Fitness Icons

Fitness Icons

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Exercise was hot and inconvenient in the Victorian era, with its high collars and knee-length coats, so it's no surprise that many people opted out. Jorgen Peter Muller, a Danish athlete and gymnastic educator, set out to change that. Muller had such great success that he was knighted by the king of Denmark in 1919.

Muller believed that sun, water and air were the keys to good health. Based on his ideas, he developed a home gym that people used for 15 minutes a day, wearing as little clothing as possible, with open windows. The routine finished with a cold shower.

The program worked extraordinarily well for Muller, who went on to win 134 prizes across almost every branch of sports. In 1892, he set records in running, walking, discus, hammer-throwing and shot-putting at the Danish Athletic Games. The next year, he won the Decathlon competition.

In 1904 Muller released his bestselling book My System, based on the philosophies and 18 exercises he used. The book was translated into 24 languages and became compulsory reading in the British Army and Navy during WWI. You can still purchase a copy today.

In 1912, he established the Muller Institute in London. Over a million students visited, including the Duke of Windsor and the Prince of Wales.

Charles Atlas LTD

Charles Atlas, born Angelo Siciliano, moved from Italy to Brooklyn, NY, at the age of 13.

After developing his own body-building method called Dynamic Tension, Siciliano sculpted himself into the most renowned muscleman of his day. At a contest in Madison Square Garden in 1921, publisher Bernarr MacFadden dubbed Siciliano The Worlds Most Perfectly Developed Man.

Siciliano played the role of strongman in the Coney Island Circus Side Show and marketed his Dynamic Tension program. The booklet he sold described his twelve lessons, and included photos of him demonstrating the exercises. Over the years, he sold millions of his products and lessons and became the face of American fitness. Sicilianos followers included heavyweight boxing champions Max Baer and Joe Louis.

At age 30, Siciliano changed his name to Charles Atlas after a friend told him he resembled the statue of Atlas on top of a Coney Island hotel. He founded Charles Atlas LTD,in 1929 and the company is still in operation today.

Cliff Riddle/Wikimedia_Commons

In 1936, at age 21, Jack LaLane opened one of the nation's first athletic gyms in Oakland, California. It was the start of an amazing career for the man who went on to be called The Godfather of Fitness.

LaLane designed the first leg extension and pulley machines, hosted the longest-running television exercise program (The Jack LaLanne Show lasted 34 years) and gave motivational speeches across the country about fitness and nutrition.

LaLanne also did incredible feats of strength, including a world-record underwater swim the length of the Golden Gate Bridge (8,981 feet) in San Francisco. To complete the stunt, he strapped 140 pounds of air tanks and other equipment to his body. He was 40 at the time. At 65, LaLanne towed 65 boats full of 6,500 pounds of wood pulp in Lake Ashinoko. To make the feat even harder, he was handcuffed and shackled.

After fracturing her foot while filming The China Syndrome, Jane Fonda knew she couldnt go back to her ballet workouts. Instead, she turned to Leni Cazden, afitnessinstructor in California. Not long after, Fonda opened her own workout studio, shifting an industry that had previously been dominated by bodybuilders.

In 1981, Fonda released the best-selling Jane Fonda's Workout Book, followed by her first exercise video a year later. These materials were key in the baby boomers' fitness craze in the 1980s. The video became the highest selling home video of the next few years and sold more than a million copies. Fonda continued to produce more videos, selling more than 17 million copiesmore than any other exercise series in history. She also released another additional series of books and audio programs.

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Years before Arnold appeared on the big screen, he was making a name for himself as a body builder and had already become a millionaire through endorsements and business investing.

In 1970, when he was 23, Schwarzenegger became the youngest person ever to win the Mr. Olympia contest,the annual professional men's bodybuilding competition. At 6' 2" and 240lbs, Schwarzenegger was awarded the title over the defending champion based on his extra definition and muscularity. He went on to win the competition seven times.

Schwarzenegger's physique certainly didn't hurt his bid for his first big movie role. He played Hercules in Hercules in New York (1970) under the name Arnold Strong. However, his accent was so thick that his lines were dubbed after production. Several notable roles followed, including Terminator and Predator.

In 2003, Schwarzenegger became the fittest man to ever govern California.

YouTube/Air New Zealand

When Milton Teagle Simmons graduated from high school, he weighed 268 pounds. Growing up in the French quarter of New Orleans, he ate a heavy diet, didn't exercise and spent his free time selling (and sampling) pralines on street corners. It wasn't until he took control of his lifestyle through eating and exercise that he lost the weight and went on to help millions across America.

