Willie Thomas Brings The HEAT
July 17, 2012
Posted By: Megan Greenberg
Willie Thomas brings the H.E.A.T. to Gold's Gym every week. This 'High Energy Athletic Training' class challenges you with with exercises consisting of cardio, conditioning and resistance. Willie promises this class will bring your workout to the next level.
Just take one look at this man. If you aren't inspired to heat things up then perhaps you should have your blood pressure checked. Most of us, perhaps not you, but definitely me, grimace at the idea of high intensity workouts. Just saying the word cardio makes me exhausted. However, the rewards from that hard work are worth it. There's nothing better than feeling good and feeling that you look good. Willie assures us that this class keeps your insides and your outsides in great shape.
Plus, Willie loves teaching and loves his students. So, that helps you not want to beat your face into a wall when the exercises get intense.
We sat down with this Gold's Gym superstar to discuss H.E.A.T. and what keeps him fired up outside of the gym.
SARASOTA DAY: How long have you been teaching H.E.A.T.?
WILLIE: I started H.E.A.T., my personal training business, in 2004. The following year, I patterned my group training after my style of personal training, and continued on the H.E.A.T. brand. In September of 2010, I introduced Sarasota to H.E.A.T.
SD: What happens in a typical class?
WILLIE: After a basic warm-up, everyone get challenged to become the athlete they used to be, or the athlete they've wanted to be. A combination of weights, plyometrics, cardio, muscular endurance, agility, speed, and mental will are all used to challenge you to perform at a level that may have been previously unexpected of you.
SD: What do you love about this class?
WILLIE: I love the fact that the class is 100% unknown to the participants, and sometimes unknown to myself until the start of class. Its a rewarding challenge for me to keep the class different and challenging each time. I also love when I get to see people tell me that they can't do something and then prove themselves wrong by the end of class.
SD: Ok, but what do your students love about this class?
WILLIE: My students also enjoy the fact that the class is always changing and evolving; but familiar enough that they can see improvement when we re-visit certain exercises and drills. They also like the days that I'm in a very good mood and decide to play games in class.
SD: What kind of teacher are you? Should students live in fear or are you a super motivator? Would you be Bob Harper of Jillian Michaels?
WILLIE: It depends on who you ask. The majority of people that you talk to will tell you that they run away from my class because they're scared of me. Its funny because I find it hard to be scared of someone that smiles thru most of the class. I can guarantee you that I'm a "Bob" and not a "Jillian". Once you become a regular in my class, you'll notice that I can give you a certain look that will do 10 times more that any yelling will ever do. I would put myself in the middle of fearful and a motivator. My goal is to challenge the people in my class that are genuinely ready to work. I have a saying: "I will push you, but I won't push you up a hill."
SD: In a previous interview, we spoke to your colleague, David Banks, about Spinning and the discomfort bike seats can cause for beginners. Are there any issues that beginner's should be aware of? Are they fixable?
WILLIE: Well, I demand alot from my students. During the class I ask that you give an all out effort during the drills, because I will reward you with a break. There's a vast amount of people that aren't used to pushing themselves to that limit. There's going to be exercises that you will be unfamiliar with, but I refuse to let someone tell me that they can't so an exercise until they given it a good effort. There also is this misconception that its best to workout on an empty stomach; I can almost guarantee you that you won't make it through class if you're not fueled up.
SD: What should students bring to be prepared for your class?
WILLIE: Bring water and a towel. I have a donation bucket, that one of the students made me, for those that want to donate their lunch. Its actually more of a prop, because its never been used,
SD: What brought you to Sarasota? What keeps you here?
WILLIE: Well as most wise people know, women rule the world. I moved to Sarasota to be with the woman I was in a relationship with. Unfortunately for me, the relationship didn't last; but fortunately for Sarasota, they welcomed me with open arms and welcome the challenge to better their fitness levels. H.E.A.T. had taken off and been empbraced by the community. I've been fortunate that in the short time that I've been here, I've been able to touch the lives of so many more people that I anticipated. Its rewarding to get letters and emails from people expressing their gratitude. I've fallen in love with my H.E.A.T. family down here, just as I did in Tampa, and that's the main reason why I decided to stay. And since my Tampa H.E.A.T. family were ready to hunt me down when I moved. I dedicated 1 day a week to go back up there to keep them accountable to their helath and fitness goals.
SD: Besides H.E.A.T., do you do any other physical activities?
WILLIE: I'm a Certified Health Coach with Take Shape for Life which allows me to help people with their nutrition. But as far as physical activities, I have a new offer for the city. I'm a Head Trainer for Camp Gladiator, which is an organization providing outdoor adult boot camps. I will be staring those year-round camps on August 6th. I also have a few other great trainers that will be coming on board to offer more locations, and help spread out around the city.
SD: Do you workout for fun or to stay in shape?
WILLIE: Its always funny to see people's faces when I tell them that I hate to work out. But its kinda true. I've never understood the purpose of spending 2 or 3 hours in the gym. Exercise is a necessary evil that has to be completed in order for me to do the things that bring me joy. So the answer to your question is "both". Alot of the things I do for fun require me to be in shape. But I also can't spend all my free time in the gym, otherwise, I won't have time to do the activities that I enjoy.
SD: Why is exercise important to you and why do you feel it should be important to others?
