Hop on the rug with us…and get to know how actor and fitness guru Rodrick Covington lives life well.
Rodrick Covington is, first and foremost, an actor. Occasionally, he also goes by the title Shred King, on account of his ripped six-pack and dedication to staying fit. For this New Yorker, acting and fitness have gone hand-in-hand since his days studying theater arts at SUNY Purchase Conservatory, and it’s the simpatico between them that has helped him create a life that inspires others.
But Covington didn’t always see the mutual relationship between these two passions of his.
It all started with a life-changing conversation he had while in conservatory training. “My dean said to me, ‘Rodrick, you're doing well, I think you're talented, but you need to take fitness seriously, and get in the gym. Because you are a leading man.’ And you know, to be a leading Black man – this was in 1998 – you needed to look like one,” he says.
They were words Covington took to heart, even though he didn’t like the gym at all. He started working out at the SUNY Purchase one, the same place where the NY Knicks used to train, and he’d pick up a few tips from their personal trainers. “I got really serious and I bulked up, like, 40 pounds,” he says. His fellow conservatory members noticed and pretty soon, they started asking him to train them, too. So, he did.
Seeing results, sharing results
When he finished college and began working in the theater, Covington kept training his fellow actors. “While I was doing the national tour of Fosse, I was training because I was dancing and singing on stage, so for me, I'm like, ‘I'm gonna stay fit.’ And then people just asked me to train them,” he says. And when he was in The Lion King, the requests from his cast-mates continued. So he trained them, too.
“I wasn't certified yet,” says Covington. “It was just something I enjoyed – working with my colleagues, seeing them get results. I love to see people win. I love to see people accomplish what they set out to do."
During a trip to LA he became certified, while working at a Pilates studio, so that he could continue to push others towards their goals with the proper backing. While there, he had another career-defining conversation – this time, with his pilates mentor. “She said, ‘Rodrick, I know this is a side hustle, but I really think that you are the real deal.’ I was like, ‘No, I'm an actor. This is just to pay my rent in between my gigs.’ She said, ‘Rodrick, I just want you to think about taking it seriously because you have a gift.’”
Covington allowed her words to take seed and, when he returned to New York for his next show, he became certified in nutrition and personal training as well. And so began his new routine: train a client before rehearsal, go to rehearsal, train another client after rehearsal; keeping the pace up even when rehearsals became shows and the demand on him became tougher to sustain. Still, he was not quite convinced doing anything more with personal training was on the cards for him. Especially if it meant giving up being a working actor.
For years, when he was younger, Covington had wrestled with his physical appearance. At the time, he’d been part of an ex-gay ministry and was trying to convert himself. “It was seven years where I was hating myself, hating my body, hating my skin, hating everything about me,” he says. “So I had to go through an ex-ex-gay ministry to re-wire all the different trauma that I learned.”
Fitness helped coach him back to loving himself – in fact, he says, it saved his life. “Before, I was doing fitness to look masculine, and to appear masculine, and then when I started doing the inner work, I started to do fitness to accept Rodrick, to really hold Rodrick and just be with Rodrick. The times that I work out, it’s my self-care time.” In the years that followed, sharing that idea of fitness became incorporated into his methodology of training others. Yet, it wasn’t until he took a coaching workshop, at Momentum Education, that its role in his career became clear to him.
“I realized who I wanted to be,” he says. “I realized my identity and my purpose for the world. I am passionate about seeing a world win-win, and I get to be an inspiration and a jump-board for people to win. And I realized I could do that through telling stories and I could also do that through teaching fitness and nutrition.”
The key was in hiring a team of like-minded folks to expand on his fitness vision, without compromising his acting dreams. He began building Core Rhythm Fitness, which is now a successful and sought-after boutique fitness company that runs out of Union Square. The team there, including his husband, Jay, who is chief of operations, keeps things running when Covington’s in a show, such as the one he has coming up later in the year at Berkeley Repertory Theater.
This way he still gets to do both of the things he loves. “My younger brother Roco – my parents had 19 kids, I’m the 18th child of 19 – my brother Roco is my best friend, and he believes he’s the big brother. He taught me, when I was a kid, he said, ‘Rodrick, only do what you love. Because when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ And that has been true for me. As an adult, I have never worked for anyone but myself. Even as an actor, you're working for yourself, going from job to job.”
It all comes down to another title you could give Covington: cheerleader-in-chief. “At the end of the day, a curl is a curl is a curl. Ain't nobody doing it that much differently to another person. A squat is a squat is a squat. But it’s the motivation, it’s the inspiration, the cheering, that really makes a difference.”
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