Feb. 11, 2022

What’s up, Doc?

Alumnus and owner of Calgary cycling studio explains his journey from engineering researcher to pursuing the passion he discovered at a university triathlon club
Trev Williams
One of the services Trev Williams offers through Doctrine Training are cycling holidays. Here, Trev is scouting out a route in Iceland.

You may read “Dr.” in front of Trev Williams’ name, but the electrical engineer with a UCalgary PhD (2008) in biomedical imaging is quick to stress that, depending on the day, his job title flips from “coach or mechanic to guide, scheduler, social co-ordinator, accountant, maintenance and cleaner.” 

In this month's Careers in Motion feature we discover what happens when you become the owner of a cycling and running services company, a.k.a. The Doctrine Training, and try to scale up during a pandemic. Located in its newly expanded downtown digs on Calgary’s 10 St. S.W., “The Doc’s” beefy roster of services includes spin and cycling classes, as well as sport conditioning, corporate team-building, cycling vacations, coaching and more.

Trev Willliams

Trev Williams leads a ride outside the studio

Now that you’re a small business owner and not an engineer or researcher per se, do you still use the skills you gathered in post-secondary? I do continue to use my engineering background to assess any actual technical or mechanical issue I may be having in the company. And I use my time spent learning the biomedical side of the electromagnetics degree to have a unique perspective on how my time with people affects their life from a physical and mental aspect.

What triggered the switch from research to running your own cycling and coaching business? While taking my master’s degree at University of Victoria, I helped build a triathlon club into a place where I wanted to learn, socialize and train. When I moved to Calgary, I set about learning the psychological aspects of coaching while gathering people around me to facilitate consistent training for cycling, running and triathlon.

After I finished my PhD in 2008, I worked as a research engineer and taught courses for UCalgary while growing a community of like-minded exercise enthusiasts in my spare time. By 2010, a grant had run out on the research side of my work and I found this was a perfect time to make a clean break from the university and do one thing well, instead of trying to balance my research interests with lifestyle community development.

Trev Williams

Both cycling and spin classes are offered at Calgary's downtown Doctrine Training studio

How large is your operation today? I recently acquired a spin studio (Peloton) with the idea of spacing out the members significantly by having the ability to offer a cycling class, followed by a spin class. I currently have eight coaches and instructors in the combined studio and three guides for the cycling vacation aspect of The Doctrine. Our membership on the cycling side, prior to the pandemic, was roughly 160 and we are back to 115, even with all the uncertainty that COVID has created.

Despite the pressures of trying to operate during COVID times, what have been some of your career highlights? Many of my extremely memorable moments have come from hosting our cycling vacations and medical conferences. It is unbelievably rewarding to sit at the final dinner — after several successful days of hosting 10 to 40 cyclists on well-planned, guided and supported rides — and hear the stories and memories created by their vacation. I love listening to the excitement in voices from experiences I have had the opportunity to be a part of.

How is your studio different from others in Calgary? My studio was built on the foundation of years spent volunteering with the cycling, running and triathlon community. I have never run the club as a business as I have always wanted it to be a place I’d want to hang out in, with friends. We foster community involvement, are extremely inclusive and take care of each other.

The coaching is driven from a pure desire to have more people enjoying the outdoors for a very long time. I don’t believe there is another studio that has grown out of roots like this or has the culture because of it.

What’s the future of The Doctrine Training Ltd.? I would love to have the ability to start gathering again without the anxiety brought on by the constant uncertainty of where the world is going. I have never had any ambition to grow the membership base too large as I take pride and happiness in knowing everyone who is in our space. When I envision myself in 20 years, I am doing the same thing! I think I am pretty lucky to be thinking that.

Any career advice for new grads? I think the best advice I received was as a third-year engineering student out on a co-op work term. I was told to use the education I was receiving to know the fundamentals of some of the issues I will encounter on the work force, but nothing trumps experience, regardless of job title. Listen and learn.

Any favourite movies, podcasts or books that inspire you? Fight Club for movies. And the books I have loved most that inspire me are Mutiny on the Bounty, Once a Runner and Unbroken.