Chattanoogan: Bill Dillard – The Heart Of A Sergeant

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - by Jen Jeffrey

Born a military brat in Washington State, it was foreseeable that Bill Dillard would follow the same career path as his father. “Dad was a veteran of the Korean and Viet Nam wars. He was in the Air Force first and then the Army,” Bill says.

When his family moved to Germany Bill attended American High School and played football, ran track and wrestled. He was strong and very fast, but he wasn’t sure how much taller he would get until he was a little older.

“Kids would play different sports with the GIs at the BK gym - mostly basketball. I wasn’t ever going to be good at basketball … that was for sure, so I gravitated toward the weight machines,” Bill says.

“I kept seeing guys come out of this one door - it was like a dungeon in there. It was a weight lifting room. The men sort of adopted me into their fold and that was when I started getting into working out – those guys were hard core industry guys,” Bill says.

Bill was stronger than the average 13-year-old and could lift anything the men could. He found a passion for fitness – something that would end up being his second career.

“We played football with the men on the base. We were boys playing with grown men …and without pads. I got a concussion doing that and that was the end of tackle football on the base,” Bill laughs.

He placed in the regional in Germany for the discus throw in the 10th grade. When Bill came back to the States, he played football with the same guys he played with in the eighth grade before living in Germany. They had a great team and Bill hoped for a scholarship but a knee injury changed his plans.

Bill’s mother passed away when he was 14 years old and in 1977, when he had just turned 17, his father was murdered at the ammunition plant in Chattanooga where he worked as chief of safety. One of the guards had been reprimanded and, while carrying a loaded weapon, he sprayed the room with bullets killing several people.

After Bill’s knee injury, he wasn’t involved in much activity and the death of his father affected him greatly.

“At that point I had to make decisions. I stayed with grandmother for a while and then lived on my own. I went through such a feeling of loss. I just felt … loss, but I threw myself into my senior year,” Bill admits.

He attended college for a while and worked at Coca-Cola at the loading docks. Bill lifted weights to stay strong.

“Weightlifting wasn’t the industry it is now,” he insists, “they had spas but that was about it. Back then there wasn’t a career in fitness except for PE teachers.”

In the 90s Bill was stationed in Honolulu and worked out at Gold’s Gym where he saw a personal trainer for the first time.

“I realized people could actually make a living doing that. About that time the Army also sent me to a master fitness course. I had some weight problems at that time and I got that weight off. I was the fitness guy in the unit. I was really into the gym and people knew that,” Bill says.

When everyone went to lunch Bill worked out. He was very dedicated and, while having PT every morning, he would work with those before PT and afterward. Fitness was a way of life for Bill.

In dealing with his parents’ deaths, Bill wasn’t doing well in school and joining the Army had given him the discipline he was searching for. His father was a disciplined man and Bill didn’t have him around to push him toward his goals. The Army was a perfect fit.

“When my father died it created a void. I didn’t have him telling me I could or couldn’t do anything, which was a problem for me. I needed a good swift kick in the tail so I went in the military looking for that,” Bill insists.

Though he wasn’t sure he would even make it through basic training, Bill stayed in the military for 20 years and retired at SSgt First Class E-7.

Bill married when he was 24 years old and had two boys, ‘little Bill’ and John. Most of his career was spent jumping out of airplanes in Fort Bragg’s 2nd Airborne Division.

At age 37 he was given orders to go to Belgium. His last assignment was Fort Mead. Bill was divorced in 1996 and given custody of his two sons. Whenever he was deployed, his sister in McMinn County would help with the boys.

Bill was offered a job at the Cleveland YMCA as a personal trainer. He did that for a while and then had the opportunity to work for a weight loss company called Spectrum and he moved to Chattanooga. He didn’t like their way of doing business so he worked a couple of odd jobs until he got on with the Sports Barn where he worked in fitness management and personal training for almost seven years.

With his Army training in fitness, experience and research, Bill diligently stayed on top of the fitness realm with much expertise and fervor.

His sons were grown and Bill decided after retiring from a career in the Army, he wanted his second career to be totally fitness and perhaps start his own business. After looking into his options Bill liked the Bootcamp Challenge idea and bought into the franchise. He also liked the idea of combining massage therapy on the side and was in school to become a licensed massage therapist learning even more about the body.

No matter how strong Bill was physically, he was not immune from another tragic occurrence in his family. When Bill’s oldest son was 25, he was killed in an altercation outside of his home. An event too painful to talk about, Bill briefly tells how he got through that time.

