Working out can consist of a mixture of dedication, time, effort — at times, even money. With this in mind, trainer and Brooklyn native Irv “Zeus” Hyppolite took those concepts and poured them right back into the community.
“I’ve been personal, strength, and conditioning training with athletes for about ten years. I got my start at Bally’s Total Fitness as a fitness director back in 2011, ranking No. 1 in the nation. That went well until they fired me two days before Christmas," he told News 4 New York. "I didn’t know what to do, I had to think of another outlet. A friend encouraged me to go independent, and I’ve never looked back since."
“House of Zeus NYC" is where Hyppolite started making a name for himself in the competitive world of fitness. It's there that he organized a free hip-hop exercise boot camp called “Inner U Bootcamp” where people would not only get fit but help others in the process by donating to causes ranging from small businesses to children to organizations for racial and social justice.
"'Inner U Bootcamp' has been running for about four years, and that’s my pride and joy where I get to touch so many lives ...The goal of Inner-U was to blend fitness, black culture, and music," he said. "It’s one thing to do burpees, but it’s another thing to find a way to make it relevant to touch people, making sure it’s bigger than them. We did burpees for every person that was murdered by a cop unjustly. Imagine you give people something they hate, but benefits others. Do you hate burpees enough that you wouldn’t do it for George Floyd, Tamir Rice or Breonna Taylor? You can’t, because they can’t!”
Hyppolite started his giving-back streak after he found out his uncle was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2014. Hyppolite organized an event at the Brooklyn Lifestyle Athletic Club where he organized a fitness boot camp with a few trainers and donated all the proceeds to a diabetes foundation.
"When I found out that my uncle — who I'm really close with, who's more like a father figure in my life — had diabetes, it really broke me. It was really bad," Hyppolite said. "Growing up, he was the healthiest person I knew. He would have weights in his basement, working out all the time, and I couldn't believe it. I kept saying 'I'm hurting for him,' and it just sparked me to do something."
Wanting to expand on the idea of giving back, Hyppolite organized frequent free classes where participants were asked to donate what they could. Since then, he has frequently donated to a number of different businesses and organizations, including the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, Breonna Taylor Foundation, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and Uplifting Athletes, a non-profit organization for student-athletes to raise awareness of rare diseases. For Black History Month this year, donations were made to Belle Sweets and Black Art Futures Fund.
Throughout the pandemic most of the donations stem from Hyppolite hosting free virtual workout classes which ask participants to contribute what they can. With the help of his friend and on air-personality, Mouse Jones, Hyppolite pumps up the music for the free classes every Thursday and Sunday. His virtual workout classes have been so well-received that during the height of the pandemic one class had over 500 participants.
In total, last year, Hyppolite hosted about 80 classes with a total of around 6,000 people participating.
“When I started the free virtual classes I was getting remarks from all over about doing it. Some bad, some good. But, I kept saying to myself there are people going through it just like myself, and I’m not that righteous where I can say, 'Hey you have to pay this.' I decided to take my chance on the public. I believe life means nothing if you don’t impact other people, and give back," he said.
As for the future, the philanthropic physical trainer says he wants to continue his free workout virtual classes, but hopes to one day open his own gym.