When Viking Performance Training first opened on Greenbag Road, across from the Mountaineer Mall and Giant Eagle, owner Jerry “Jay” Handley worked to fill the small storefront space with the equipment his gym would need to operate. His business grew quicker than expected- Zackquill has previously profiled the gym’s Strong Man style programming for kids and women- and it wasn’t long before he had the best of business problems: too many clients, not enough space. On Saturday, May 20th, Jay and his team celebrated the gym’s newly completed expansion with a grand re-opening. Between the door prizes, meet-and-greets, healthy snacks, and live broadcast with WVAQ, Jay was able to spend a few minutes with Zackqill to share about his passion for strength training, building relationships, and the decision to open a small business.

Jerry Handley, center right, joined by the gym’s team of trainers.

Zackquill: You’ve expanded your facilities by nearly 300%. Business must be booming if you needed this much new space.

Jerry Handley: It was one of those things that just turned into a fantastic problem to have. When we originally opened, we made sure we had the equipment we needed to succeed. We had the equipment we needed to be able to train the majority of people in our style of training. The people that came in were great about it- everybody was respectful of one another space-wise. It was great because we started filling that space up sooner than anticipated. It wasn’t that we couldn’t do what what we were doing, but to make it better and optimize it, that’s why this needed to happen. Now, it’s an entirely new level of training.

Z: In your answer just then, you mentioned “our style of training.” How would you describe your style of training?

JH: It’s based, at its core, on science. It’s a scientific approach. We’re not doing this to be difficult, we’re not doing this to be hard or make you tired. It’s not just because “this workout worked for me fifteen years ago.” It’s based on how the body is going to adapt to an exercise, and the principles that govern that. That’s what makes the program work. But the way we do it is individual attention. We want people to know that we want them to succeed.


Z: One unique thing about Viking is that lots of local high school sports teams do their summer conditioning with your team. How did that business come your way?

JH: My background has really propelled us in that direction. After working with WVU for a decade, working with all those teams, any team that we work with gets special training adapted around them. We’re not just showing up and putting a piece of paper on the wall and saying “here’s your workout for today.” We’re coaching them like they are an athlete of that sport. It’s instantly noticeable. Within days, those athletes are telling us “this is incredible, we can see the difference.” We’re showing them how to do it right, teaching them to do it right, we care that they do it right, we want them to succeed. We’re paying attention to each individual athlete and tracking their progress.

I’ve always developed close connections with my athletes. At WVU, my students were texting me questions about workouts, letting me know about their tests, I’m asking them about their schoolwork. It’s not just the training, it’s the relationship, and we bring that to all our clients, high school athletes included.

Z: You’ve referenced your work at WVU- give us a quick version of your resume.

JH: So, I’ve worked for literally every team at some point. I was with football during the Rich Rodriguez years when we went to the Sugar Bowl and surprised everybody. I was with basketball during Coach Huggins’s first year when that team shocked everyone. It was a good group, but people were concerned about the different playing styles between John Beilein and Huggins. That team went to the Sweet 16. I had six years with women’s soccer, and they rattled off four straight conference championships at the end and cemented themselves as one of the best in the country. This year’s seniors were the freshmen my last year there–

Z: Wow, so you got to work with some of those big name players from the women’s soccer team?

Image from CanadaSoccer.com, showcasing WVU alum Kadeisha Buchanan on a Canadian postal stamp.

JH: Yeah! So those were the seniors that led the team to be national runner up this year. Keisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence played in the Olympics and got the bronze medal playing for Canada. In my old office, I have the commemorative stamps that the Canadian postal service made of that soccer team, and Keisha is there, front and center. When I saw it, I made sure to order a book of them for myself.

Z: With all that success training athletes at WVU, why did you consider moving into your own private business?

JH: I’m one of those people where, most of my bigger life decisions, come without any catalyst. It had been ten years, I really loved it. The collegiate training profession is hard. It’s a good job, but it’s a difficult one. It got to the point where I thought, it’s coming up on a really good time to take all the things that I like and enjoy about working with athletes and coaches here, but then also add the things I can’t do, to offer services and opportunities that aren’t there, and be able to expand and mold it the way I want to.

Z: You’re working with athletes, but the gym also has a lot of non-athletes who train to stay in shape. Make the pitch to them- why come to Viking for training when it seems so focused on athletes?

JH: There are two parts: first, we’re going to give you the best training in the area. It’s going to be individualized and specific, and the experience and credentials here is vast. Second is the atmosphere here. We’re not blocking you into one hour chunks, where you come in for an hour for work than you leave. Everybody here trains around everybody else. There’s flexible training, we work with you as much as possible. The benefit is that everybody is exposed to everybody’s training. So, rather than create cliques, instead there’s a lot of camaraderie across groups. We have professional strong-women cheering on high school baseball players that are finishing their workout. The power lifters are cheering on the forty-five year old who’s trying to get in shape and never stepped foot in a gym before. Middle school kids are watching and learning from college athletes, getting to see what it takes to achieve their sports goals. With our atmosphere, it’s comfortable, welcoming- we want everyone to know that no matter what their personal goals are, they can achieve them here.

Z: Congratulations on the new space Jay! All our best as your business continues to grow!

JH: Thanks for sharing what we do!