Marla Stroud-Cromartie has a boot-camp style approach to fitness.
She weighed 256 pounds when she graduated from high school, but she wanted to change all that before entering North Carolina Central University, where the female students outnumber the men.
“Twenty-two ladies to every one guy,” Stroud-Cromartie said. “I just did not want to be the fat girl on campus.”
She majored in exercise and sports science, which eventually led to a career as a personal trainer.
“I just decided to work for Gold's Gym in '02 - and almost every gym in Raleigh - and said to myself,
‘Hey, I can do this for myself,’" she said.
She opened Real Fitt Workout Center in Raleigh three years ago, working mostly with African-American women such as Candace Hopkins.
“I've been coming here since last April, really trying to work on my eating habits,” she said. “I lost 15 pounds.”
Hopkins’ family medical history reflects the high risk for disease in African-Americans in general.
“Diabetes, high blood pressure - different things of that sort,” she said. “So I don't want to have those issues when I get older.”
At Real Fitt gym, there’s also a kitchen for some after-workout shakes and meal planning. Regular weigh-ins and a supportive environment keep Stroud-Cromartie's clients motivated.
She represents their goal of a changed, healthier life.
“You'll look better. You'll feel better. You'll have more energy, so that's something everyone should participate in no matter what it is that they do,” she said.