Voices of the Bay: Warren Fitness Studio Owner Thiago Santos

How a trainer turned a high school incident into a career helping others crush their strength goals 

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This January, before you lace up the sneakers and hit the gym, take note of personal fitness instructor Thiago Santos’ sage advice: 1) have the right expectations; 2) don't bite off too much at once; and 3) be consistent. Owner of Tsantosfit located in Warren’s Handkerchief Factory building, Thiago has become known in the East Bay for creating a welcoming community using ice breakers, name games, and challenges in a bright space where everyone from senior citizens to high school students are vested in each other’s success, whether that’s making the soccer team to carrying a 20 pound frozen turkey. Seeds of the Warren resident’s career began unexpectedly in high school when he was on the receiving end of a punch delivered by an upperclassman that landed Thiago unconscious on the gym floor. The incident ignited a mindset for the ninth grader: he would never feel physically vulnerable again. This evolved into an interest in anatomy and physiology, leading Thiago to attend CCRI, and graduate from URI with his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Health, and Fitness.

Sucker Punch: After that punch, I said “that's never gonna happen again.” I got in the weight room almost seven days a week. I read magazines and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I worked out pretty much every day for three years straight until I graduated from high school. It set me on a path.  

Job Satisfaction: I find it really rewarding to work with middle-aged women. Many of them don't have any experience in the gym. They are intimidated and don’t think they are able to lift more than a five-pound dumbbell. Then they realize they can do a lot and start picking up 20 pounds or more. Seeing them not be intimidated by lifting weights and pushing themselves – overcoming those mental barriers, blossoming and growing in confidence – is what I find really rewarding. 

Biggest Misconception: People think they have to be in shape in order to work out, or they underestimate their ability. Anyone, no matter what limitations they have, can show up and they're going to work at their own pace. It's not like there’s one exercise that works for everyone. You have to have bite-sized goals, and doing a little something every day is better than doing nothing. 

Everyday Agility: Functional fitness is using your body to learn how to move – getting up from the ground efficiently, learning how to pick up a heavy weight from the floor without hurting your back, or walking with a weight and not compensating by leaning to one side. Functional fitness is really helpful for middle-aged people because they may want to be able to pick up their grandkids down the road, or they want to garden and have to carry a heavy bag of mulch. I heard one client say, “I had to carry two turkeys – one 20 pounds and one 15 – all the way to my basement.” She had confidence in herself because she's stronger now and she correlated some of the movements that she's done here. I love stuff like that. 

Business 101: Being a business owner is not for the faint of heart. I’ve learned to become a person who takes action. It’s easy to consume knowledge and feel productive about it. However, knowledge without action is useless. I feel so blessed to do something I‘m so passionate about. 

Know someone who might be a good fit for Voices of the Bay? Email Nina at YourHomeWithNina@gmail.com

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