By Ginger DeShaney

Helping a friend lose 50 pounds put Ray Peleckas on track to turn around his own life and dedicate himself to his passion for helping others through fitness. 

His studio, Burnin’ by Ray, helps his members have a better life. “By coming to Burnin’ by Ray, by being part of the community, they were able to live a better life … meaning, they slept better, they were better parents, they were a better spouse, they were a better employee, they had less doctors’ visits,” Ray said. 

“It just made their life better.”

That’s the name of the game at Burnin’ by Ray, which has locations in the Seaport District (157 Seaport Blvd.) and Belmont. 

People from all different walks of life work out at Burnin’ by Ray. The studio offers 1.0 and 2.0 classes.

The 1.0 group interval training can accommodate 30 people in a class for cardio and strength exercises. The cardio pieces have no motors; the user is the motor, making it safe and effective. The machines are low impact and easy on the joints. 

The 2.0 small group strength training offers instruction for a group of five people, making this personal training an affordable option, Ray said. This class focuses on low-impact tension training. 

His gyms are known for low-impact, high-intensity workouts.

TV screens around the studio show videos of what exercises to do (there are exercises for chest/triceps; back/biceps; legs/shoulders) and for how long, but an instructor is also there to help make sure you have proper form. Every month the exercises change. 

“We’re all-inclusive,” Ray said. “We don’t judge anybody. Coming from my background of addiction, I’m nobody’s judge.

“We’re just here to help people.”

Ray grew up playing sports and working out. When he was a senior in high school, he was involved in a fight at school and got kicked out. “I was sent to jail … I was on house arrest,” he said. “I thought my life was over. But I got through it.”

He graduated from high school and went to Fitchburg State, where he played football. “My life was on a good trajectory; my trouble was behind me. I was making positive strides in my life,” he said. 

In 1999, his freshman year of college, he tore his ACL in a football game. He had surgery on his knee and walked out of the hospital with a bottle of 300 percocets for the pain. 

“But then you also realize that they make you feel good in your head,” he said. “It makes you feel good, it makes you happy, it makes you outgoing. And then when it wears off, you’re like, I want to feel like that again.

“Long story short, I became addicted to percocets and I never played football again. I was taking probably 20 percocets a day for about 10 years,” said Ray, 40. “I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.”

He graduated from college with a degree in business, “but I had this other life of popping pills. On the outside I was always in good shape because I always worked out. I looked to be healthy, let’s put it that way. On the inside I was a mess and I wasn’t really happy with who I was.”

When he was 28 years old, he helped a friend lose 50 pounds. “That changed his whole life,” Ray said. “And it actually changed my life, too, because it made me realize helping people change their life through fitness, which was something that I was passionate about, was more powerful than taking the drugs.” 

Ray was working construction at the time. After a big box gym called him to tell him he was hired as a personal trainer, he never took another percocet or smoked another cigarette. 

“The power of helping [my friend] improve his life through something I’m passionate about … was more powerful than the feeling of the drugs. That’s why I was able to quit everything overnight.”

Ray worked at the big box gym for three years and did very well. He left there and started training in his apartment. In 2011, he opened up the 900-square-foot Ray Fit in Belmont. A year later,  he had four trainers working for him and he moved the gym to a 2,400-square-foot location, also in Belmont. 

In 2014, Ray started thinking about a concept that combined personal training, group fitness, and a nightclub. For Halloween 2015, Ray decorated the Belmont gym with black lights, strobe lights, and other decorations. “We ran our classes with the house lights off and Halloween decorations on to light up the space,” he said.  

After he took down the decorations, people were begging him to bring them back. When he asked why, they said they felt more confident working out in the darker environment. “They felt like people weren’t really looking at them and people weren’t judging them,” he said. “They felt overall that they could focus on what they were there to do and not worry about what other people were thinking about them.”

Ray’s gyms are billed as “ungyms” because people work out under colorful lights and with music blaring, much like a nightclub. The music controls the lights. The shades can also go all the way down. Sometimes he even has a DJ pumping out the tunes. “This is an exciting place to work out,” said Ray, who lives in Watertown.

In 2016, he rebranded Ray Fit to Burnin’ by Ray; the Seaport studio opened in September 2018. “In February 2020, we were cranking,” Ray said. “The trajectory was awesome at that point. Then the pandemic happened.”

The Seaport location’s demographic is people who work in the Seaport. At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of members stayed on to support the business because they thought the shutdown would be a couple of weeks. But a month turned into two months, then three, and “here we are a year and a half later,” Ray said, noting many people are still working from home.

“So we’re in startup mode all over again down here.”

Right now, the studio is offering two weeks free for people to come and try it out. “We let the way we treat people, the workout, the vibe speak for itself,” said Ray.

The gym has no contracts and members can cancel at any time.

“It’s just an overall cool vibe to work out in, which motivates people,” said Ray, whose dog,  Mahnya, is his constant companion. “It’s tough to get motivated for people. It’s tough to stay consistent. We wanted to create a space that was fun, friendly, inviting but also promoted positivity.”


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