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Birmingham Fitness Instructor Tracy Williams and the Power of Movement

Certified fitness instructor Tracy Williams leads line dancing classes at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. (Desiree Greenwood Photos, For The Birmingham Times)

By Chanda Temple | For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham healthy living advocate Tracy Williams believes in the power of movement to bring about change.

When her 46-year-old sister died unexpectedly in 2012, Williams funneled her anger into workouts. Music and dance helped her cope with the hurt.

Then, in April 2024, her 59-year-old brother passed. Williams already had a senior citizens’ exercise class to teach the next day. She kept the appointment.

“Exercise just keeps reminding me why I’m doing this,’’ said Williams, 54 and a certified fitness instructor. “Yeah, you could go somewhere and cry in the corner, but that is not helping you or helping anyone else. My brother would not want me to do that.’’

And just like movement helped Williams cope with the loss of her two siblings, it also helped improve her health. In 2013, one year after losing her sister, Williams was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic. Her doctor encouraged her to move more and watch her diet.

She started exercising, lost 50 pounds and moved out of the pre-diabetic range. As she worked out, she wondered how she could share her interest in good health with others. In 2020, she started leading small exercise classes through her fitness company, T Will Productions.

Mz. G. gets moving during a line dancing classes at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. (Desiree Greenwood, For The Birmingham Times)

Williams will lead an old school music line dancing class during Mental Health Awareness Day this July at Linn Park in front of Birmingham City Hall. There will also be food trucks and community partners distributing mental health resources. The event will feature speakers, mental health resources, line dancing, food trucks and more.

“I want to meet every senior God intends for me to meet. I don’t want to be somewhere crying because I don’t have my brother and my sister,’’ Williams said. “You can find a thousand reasons to be sad, but it only takes one reason to be happy. I just want to live a full and happy life.’’

What started out with her teaching a class here or there, grew into her teaching classes at senior citizen centers, health centers and churches. In 2021, she started teaching a line dancing class at Railroad Park and uses old school music to get the mind and the heart feeling good.

“When you incorporate moving and music, it changes your mind. It lightens the load,’’ Williams said. “It’s hard to dance and be sad.’’

Senior citizens see Williams’ classes as a ministry and as therapy. “She is a keeper!  This is what we need!’’ one participant exclaimed. Another participant, who is in her 70s, reduced her blood pressure, lowered her blood sugar test results and lost 21 pounds in a year.

Candace Johnson during line dancing classes at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. (Desiree Greenwood, For The Birmingham Times)

“That may not seem like a lot to people, but for someone who is aging, … that is a blessing,’’ Williams said of the 21-pound weight loss.

But dancing was not enough to ease Williams’ grief after her sister died. She drove to work every morning, crying. She walked into work, wiping her tear-stained face. She recognized the depression and sought counseling from a licensed therapist. She started in 2012 and continued for several years.

“The reason I continued is because when I worked through the stuff with my sister, life began to happen,’’ Williams said. “I had my heart broken. I was struggling to finish school. So, I needed direction, and I found it in therapy.’’

Najah Reeves, right, exercises with certified fitness instructor Tracy Williams. (Desiree Greenwood, For The Birmingham Times)

She said she’s a strong advocate for counseling, and she encourages others to seek professional help when they need it.

“Today is not promised to us. So, I want to use whatever number of years God grants me to help others,’’ she said. “It’s not just about me. It’s about what I do while I’m here as God’s servant.’’

Williams’ Instagram handle is @trainwithtjaye.Find out more by going to https://twillfitness.com/

Chanda Temple is Senior Project Manager for the Mayor’s Office, City of Birmingham.

Jan Jam prepares for Friday line dancing classes at Railroad Park in Birmingham. (Desiree Greenwood, For The Birmingham Times)