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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