WORDS BY RYAN GLAZER PHOTOS BY KATHERINE IVES
Life brings changes and new challenges daily, and sometimes, the weight of the world seems to balance itself amongst the shoulders and backs of those who we least expect can carry it.
I would say this is how I felt when I heard Sean Marcolus’ story for the first time. Life was not simple for young Sean and he could have let challenges outside of his control define him negatively, but that would have been too easy. Now that I know this about him, his story makes sense… This guy truly knows no limits.
Born in Zimbabwe, Sean moved to the US as an infant. He spent his early adolescence alongside his mother in a battered women’s shelter in Savannah, Georgia. His mother worked multiple jobs to provide for her son as best she could. When Sean was in the fifth grade, the shelter placed he and his mother in Richmond Hill. It was here that he found stable ground and unknowingly set roots that wouldn’t bloom for quite some time. “Talk about strength…” Sean begins telling me about his upbringing. “I grew up poor. My mother did everything in her power to make life as normal as possible for me. It would have been easy to become a part of the system and just accept handouts, but she worked three jobs while going to school and car-pooling me to practices.”
Sean found his early footing in the game of soccer. “It gave me a focus. It was something that I could somewhat have in my control. I could always go practice and get away from any life issues that were going on. My 6th grade year, the coach told me that I only made the team because I was left footed. I took that as a challenge and fixated on changing his mind. I think he ignited a drive within me.” Sean became a standout player at Richmond Hill High School, earning a scholarship to Hiram College in Ohio. “I was a small kid,” he says in a matter of fact manner. “I graduated at only 125 pounds! I would conveniently “forget” my workout clothes just to avoid school workouts,” he laughs throwing up the quotes hand gesture! If you know Sean or have ever trained with him, the irony here is quite funny.
It was in his first season at Hiram that Sean hurt his knee. “I had a chance at making money with the game after college. The doctor fixed my knee,” he wiggles his knee cap which has an obvious divot behind a scar line. “He also told me that to continue on this path would ultimately leave me unable to walk by 40 years old.” Before he knew it, his dream of playing soccer was over. He needed something to fill the competitive urge he had developed. “I found joy in working out at this point,” laughs Sean and I sense the irony. “One day at the gym, and older guy approached me and told me that I should consider doing fitness competitions.” In 2012, with only eight and a half months of training, Sean competed for the first time. “I trained hard, but wasn’t super intense about it; my posing was terrible! I thought I looked good then, but looking back…I was tiny,” he laughs.
Sean returned to Richmond Hill unsure of his path that year. The adjustment from a student athlete on a full scholarship to being unsure of what foot to put in front of the other happened in the blink of an eye. He maintained focus on lifting and got a job at GNC, a great place to converse with others who share a passion for fitness and health. “I looked up to John Fornier, who at that time (and when I was growing up) was a well-known trainer in Richmond Hill. To the young me, John was “cool.” I went to him for a lot of fitness advice; he helped guide me and taught me the art in guiding others in their fitness journeys.” In 2016 Sean bought a gym. “It kind of happened on accident and it happened sooner than I wanted— or thought I wanted— but it worked out perfectly,” he beams.
Sean opened No Limit Fitness (NLF) on Ford Avenue in the Fall, just before Hurricane Matthew blew through town. When asked about the name, he tells me a story about his “little brother” Ben. Though not his brother by blood, he is a brother by heart, and is one of the people he credits for his confidence. Ben’s older brother and Sean played soccer together growing up, the trio spent a lot of time together. “Ben understood my ability and passion and he always pushed me to push harder. And I think he was tired of me taking his baseball hats, too, because one day he gave me one. Stitched on the side were the words “Know No Limits.” Three simple words that were so meaningful they later became the name of his company, where he works daily to push others to push harder to be their best. Nothing about his life, or running a business is, or ever has been easy, but Sean chooses to push through— he knows no limits.
“No Limit Fitness is simple and straight forward. We don’t do contracts. It’s a club—a high-end fitness club— not a wall of weights,” Sean says about the mission behind his success. “I wanted to create a place where people come with goals and we help them conquer them.” His new location on Highway 17 near Bubba’s Bistro offers a sauna, massage, smoothies, and the attention of trainers who will guide you to a more fit you. “The best part of my job is training people to reach their own goals, and watching as their confidence grows. NLF is not a sweat and go home type of place, we are all invested. Me, my trainers, and our clients.”
Chance brought Sean and his mother to Richmond Hill all those years ago. Focus and determination offered a path elsewhere, but fate knows no bounds either and brought Sean back to the place he originally found his path. They say happiness is a choice. I think success can also be a choice. Sean is an example of the world not making it easy to achieve success. The adversity he faced early on could have set him on a path of despair, but it didn’t. “I learned early on not to look at what I didn’t have, but to take what I did have and make something of myself. I choose to know no limits every single day, and it is my hope that Im helping others to do the very same thing.”
Congrats on your success, Sean!