Fitness Gurus: Where Are They Now?

Fitness, News and Advice
on November 26, 2010

They ruled the airwaves with their morning fitness shows and videotape workout series. But whatever happened to these trend-setting fitness fanatics? Spry did some digging, and here’s a few blasts from the pasts with current status updates.

Billy Blanks

He wasn’t the first to blend two popular forms of fitness into one, but Billy Blanks arguably created the most popular exercise hybrid ever in the late ’90s with his combination of martial arts and kickboxing: “Tae Bo.” Though he now lives in Japan with his wife, Tomoko, he continues to produce new videos regularly. “Bootcamp Cardio Inferno” was released in October, soon to be followed by “Tae Bo Insane Abs” (Dec. 7) and “Bootcamp Cardio Sculpt” (March 2011).

Denise Austin

For years, millions of American women woke up to work out with Denise Austin via her long-running TV shows, “Getting Fit” and Denise Austin’s “Daily Workout.” In January, she will return to Lifetime on the network’s morning talk show, “The Balancing Act.” The upbeat instructor continues her commitment to attainable weight loss and fitness with her latest videos, “Shrink Your Fat Zones: Pilates” and “Quick Burn Cardio,” out Nov 30. A new book, Get Energy! Empower Your Body, Love Your Life was released in January 2011.

Kathy Smith

Jane Fonda’s contemporary in the ’80s and ’90s has continued to expand her fitness empire, selling more than 16 million videos in the last 30 years. Through that time, she has been quick to embrace and promote fitness trends, from 1995’s “Power Step,” which helped spark a nationwide stepping craze, to 2004’s “Flex Appeal,” a bellydancing workout. Two new videos are due in March 2011.

Lilias Folan

Dubbed the “First Lady of Yoga” since her 1972 PBS series Lilias! introduced many Americans to the practice, Lilias Folan still teaches regularly at a Cincinnati-area studio. She’s also helping train the next generation of yoga instructors via 200-hour teacher training at her local studio and guest appearances at other studios nationwide. “It’s fun, challenging and focused,’ she tells Spry. “It’s made me a better teacher and feeds my thirst to continue study of my beloved subject, yoga.”

Olivia Newton-John

Though she never made a fitness video, the singer and actress nonetheless inspired many women to get in shape thanks to her smash video “Physical” (which she recently performed on the hit TV show “Glee”). And she’s still a powerful voice for public health: The breast cancer survivor has campaigned tirelessly for research and early detection.

Richard Simmons

The New Orleans native captured America’s attention in the late ’70s by sharing his own personal weight loss journey and sparked a new aerobics craze in the ’90s with his series of “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” videos. (Volume 5 will be released on Dec. 14.) Simmons also continues to teach at his Slimmons studio in Beverly Hills, Calif., and appeared recently on The Wendy Williams Show to offer some tips on avoiding holiday weight gain.

Tony Little

Once dubbed “America’s Personal Trainer,” the ponytailed fitness guru (and former bodybuilder) has sold more than $3 billion fitness products via infomercials. Most memorable is the Gazelle elliptical glider, but recently Little has also created Cheeks health sandals, which simulate incline walking, and marketed a line of bison meat. Last year, he released an autobiographical self-help book, There’s Always a Way: How to Develop a Positive Mindset and Succeed in Business and Life.

Tamilee Webb

Before the Britney Spears-inspired ab craze, Tamilee Webb made us all want “Buns of Steel.” The series of 22 lower-body workout videos are slowly being rereleased on DVD, with the third edition due out Feb. 11. (Look for “Abs & Arms of Steel” to make a comeback soon, too.) Tamilee’s latest series is “Tight on Time,” including “Body Blast: Cardio Core & Thighs” and “Hot Spots: Abs, Arms & Buns.” She blogs at