Cody Butler has muscular arms which are a sight to behold. Although they help with marketing his boot camps, his personal fitness beliefs transcend the purely physical to encompass a mind-body connection.
“The mind-body connection gives me the ability to help people become healthy and fit and feel better about themselves,” said Cody Butler, dressed in workout gear one morning in between camps. “What’s more moving is when they realize that they did the work.”
Waking up most days at 4:45 a.m., Butler is at Starbucks for his caffeine fix when it opens before heading to the studio–located at Riverside drive and South 1st Street. His morning camp begins at 6 and can involve anything from intense work with weights to obstacle courses, kayaking on Town Lake and trail runs. After the camp is over, he’ll answer phone calls and emails to check in with his teammates (a word he prefers over “ clients”) and make sure everyone’s on task before hitting the gym himself for an hour and a half of lifting. After squeezing in a little time at home with his boyfriend, Lance, he’s back at it at 5 p.m., usually getting to bed by 9 p.m.
“My job is to give them the tools,” said Butler, who founded High Energy and Agility Training or HEAT bootcamp, boot camp in 2007. “When it clicks for someone who says, ‘I’ve done this. I’m improving my life.’ that’s when it becomes a lifestyle change.”
One teammate of Butler’s, a longtime fitness aficionado, hasn’t taken part in anything quite like H.E.A.T “he has the unique ability–and I think this is due to his degree in psychology–to adapt workouts to an individual’s needs. He’s really interested in getting to know what makes people tick.” said David Morris Parson, who has enjoyed Butler’s boot camps for the past two years. “Equally important is his uplifting spirit–the camaraderie is addictive and I’ve never worked so hard and had so much fun with such amazing people.”
Cody Butler received his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Texas A&M and his master’s degree from Texas State (San Marcos) in professional counseling from Texas State University in San Marcos. Forming H.E.A.T. was a natural outgrowth of the boot camps he was doing when he returned to Austin for his graduate work.
His larger goal, beyond growing his own business, is to help other trainers in the community by renting out space to them for a nominal flat fee of $15 per hour. “When we created the studio that we have now, I wanted to help other trainers and say, this is a place for you,” he said. “I’m just giving you a home that you can practice in.”
As a licensed professional counselor, Butler could work for someone else solely in that capacity if he wanted to. Instead, he integrates what he learned in graduate school–which included plenty of one-on-one therapy sessions, group therapy and seeing clients while being watched by his peers–in his fitness business.
For Butler, coming to a full understanding of what it means to be in shape came with his own growth. “You get past that thing in your twenties where it’s all about looking a certain way, he said. “You think more about how to be healthy: it’s a combination of mind and body.”
Growing up as an only child in the small town of Buna, Texas–a place with two stoplights and more cows than people, according to Butler, shaped his personal growth. His mother, a local teacher for 30 years, was beloved in the community and Butler was always on his best behavior growing up. His mother was also a professional basketball player in college, but the sports gene didn’t transfer to Butler. “I was this chubby kid with glasses, very uncoordinated,” Butler said, noting that the only sport he played in high school was tennis.
Cody Butler’s coming out to his mother, over dinner at a Mexican restaurant in New York City, was prompted by an unexpected twist of fate. He’d been dating a guy for almost a year in San Marcos, and they’d exchanged letters when Butler briefly decamped to New York City. The letter fell out of a box of keepsakes and his mother happened to pick it up. “She asked who he was and I said he’s a friend,” Butler confided, adding that his mom has a gay sister. “She knew. It was uncomfortable, but it was liberating, eventually.”
Aside from growing his business, Butler wants to rekindle some of his community involvement from his time at A&M, when he organized and led Project Sunshine, an organization devoted to helping sick children (ages 6 to 18) by engaging them in things like social outings, buddy programs and sporting events. Butler wants to help LGBT youth in Austin. “I feel like I can identify with these kids, dealing with some of what I had to deal with.”