“Suicide” conditioning drills, strength training and plenty of sweat tell just part of the story Garnett Mims envisions for a fitness and community center opening this fall in Detroit’s English Village.
The renovated 12,000-square-foot building at 16246 East Warren will welcome anyone looking to shed pounds and tone up, but the other part of the story involves guiding people – ages 8 to 80 – toward life goals.
The Muscles in Motion Systems (MIMS) training center joins an eastside neighborhood that’s lacking in recreation outlets. The facility, Coach Mims says, is his contribution to a city that nurtured his success as a star high school athlete and provided mentors who helped save his future, possibly even his life.
There was no Superman, no Batman. There was God, then there was our dad. -Garnett Mims
“I started out in baseball and boxing,” he says, “everything my father loved. He was our idol. There was no Superman, no Batman. There was God, then there was our dad.”
He was the “middle child” of John and Sallie Mims’ 17 sons and daughters and was raised in a neighborhood along West Eight Mile Road. Even with the unusual size of his family, Mims enjoyed a stable upbringing, like that of Southerners, he says, often hunting and fishing. Still, he drifted toward gangs. Then, during high school, he lashed out in a way that could have sealed his fate. After being confronted about his behavior, he struck a teacher, was expelled and faced the possibility he’d be criminally charged.
After seeing his mother plead his case to school administrators, he vowed to haunt the library, bring his grades up, and channel his frustrations into physical energy through sports.
“When I saw my mother crying, I felt this small,” says Mims, revealing tiny space between his thumb and index finger.
With a coach’s guidance and years of experience avoiding his older brothers’ tackles, he morphed into the best running back ever to play at his new school, Cooley High. Mims went on to Ferris State University where he continued excelling athletically.
Later, he traveled to Los Angeles, worked as professional security alongside then-unknown-actor Michael Clarke Duncan, and networked with other celebrities. In California he laid the groundwork for the MIMS fitness enterprise, a family operation he brought back to Detroit. He’s expanded the program to include youth mentoring, leadership principles and life coaching for groups and individuals.
“We have to go after something bigger than sports achievement,” says Mims, who tells trainees his MIMS program acronym also abbreviates “make it mean something.”
He formed Muscles in Motion in 1997 and has worked primarily with athletes of various experience levels. His efforts extend beyond physical training as he recruits trainees to support volunteer community cleanups and events like ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day.
“Spiritual, mental … he lets you know it’s not all about football,” says Tyrice White, a National Football League free agent linebacker who trains with Mims. “He keeps himself in shape. He takes care of his mom. He goes to church. You want good people around you, and he’s a good person. He’s a little bit unorthodox, but it works.”
Joyce Burrell, who with Janet Howard co-founded the Inspiring Our Sons mentoring program, calls Mims an effective motivator after his work with 10 to 15 of her students for a semester, at no charge.
“He really focuses on the whole person,” Burrell says. “He focuses on the whole child.”
David Mims, a partner in the MIMS enterprise, says his older brother’s leadership and vision is driven by passion and concern for others, not a goal to simply build clientele.
“It’s not a business, it’s a lifestyle,” he says. “We need people to gravitate to it, because we want to share.”
Through the Muscles in Motion program and the new facility, Mims says he wants to help Detroiters grow individually and collectively.
“Everybody who’s here, we believe, through our program, can find a purpose on this earth,” he adds.
Photos by Paul Engstrom