RED OAK — Bubba Walker of Red Oak, originally of Slidell, La., has overcome many challenges in his life. He muddled through not one, but two major hurricanes that struck Louisiana — and he also battled a weight problem.

Now he finds himself in a position to be of help to others, as he reaches out through his fitness center.

After working for Blue Bell Ice Cream for 10 years, Walker said he experienced a wake up call that would change the course of his life forever.

“I worked as a delivery man for 10 years,” Walker said. “The first five years all I ever did was deliver ice cream and work. I worked early morning hours and that meant I had no time for anything other than eating and sleeping.”

He said during that time he was preparing to attend his 10-year high school reunion. Embarrassed at the fact that he had allowed himself to gain a lot of weight, Walker said he knew at that moment he needed to make a change.

“When I was a young kid and in high school I was always a very fit and athletic person,” he said. “While standing there in the midst of people I had practically grown up with, I realized it was time to take control of this problem.”

On top of struggling with his weight, Walker said he had no self-confidence and was very unhappy. He said he made a commitment to begin getting his weight under control.

“I began changing what I ate and started weight training,” he said. “I didn’t seek out the help of a personal trainer, I was my own personal trainer.”

After a year of working hard on becoming more fit, people began seeking Walker out for his advice on how to become more fit. He said that’s when he decided to get his certification in personal training, but he continued to work for Blue Bell.

“I became Mr. Fit Blue Bell,” he said while laughing. “I totally changed my diet, but I realized I was becoming too skinny so began utilizing healthy weight gain products to beef up.”

Walker’s transformation didn’t just affect his physical appearance, but he noticed a change in his personality and attitude.

“My life totally changed on every level,” he said. “Although I was healthy and fit, I still felt like something was missing.”

He said God was the missing element that really completed his life and set him on the right course.

“My parents raised me the right way,” he expressed. “They raised me in church, but I only went to church because they made me. However, there came a time in my life that God broke me down and I had to surrender.”

He said God used a relationship to truly get his attention and provide direction for his life.

“I was feeling really confident about myself,” he said. “I was feeling good physically and had gained a lot of self-confidence. I finally started dating a girl, who also became my best friend.”

Walker’s love interest was a Christian and he began going to church with her. He said when they would take her car to go someplace, she always had the radio on a Christian music station, but he would turn it off.

“I didn’t want to hear all of that,” he said. “My heart and mind just wasn’t there yet. But God made sure to get me there.”

Then he said his girlfriend decided that they should break up. He said the breakup proved to be overwhelming and caused him to make life-altering decisions.

“The first thing I did was quit my job at Blue Bell,” Walker said, noting how crazy that must have sounded all because of a girl. “I completely lost it over this girl and I wasn’t sure what to do. I called my brother and asked for some advice. He encouraged me to pack up my stuff and move back home.”

He said he chose to take some time to pray about his decision. During his time of prayer he never heard anything from God about what he should do, but the answer came when decided to listen to that Christian radio station.

“After telling my boss about my decision, I decided to listen to the Christian radio station and I heard a song by Jeremy Camp called ‘Walk by Faith,’” Walker said through tears. “That song really got me.  I left it on that station and throughout the day I heard songs that made sense, filled with instruction and spoke directly to my situation.”

Walker said it’s funny what the mind does.

“I finally started hearing and the music spoke to me,” he said. “I wrestled with what I was going to do, but I got saved and that’s when I started training at a big gym.”

Working for that particular gym didn’t work out and that’s when a friend of his talked with him about working for Anytime Fitness in Slidell. Walker said he took the job, but never really saw himself owning his own location.

He said after Hurricane Gustav he went to visit a friend in McKinney, who encouraged him to look into becoming an owner.

“I looked into it in that area, but it didn’t work out,” he said. “I went back home and two weeks later I received a call that this location was available here in Red Oak. They told me I could have it, but I needed to come up with at least $100,000 in order to open it.

Maxing out every credit card he had. Using everything he had in the bank. Cashing in his 401K. Taking a $30,000 loan from Capitol One and a $9,900 gift from his brother, Walker opened the location.

“I remember the first customers I had,” he said. “I’m sitting here and a guy and his girlfriend came in and asked if I was open.”

Walker said it’s been a slow process, but since then his membership has grown to 1,000 members. He was able to pay off every debt within a three-year span and now he feels he can truly concentrate on being there for others.

“Life has gotten easier and now I’m able to help others,” he said. “I’m able to help others financially and physically.”

He said in the physical sense, he tries to convince people that maintaining fitness is a lifestyle.

“You have to want it,” he said. “Nobody can force you and tell you what to eat every day. The weight didn’t come on overnight and it ain’t coming off overnight.”

He said people must be willing to fight for fitness just like people fight for their relationship with God.

“We get on these roads to nowhere,” he explained. “However, there is only one path to God and there’s only one way to fitness. You have to be willing to put in the work. We always have a choice. God is here and he won’t force you to come back to him. It’s the same way in the gym. You have to find reasons to be here.

Walker said he wishes everybody had a passion and drive for fitness like he does and he will continue to pass on his knowledge and incite to help others make better decisions in life.

He said he doesn’t just want to change lives so that people can be different physically, but he wants to have a lasting impact on every one he meets.

“I’ve been blessed to do a lot of things,” he said. “Last Christmas I had the awesome opportunity to go Tupelo Children’s Mansion in Tupelo, Miss. I took a list of 30 kids and went and bought them gifts. I packed up my car and drove nine hours to spend Christmas with them. I took them all out to Chic-fil-A and that memory will be with me forever.”

He said he tries to do whatever he can with what God has given him.

Walker is now getting ready to expand the Red Oak location by adding 1,500 square feet, which will make a total of 6,000 square feet.

Anytime Fitness is located at 132 E. Ovilla Rd., in Red Oa. For more information, contact Bubba Walker at 972-576-1121 or redoaktx@anytimefitness.com.

Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.