Ever wonder who got Brad Womack cut for his return to "The Bachelor"?
Never mind the celebrities. Ebullient personal trainer Ryan Nail — who coached Womack, among others — is plenty interesting in his own right.
Through adroit use of social media and personal charisma, Nail, 30, is finding favor in the crowded field of Austin fitness. Named among the city's best trainers by Rare, Tribeza and Austin Fit magazines, he found his niche early: outdoors.
His classes are held in local parks, where he combines work on barbells, kettlebells, TRX Suspension Training and, in Womack's case, a power sled.
"Get out of the mindset of going to an everyday gym," the Dallas native tells his clients. "Get the feeling of being near the water and the green."
On that, Nail is not alone. Which is why the City of Austin is considering requiring permits for paid training in parks. That won't stop Nail, whose entertaining, upbeat posts — songs, videos, stray phrases — on Facebook and other social media are often passed around the Internet.
"I love to share things that are inspiring or encouraging," says Nail. "It's taken a lot of that to push through the hard times in my life. Doing the right thing — it's hard sometimes."
Wait. Hard times? Really? Blond, blue-eyed, middle-class former collegiate football player whose 5-foot, 11-inch frame weighs in at 177 — "all muscle," he jokes. This everlastingly upbeat Christian Republican?
"I've dealt with deep sorrow," he says over nutritious snacks at Snap Kitchen on West Sixth Street. "We all go through points in life that will break or make you. It's a choice. I've been heartbroken. I've decided to heal and help others do the same."
Both of his parents — divorced Bobby Nail and Brenda Briggs — are in real estate, one in Dallas, the other in Houston. His father helped develop the Austin City Lofts and Bridges on the Park. Nail grew up with one sister and five step-siblings.
"It's like ‘The Brady Bunch,' " Nail says of the blended family. Only Nail, eventually diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities, was not an easy child to raise. He attended three Houston high schools before heading to a Christian boarding school in Virginia.
"I was high energy and a lot to handle," he says, staring at the horizon, as if far away from West Sixth Street. "They wanted what was best for me. One good thing: I was able to enter athletics at an early age."
Cross-country was among his first efforts, running 45 miles a week at age 12 by his own account. Did it drain away all that extra energy?
"Nope," he says with a smile. "You can only play the cards you were given."
Like many Texas boys, he was enrolled in football as early as possible, and continued to play through high school. Not that he received a lot of encouragement.
"All through my life, people have said, ‘This one is probably not going to make it,' " he says. "But that just drives me even further."
When he arrived at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall for higher education, he discovered they had no football team. So he helped start one.
"It was kind of like ‘Remember the Titans,' " he says. "Every single year we got beat. Until our senior year (2003), when we ended up winning American Southwest Conference and making NCAA Division III playoffs."
Still, the boy who grew up in Houston found Marshall stifling.
"East Texas is a different place," he says. "Even though we have a black president now, you can go out to high school stadiums and they are still segregated. Blacks on one side, whites on the other. Except for good players who sit with the white families. That's the way it has always been and the way it always will be."
A post-graduation trip to Austin blew open his constricted social world.
"In Marshall, the one thing to do for fun is to dance country music 30 miles away," he says. "And going to a Baptist school, I got into trouble for it. So coming to a place with live music every night and so much nightlife was like arriving in the Promised Land."
Even more liberating was Austin's 365-days-a-year outdoor life.
"Running the greenbelt was freeing to me," he says. "You feel like you are kept in a box all your life. But to get out of houses and cars, you feel so free."
While interviewing for sales jobs, the aspiring actor heard about auditions for "Friday Night Lights" stunt doubles. Working on the show led to friendships with, among others, Scott Porter and Gauis Charles.
"They were on their first big acting gigs, so it was easy to get to know them," he says.
Meanwhile, the guy whose emotional life had hit so many speed bumps got more serious about bodybuilding.
"When I needed to vent or to sort out my thoughts, I would go and work out," he says. "It became very therapeutic. You know what? I had thought about going into the ministry. I know I can make a difference in people's lives right here in Austin — as a trainer."
After a stint with Pure Austin Fitness, Nail started his own all-outdoor company, CoreFit Austin.
"I had $600 and bad credit from student loans," he says. So a studio was out of the question. "I trained my clients in the geographics of Austin. I came from a place where boundaries were everywhere. I wanted complete freedom."
Nail stares at the horizon again.
"I always had a home, but in my heart, I didn't have one," he says of life before CoreFit's success. "Within my heart, I know I have been called to change lives."
A reader of inspirational biographies, Nail lights up when he talks about helping other people overcome obstacles.
He says: "You just have to know: God has a better plan for you."
Update: This story has been corrected to reflect that "Friday Night Lights" star Taylor Kitsch was not a client of trainer Ryan Nail, although the two did work out together. Also, Nail was not Kitsch's stunt double.