Fitness Movement Builds Strength, Community


A sustainable workout movement aims to promote health in mind, body and community.

Three people began pumping their legs and shoulders after hearing a command to “start with bicycles” on a recent Saturday morning. They huffed their way through the reps, breathing cool December air while wriggling on a chilly sidewalk.

Bundled up patrons leaving a nearby Starbucks passed the group, nodding. A woman pushed a buggy past. People with shopping bags made their way toward a grocery store on the opposite side of a busy intersection. A fire truck roared past, forcing a pause in conversation.

Trainer Chikaro “Karo” Martin wrapped up the one-hour sidewalk workout, which took place in Northeast Washington, D.C.

Martin, 34, is a health consultant who started Know Your Fitness, a sustainable workout movement that promotes both fitness and community building in Washington. The project, which finished a trial run on Dec. 6, brings together fitness professionals and community members once a week for a workout in a public space.

“You have an opportunity not only to connect with the individuals within your neighborhood by identifying each person’s strength and weakness,” Martin said in a recent interview. “You have an opportunity to kind of encourage one another through a dynamic workout.”

Instagram video via Know Your Fitness

Greg Terryn, who first heard about the workouts during a training session with Martin at his Northeast Washington apartment complex, said he attends the Saturday classes for both the challenging workouts and the people.

“When you start to know the group that comes, you kind of hold each other all accountable, like, ‘oh, I won’t get to see all my friends this weekend if I don’t do that,’” Terryn, 22, said after a recent workout. “It becomes this thing where you get out of bed to meet up with everyone else.”

All photos by Paige Lavender

Darin Allen, 28, has attended “five or six” workouts, drawn by their intensity and the fact that they’re outdoors. The biggest appeal for Allen, though, is the cost.

“It’s free!” Allen, who lives in Southeast Washington, said in an interview. “Gym memberships in D.C. are like $100 a month. The least you could do is come and treat yourself to a free workout on Saturdays.”

Martin said the first phase of Know Your Fitness was made possible entirely by volunteers. Martin helped teach kids at the Latin American Youth Center how to run Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and they now contribute to Know Your Fitness’ social media — the primary form of advertising for the program. A recent college graduate created the program’s website.

Now, Martin’s exploring ways to finance Know Your Fitness in the future.

“We’re definitely going to need some dollars,” Martin said.


The workouts consist of two sessions: 30 minutes of functional movements or dynamic stretching, followed by 30 minutes of more intense drills, sometimes involving weights and often done with a partner.

Each session is designed to appeal to people of all fitness levels. Beginners are encouraged to participate in team-oriented drills with more experienced participants, but they can opt out if a workout gets too hard.


Meet Karo Martin

After growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Martin attended Ball State University, where he played football and double majored in sports psychology and American literature. But despite his athletic past, it was a brief stint working in banking that led him to a career in fitness.

“The corporate environment, the people are cool, it was just, I didn’t really see how I could make an impact with individuals, and I like to see those impacts,” Martin said.

As a health consultant, Martin has racked up an impressive resume, founding a fitness company called Project Fitness and serving as a consultant for the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan.

Martin, who has held many jobs in the fitness industry, said he was one of “a collective group of individuals” who came up with the concept for Know Your Fitness two years ago, but the idea was slow to get off the ground. The program finally launched on May 15, 2014.

The trend of pop-up workouts is booming in the Washington metropolitan area, which was rated America’s fittest urban center in 2014 by the American Fitness Index. Meaghan Stakelin, creator of the blog The Fit Crasher, called the trend a “national phenomenon” in the world of fitness.

“There are just more of these popping up every day,” Stakelin said.

Stakelin said the “grassroots fitness movement” is also popping up in other cities, including San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York.


Martin is attempting to establish Know Your Fitness partnerships, including a potential event with Metropolitan Police Department. Martin said the MPD has expressed interest in using Know Your Fitness as a way to connect with community members.

In light of recent protests over police brutality and race relations stemming from the deaths of Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Martin said he feels it’s especially important for the community and law enforcement to interact in a positive way.

“I am an African-American male, I have had some bad experiences [with law enforcement],” Martin said.

Martin thinks Know Your Fitness is a way to foster relationships — including the one between community and law enforcement — to create lasting change.

“It’s part of the broader mission [of the project],” Martin said.


Visit Know Your Fitness

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