Sports Backers Blog

Fitness Warriors' Annual 'Warrior Nation Celebration' Set for January 27

RICHMOND, VA – With the Fitness Warriors program currently immersed in offering free fitness classes in communities around the Richmond region and a new class of Warrior recruits just starting their training journey, the program will take the opportunity to highlight community health success stories on January 27 at the annual Warrior Nation Celebration. The event will take place at the Robinson Theater in Church Hill at 6:00pm and will celebrate program achievements and community impact while also recognizing all program partners, participants, and host sites.

Part of Sports Backers’ ‘Keep It Moving’ community fitness initiative, the Fitness Warriors program trains community leaders to become fitness instructors and offers free fitness classes throughout the Richmond region, with a particular focus on underserved areas facing the highest rates of chronic disease. Since its inception in 2014, the Fitness Warriors program has grown significantly in both size and geographic reach. There are now two classes of Warriors going through the program each year; the 4th Class graduated on December 2, 2017, with 16 members, and the 5th Class, with 17 Recruits, kicked off their six-month training process on January 13.This allows the program to grow its impact by training more Warriors each year while maintaining a small group to receive the proper support and training to become effective fitness advocates. Each Recruit receives guidance from Warrior Captains, a select group of alumni who use their skills and experience to train future members.

Regardless of which class they were a part of, each Warrior graduate is equipped with the skills to lead free fitness classes and help area residents get moving in a fun and welcoming environment. Warriors lead free weekly classes across the region, including locations in the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, and Hopewell, as well as the counties of Amelia, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Hanover, Henrico, and Charles City. In 2017, the program partnered with nearly 60 host sites to offer the free fitness classes, including churches, community centers, libraries, universities, and low-income housing communities. The classes allow emerging fitness professionals to hone their skills while providing an essential resource to the communities they serve.

In 2017, over 1,200 individuals came to a Fitness Warrior class for the first time. 88 percent of first-time participants self-identified as overweight or obese and 81 percent reported getting less than 150 minutes of physical activity per week, the CDC’s recommended minimum for chronic disease prevention. Many first-time participants became regulars, as evidenced by having a total of 10,900 total visits in 2017. In follow-up surveys, class participants reported weight loss, reduced need for medications, reduced stress, improved mood, improved ability to function in daily activities, as well as increased energy level, flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance.

“Physical fitness opportunities are critical to reducing obesity and chronic disease in Richmond, but Fitness Warriors also foster a sense of belonging and shared strength that makes a lasting impact in every community they serve,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Director of the Richmond City Health District, a founding partner of the Fitness Warriors. “By investing their experience and strength in inspiring others to pursue a more active, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Warriors embody the kind of leadership our city needs if we want to build real health equity.”

The Fitness Warriors program is a partnership between Sports Backers, the Richmond City Health District, Fit-To-Go, and the American Council on Exercise (ACE), with generous support from the John Randolph Foundation, Windsor Foundation Trust, and the Virginia Department of Health. The Warriors and everyone associated with the program, including host-site partners, class participants, and program supporters, have come to be known as the Warrior Nation. The Warrior Nation Celebration will honor the impact that Warriors are collectively making on community health and fitness. Program administrators will recognize three special individuals by awarding the Raymond D. Patterson Award, the Outstanding Host Site Award, and the Class Participant Standout Award. In addition, superlatives will be given to Warriors who go above and beyond the program expectations, with select stories being highlighted during the program.

“ACE is proud to support the Fitness Warriors and their efforts to create a culture of physical activity,” said Tom Richards, Director of Corporate Engagement for ACE. “The inactivity epidemic is powerful and pervasive – one of the greatest health issues we face in modern times – but the Fitness Warriors give us great hope. Their passion and, more importantly, compassion, for the Richmond community, is an inspiring model for the whole nation.”

“Fitness Warriors do a fantastic job of bringing active living opportunities to every corner of the Richmond region,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers. “We are fortunate to work with so many great community partners and foundations to prepare these community leaders to bring fitness programs to areas that need them most.”

The Fitness Warriors program continues to offer free classes on a regular basis, and a full schedule of the weekly classes can be found at

The Robinson Theater Community Arts Center is located at 2903 Q Street. Doors open at 5:30pm and the program will run from 6:00pm-7:00pm, with a reception to follow. Media interested in attending the ceremony, or seeing the Fitness Warriors in action leading classes, can contact Pete Woody at 285-9495 ext. 237 or [email protected].