Jillian Michaels Talks Fitness Fads and What Makes an Exercise Phenomenon

Lily Butler for Spike

Most rational people know that effective workouts require actual work (and usually a fair amount of sweat). Unfortunately, it’s still tempting to believe an exercise program claiming to burn thousands of calories without raising your heart rate will be effective. Mall walking is a thing, people. Given the constant barrage of products and programs making unrealistic promises, it’s no wonder Jillian Michaels’ tough love approach to fitness is so successful.

In her new show, Sweat Inc., Jillian is taking on the business side of the fitness industry. In their search for the next workout phenomenon, Jillian and fellow judges, TRX founder Randy Hetrick and celebrity trainer Obi Obadike, will meet twenty-seven fitness entrepreneurs from around the country. The contestants will try to convince the judges that their exercise program has the most business potential. In anticipation of the October 20 premiere of Sweat Inc. on Spike, Jillian answered a few questions about her experience in the fitness industry and what we can expect from her new series.


LB: I’m curious about how one becomes a badass fitness mogul. Did you start out with the intention of taking an entrepreneurial approach to fitness and nutrition?

JM: Not at all. That is definitely something that evolved as my career evolved over the years. Originally, I just wanted to do what I love and make enough money to afford my rent.

I’m constantly overhearing people praising their favorite bootcamp class or beloved Pilates instructor. Why do you think some workouts or fitness philosophies become obsessions?

JM: You bring up a great point. Many different factors make up a fitness phenomenon, but the most critical are a sense of community, a ton of fun, a sense of accomplishment, and an empowering component that makes people feel they can become or do anything they want (a yogi, an Olympic lifter, a soldier in basic training etc.).


Living in New York, I think I’ve built up a tolerance for creative (some might say ridiculous) exercise methods and fitness studios. Why do you think our culture is so quick to try new and occasionally bizarre fitness trends?

JM: Most people who try those bizarre trends are looking for magic bullets. There’s usually a sexy promise attached to these trends — related to diet or fitness — that many people find too tempting to resist. The reality is that most of the time, the more bizarre the trend, the more bogus the results. At its core, health is simple: eat the right amount for your body, don’t ingest chemicals or fake foods, and move more. When you do hit the gym, you should push yourself. This is what makes fitness phenomena so interesting. They aren’t just tapping into people’s athleticism, they’re tapping into their psyche.


What entrepreneurial qualities or business skills will be important for success on Sweat Inc. (and in the fitness industry generally)?

JM: Passion, preparedness, flexibility, and humility.

Tell us a little bit about your Sweat Inc. co-stars, Randy Hetrick and Obi Obadike. How did you guys work together to judge the contestants?


JM: Randy is a total badass. This guy is a Navy SEAL and a Stanford business school grad. He has also done exactly what these entrepreneurs hope to achieve. He is the creator of TRX and has turned it into a 50-plus million dollar a year business.

Obi is our athlete and celebrity trainer. I mean, you could cut yourself on the guy’s abs. He’s smart and fun and brings a great energy to the show.


Have the three of you ever worked out together?

JM: Yes, actually — on the show. We try all the workouts before “passing judgment.”


What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to aspiring trainers or fitness enthusiasts looking to create a business model or build a brand?

JM: Study the market, know your audience, and educate yourself on existing business models to learn what works and what hasn’t. It’s important to stay true to yourself. You have to know your weaknesses and recruit support when and where you need it.


Can you give us a preview of some of the new or noteworthy program and product ideas we have to look forward to on Sweat Inc.?

JM: Honestly everything is super hush-hush. What I can say is that some are bad ass, some are absurd, some are surprising, and all are entertaining!


To see who passes Jillian’s tough love test, be sure to watch the premiere of Sweat Inc. airing Tuesday, October 20 at 10/9c on Spike. Can’t wait? Check out the trailer below for more Jillian.

Lily Butler is an editor at Studio@Gawker.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between SPIKE and Studio@Gawker.

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