A gym for all, and all for the gymDec 07, 2022 12:25PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Paragon Life and Fitness aims to fill a gap for all sorts of adults seeking a gym in the Pike Creek-Hockessin area.
“Our goal is to focus on each member, helping them reach their highest level of personal satisfaction and well-being,” founder Vickie George said.
To encourage members’ goals, the gym is open daily (more than 80 hours each week), has about 20 workout stations and offers attractive rates.
Plus it has the inspiring story of its founder. “I was an exceptional athlete,” she said, explaining that lettered in three sports in high school. “I’m not humble about that. I was not a spectator in life.”
She played intercollegiate varsity softball, women’s major league fast pitch, basketball, field hockey and racquetball, she writes on the website of Yes U Can, an advocacy nonprofit she co-founded. She also bicycled, hiked and was a certified scuba diver.
George, 67 years young, still can do 200 chest presses and 300 leg presses, once she’s set up.
She’s also a quadriplegic who relies on a wheelchair and help from others to get around and live life.
What Paragon offers
“We’re focused on the individual qualities in life,” George said of Paragon. “Not being defined by who we are or what we look like. Whether it’s body composition, age, abilities or disabilities, we want to be treated in an equal way.”
The gym’s official address is 5307 Limestone Road, but it’s really on Weatherhill Drive, in an office park just east of Limestone Road and across Stoney Batter Road from Goldey-Beacom College. Paragon took 2,200 square feet of space last used by a law firm, removed interior walls and created a large workout space fronted by a long row of big windows.
For members, it offers circuit training, cardio, free weights and personal training. Since most gym-goers prefer their own music, she said, it lacks the booming soundtrack associated with big-box gyms.
George’s market research found a gap in the area for a gym focused on older adults. Paragon is not, she emphasized, focused on adults with physical disabilities. “But for those who need assistance, which may be about 10% or 15%, we will be here to help them specifically, because everybody should have the right and opportunity to move their body,” she said. That assistance includes exercise equipment where users can just roll in on their chairs.
“When Covid hit, and I wasn’t able to get the gym, I knew that a lot of the people that we served in the nonprofit were absolutely devastated,” she said. “It’s not like we could just go out and take a walk around. That’s what drove me to open Paragon.”
What drove George
George grew up in Harrisburg and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in program planning and development from Temple University. During her career, she worked primarily as a program director in human services. In 1995, she was 39 and out running with her dog when she felt her right leg not synchronizing with the rest of her body. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
As this disease has continued to progress, Vickie has continued “to adjust to the challenges that this disease has given her,” she writes in her Yes U Can bio. “She has been gradually losing her physical abilities but has found ways to keep herself both emotionally and physically fit.” One way involved the 2004 founding of Yes U Can, so other people who are physically challenged can exercise as well.
One of her first collaborators was Roz Jacono, who, after being downsized from her job as a fitness instructor, is back working with George at Paragon. “I’m excited to get back, meet people and help them,” Jacono said. “You become involved in their lives. They’re like work buddies.”
“Ironically, partly due to her disability, the start of Yes U Can and her professional experience, Vickie has become a motivational/guest lecturer and keynote speaker,” George’s bio concludes.
George co-founded Yes U Can USA with Deborah Woolwine, who owns a web development and digital marketing agency and is “committed to the cause of developing and providing resources to a segment of the population that have ‘fallen through the cracks’ – those with limited mobility and/or disabilities that wish to stay mobile,” Woolwine writes on https://yesucanusa.org.
Yes U Can serves 300 to 400 people each year. “Perhaps they had Parkinson’s or a stroke, or were recovering from an injury due to an accident,” George said. “It could be MS, cerebral palsy or rheumatoid arthritis. Anybody with a limitation that that couldn’t get the assistance.”
What they hope for
Programming included workout sessions at the University of Delaware. “They provided, in kind, the space to us so that we could use utilize the hands and legs of students to assist those who needed assistance to exercise.” Some students helped as part of classes and internships. Some just volunteered.
When the pandemic began, UD closed its campus to outsiders. So George began planning Paragon.
Her normal fitness routine includes chest presses, leg presses, lat pulldowns, triceps exercises and rowing, and she credits that routine with staving off other physical woes. “I can do some miraculous things that my neurologist doesn’t even understand,” she said.
“Once you start the movement, it’s unbelievable, but it happens,” she said. “Which is why this is so important, why everybody should have the opportunity to move their body. If I didn’t challenge myself and try different things, I’d never knew that I could do this, which is why Yes U Can started.”
“No matter what your abilities or disabilities are, if you have the will, there will be a way,” said Paragon staff member Gina Kapa, who also worked with Jacono at another gym.
“We hope to create a feeling of community,” Jacono said. “Not just in and out for your routine, but a community.”
Paragon is committed to serving the diverse needs of the adult community. Whether you’re an aspiring pickleball player or trying to proactively manage a health condition, Paragon can help you reach your personal best.
Paragon offers a menu of personalized health and fitness services, including one-to-one and personal training. The goal is to focus on each member, helping them reach their own level of well-being.
A complete complimentary assessment from certified personal trainers is available to the members, as is a one-hour training session.
For details, go to https://paragonlifeandfitness.com or call 302-234-4040.