WILLIE: Again, it allows me to do the things that make life fun. Many people will let the joys of their life pass away because they aren't in the shape needed to participate, excel, or even attempt some of the more joyful venture in life. The sad part is that they can change thier situation by just getting themselves into a healthier state. Additionally, they can make it fun and easy to stay in shape if the didn't opt out of the the exercises that their health is preventing them from doing. Here's an example: Mary loves to work in her yard and do gardening. She allows a friend to convince her that she's too old to challenge herself at the gym on a regular basis. She stops and eventually falls out of shape. That, in turn, causes her to experience uncommon stiffness in her joints when in the garden. Now she decides that she shouldn't be in the garden like 'she used to be.' The irony is that gardening brought her joy, but also served and functional movement that helped her stay in shape. She loses two-fold. The solution is to get back to exercise, and get back in shape, but shes hesitant because of her current reality.
SD: What do you like to do for fun?
WILLIE: I'm a big sports guy. I love to watch and play sports. Baseball is my first love, although its hard for me to watch it on TV. Love is so much better. Football is a very close second, and I can watch that all day long. I feel that I'm athletic enough to play several sports. And, by that, I mean participate. So, if you need someone to fill a spot I can do that but if you need a savior then you might want to look elsewhere. I'm also a big movie fan. I could just as easily spend a whole weekend watching movies.
SD: Are you a super healthy eater or a yummy snack cheater? What's in your fridge?
WILLIE: I've had a sweet tooth since the day I started eating solid foods. I can vividly remember, as a kid, needing sugar with everything I ate. I would have to put sugar in water just to drink it; sugar on white rice just to eat it; sugar on my popcorn; I would even put sugar in a sandwich bag mixed with a package of Kool-Aid, and eat that as I walked down the street. So today, I have to fight the urge to keep from going to those extremes. I've learned to eat relatively healthy for the most part, and allow myself to satisfy my impulsive cravings on occasion. Unless, of course, I'm getting ready for a competition. My fridge mainly holds water, Gatorade and rotisserie chicken. My cupboard is stocked with Medifast meals, couscous and tuna. And my freezer is all frozen vegetables.
SD: What makes Gold's special to you?
WILLIE: Its been a launching pad for H.E.A.T. in the Sarasota community, so I will always be grateful for that. It also gives me new opportunities to look a stranger in the eye and ask them to challenge themselves by coming to my class without seeming like a bully. Lastly, since there is such a wide age range, I can have a class that includes a 17-year-old girl that's still in high school working out with a 62-year-old lady, and both of them are giving me their all.
SD: Any funny stories associated with H.E.A.T.? Anything ever happen during a class that made you lose it??
WILLIE: I did have a class where a new couple came in together because the husband wanted to prove that he was too good for her "girlie" classes. 20 minutes into the class he was sitting on a bench in the corner and his wife would stop and check on him every time she took a break. Unfortunately, I haven't seen that couple since that day. I can also remember a class that another lady talked her muscle-bound boyfriend into taking class. He complained that there were any heavy weights in the class, but it was so funny to hear him complain to me that he couldn't press his 10 pound dumbbells over his head by the end of class.
SD: H.E.A.T is all about high energy training. What are the benefits of high energy vs low impact? Should students seek both types of exercise? Is one more beneficial than the other?
WILLIE: Well, one of that major impacts is muscle recruitment. For you to perform an explosive movement you're asking your muscles to contract as hard as possible and as fast as possible. Then when you have to continuously repeat that movement, even when fatigued, it causes your body to increase muscle recruitment to perform a normally mundane function. I would obviously advise low impact exercises when individually needed but higher impact will help with strengthening the bones and secondary ligaments. Which, in turn, may reduce the risk of injuries. As long as there is no medical reason for you to avoid explosive movements, then its probably going to be most beneficial to perform them rather than avoid them.
SD: Back to food, what should students eat and drink before and after class? Should they fill up on carbs before or after class?
WILLIE: Nutrition is funny because it can be so simple yet so individualized. I would normally recommend a mixture of a protein, a simple carb and a complex carb before class. But make sure it far enough in advance for it to be digested. After class would definitely be a protein and simple carb.
SD: Any future plans for being an instructor and being at Gold's?
WILLIE: Along with the H.E.A.T. classes and the outdoor boot camps, I've also ran my 7 Week H.E.A.T. challenges and Youth Speed & Conditioning Camps. I normally have a whole host of ideas to facilitate ways to challenge people to improve their health. It just depends on which ideas are actually able to be applied to the current state of the individuals. So you'll just have to keep an ear to the streets to see what else I have up my sleeves.
SD: Are you single? Married? Have kids? Pets?
WILLIE: I am single, and have no kids. I jokingly tell everyone that if I had a pet it would die from starvation because I'm never home. That also could have been a factor for me being single now. So, I'm working on finding more balance with my work and personal life because I would greatly like to have a wonder wife and kids some day.
SD: What is your motto for life?
WILLIE: If you are one of the true H.E.A.T. members, then you know that the company motto is "Results start when you do". That's copywirtten, by the way. I believe it doesn't get any simpler than that.
Be sure to check out Willie and the entire Gold's Gym crew. They have a ton of fun classes to choose from as well as an entire floor of weights and machines. Plus, as we already know, a super friendly staff. Just CLICK HERE
for more info!