Lonnie Smalls was at ShopRite with his wife a few months ago when he was approached by personal trainer Raheem Owens, whom he knew from attending Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City.
When he was a teen, Smalls played football and basketball. Over the past decade, though, Smalls' focus on building a music career has taken its toll on his athleticism. Now in his late 20s, Smalls' waistline has expanded alongside his musical ambitions, and his dietary choices - candy, ice cream and general junk - caught Owens' eye.
"He was kind of seeing what I was picking up to get for my groceries, and he was like, 'You know what, dude? You need to come to the workout, because I care about people's health,'" Smalls said. "So I was like, 'All right, I'm going to come. What's your number?'"
Since Oct. 1, Smalls has participated in Owens' 12-week Rock Your Jeans Transformation Challenge, his first under the banner of his new fitness company, Training Plus+ at 2606 Fire Road.
A veteran of the corporate gym scene, Owens said he tired of being part of what he perceives as a hands-off system that thrives on abandoning its customers, and hopes to position Training Plus+ as a sort of "anti-gym."
"You go in, swipe your card, and it's, 'Take care, hope you reach your goals, bye bye, if you never come back, we're still going to charge you,'" Owens said of the traditional system. "That's not how it works. That's not helping people, and it's not part of the solution."
Instead, Owens hopes to make Training Plus+ a comprehensive fitness program, emphasizing accountability and goal-setting as its key components. Enrollment in Owens' program begins with an evaluation of muscle strength, balance and joint mobility, by which he will tailor the program to suit an individual's exercise needs. Owens also offers nutrition counseling and tips to those enrolled in his course.
Large group classes fall into a category Owens calls "metabolic training," and consist of a circuit of exercises designed to maximize lean muscle growth and fat loss.
"Body weight, cardio and strength training, combined together," Owens said. "It creates an afterburn kind of effect, you get your heart rate up, you're building muscles, so when you leave here your body is still burning calories. Three, four, five hours, throughout the day, your body is still burning calories."
For the Rock Your Jeans Challenge, Owens had his students purchase a pair of jeans a few sizes too small to bring to their weigh-in. Owens is keeping the jeans until the end of the challenge, promising his students that should they follow the course, they'll be able to fit into them.
While the Rock Your Jeans Challenge is no longer open, Owens is still taking on new students, and will periodically offer similar challenges as motivation.
Now free from the typical gym mold, Owens said he's glad to be off on his own. Getting down to the basics of why he went into training in the first place, Owens said, has been rewarding.
"I want to see people lose 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds and have a breakthrough and become a new person," Owens said. "That's what I like to see, and that's where my heart is, where the passion is. That's what drives me."
Owens offers boot camp classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 and 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Classes last about one hour. Owens also offers small group classes and personal training sessions by appointment.
For more information or to register for a seven-day free trial, call Owens at 609-317-6494 or find Training Plus+ on Facebook. Membership starts at $109 per month for unlimited group classes, and goes up depending on need.
Contact Braden Campbell: