Jameel McClain wakes up earlier these days than he did as a football player.
The former Ravens linebacker opened a Retro Fitness gym in Catonsville, Md. less than two weeks ago. He locks the doors between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, and is back at it at 4:30 a.m.
"I love it," McClain said. "I wanted the competitiveness, and this gives it to me. This gives me something to learn every day."
McClain said it's like when he used to walk into the meeting room and Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees would tell him he's going to be playing a new linebacker position.
The former undrafted Syracuse product played for the Ravens from 2008 to 2013. He was a four-year starter and Super Bowl XLVII champion before signing with the New York Giants as a free agent before the 2014 season, which was his final year in the NFL.
McClain had already invested in some companies and had some real estate properties in the Maryland area with his wife, Keisha, who is a real estate agent. But Jameel wanted to have his own project.
"I knew this was going to be the next step in my career," McClain said. "I really wanted to get a business – something that could keep my attention and keep my competitiveness going.
"You all know me, I've always taken an underdog attitude toward things, and business is no different. Everybody is just looking at me like, 'What does he know about business?' I put in as much research as people have put in time to their business itself."
The husband-wife duo went to franchising conferences in New York to find what would be their best opportunity. They looked into Subway, TITLE Boxing (Jameel has a background in boxing) and more, but Retro Fitness was the best fit.
The location in the Pike Park Plaza South Shopping Center is one of more than 150 nationwide Retro Fitness locations. The brand, which was founded in 2004, also has Maryland locations in Bel Air, Timonium, Jessup, Lanham, Germantown and Kensington.
Other franchises may have required a move. Keisha grew up in the Baltimore area, and Jameel, a Philadelphia native, now considers it home.
"I knew I wanted to be somewhere where we were already a part of the community," Jameel said. "I just grew to love Baltimore."
The gym is in the same building as a former LA Fitness and has more than 18,000 square feet. It's stocked with nearly 100 pieces of equipment and has a 25-yard turf field.
There is traditional equipment, as well as cross-training tools such as tire flips and rubber sledgehammers. The standard membership ($19.99) comes with unlimited group fitness classes including kickboxing, yoga, spin, Zumba and CrossFit. There's a childcare center, smoothie bar, tanning and physical therapy.
The McClain duo signed an agreement to open three locations in the area. Business has gotten off to such a good start, McClain said, that they have sped up the process of opening the second gym.
"I put everything into this gym so we can make sure everybody is going to be happy," said McClain, who plans on teaching some of the classes.
"I'm just making sure it's our own. I don't want people thinking I'm not attached. I'm connected with everything; you're going to see me in here working."