Thomas Roe’s sister Tanya had big dreams
She wanted to be a fashion model or a rock star—something that would allow her to leave an impact on the world. She died of complications with mental illness in 2016 after living with manic depression and schizophrenia.
“It was a dark and painful time not just for her but for her family. She was never able to achieve her dreams,” says Roe. “And that’s when I said I have to pursue my dreams (of opening a gym). Five years later I’ve done that.”
Roe opened Local Moves fitness studio last fall after two decades as a fitness trainer and endurance athlete. The California transplant who grew up in Hawaii while his dad served in the Marine Corps selected San Antonio to open his first fitness studio, citing the city’s welcoming environment and the state’s business-friendly climate.
And while physical fitness is his expertise and the focus of his high intensity interval training classes, Roe also emphasizes to everyone he meets the importance of paying attention to mental health.
“For a long time, mental health was considered a taboo topic,” he says. “If you’re telling me you’re depressed then you must be weak. But if you spent time around Tanya, you knew it wasn’t a weakness.”
Roe says the more people he’s talked to, the more he’s come to realize that everyone knows someone who is struggling with mental health, especially as the pandemic continues to wear on. As a single adult, Roe says the isolation of the pandemic, especially during the early lockdowns, was tough on him.
In his classes, he battles that isolation by pairing clients up to tackle the workouts in teams. Individuals don’t have to share anything personal with their workout buddy, he says, but he hopes in learning to encourage someone through grueling circuit exercises that people will learn to build community.
“The classes are physically challenging but in addition we challenge you mentally,” he says. “We want to build a community, so people know they’re not alone. People are so glad to be around other people and have that energy from other people.”
Roe partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness during his grand opening, donating part of his profits, and says he hopes to continue being involved in mental health outreach.
“I really try to indoctrinate people that, yes, it’s great to lift weights or get on a treadmill, but what are we doing for our mental health?” he says.
Roe, who was a minority owner in a gym in California, got into the fitness industry after sustaining two neck injuries while playing sports. He played football in college for the University of Arizona.
Before a surgery for his neck, the doctor talked to him about how paralysis was a possibility. When he was able to recover, Roe says he wanted to learn everything there was to know about the body because he was amazed at its ability to bounce back.
For him, fitness has been a lifeline, and he hopes he’s providing that to clients through his classes.