Theron Jenkins walked into his first bodybuilding competition already accomplishing the goals that meant the most to him.
It wasn’t to win first place — that never mattered to Jenkins — and it sure wasn’t for the attention and recognition he received when he dominated the competition, earning a first-place prize and drawing comparisons to the eight-time Mr. Olympia champion Ronnie Coleman.
All the 32-year-old Jenkins, a Jersey City firefighter, wanted was to learn how to live a healthier and more fit lifestyle, one that would help him deal with the one thing that has played on his emotions his entire life.
“I only did this so I can learn how to lose weight and be happy and comfortable when I go to the pool, look at myself in pictures, and when I put my clothes on each day,” said Jenkins. “Those things are first place to me, that’s the real win, not the trophy.”
Mission accomplished. In the span of the next six months, Retro Fitness became Jenkins’ new home. After being as high as 275 pounds, Jenkins trimmed down to 240 pounds in time for the 2021 Organization of Competition Bodies (OCB) Jersey Natural Open on May 22 in Atlantic City.
“I was trying to learn about nutrition and how bodybuilders built their bodies and what made them successful,” said Jenkins, who was born and raised in the Greenville section of Jersey City. “Last November I was just scrolling through Facebook when I found my eventual coach, who gave me a plan on how to lose weight while maintaining muscle.”
“He wanted me to enter a show that was 26 weeks from the start of my training, on May 22. I wound up entering the bodybuilding competition and winning first place.”
For someone whose eyes were set on a much different prize, Jenkins’ victory is even that more incredible.
“Two weeks before the show I was already at a place where I was happy with my accomplishments,” he said. “I already got what I came for when I entered this sport.”
Stepping on stage 20 to 30 pounds heavier than most of the competitors, Jenkins took first place in the novice category, a victory that vaulted him into the open event against competitors who live, eat, and breathe bodybuilding. He finished third, a lofty accomplishment for a newcomer to the sport.
The highlight of the show for him is a photo capturing all his hard work in one single frame. He’s bent forward arms extended sideways, with muscles bulging everywhere. Immediately, the pose drew comparisons to the legendary Coleman.
“The fact that I was able to go home with first place and a picture like that,” Jenkins said. “The picture makes me look like I’m a Marvel superhero character. I was surprised when I first saw the photo because it wasn’t until that point that I realized what everybody else was saying. I was doubting every step until I really couldn’t deny it anymore.”
Jenkins credited his job as a firefighter with providing him the flexibility to create a workout schedule that produced results.
“I understand that my job allows me to have an incredible amount of time off,” he said. “As a firefighter we work one day then have three days off. It’s a blessing because we need days off for nights that are extremely strenuous. It’s incredible that I have all this time off to pursue my hobbies such as bodybuilding.”
He also credited his mother, who died in 2017. He says her constant effort to provide for her family no matter how difficult times were is what keeps him motivated.
“I’m a product of my mother’s love and I think about it every day, because my mom is my motivation,” he said. “All her life she worked tirelessly to provide for me and my siblings. If my mom could do that then I can wake up and go to the gym, I can wake up and go on a run, and I can wake up and do anything I set my mind to.”
So, what’s next for the firefighter-turned-bodybuilder?
Along with bodybuilding, Jenkins is an avid chess player and poet. He also has recently picked up Muay Thai and hopes to one day compete in a Strongman competition. Then of course there’s always bodybuilding to fall back on.