Our fitness gurus have always provided us with all sorts of inspiration. We aspire to attain their bodies after a kid or two leaves us a little saggier than we’re comfortable with, and they help us to believe that we can achieve our goals either through lifting us up, or screaming at us. Along the way they have even influenced our wardrobe choices, for better (slimming colors, fabrics that “control things”) or worse (high-cut leotards that look ghastly on everyone). Over the past century, we’ve had a mixture of styles to emulate.
After a sickly childhood, Joseph Pilates dedicated his life to improving the health and well-being of himself and others. He developed a form of exercise that would eventually bear his name and that gave him a stunning physique throughout his life. As you can see, Pilates was partial to this…pair of briefs? I don’t know. He obviously had the bod for such an “outfit” and I’m sure this helped to demonstrate proper form and technique for Pilates students. But I think we need a little more.
Erm, okay, well that’s maybe a bit too much. But this is what we love about Richard Simmons, right? This guy has been sparkling and glistening long before any mopey vampires made it cool. His workout outfits and weird coiffure are a good way to distract you from all of the oldies that you’re sweating to. Simmons’ dedication to the health of everyone comes from a genuinely good heart. The fact that he’s so unabashedly silly just makes him wonderful to watch.
It’s almost impossible to talk about the 1980s without mentioning Jane Fonda. When fitness really started to become an industry, she was way out in front, providing books, records, and videos. I think pretty much everyone my age has some memory of their mom bouncing around to the rhythm of Fonda’s commands. At 74, she’s still a total machine and even released two workout DVDs in 2010 for an older audience. But can we pause for a minute and bask in the glory of this outfit? It’s very 80s, yes, but in that quintessential way, before the fashion of the decade became a parody of itself. The leotard, the tights, the leg warmers…c’est magnifique.
Susan Powter was pretty ahead of her time. In the early 90s, she was an outspoken critic of the diet industry, taking on fad diets and weird “foods” that really did nothing to help people lose weight. She advocated a whole foods, organic, low-fat diet and regular cardiovascular and strength-training exercise. CRAZY TALK! Style-wise, she had a fairly basic wardrobe that relied heavily on French-cut leotards, but she’s probably mostly known for her severely blonde haircut. It sucks that something as inconsequential as her hair is what makes up most of her legacy, but that’s what tends to happen when you look like you could be the trainer at Thunderdome.
You might look at this picture of Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks and think, “WHOOOO is this tool with the electric blue spandex unitard for god’s sake?” This would be a mistake, because Billy Blanks could end you with one kick. If you see a dude walking toward you with this outfit on, run the other way, because he is surely the most gangster person alive.
When I was thinking about this post, Bob Harper came to mind as an example of a stylish fitness guru. But when it came time to articulate this, I was blank. I realized that I couldn’t really tell you much about Harper’s style because my favorite outfit of his is any that does not include a shirt.
Mary Ann Wilson
You might not recognize the name Mary Ann Wilson initially, but I’m sure some lights will go off when I say, “Sit and Be Fit.” Aside from being an awesome nurse who came up with the Sit and Be Fit method to help her patients with limited mobility, she rocks some surprisingly short shorts and some antiseptic white tennies like nobody’s business.
I took up running a few years ago and initially just wore whatever crappy tshirt and yoga pants happened to be clean. As I got more into it, I began to identify what was most comfortable and helped me to exercise better. I’ve been on a pretty regular running schedule, requiring me to purchase enough workout clothes to get me through the week. I recently received some lovely running capris and tank top from pvBody after taking their Style Quiz. They were so comfortable during my most recent run and the capris had all of my essential features: moisture wicking, zip pocket in the back for keys and the like, and even some zippers at the knees in case I want to loosen up a bit.
If you think about it, we’re pretty lucky that such a thing like stylish workout clothes exists. The word gymnasium comes from the Ancient Greek “gymnos,” which means “naked.” Yep, back then everyone worked out in the buff. Aside from the fact that you could never get me to exercise naked in front of anyone, trying to bang out a 5k on the treadmill with unsecured…uh…parts just wouldn’t be fun for anyone.
Which fitness guru do you think has the best style? The worst? Tell us in comments!