Fitness gurus who turned workouts into business success stories

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Interest in fitness might be at its peak: A record 66 million Americans used health clubs last year, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, while countless others work on getting in shape in other ways.

Some prospecting entrepreneurs have been all over this trend, using innovative new business models to turn passion for exercise into thriving brands with venture backing and millions in annual revenue. Here are six fitness empires that were built from the ground up, initially without any deep-pocketed corporate partners.

Alberto Perez, Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion, Zumba co-founders

Beto Perez

Source: Beto Perez

Payal Kadakia, ClassPass founder

Payal Kadakia, founder of fitness company ClassPass, valued at $470 million after a 2017 fundraising.

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Joe de Sena, Spartan Race founder

Joe De Sena, founder and CEO, Spartan Race

Source: Spartan Race

Mud. Water. Live barbed wires. These may sound like a nightmare to most people, but to some they’re an invitation. Joe de Sena founded Spartan Race, a series of grueling obstacle-course events, in 2010, with the first race in Vermont attracting 1,500 participants. Like Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, the endurance test has gained a ton of traction in recent years. I Spartan Race does not make revenue figures available, but entries to many of the races start at $100, and more than a million people will enter one of the 200 events in 30 countries the company will host this year. Overall, more than 5 million people have participated. That’s a lot of folks who love pain.

Billy Blanks, Tae Bo creator

Billy Blanks is the inventor of Tae Bo and a well known fitness guru who still teaches a daily class. He is shown leading his class at his studio in Sherman Oaks.

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Mark Mastrov, 24 Hour Fitness founder

Mark Mastrov, chairman and CEO of 24 Hour Fitness

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Jillian Michaels, personal trainer

Jillian Michaels, fitness guru and personal trainer, who starred on The Biggest Loser and has launched a series of fitness products, from books to DVDs and supplements.

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Michaels rose to fame as a personal trainer for contestants looking to shed pounds on The Biggest Loser. Since the reality show’s 2004 debut, she’s parlayed her fame as a notoriously tough coach into a massive fitness enterprise. She’s released a series of workout DVDs, such as Bodyshred and Body Revolution, authored a handful of bestselling books about weight loss and in 2014 launched a women’s and children’s activewear brand called Impact. Her dietary supplements are on shelves at major supermarkets, and the Jillian Michaels app helps users create customized workouts (with Michaels’ coaching) for a monthly fee.

— By Kevin Ryan,

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