What’s a good excuse for enduring a life that is unhealthy, unfulfilling, and joyless? That’s right: there is none. Blaine Herring realized this very same thing in 2012, while working as a defense industry engineer. It was a good, stable job—building infrared guidance systems for target tracking, and he was well-paid. Also well-respected. Also miserable.
“I was out of shape and ate McDonald’s on the way to work four to five days a week,” he recalls.
“I was really unhealthy.” Which means what? “I was smoking.” Okay, that’s bad. “And I would go out to the neighborhood bar every night.” Okay, we get it—it was clear Blaine Herring needed a change.
So he embarked on a long, arduous process of turning his life around, a journey that involved breaking bad habits, changing his diet, and initiating a strict workout regimen. Slowly, his once-muscular frame began to be visible again, and soon he had a body that made even connoisseurs of the male physique envious. And, wait, he still wasn’t happy?! No, Herring says. There was one more change that still needed to be made.
“I quit my quote-unquote job to do something I am passionate about.”
That something happened to be—you guessed it—bodybuilding. But it wasn’t merely his own body that he was passionate about. Herring loved motivating others to achieve their fitness goals as well, and he knew he possessed a secret weapon in that regard. So, in March of this year he began working with clients at Metro Flex Houston, armed with all the same weapons that other trainers employ in the war on flab, plus at least one that they typically don’t—a prosthetic leg. As Herring puts it: “If I can do it, despite all the challenges in my life, then what is your excuse?”
You don’t have one, of course, which is why people line up to be trained by Herring, the founder and president of the aptly named No Excuse Fitness.
About those challenges: in 1997, at the age of 11, the native Houstonian and Second Baptist School student was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, in his lower left leg. “The doctors told me I would undergo close to a year of high-intensity chemotherapy, and that within a month I would need to decide whether or not I wanted to keep my leg and do a ‘bone salvage,’ or have it amputated,” remembers the 28-year-old. “They told me that I would never be able to play sports again with a bone salvage, so it took me all of 30 seconds to decide that I wanted to amputate.”
Cutting off a leg to further your sporting career may sound counterproductive to some, but it didn’t to Herring, nor his family and school friends, who offered support and encouragement throughout that chapter in his life, some of them even shaving their heads in solidarity. He made it through his ordeal thanks to them, and thanks to an unwavering determination that would one day motivate many a down-and-out fitness client. “I survived cancer because there was zero doubt in my mind that I would die,” he says. So what excuse do you have for giving up? That’s right, you don’t have one.
Herring’s leg was amputated below the knee when he was in fourth grade, and he completed chemo and was fitted for a prosthetic—a process that took nearly a year. Then, in middle school, he decided to once again become active in sports, which is when he discovered wrestling.
“It’s a great sport for any kind of amputee,” says Herring, who became a star on his eighth grade team. “Sports like football, for example, aren’t very adaptable. With wrestling, the techniques can be modified for people that are missing a limb.” He fell in love with the sport, mostly out of necessity—“I did it because it was the only sport I could do”—and in time transferred to Westside High School in order to compete in a larger pool of teams on a national level. Next, he attended Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri on a wrestling scholarship. But after two years on the mat, Herring decided it was time to be realistic about his aims and practical in his choices. He transferred to UT–Arlington to study electrical engineering, took a job before even graduating, and became miserable (see above).
There are still days when he questions his flight to the fitness trade. “It’s a tough business to get into,” he says, admitting that he’s both happier and more broke than he’s ever been. “It’s a hustle. It’s hard to get people to pay $70 an hour for personal training.” Still, you get the sense that success is imminent, if only because failure is as unthinkable now as it was when he was 11. Besides, what excuse would he have?
“I’ve been given a unique situation in life: the opportunity to be fit and healthy, have a positive outlook on life, and be an amputee,” he says. “I want to inspire people to become better versions of themselves.”