Rehoboth Beach trainer Paul Timmons has competed in 20 marathons, six iron mans and more than a dozen Delaware weightlifing competitions, but none of them compared to the pain he endured during a recent trip to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Timmons is working to become one of only seven people in the country to be certified by Gym Jones, an exclusive gym with very selective membership. To pass the intermediate and advanced levels of training, Timmons was required to finish the Gym Jones triathlon in under 5 minutes, consisting of 500 meters on a skier, 50 calories on an airdyne bike and 500 meters on a row machine. He completed the test in 4:58.
“It's just a miserable experience,” he said. “I had not thrown up in training since the '90s. I threw up for 20 minutes after that damn thing.”
Timmons was out at the Gym Jones' facility for six days. Each day featured two two-hour lectures covering advanced material as well as two training sessions.
“It was physically the most demanding six days of my entire life,” Timmons said.
Timmons has been a trainer for 20 years. A third-team all-state soccer goalie for Cape Henlopen in 1985, Timmons majored in political science/ pre-law with a minor in philosophy at Western Maryland University, where he played soccer and tennis. Before enrolling in law school, Timmons' step father encouraged him to explore his career options.
“[He] said I would just be another miserable attorney,” he said.
So while working as a lifeguard at the YMCA in the early '90s, he was able to get a job in the fitness center. After a few years, he was the fitness director and knew that was the career he wanted to pursue. Five years with the YMCA gave Timmons enough knowledge to branch out on his own. He soon became an independent personal trainer, working at various gyms with his clients. He started, he said, at a time when hiring a personal trainer was a luxury. Nowadays, personal trainers are more common.
“At one point I was the only person in this town that was an independent personal trainer,” he said. “It's kind of cool to see how the industry has changed over the years. It's gone from just Madonna and Oprah to everybody.”
Timmons has achieved more than 20 certifications since becoming a fitness professional in 1993. He bought The Firm Fitness Center in Rehoboth Beach in 1999, where he continues to work each day.
His connection with Gym Jones began in 2006, shortly after the action-fantasy film “300” was released. The movie, starring Gerard Butler, features 300 warriors fighting against the Persians in 480 B.C. Gym Jones owner Mark Twight was hired to get the actors into prime physical condition. That's when Twight developed the 300 workout, which required both power and endurance.
Timmons said he always fell into one camp or the other. If he was competing in a deadlifting competition, he would focus more on power. If training for a marathon or ironman, the workouts would be geared more toward endurance.
“I remember looking at 300 and thinking you have to do a little bit of both here,” he said.
Timmons wanted to learn more about the workout, so he reached out to Twight. After exchanging emails back and forth several times, Twight invited Timmons out to his facility in Utah in 2007, where he took his first step toward becoming certified. Timmons' trips were so educational and fulfilling, he said, he started incorporating Twight's philosophies and workouts into his own training and business.
“It was a learning opportunity, so that's why I went,” he said. “I'm better at my job for it. We've got a mixed bag here … you can also scale a lot of these things we do and make it applicable for everybody.”
Twight's reputation as a trainer has resulted in more work from Hollywood. He trained Jude Law for the 2010 film “Repo Men” and recently worked with Henry Cavill for his role as Superman in the upcoming summer movie “Man on Steel.”
Once fully certified, Timmons said, he could theoretically be called in to help train actors for upcoming movies. But before that happens, Timmons must complete the program.
The last hurdle he must clear is a week-long internship at Gym Jones. He said he plans to make the trek back out to Utah in the fall, when he will assist the trainers with seminars and workouts.
Joining him will be his wife, Marisol. Marisol is not in the certification program, but she gained the respect of the Gym Jones staff with her work ethic and ability.
“They said she's pound-for-pound the strongest woman to ever train in that gym,” he said.
Marisol, a pilates instructor at The Firm, holds a Delaware state record for the dead lift. Timmons said if he didn't take Marisol back to Gym Jones with him, it would be grounds for divorce.
Timmons said his busiest part of the year is just around the corner. He said he hopes to pass on to his clients what he's learned from Twight and the Gym Jones staff.
“I think you motivate by example,” he said. “You've got to be a doer. The job I wanted to have and the passion that I had kind of blended together very nicely. This is kind of who I am more so than what I do. I'm kind of defined by what I do.”