Terry Williams And The Fight For A Healthier Houston, Pt. I [@TerryTheTrainer @TheLeagueHTX] Bradford J. Howard November 26, 2013 Features, Top Posts 1 Comment Chances are, you’ve heard of Terry Williams and U.O.E.N.O. it. Or maybe you know exactly who he is. The last time we featured Williams on this site, he was co-starring alongside Miss Mykie in her “Start All Over” video. But a lot has changed in nearly two years’ time. Since then, the man known as “Terry The Trainer” has attracted a crowd and following that even his follower count doesn’t fully express. Over that time, he’s devoted himself fully to fitness and training, working with local fitness-related businesses, racking up clients and inspiring people to beef themselves up both mentally and spiritually as well. Next month, Williams will take on his biggest endeavor yet when he opens up “The League,” a groundbreaking new warehouse gym in East Downtown Houston that dares to reinvent the wheel when it comes to athlete-style training for the “everyday person.” But “The League” is just the beginning. In the first of a two-part series, Day & A Dream examines Terry Williams as a man, a dreamer, and a person committed to bringing out a healthier Houston. Origins At the dead-end 2900 block of Rusk Street lay two abandoned garages and a stretch of wild, tall growing grass. It’s the silvery one that stands out to me, the one with a similarly-colored SUV parked in front of it and a sign erected alongside it that boasts “The League – Train Like a Pro.” It’s here that I’ve arranged to meet Williams, a day before the painting will be done and the workout equipment will be brought in, and mere weeks before its grand opening for the public. He greets me warmly, like the old college friends that we are, exuding some of that same charisma that his University of Texas and University of Houston classmates and clients know as his trademark trait. I’m given a brief tour and rundown of the facility in its bare bones state thus far. Rubber matting has already been laid in the space in front, the space in the back plain concrete, though Williams informs me that “we’ll be adding turf” to one side soon. But most of the work that’s been done thus far – the matting, the installed bathroom for visitors and corner office where Terry’s wife, Ashley, is busy at work at the moment – is Terry’s handiwork. The building, literally and figuratively, is still under construction, just like Williams’ vision for what he hopes it will become. The foundation has been laid, the ideas established; but the real work is yet to come. It’s a different image of Williams than the one his UT classmates may remember him for. Williams was a Radio-Television-Film major back on Austin’s 40 Acres, and while he could often be spotted in the gym, he was most known for working with media, DJing a radio show and even being a rapper. “I always had a passion for media,” Williams admits, sitting across from me on one of the enormous tires he plans to use for training. “And for a while, I was just a trainer with a media degree.” Williams says that when the recession hit in 2008 (the year he graduated), jobs in the media field were scarce. He had plenty of downtime but stayed busy. However, it was a chance viewing of former UT track athlete Melaine Walker in the 2008 Summer Olympics that sprung Williams into action. “I was inspired by her passion, because I used to work out with some of the [Longhorn] athletes during the off-season,” he mentions, and so that motivated him to kick it in gear to pursue training and fitness as something serious. He got certified and was hired by many entities as a trainer and class leader at workout facilities, like InnerMe Studios in the Museum District; and he juggled those training shifts while enrolled at UH, before graduating with a Master’s in Health and Human Performance in 2011. At the same time, he continued to make use of his media background as well. It proved vital in brief stints at HoustonTREND Magazine and in promoting himself as a brand, especially when he developed HUSLFit with Milton Harris as an affiliate of Quincy Jones’s FeelRich Initiative. A Game-Changing Partnership Williams admits that he didn’t actually plan for The League to come about so soon. “In my mind, I was going to spend five more years just doing training,” Williams confides, “because I always wanted to soak in and learn as much as I could.” It was the consistent encouragement and feedback he got from friends and clients, however, that inspired him to take his leap ahead of schedule. “I started thinking, when WILL be the right time? When will I get put MY ideas out there? I didn’t want to work for other people forever.” But then, Williams had made another pretty big life leap not that long ago, having married his college sweetheart Ashley Joseph just last year. Ashley works with him as the Chief Operating Officer of The League. In a world that likes to throw low Black marriage rates and disintegrating