Three years ago, Deneen Raysor and Jo Ann Runewicz dutifully installed the floor to their co-owned fitness facility and martial arts school, themselves.
Located just outside of Somerton on Pine Road in Huntingdon Valley, Urban Boot Camp/CrossFit Northeast Philly as well as the UBC StrikeForce MMA academy are the working successes of a fitness mentorship, which began 12 years ago, that turned into a business and educational partnership.
Raysor and Runewicz encourage their martial artists, CrossFitters and kickboxers alike to employ the same conviction they used when creating UBC: to hold their own at all times.
Raysor, an exercise physiologist, was actually Runewicz’s trainer at a gym she had been attending. From here, the two forged a friendship and have been on a mission to educate the community on consistent healthy living and proactively staying in shape.
Their personal successes are mirrored in the gold standings their martial arts students bring home after tournaments. In her own career, Raysor has just earned the prestigious honor of participating in Team Executive Edge, a mixed martial arts team for those over 30 years old with black belts, according to Raysor. This elite team is based in Brooklyn, and she is able to commute from her home in the Northeast for competitions. She holds a fourth Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which allows her to participate at the “masters” level in tournaments. In 2012 and 2013, she won the grand championship for the women’s mixed martial arts tournament held at the Southern Shaolin Academy in Philadelphia.
But, that is not all. Raysor has also served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve. In conjunction with her comprehensive résumé, she possesses a master of science degree in kinesiology as well as multiple certifications, including CrossFit and MMA conditioning.
Runewicz, a doctor of education, is also a registered nurse possessing a master of science in nursing; she is a nursing instructor. She holds a first Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is certified in personal training as well as being a core strength specialist. Runewicz also capitalizes on her experience in self-defense, boxing and kickboxing in the offerings at UBC.
Together, their expertise as well as health awareness and injury prevention experience render a wholesome and motivational environment that is perfect for every kind of aspiring athlete within the “box”: from the green, out-of-shape to the seasoned, martial artist.
“We have students, police officers, firefighters, teachers, priests, retired seniors [participate,]” Runewicz said. “We want to save lives.”
In fact, according to Runewicz, one woman who participates in UBC is in her mid-60s and just ran her second marathon. Success stories like this are plentiful and can be immediately gleaned when entering the “living room” of the facility—which is adorned with pictures of participants who have cultivated the almost immediate benefits of UBC. This is indicative of a promising atmosphere and a no-judgment ethos of the facility.
“We want people to feel good about themselves,” Runewicz said.
Raysor explained that CrossFit has grown in popularity over the last four years, and other centers have been established in the greater Philadelphia area. Raysor advises, however, that some facilities do not possess the proper certifications necessary for instruction, and staff often lack the advanced education she and Runewicz possess.
Raysor and Runewicz endorse an intergenerational and collective fitness experience at UBC, as well as a personal one. UBC is unique in its commitment to individualized modification for participants of any age. This particular tailoring is functional, so participants can achieve concrete goals—especially in self-defense, weight loss and toning. Moreover, Raysor and Runewicz have expanded their offerings and designed a “bridal boot camp,” which they advertised at a bridal expo.
Raysor and Runewicz maintain small class sizes primarily for focusing on participants’ heart rates, speed, and physical and even communicative impediments. In doing so, this allows the CrossFitter, martial artist or self-defense learner to work out and hone his or her body at an individualized pace and develop new personal attributes, including discipline and control. Participants consequently collaborate and encourage each other along the way—especially in times when a person needs to step outside to rest.
“We care about people,” Runewicz said. “We forge friendships.”
Each circuit/round and functional task is timed, and participants are continually motivated to engage with a rigorous—but not physically unsafe—level of energy. According to Runewicz, participants get their bang for their buck as well, as every session includes functional tasks that always differ from a previous class.
And modification—which is unusual in a standard CrossFit setting—is certainly not synonymous with ease.
“Don’t underestimate us,” Raysor said. “We [also] learned how to fight like men and play their game.”
This level of intensity, though, is always paired with the goals of the individual.
“We have a personal crusade to get people healthier and reach their maximum potential,” Runewicz said.
Although Runewicz and Raysor maintain that being a realistic critic of oneself is natural, self-improvement that starts in the box has benefits beyond the superficial.
“When you look good, you feel good,” Runewicz said.
Participants leave the facility in high spirits and in anticipation of the next class, ready to face the No. 1 competition—the person staring back in the mirror, according to Raysor.
“Women-run, women-owned,” is their motto, and Runewicz and Raysor definitely hold their own and inspire others to do so, too.
UBC is located at 2840 Pine Road in Huntingdon Valley and is currently offering free classes for newcomers. Visit its web site at www.ubcfitness.com ••