2012-02-23 / News

No clients too young or too old for Jamestown Fitness leader

Bill House has worked with professional athletes and former governors

Bill House, who is a group leader and trainer at Jamestown Fitness Center, shows islander Liz Gregoire how to use one of the weight machines. 
PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN Bill House, who is a group leader and trainer at Jamestown Fitness Center, shows islander Liz Gregoire how to use one of the weight machines. PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN Bill House has worked with weights and fitness for so long he can’t remember exactly when he started lifting dumbbells and punching a speed bag.

The fitness equipment was always around the house, he said. His dad kept a bench and weights in the cellar at the family house by Mackerel Cove.

“They were old weights with sand in them,” House said. “That’s where I started out – in the cellar.”

While still a youngster, House built a gym in a small section of the family basement. He installed a speed bag, primarily for boxing, but added that it’s a tool that also builds other skills.

“It’s great for hand-eye coordination,” he said. He also outfitted the gym with a heavy bag and weights, and invited friends to come over.

He’s come a long way since the early years on Hamilton Road. Now a trainer and group leader at Jamestown Fitness Center, he works with a wide variety of people, from seniors battling arthritis, to the paralyzed trying to stand on their own two feet, to young ball players hoping to realize their dreams.

His success stories include his brother-in-law, retired pro basketball player Michael Anderson. Anderson, who played in Europe, came to House for help with conditioning during the offseason.

House also trained the late Governor Bruce Sundlun, a former Jamestown resident who House said wanted to stay fit.

He couldn’t pick one favorite client, he said. “It’s a wide variety. I do a kickboxing class here twice a week. I do cross-training fitness classes three times a week, an over-50 strength training class twice a week, an arthritis class over in Newport twice a week, and an arthritis class in South County.”

House has also trained people who have had strokes. One lady who has been paralyzed from the waist down came in for upper body strength training.

“She’s lifting 10 pound weights now and standing up,” he said.

According to House, people have to stick with the training and be dedicated. As for his job as the trainer, he pushes his students to reach their goals.

Strength improves performance in just about every game from football to golf. House, 40, should know. At North Kingstown High School he played varsity basketball and football. The football team lost in the state Division- I Super Bowl during his senior year, but House made the All- State team. He played football at the University of Rhode Island as a walk-on but ultimately quit the team. He only weighed about 210 pounds and was going up against players 80 and 90 pounds bigger.

“I just got tired of being a practice dummy,” he said.

But he didn’t give up fitness training. He has been building strong bodies at the Jamestown Fitness Center since the gym opened on Southwest Avenue seven years ago. He’s made a big difference in the lives of dozens of islanders, according to Jamestowner John Murphy.

To sum up, Murphy said, House is the “local boy” who made good.

“In a very quiet but effective manner, Bill has helped, and is helping, guide a substantial number of Jamestowners toward fitness through his work as a personal trainer and group leader at the Jamestown Fitness Center,” Murphy wrote in an email.

House is the son of Bill and Ellen House. His parents now live out of state but visit Jamestown in the summer. A sister, Ellen Anderson, lives in town. House went to the Jamestown public schools before continuing his education at North Kingstown High and at URI. He is married to wife Jennifer. They have two children, Will and Isabella.

He started really working out when he was a freshman in high school for football. He played defensive and offensive tackle, and he understood strength would give him an advantage on the field. So he pushed the fitness training. Besides football practice and hitting the gym at North Kingstown High, he also put in extra time on conditioning at “different gyms” around North Kingstown.

“In high school I really picked it up weight lifting training. Senior year I won the bench press competition.”

House tries to train most of his clients with dumbbells because it balances out the body. “If one side’s stronger than the other, it makes it even,” he said. The machines, which work on different body sections, are good too. But if the person’s dealing with arthritis, for example, or recovering from a stroke, the machine doesn’t really exercise the weak limb, he said. The strong limb will do all the work, while the weak body part “takes a ride.”

House says high school students actually are picking the ideal time to train, he said, because both boys and girls can add muscle during their teenage years. But he trains all ages. He leads the youth sports class and a kickboxing class. He also works with people in rehab and people who have finished physical therapy but need to keep working with a personal trainer.

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