Black relationships on reality TV in our faces, Mr. and Mrs. Williams present a refreshingly different image of teamwork and commitment. “This may sound cliche’,” Williams says, “but we came to the conclusion that this business was what was going to make us both happy.” Terry’s wife, herself a graduate of UT’s McCombs School of Business, handles all the financial and accounting matters for the burgeoning business. “I’m good at coaching and inspiring people. But what I’m NOT good at, is accounting and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets,” Williams admits with a laugh. That was Ashley’s expertise and it helped that she shared his passion for wanting to help out others. Couple that with her experience in the finance world and The League was “the perfect marriage of both our passions,” Williams says, “and we’re supremely happy about it.” So what, exactly, is “The League?” “The League was birthed out of the mindset that, if you want to look and feel like an athlete, you’ve got to train like one,” Williams says. It utilizes a groundbreaking, original new type of training, “S.T.A.C.(K) Training,” which is a blend of Williams’ creativity and of the strength and conditioning trade secrets he’s learned along the way training with members of professional teams (he mentions working with a tight end for one NFL team in particular… In case you were wondering, sadly, no, it’s not a tight end for the Texans). As a warehouse gym, its environment is quite different from an LA Fitness or 24 Hour Fitness. There won’t be machines in the building, and the only equipment are the aforementioned tires, dumbbells, kettlebells, and the like. “Here, your body is your machine,” says Williams. He poses an interesting analogy to describe the difference between the two, as well: “With some music artists, they make good albums, but then they also make amazing mixtapes. The mixtape is sometimes better because the artist has full creative control, they can do what they want with the material. So, warehouse gyms are like the ‘mixtape’ of the fitness world – they embody that crazy creativity, without having to be tied down by rules or what other people want them to do.” It’s an environment for people who want to work, who want to grind as opposed to be baby-sat. At the same time, Williams admits that The League is all about projecting an environment that anyone can feel welcome in. “This is athletic training, designed for the everyday person,” Williams explains. “For me, it’s not about being a drill sergeant, barking orders at you. I want to encourage people. I want them to get a one-of-a-kind, intense workout, whether you’re an accountant or a single mom or a student, but also feel like they’re in a nurturing environment.” This “nurturing environment” manifests itself through the S.T.A.C.(K) Training process, which is conducted with classes of people throughout the week. There is an option for one-on-one personal training available as well, but the emphasis, Williams insists, is on teamwork, on everyone making each other better. “It’s not competitive. It’s not about ‘Let’s see who can do so many reps in x amount of minutes,’ but about creating an uplifting, encouraging environment for anyone who comes in.” Out of pure curiosity, I ask Terry about The League’s location, if this was the plan all along or just the best available spot. Throughout our interview, Williams sometimes has to speak over the blaring sounds of a train horn. “There was definitely some strategy in this,” Williams says. Places near railroads aren’t subject to noise ordinances, Williams enlightens me, “so when I’m training in here, I can get as loud as I want, I can play the music as loud as I want, and NOBODY can tell me to turn down!” It’s conveniently placed just off the Metro Lightrail route extension that runs down Scott Street, so it’ll be as accessible to commuters as it is to those who drive. And it’s even more conveniently placed near the city’s major stadiums like Toyota Center and the BBVA Compass Soccer Stadium. More Than Just a Building Williams’ expectations for The League are great. The facility already has a website, sign up for sessions, and a twitter account as well. He hopes that it becomes a place where athletes both local and afar can come, as well local musicians; but it’s a place for the “unknown” person as much as it is for the well-known. “You might come in here one night and find yourself working out in a class right next to, say, Paul Wall, or Kirko Bangz.” It’s the allure of that, coupled with the idea of wanting to make the people of Houston that much more invested in being healthy, that Williams is banking on. The League opens to the public on December 1st, in a Grand Opening that will last from 2-5 PM. On that date, Terry Williams’ dreams will begin their journey on the next step in building a healthier Houston. And on that date, we’ll continue our journey on Part II. 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