By Lisa Balschunat
Four years ago, Jennifer Ricupero packed her bags and her business in Tampa and headed back home to the Capital Region. With three degrees in hand–a master’s in education, bachelor’s in recreation and leisure management, and minor in business administration, and years of experience as a fitness director in Vermont, Florida and then Albany–Ricupero landed in Saratoga Springs with an intention and a business plan to help people feel better about themselves through physical activities and recreation.
“When I started RAW Fitness, I wanted to get people outdoors. Deep down we all crave to be outside,” she said. “It’s human nature. The idea of RAW was and still is being ‘ready and willing’ to find a physical activity that makes you happy, then weaving physical and mental goals into that activity to develop the body as a whole.”
At first, some of her classes were held in a studio, but most were held outdoors–on a path, in the woods, in Congress Park, in a client’s backyard.
In 2012, Ricupero, an AFAA-certified fitness professional, opened RAW Fitness on Beekman Street in a small rented garage space, that she transformed it into a workout studio. She offered only three classes at the onset, but as word got out about her energetic and down-to-earth style of teaching, her classes started to filled.
She outgrew the 300-square-foot space in six months. She moved in April 2014, and then again in September 2015 to her present location at 51 Caroline St. RAW Fitness now employs five part-time instructors and two-full time staff. All instructors are certified in CPR, First Aid and AED, and they complete a one-month RAW instructor training, Ricupero said.
“Most of my instructors were in my classes before they decided they wanted to teach,” she said. “When they begin teaching they follow the basic vision of RAW, but they can build own class personality.”