TAMPA — Mark Consuelos and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sculpted the physiques that made them famous actors at the same Tampa gym.
During its 28-year-run, The Boddy Shoppe — 2,500-square-feet packed full of heavy weights, bulging muscle and pure machismo — provided wall-to-wall inspiration for up and coming athletes. A sampling of stars who pumped iron there include Major League Baseball’s Danny Tartabull, Daryl Strawberry, Joe Carter, and Dave Magadan; from the National Football League, Freddie Solomon, Roger Craig and Vinny Testaverde; and professional wrestlers Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, “Superstar” Billy Graham and Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson.
The famous gym once located in the Horizon Park Shopping Center on Hillsborough Avenue closed its doors in 2005 but owner Al Rosen still draws celebrities each year through the Tri-Fitness Challenge competitions he started in 1998 — grueling obstacle courses and contests of strength that test will as much as athleticism.
The next challenge is Nov. 16 at Alonso High School, 8302 Montague St. Tri-Fitness alum also are packed with celebrity names, many of whom used the events as a springboard to success.
“I attribute my experience with Al and the entire gang as something that tremendously propelled me into more amazing opportunities,” said Torrie Wilson, who became a WWE superstar and Playboy cover model in the years following her first Tri-Fitness challenge.
Rosen said that more than 50 other Tri-Fitness participants appeared on the cover of magazines following the competition, including Kim Lyons, later a trainer for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”
The star power belies the ordinary surroundings at Alonso High, but Rosen was never one to mix fitness and fashion.
He’s old school, just like The Boddy Shoppe.
“We were lucky if he turned the air conditioning on,” quipped Aaron Brown, former Buccaneer and longtime Boddy Shoppe member. “But we didn’t need it. We wanted to sweat.”
How about the elliptical machines and treadmills that cover the floors of modern gyms?
“If you wanted cardio, you ran sprints out back in the heat,” said Rosen.
“It’s the type of place I wish existed today — no air condition, no frills, no pristine machines, and for the love of all that’s holy in the world of fitness, no pastel colors on the wall,” Dwayne Johnson said. “Just iron, sweat and joyful grunting, and the men were even louder.”
Steve Henderson of Tampa, long-time former hitting coach with the Philadelphia Phillies, said this mantra to simplicity made The Body Shoppe a popular spot for celebrity athletes.
“The draw was that people went there to work out, not get autographs. Al and Bruce were great guys. They would never have allowed it. Pro athletes were treated the same as everyone else.”
Some of The Boddy Shoppe’s visitors would come to the city for short stays when their team played here or when the professional wrestling tour visited.
WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair has worked out at many gyms while touring the world and calls The Boddy Shoppe one of his all-time favorites, comparing it to the Gold’s Gym of the late-1970s in Venice Beach, Calif., made famous in the movie “Pumping Iron.”
“Not that it was as big in size as Gold’s, but because it was where everyone wanted to work out,” Flair said. “The Boddy Shoppe was the place to be in Tampa.”
“It was truly an electric atmosphere with all those characters coming in and out,” said former professional wrestler Joe Gomez. “I could tell stories about it for hours.”
Pressed for details, Gomez laughed.
“What happened at The Boddy Shoppe, stayed at The Boddy Shoppe.”
Rosen stayed tight-lipped, too.
“Our members included athletes, preachers, attorneys, judges and the Mafia. So you can imagine what happened when all those colorful personalities got together. Everyone got along, but it was crazy.”
But it was also a respectful group. Rosen wouldn’t have allowed his family to work out there otherwise, he said.
Rosen’s family used the gym as a springboard for their own successful athletic careers.
His niece Jacquelyn was a No. 1 ranked junior tennis player. His nephew Milton built the muscle at The Boddy Shoppe that turned him into a Special Olympics champion. His daughters – Stephanie, Jennifer and Lindsey — each became all-state and all-nation athletes in high school gymnastics and karate.
Following high school, though, Rosen’s daughters found few competitive opportunities.
“It was just marathons and body building for women back then,” said Rosen. “I thought women needed a more well-rounded competition. So I started Tri-Fitness.”
That first event was for women only and featured an obstacle course, gymnastic floor routine and body-building posing competition. In 1999, Rosen added a male component. The three competitive events differ from year to year but in their entirety, Rosen said, they always prove who the most well-rounded athlete is in terms of strength, agility, fitness, willpower and physique.
By the early 2000’s, Tri-Fitness was boasting more than 200 participants from around the world. In 2005, Rosen closed the Boddy Shoppe so he could dedicate all his time to Tri-Fitness competitions. They had grown too large to remain a side project.
The Nov. 16 event will feature two obstacle courses — a 160-yard agility course with 15-foot climb wall, incline/decline monkey bars, a balance beam, a grid-run, hurdles and more; and a 230-yard course that boasts 13 different strength obstacles, such as a kettle ball swing, tire flip, and farmer’s carry. The third competition tests fitness skills through a box jump, shuttle run and bench press contest.
“It doesn’t matter who wins or loses and it’s not about becoming a big name celebrity,” said Rosen. “Just competing gives you a sense of accomplishment. You compete at Tri-Fitness and you will push yourself to your limit. I promise.”