onto the football industry, starting a journey that would get him to massive-time higher education soccer at West Virginia College and culminate in two seasons in the Countrywide Soccer League.

“It was the best issue for me and the ideal determination my mom almost certainly ever created for the reason that it just manufactured my life switch in a diverse way,” he mentioned.

Now, at 42, he goes back to that exact same area, the Wolvarena, and local fitness centers to instruct physical fitness and nutrition absolutely free of cost to folks chronically underserved in each locations, and just possibly adjust the trajectory of their life, too. That he continues to do so amidst a pandemic only heightens the great importance of his mission.

At 6-foot-3 and 260 lbs with shoulders like boulders, biceps like bowling balls and a thick beard flecked with gray, Mr. Edmonds’ existence belies the affable, upbeat mother nature of the founder of the Athletic Trauma Unit. He makes a authentic group with his workouts, which sometimes appeal to hundreds of men and women. But they started with just him and two other people.

In 2006, he experienced played a couple of decades with the Cincinnati Bengals and a minor time in NFL Europe. Then the 29-12 months-aged hung up his helmet.

“I felt very good about going for walks absent from it, with my knees and my shoulders and my head intact,” he mentioned. “I required to get on with some distinct ventures in lifetime — anything that was mine, something that I could say, ‘I did that.’

“I had in my mind that I was usually heading to come back again. I felt indebted to the Woodland Hills local community.”

He labored as a juvenile correctional officer right until June 2014. At yet another crossroads, he delved into his true passion — fitness — but also with a unique mission: offering folks guidance to get in shape when they really do not have a fitness center or the means to shell out for it.

“I didn’t want persons to have to pay back me. I felt like the gripe in the local community was they didn’t want to go to the health club simply because they ended up considerably away — in Monroeville, in Murrysville, or way Downtown.”

The concept of food deserts — locations with citizens of lower cash flow and lowered mobility who have constrained accessibility to reasonably priced and wholesome food items — has attained raising recognition in the latest a long time. So too have “fitness deserts.” Neighborhoods these kinds of as Braddock, Rankin and Turtle Creek are like the overlapping part of a Venn diagram for equally forms of deserts.

Edmonds turned a licensed personal trainer, then eradicated the need to have for a gym from the equation. His training was built around the rules of human body resistance movements, so all individuals have to have is them selves and gravity. No weights, no devices, no ropes, no kettlebells or box jumps.

He hosted his very first exercise routine at the Wolvarena in 2014.

“Two folks showed up the to start with day. Inside of a few weeks, there ended up 10. By the close of the summer season, we’d have 50 to 100 people. It actually caught hold.”

Any one from youngsters to seniors can take part and go at their have speed, though Edmonds will press them with positivity. Following a exercise routine, a pal remarked, “Man, this is like, traumatic. We set ourselves by way of some serious trauma — athletic trauma.”

The title Athletic Trauma Device — ATU for brief — was born.

Edmonds does personal athletic training as a independent company, but to go on the mission of free exercises, he began a 501c3 charitable organization that relies on donations. He’s also started out a foodstuff truck to boost balanced feeding on.

“I’m not a nutritionist, but the whole intention of the foodstuff truck is educating people today healthier consuming by displaying them ‘this tastes very good.’ I’ll give you the recipe and you can make it at dwelling with no a good deal of salt and sauce. You can support your relatives be additional balanced so we can build a healthier local community.”

He’s led turkey drives at Thanksgiving and his Athletic Trauma Unit participates in the Pittsburgh Write-up-Gazette’s Goodfellows fund, which aids Toys for Tots offer toys to people in will need throughout the holiday getaway period.

Edmonds has not allow the pandemic get in the way of his mission, even if that usually means necessary masks, temperature checks, restricting class attendees and scheduling much more repeated workouts with less people. He commenced a YouTube channel for routines and moved his courses to Zoom in reaction to the most modern point out limits.

“I don’t care if it is one particular person or 100, we’re heading to work out,” he said. “That particular person may be dealing with mental wellness or loved ones difficulties, so I approach anyone the exact same. I struggle much too, just like absolutely everyone else. Using away some of these different limitations can be encouraging someone save their have lifetime.

“I’ve viewed men and women satisfy in these lessons and get married and have children. Just one man or woman satisfied an additional and finished up donating their kidney to them. A friend misplaced 250 pounds and got a grant to have excessive pores and skin removed since he did it naturally. A girl with a prosthetic acquired a grant for a managing leg. We have a 93-yr-previous woman who arrives below.”

Candace Foster, an accountant from Homewood, has been coming given that the commencing. The 53-calendar year-aged solitary mother of 3 has valuable minor time to work out and fitness centers weren’t for her. With ATU, she found not only an avenue to health, but a real community of pals who function out alongside one another and have supper and socialize with each other, far too.

“I understood from the initially exercise session that this was it. It was all concentrations, ages, adult males and gals, all in unique destinations in daily life with 1 factor in typical: We required to get or remain fit and manage well being and wellness.

“Now it is this significant complete network,” she claimed. “We’re just typical men and women. No one arrives to perform out contemplating they just can’t measure up. We all finish together and make certain no one is left behind. He definitely has an impact, and it helps throughout these dim periods.”

These darkish occasions make training challenging, especially when you add snow into the combine. Edmonds states that right now, it’s not as critical what you do, but that like the Nike slogan claims, you just do it. Every working day.

Locate something that you like to do, even if it is just a tiny movie course or a stationary bike or jumping rope, he claimed. Just do some thing. If you wander your animals, walk them a tiny more time. Do the measures at your dwelling. Something that you can do to shift and to get your heart fee going.

“We’re all human beings. It’s like just about anything. It is a drive of practice. If you acquire you off of the factors that you do every single day, it can direct to distinctive concerns.”

Moreover, he said, “No a single wishes to get COVID handles.”

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