Chris Edmonds, a Woodland High School graduate and former NFL player, teaches fitness classes to a chronically underserved population in Braddock, Pa., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Chris Edmonds, a Woodland Significant School graduate and previous NFL player, teaches health and fitness lessons to a chronically underserved populace in Braddock, Pa., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Article-Gazette by means of AP)


Chris Edmonds suggests Pittsburgh saved his lifetime.

He came here 26 a long time in the past as a substantial university junior, seeking refuge from the unforgiving streets of East Issue just outside the house of Atlanta. His mother, a Pittsburgh native increasing him by yourself, sent him back to her hometown to live with his aunt on Highland Avenue in Turtle Creek. It transformed the trajectory of his lifestyle.

On his first working day at Woodland Hills Superior College, he encountered legendary Wolverines head mentor George Novak, who coaxed him on to the football industry, starting a journey that would consider him to large-time university soccer at West Virginia University and culminate in two seasons in the Countrywide Soccer League.

“It was the ideal matter for me and the ideal final decision my mom in all probability ever built mainly because it just created my everyday living flip in a different way,” he reported.

Now, at 42, he goes again to that exact same field, the Wolvarena, and nearby gyms to educate exercise and diet absolutely free of charge to folks chronically underserved in the two locations, and just maybe adjust the trajectory of their lives, too. That he carries on to do so amidst a pandemic only heightens the great importance of his mission.

At 6-foot-3 and 260 kilos with shoulders like boulders, biceps like bowling balls and a thick beard flecked with grey, Mr. Edmonds’ existence belies the affable, upbeat mother nature of the founder of the Athletic Trauma Unit. He results in a genuine group with his routines, which often appeal to hundreds of folks. But they started with just him and two some others.

In 2006, he had played a handful of decades with the Cincinnati Bengals and a minimal time in NFL Europe. Then the 29-yr-previous hung up his helmet.

“I felt good about going for walks absent from it, with my knees and my shoulders and my head intact,” he said. “I wanted to get on with some distinctive ventures in life — a little something that was mine, some thing that I could say, ‘I did that.’

“I had in my mind that I was always going to appear again. I felt indebted to the Woodland Hills neighborhood.”

He labored as a juvenile correctional officer till June 2014. At an additional crossroads, he delved into his real enthusiasm — health — but also with a particular mission: providing individuals tips to get in condition when they really do not have a health club or the means to fork out for it.

“I did not want people to have to pay out me. I felt like the gripe in the neighborhood was they did not want to go to the gymnasium mainly because they had been considerably absent — in Monroeville, in Murrysville, or way Downtown.”

The thought of foods deserts — regions with people of decreased revenue and lowered mobility who have limited entry to very affordable and healthy food — has obtained increasing awareness in recent yrs. So much too have “fitness deserts.” Neighborhoods these as Braddock, Rankin and Turtle Creek are like the overlapping portion of a Venn diagram for both of those types of deserts.

Edmonds grew to become a licensed personalized coach, then removed the require for a gymnasium from the equation. His work out was created all around the rules of entire body resistance movements, so all individuals require is them selves and gravity. No weights, no equipment, no ropes, no kettlebells or box jumps.

He hosted his initial work out at the Wolvarena in 2014.

“Two folks confirmed up the very first day. Inside a few weeks, there ended up 10. By the end of the summer months, we’d have 50 to 100 persons. It genuinely caught keep.”

Any individual from kids to seniors can participate and go at their very own speed, even though Edmonds will force them with positivity. Soon after a work out, a good friend remarked, “Man, this is like, traumatic. We place ourselves by some genuine trauma — athletic trauma.”

The name Athletic Trauma Device — ATU for shorter — was born.

Edmonds does personal athletic training as a different business, but to carry on the mission of cost-free workout routines, he started out a 501c3 charitable firm that relies on donations. He’s also begun a food items truck to market healthier having.

“I’m not a nutritionist, but the full intention of the food items truck is instructing folks healthy having by showing them ‘this tastes very good.’ I’ll give you the recipe and you can make it at property with no a great deal of salt and sauce. You can aid your spouse and children be additional healthful so we can build a healthier group.”

He’s led turkey drives at Thanksgiving and his Athletic Trauma Unit participates in the Pittsburgh Article-Gazette’s Goodfellows fund, which helps Toys for Tots supply toys to family members in require for the duration of the holiday time.

Edmonds has not permit the pandemic get in the way of his mission, even if that means required masks, temperature checks, limiting class attendees and scheduling much more frequent exercises with much less people today. He started off a YouTube channel for routines and moved his classes to Zoom in reaction to the most the latest point out limits.

“I really don’t care if it is a single man or woman or 100, we’re going to perform out,” he mentioned. “That individual could be dealing with psychological wellbeing or spouse and children concerns, so I tactic every person the exact. I battle as well, just like every person else. Using away some of these various limitations can be helping another person conserve their own everyday living.

“I’ve witnessed persons satisfy in these lessons and get married and have little ones. One person fulfilled yet another and finished up donating their kidney to them. A good friend shed 250 lbs and bought a grant to have excess skin removed for the reason that he did it normally. A lady with a prosthetic bought a grant for a operating leg. We have a 93-12 months-previous lady who comes listed here.”

Candace Foster, an accountant from Homewood, has been coming considering the fact that the beginning. The 53-calendar year-old single mom of 3 has precious minor time to do the job out and gyms weren’t for her. With ATU, she discovered not only an avenue to health, but a genuine community of buddies who work out with each other and have supper and socialize jointly, as well.

“I realized from the 1st exercise routine that this was it. It was all degrees, ages, adult men and women of all ages, all in various destinations in everyday living with just one matter in common: We desired to get or stay in shape and sustain health and wellness.

“Now it’s this massive whole community,” she stated. “We’re just frequent persons. No a person will come to function out imagining they just can’t measure up. We all finish together and make guaranteed no a person is left at the rear of. He truly has an impression, and it can help during these dim situations.”

These dark moments make training tricky, specifically when you add snow into the mix. Edmonds says that suitable now, it’s not as vital what you do, but that like the Nike slogan suggests, you just do it. Each individual day.

Find something that you like to do, even if it’s just a small video course or a stationary bike or leaping rope, he claimed. Just do a thing. If you stroll your animals, wander them a little longer. Do the techniques at your residence. Anything at all that you can do to shift and to get your coronary heart level heading.

“We’re all human beings. It’s like just about anything. It is a drive of routine. If you acquire by yourself off of the factors that you do each working day, it can guide to various difficulties.”

Aside from, he claimed, “No just one desires to get COVID handles.”


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