Once he relocated to Beverly Hills, Simmons took on his professional name of Richard and opened a gym called Slimmons. When the showReal People featured Simmons at work, his media career took off. He went on to appear on many shows including General Hospital, David Letterman, Whose Line is it Anyway and Saturday Night Live. He also starred in commercials for Yoplait, Herbal Essence and Sprint.

Simmons won an Emmy for his work on The Richard Simmons Show, where he discussed personal health, fitness and exercise, and his Sweatin to the Oldies line of aerobics videos gained a loyal following.

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When Jeff Galloway became an All-American collegiate athlete and member of the 1972 Olympic Team, no one knew his career would still be growing more than 40 years later.

At 67, Jeff maintains a successful masters running career, is a key organizer of the Peachtree Road Race, owns three vacation fitness camps across North America and two running specialty stores, coaches more than 200,000 runners and walkers, and is a monthly columnist for Runners World. Hes also written several books including Galloway's Book on Running.

KathySmith.com

After both her parents died tragically when she was a teen, Kathy Smith began exercising to fight depression.

Smith became well known for her workout videos in the late 1980's and early 90's, and has now sold more than $500 million in lifestyle products and fitness equipment including books, videos and DVDs.

Smith also designed an exercise and nutrition program called Project: You! Type 2 in collaboration with the American Diabetes Association. The program is designed to help type 2 diabetics manage their disease.

Kathy is the spokesperson for the International Council on Active Aging and a member of the Founders Circle of the Womans Sports Foundation.

When asked to design a fitness television program for Air Force wives at the base in Puerto Rico where her husband worked, Jacki Sorenson tapped her fitness experience to create the first course in aerobic dance.

When Sorenson and her husband moved back to New Jersey, Sorenson introduced her program at the local YMCA where her classes grew rapidly. Today, Jacki's programs are offered in the United States, Japan and Australia.

Sorenson served for six years as a clinician for the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and is the president and founder of Jacki's, Inc. for which she still choreographs more than 150 routines a year. Her notable recognitions include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Dance Exercise Association, her induction into the National Fitness Hall of Fame and the 2012 Presidents Council Lifetime Achievement Award.

Flickr/Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Although Tony Horton first moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting, he soon made a life out of training notable names such as Billy Idol, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks and Usher.

While working at the World Gym in Venice, California, Horton vegan to develop routines based on speed, flexibility and balance to avoid the bulky bodybuilder look.

When he was approached by BeachBody to develop and star in a workout video series, Horton developed Power 90 and later the P90X program that sold more than three million copies.

Baptiste Yoga

Baron Baptiste comes from a line of health, yoga and philosophical educators. His contribution to the world of fitness took the form of a new type of power yoga, one that provided practitioners a way to harness the benefits of yoga without the mysticism or new-age themes.

Baptiste became known for his innovative ideas, rigorous programs and skilled leadership in classes. He founded two yoga studios in the Boston area and has inspired more than 40 other studios with his methodology. His talent and initiative was noticed by the NFL, and Baptiste was asked to join the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff. He served on the team for four years as the Peak Performance Specialist.

Today Baron works with troubled communities such as gang members in South Central L.A., low-income families in Washington D.C., and returning veterans. He also founded the non-profit Africa Yoga Project that brings yoga to thousands of impoverished youth in Nairobi via Kenyan teachers trained by Baptiste himself.

Gobonobo/Wikimedia_Commons

When her husband began work as the 44th President, Michelle Obama set out on a mission of her own.

Michelle created the Lets Move! Campaign in 2010 as part of her effort to help fight childhood obesity. The program focuses on healthy eating and physical activity, and has been endorsed by notable kid-friendly celebrities such as Bird Bird.

Michelle was responsible for the organic White House Kitchen Garden, the first garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt installed bee hives. She also became honorary chair of the Partnership for a Healthier America and published a book on healthy eating called American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.

Michelle herself has worked with the same personal trainer for more than 15 years, helped break a Guinness World Record for the most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period, and loves to show off with a hula hoop.

Seth Browarnik/WorldRedEye.com

All Beto Perez wanted was to bring his upbeat dance workouts from Colombia to America, but with poor English and little money, he couldnt convince fitness center managers to watch his promo videos. Although it took four trips, Perez finally landed a break at a gym in Miami in 1999. He worked out with the manager in an otherwise-empty gym but, by the time the class was over, 15 additional people had wandered in to take part.

Thanks to Perez's enthusiasm and an infomercial that sold more than one million DVDs in six months, the Zumba craze began. Today, Zumba is done in 185 different countries, 12 million DVDs have been sold and more than 30,000 people around the world have become Zumba instructors.