Fitness Pioneer Q&A: Richard Simmons


Photograph by Stephanie Diani/Corbis

Age: 64
Slimmons, Beverly Hills

Your gym opened in 1974. What was the impetus?
I didn’t see any overweight people in the other gyms and studios around town. I was like, “Where the hell are they going? Is there a place underground?” Slimmons was for people who hated to work out.

How are you different?
I’m the only court jester in the fitness world. Most of the people in it are very serious. I love comedy; I love having a sense of humor. I had to use that as a child not to get beat up every day because I wasn’t Mr. Masculine. I had the high voice. I was overweight. Comedy was my sword and my shield. Still is.

You teach aerobics three times a week. Why continue to sweat it?
The people in my classes give me back assurance, they give me peace, they give me energy. It’s a family feeling because there’s every type in the room—from 15 years old to 91, from short to tall, from hefty to thin, from gay to straight.

What are you seeing in the workout world now?
Rush, rush, rush. Hurry, hurry, hurry. That’s how heart attacks and strokes happen. Things have gotten more intense: more sets, more reps, and more injuries. You can’t underuse your body, and you can’t overuse your body.

Your definition of fitness?
Someone who can look in the mirror and feel peace. My whole philosophy is, Love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, you’re not going to stay with this. Then watch your portions and move your buns.



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  • Mary Y

    Richard wants everyone to be healthy. He does not want children to go through what he did a a child being teased and bullied because of his weight….He would like everyone to love and take care of themselves so that they can be happy with themselves.

  • Kathy Freund

    Slimmons is like no other place on Earth. The bond we share with each other and with Richard is such a blessing. We don’t HAVE to work out there………we GET to work out there. Thank you Richard for giving us a place where each of us can be ourselves, without judgement
    Kathy Freund

  • Natural Emu oil

    At the age of 64 he still appears to be quite strong. I believe he did a lot of workout and maintained himself quite well in his young age.