‘It’s about helping people’: Longtime community member opens fitness studio in Albert Lea

Published 3:04 pm Monday, July 1, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

People in the area looking to boost their exercise habits and improve their health have a new option for training available to them. Longtime fitness trainer Bill Villarreal of Albert Lea recently opened his own fitness studio, Bill’s Gym, and is looking forward to teaching his skills and techniques to others. 

Born and raised in Albert Lea, Villarreal, 69, has spent many years serving his community. He spent six years in the military and then followed in his father’s footsteps of being a police officer. He was a sheriff’s deputy and city police officer in Albert Lea for almost 30 years. He spent some time working at the high school as a school resources officer. 

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Since 1985 Villarreal has been a fitness instructor. He started his career as a trainer at the Albert Lea Family YMCA. He worked as an instructor and director. He also has experience running a fitness club in Rochester.

“I’ve trained a lot of people over the years,” Villarreal said. While there is a lot to know, he does not consider workout training rocket science. 

Villarreal said although he is at the age when he could stop working, he was not ready to retire. He decided to open his own exercise studio, Bill’s Gym. Villarreal does one-on-one training as well as small groups of four people or fewer. He said the small numbers enable him to pay special attention to each client while he helps them improve their workouts. He works with them on things like proper breathing, rhythm, form and mechanics. He is also certified as a corrective exercise specialist. 

Villarreal said there are two main advantages to doing small group workouts. The first is that it keeps costs of the training sessions down. The second is people are more motivated in their workouts when other people are around. 

“We all get a competitive edge so you kind of compete with the others on how much you may lift or how many times you may lift and things like that,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal trains people of all ages and abilities. A few examples are student athletes and adults who are recovering from various injuries or illnesses. 

Villarreal said there are a few of the challenges in opening his own business, including finding a work/life balance and learning the ropes of having his own facility. 

“All of a sudden, I am the boss, I am the owner. And it’s really strange because I have to learn things,” he said. “I have to learn the accounting part of it, and just the running a business, and all of the insurances and all the things you have to have to run a business.”

Villarreal still loves the job.
“Life is good,” he said. “It’s about helping people.”

Currently Bill’s Gym is at 2351 Crossroads Boulevard. However, Villarreal plans on moving to a new studio on the second floor of The Broadway once construction is finished. He said this will be a positive change as being downtown will give people easier access to the facility. 

Villarreal emphasized he has great appreciation and respect for the other gyms in the area like the YMCA. He explained opening his own space is his way of offering people additional help in their health journeys, whether they are more comfortable in smaller settings or just need some extra help. 

Those interested in learning more are encouraged to visit Bill’s Gym’s Facebook page, stop into the studio or call Villarreal at 507-391-2394.