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Former Bowie State administrator opens fitness center

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Photo by Alexis A. Goring. General manager Tarik Harris, a former administrator at Bowie State University, poses with personal trainer Chanel Smith at the Cultural Development Institute Training Facility in Lanham. The fitness and training center opened Sept. 1.

Photo by Alexis A. Goring. General manager Tarik Harris, a former administrator at Bowie State University, poses with personal trainer Chanel Smith at the Cultural Development Institute Training Facility in Lanham. The fitness and training center opened Sept. 1.

Published on: Thursday, September 19, 2013

By Alexis A. Goring

A new place to exercise and work with personal trainers has opened in Lanham — but it’s not a gym.

The Cultural Development Institute Training Facility, located on Forbes Boulevard, opened Sept. 1.

“We’re not necessarily trying to compete with gyms,” general manager Tarik Harris said. “We’re not a gym. We are a training facility that focuses primarily specifically on one-on-one personal training, group training, boot camps, fitness classes. We’re using the culture of physical activity through personal training.”

Harris hopes to attract business professionals who work in the business parks along Forbes Boulevard.

“I created this training facility because in the fitness industry… they’re going after the membership but what they’re not doing is they’re not really caring about their members,” he said.

Sometimes when people join gyms, they are specifically seeking personal training rather than a workout facility membership, Harris said.

“Their goal could be lowering blood pressure, lowering their diabetes,” he said.

Carol Konrad was one of those clients who wanted to lose weight to reduce her glucose level that causes diabetes. Konrad works as the math coordinator and a math teacher at DuVal High School.

“With Tarik I had lost 30 pounds and probably about four dress sizes and my diabetes was going down, so I wouldn’t have to take as much medicine. … I was feeling healthy and I enjoyed what he did because he’s very one-on-one,” she said. “He’s very interested in the whole body wellness. He’s all about the person.”

Harris, who has been in the fitness industry for 17 years, explained how he can cater to the working professional who cannot find the time to exercise.

“If you don’t value your health then you’re a person who will make a bunch of reasons as to why you’re not there. But if you’re a person who values your health and understands that your one life is not a dress rehearsal and that you are your biggest investment,” he said.

Harris earned his doctorate at Morgan State University in College Presidency in 2002 with the ultimate goal of becoming a college president. During his tenure as director of admissions at Bowie State University, Harris had a change of heart.

“College presidents work long hours, and they don’t eat like they should. And, they don’t exercise because they’re dealing with large organizations and different constituents and different people,” he said. “So what I found is that they take care of everybody else, but they’re letting their health go. … In order for us to really have the best performing presidents or teachers or nurses or guidance counselors — you need to value yourself.”

CDI’s purpose is to help individuals take “the same determination and tenacity” used to earn a college degree while being a single parent or overcoming life’s other obstacles to create a fitness goal that works for them, Harris said.

A draw for some clients is that CDI has former professional athletes on staff as personal trainers, including Leon Joe, drafted by the Chicago Bears. Joe is now CDI’s district manager.

“A lot of CDI trainers are fellow Prince Georgians and fellow NFL athletes that grew up in this area,” Harris said. “And because they grew up in this area, they want to give back to the community and there’s a big demand particularly in Prince George’s County for sports-specific training. A lot of these kids are very impressionable; they all want to go to the NFL or NBA, so what better person to have as your trainer than a former athlete who’s been in your shoes and knows what it takes?”

Currently, the CDI trainers are working with 15 personal training clients and they hope to reach 100 clients soon. Clients have the option to work out by themselves or accept the offer of membership. Personal training rates range from $45 to $75 per hour.

Harris, who has a background in fitness education, hopes to expand his reach by partnering with Prince George’s County schools. He has already established a partnership with Dwight Eisenhower Middle School, where he talked with teachers about the importance of physical activity and fitness.

“Because if you feel better, you’ll be a better teacher,” Harris said. “If your kids and students exercise and eat better, they’ll be a lot more attentive in school and they’ll be more prepared.”

Harris said he would like to develop a boot camp for principals where they can become fit to lead and hopes that “fit to lead” will become a slogan used throughout the county’s school system.

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