A few months ago, you would have figured that Sean Thomson was on top of the world.
Last April, the 25-year-old personal trainer and former North Catholic point guard (Class of 2004) and a few of his closest friends completed an epic 100-mile run in less than 24 hours to help raise almost $15,000 for Saint Joseph’s University’s Kinney Center for Autism, a cause near and dear to Thomson’s heart.
If conquering such a Herculean feat wasn’t enough, Thomson’s No Limit Gym at 3144 Willits Road was thriving. After opening his own establishment in May 2010 and specializing in a new revolutionary form of training known as CrossFit, his client list quickly swelled to more than 100 people.
On the surface, everything seemed perfect — but privately, Thomson was going through hell, and things got so bad near the end of 2011 that he gave serious thought to giving up everything he had worked so hard to build.
Thomson declined to discuss the specifics of his personal problems, but said they were bad enough that the health-obsessed fitness fanatic was out drinking four nights a week and calling out of work. Before he let it all slip away, Thomson turned once again to CrossFit and his clients to help re-realize his purpose; now, he’s getting set for the second annual 100-mile autism run from No Limit to Wildwood, N.J., on April 20, as well as preparing to compete for a $1 million prize in the ongoing CrossFit Games.
“From November to January, I started doubting myself big time,” Thomson said during a recent chat at his gym. “I thought about getting a part-time job or joining a union, and for the most part I was just acting like a total knucklehead.
“But then I took a hard look at myself and at the people around me, and I knew to quit wouldn’t be me,” he continued. “I looked at my life and asked myself, ‘What am I really so mad about?’ I get to walk to my gym every morning and help people improve themselves physically and mentally, and being around them and seeing them work so hard for me and for themselves … that made me want to work harder. They’re my outlet. I feed off of them. There are so many people that have it worse than me, to the point where I realized I’m living a millionaire’s life without the million dollars.”
HIS STATUS IS UPGRADED
That soon could change, as the new and improved Thomson has re-dedicated himself to his craft in such a hard-core way that he is currently ranked second in the world in the increasingly popular CrossFit Games.
When Thomson opened No Limit nearly two years ago, he opted to train people using CrossFit, a relatively new but incredibly effective fitness regimen that combines a broad range of cardiovascular activities, weightlifting and gymnastics.
Requiring proficiency in domains such as stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy, CrossFit is “the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies, military special operations units, champion martial artists and professional athletes worldwide,” according to the official CrossFit Web site (www.crossfit.com).
But what makes CrossFit really appealing is its ability to also completely transform the lives of everyday people, which is why so many are ditching the ellipticals and treadmills of traditional “globo gyms” to get trained by Thomson. Relying heavily on constantly varying workouts as well as personal nutrition, CrossFit has the ability to transform both body and mind, and Thomson’s foray into this new program has perfectly coincided with its burgeoning national popularity.
HE’LL HAVE TO COOL IT
Thomson’s participation in the annual CrossFit Games will force him to the sidelined role of cheerleader during the April 20 100-mile run, as he is currently ranked first in the Mid-Atlantic region and second in the world amongst the competition’s participants.
“Because I leave for the games less than two weeks after the run, I’m just going to be riding along in a car this time,” Thomson said. “Last year my body didn’t recover for two weeks, and I have too much on the line to show up to the games sore as hell. Even though I won’t be running this year, I have a great group of guys committed to the cause, and not only do we still get to raise money for autism, but I get to see people I’ve trained run from Northeast Philly to Wildwood … To watch my friends and clients accomplish this is even more fulfilling than doing it again myself.”
Last year, Thomson said he returned from the run with “such a swagger,” and that “after doing that, you couldn’t put a workout in front of me that was going to be too difficult.” After conquering the 100-mile trek and then some personal demons to boot, he dedicated himself to the CrossFit Games, a national competition that will allow Thomson to compete against others just like him.
After comfortably placing in the required Top 60 for the first round of cuts, Thomson advanced to the Regional round, to be held in Landover, Md., from May 4 to 6.
The six total workouts over the three days will be varied — some are time-based, while others will be focused on strength and movement; if Thomson finishes in the top three in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, he will punch his ticket to Los Angeles for the final round from July 13 to 15 (to be aired on ESPN), where the male and female winners will each be awarded a rumored $1 million prize.
And while Thomson is rabidly and obsessively preparing to make it to California, he said the big cash payout is not what motivates him.
“Nothing will change for me personally if I win. I’d still live with my roommate on Ashton Road,” he said with a laugh. “Aside from maybe buying my dad a boat, any money I win will be put right back into the gym, which I want to expand and move to a more spacious location to be able to help even more people realize their goals. I own this gym and I’m the face of it, so any money and exposure I might get from the games I would put right back into benefitting CrossFit and the people that have chosen to make it a part of their lives.”
This journey certainly has been an unpredictable one for Thomson. A freak arm wrestling accident prematurely ended his college basketball career, which led him to personal training and in turn allowed him to ultimately discover CrossFit. Grappling with such a quick wave of professional success led to his unexpected personal problems late last year; however, with the worst now in the past, Thomson is a new man, thankful for what CrossFit has given him — and also one who is eager to give back everything he has earned.
“When I was really struggling personally, I was given the best compliment I’ve ever gotten,” he said. “I got this new client, an older woman, and her husband, who I had never met before in my life, reached out to me and told me by making his wife’s life happier, I made his life happier. He flat out told me that I helped save his marriage, and when I heard that, I knew I couldn’t close this place, not even if I end up getting to California and winning that money. If I can help save the people that I train, that’s great, because they helped save me, too.
“As much as I think I’m important to the people that I train … they’re that much more important to me,” he continued. “These people are my role models, and I need them. They put a smile on my face every day and let me go to bed knowing I have the coolest job in the world. How can I complain about that?”
With his darkest days behind him and a new sense of purpose, Thomson’s complaining is finished now that he’s right back where he belongs — on top of the world. ••
Donations for the 100-mile autism run can be dropped off at the No Limit Gym (3144 Willits Road) or by contacting Paul Hondross at 610-660-2170 or email@example.com
To learn more about CrossFit and the CrossFit Games, visit www.crossfit.comEndFragment