Rodrick Covington, the personal trainer and founder of leading New York fitness and nutrition company Core Rhythm Fitness, exudes self-confidence and determination.
His work at the gym, specializing in “mind, body and spirit transformations,” has gained a glowing reputation, and Rodrick is a guiding light for clients including actor Billy Porter. He is also a happily married Broadway actor and a community organizer for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In his work and the principles he teaches, authenticity is key. So when we spoke to Rodrick, 40, to get his expertise on combining physical and mental fitness, what he shared was an honest and unexpected account of his own personal journey.
His story begins with trying to suppress his sexuality until the age of 30, including spending seven years in Exodus International, an organization that sought to quell gay Christian’s sexual desires. And now he is using his experiences to help others to improve themselves by first finding peace with they are.
Can you tell me a bit about your story and your work in the fitness industry? In particular this focus on mind, body and spirit, and why it’s important to connect these three things?
What really shaped my life is growing up in Florida, in a family of 18 brothers and sisters. So my parents were together, had 19 kids, nine boys and 10 girls. And growing up in that sort of family really shapes who I am today. I am the 18th child and the last of the boys.
And having all my brothers coming before me, there was this expectation that I was going to play sports. I have a brother who was in the NFL. I have brothers and sisters who were in the Olympic trials. And I’m very athletic, I excelled in sports. However, what I wanted to do was be in theater and sing, and all that jazz. But while doing that, I felt like I was letting my family down. So I got into the gym and working out, to sort of prove to my family that, “Hey, I’m in theater, but I’m still a man, I’m still strong.” And then when I began to realize the natural attractions to a man that I had, and I thought, “I have to fight it.” That’s when I got really seriously into the gym and just really started putting on a lot of muscle.
And with that journey, I was in an ex-gay ministry, that is basically a Christian ministry that was trying to convert gay men into being straight. I was a part of that for seven years. So again, for me at that time, working out would allow me to look more masculine, because I looked hard. So I put on a lot of weight, a lot of muscle, and I was very uncomfortable in my own skin. It’s just a lot of self-hate.
Why did you feel like you needed to change, can I ask you that?
Because I was petrified. I was so afraid of being rejected, not accepted, and not loved. I thought that the only way for me to be loved and accepted, the only way for me to be who I felt like I needed to be, was to be straight.
But now, I am married to my soulmate.
That must have been a lot to go through, and it makes me respect you even more that you’re now where you are today.
Thank you, and that’s actually a large part of our methodology of mind, body and spirit transformation. Because, for me, I needed a mind, body and spirit transformation. And it is a daily act of integrating your mind, body and spirit and not doing things from a place of not being enough or not being accepted, or from a place of looking for love, it’s actually to work out from a place of you’re already loved, you’re already enough.
So with going through that, and after I finally left, I had to begin the journey of loving Rodrick, of accepting Rodrick. And so that is really where a lot of the mind, body and spirit transformation, and our monthly mantras, come from. Because a lot of people that come to us have issues with really accepting all of them. They want to change physically how they are. But we always coach them to start with accepting all of who they are so that when they do change, they can accept that as well.
Tell me a bit more about your belief that fitness is about more than just building muscle?
I see young men in the gym, doing pretty much the same thing that I was doing. And my heart goes out. And they’ll ask me for advice, “What do I do to get this, to get that?” And I will always share with them the mental component. When it comes to working out, “I want to get bigger” only motivates you so long. What motivates people is different, but the key thing is motivation starts within. And I think that from my experience, that’s much more sustainable than just on the outside. So I really do love what I get to do. And it is on all levels. With some people, they call it their church, because mentally and physically, it is what sets the tone for their day.
So what do you offer that is beyond what a typical gym might offer?
So, with any type of group class that we have, there is always an introduction that goes over the monthly mantra. So every single day, every single class, we are repeating that mantra, and this month the mantra is “intentional movement.” Moving your mind, your body and your spirit forward. Being intentional with how you move into a room, how you move into a space, how you move into relationships. And after every workout, we do a grounding meditation, where we pause, and allow the mind and the spirit to actually soak in what you just gave your body. Because of a lot of the time, we give our body fitness, but we don’t pause for just even a minute to receive what the mind and the spirit actually experienced. We’ve really just been physical, without actually allowing the mind and the spirit to process. We also do individual, private one-on-one training, and that’s a bit more specific to individuals. And after a workout, we’ll do a five-minute stretch with kind of reiki [a Japanese technique for stress reduction and healing], and just coaching the client to just simply release and breathe. And then with nutrition, every client has to do a paradigm shift. This is where you literally shift your thinking and you put a fierce guard around your mind. To be honest with you, the most dramatic transformations really happen when people are intentional about their nutrition.
And what about your identity as a black man? How does that feed into what you do, the people that you help and your sense of self?
This summer, on May 29, I was activated. It just hit me and my heart broke when I saw the video of George Floyd. I couldn’t just not do anything, I just had to. So I just started being out in the streets. And then, you kind of see the same faces, and I was asked to organize. I knew nothing about organizing a protest, but when you do it once you get the hang of it. I’m also an actor. So with the protest I bring a theatrical component that keeps everyone engaged. A lot of my clients have been part of the movement. For the March on Washington we raised over $10,000 so that we could pay for people to bus down from New York to DC. With this movement, and rightfully so, there’s a lot of rage and anger. However, I don’t believe that you can fight the hate with hate. For me there has to be radical love.