“It was very difficult to stay focused and keeping busy helped me through it. I was committed to school and had just bought the Bootcamp Challenge franchise – I had to stick with it. I couldn’t give up. There was really no turning back. There wasn’t an option to quit – and that was the good Lord providing for me there…” Bill breaks off quietly.

Bill threw himself into his businesses and worked hard to launch his unique program of fitness and wellness.

He knew what it took to be a soldier in heart, mind and in stamina and incorporated that wisdom into his program as he began researching to come up with the best Bootcamp Challenge that he could.

Bill didn’t approach clients with dull-witted yelling like the sergeant in the 1960s television series Gomer Pyle nor did he use today’s popular Jillian Michael’s tough ‘curl until you hurl’ tactics. Bill used intelligence, experience and fact-based, proven methods as well as finding the latest tools for fitness that helped the body to be its strongest from the inside out.

He had observed a couple of other Bootcamps in Chattanooga, but he believed none compared to what he could offer clients who wanted to reach their best fitness level and to stick with it.

“They were just different Bootcamps and they had never been around a dusty boot in their life. They acted like they were all military but they weren’t and I had a problem with that,” Bill says.

“I felt the training they were doing wasn’t very intelligent. It was hard core, but it wasn’t based on intelligence. I bought in big to the suspension systems because I can train it up or train it down and that means I can train anybody. If all I have is a suspension system - I have a gym,” Bill maintains.

Bill started with six TRX Suspension Systems and hung them from the rafters at the clubhouse in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood where he first launched his Bootcamp business.

“My vision was to pull the TRX suspension program into group training and to do it under the umbrella of Bootcamps. Throughout the years we have added to that. We have gone from the TRX’s to the Medicine Balls and Bosu’s. We have expanded and use Dynamax and rotational resistance bungee cords. It is basically that we are borrowing techniques from the TRX RIP system, and modifying it to more of the way we do things.

About six months ago, Bill married successful realtor Patti Gillenwater. Patti had struggled with unwanted weight gain and sought help in another bootcamp in which she dropped 45 pounds.

Along with the initial weight loss came a plateau of not losing and that is when Patti met Bill and tried his Bootcamp.

“I was already playing right with my diet, but I was stuck at a size eight and didn't have the muscle tone I was looking for,” Patti says.

“Bill worked with me in the gym and showed me some of the things he used in Bootcamp and I loved it! I had never seen anything like the Dynamax Balls or the TRX Suspension trainers. Quite honestly, I hated working out. Like so many other people, I wanted the results …but I didn't enjoy the process,” Patti laughs.

“Bill’s workouts were actually fun and the Dynamax and TRX were awesome. Those tools worked for me unlike anything I had ever tried. Within 30 days I dropped on down to a size four with an additional 10-pound weight loss,” Patti boasts.

Patti became certified with the National Academy of Sports Medicine to help Bill coach the Bootcamps held at Fit One Gym in Ooltewah, US Express and other corporations and for personal training.

Patti says, "“One of the things I admire about him is his incredible work ethic. In a society of lazy people he is anything but lazy! I have always enjoyed working with him because he truly cares about the client. He cares beyond just giving them a good workout. He just beams when he talks about how the program has worked for someone. What people don't see is how passionate he truly is about providing an excellent program.”

Youngest son John adds, “Dad is a smart, hard-working man who always puts others before himself. He is always trying to be proactive instead of reactive. Dad is not a ‘renter’ in life, but an ‘owner’ and when he finds a task he sees it all the way through.”

Bill and Patti will also coach a special needs group in Ooltewah from time to time. Patti says, “We work with Jane's group at Fit One every now and then. She just turns them over to us to work with. They love doing boot camp and they think the world of Bill too!”

Though Bill’s family, clients and peers see of his caring heart it doesn’t mean Bill’s Bootcamp is easy. Bill strategizes and researches to get the most optimal workout plan each week with every person in mind. He is able to coordinate his program for each person’s level and their goals.

Bill vows, “Everybody can benefit from this. Runners improve their run time, swimmers improve their swim time… athletes will benefit from it, but even the mom and pops can benefit from it as well.

“At Fit One, we have individuals up to 75 years old that will take your head off with a ball if you aren’t paying attention,” Bill laughs, “because they are that fit in their core.”

For more information on Bill Dillard’s training and bootcamps visit his website at

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