The Profoundly Influential Legends of Fitness Book by Stephen Tharrett, Frank O’Rourke, and James A. Peterson

Legends of Fitness is a book that will bring insight on every level. As someone that has been in the fitness industry for over a decade, I was surprised at the fact that with every page I turned, I kept saying “Wow! I never knew that!.”

History of Fitness

The book begins with the advent of fitness. The ancient men of Greece not only gave us “Allegory of a Cave” and the foundations for the lever (Archimedes) but also helped formulate the importance of exercise. Hippocrates was known to have said,

“Walking is man’s best medicine.”


“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little, and not too much, we would have the safest way to health.”

These philosophers strongly encouraged physical excursion and even invented items that we still use today. For example, that 10 lb medicine ball that you love so much? Yep, that can be traced back to Hippocrates who formed the first one out of animal skin and sand.

Pictures of Old

I absolutely poured over the pictures in the book. The authors found pictures of some of the oldest gyms such as the Hippolyte Triat’s gymnasium club (1840’s), The Boston YMCA in the 1850’s, and even a swimming pool in the New York Athletic Club in the 1800’s. A few years back my dad and I took a 3 day biking trip up north in Michigan. At one point we stopped at a grocery store and in the front entrance there were pictures from a long time ago showing the town 40-50 years ago when it was primarily logging based. I stared at those pictures for a long time. It fascinates me to think about our roots as a people. Tharrett, O’Rourke, and Peterson show us not only gym locations of old but fitness equipment too. On page 37, for instance, the book shows the specs for a rowing machine developed by William A Curtis in 1871. Our row machines have certainly come along way.

Following the Decades

The Legends of Fitness book then goes on to cover the evolution of fitness throughout the first half of the 20th century, post-war baby boom, baby boomers and beyond.

This book is a great read for anyone in the fitness industry, but is a MUST READ for gym owners, product manufacturers and other business owners working in the fitness arena. As leaders in the fitness industry, understanding our roots helps us gain greater clarity for where we need to head in the future. Legends of Fitness is an essential resource for gaining these insights.

I strongly recommend that you add Legends of Fitness to your Christmas list. Heck put it in your own stocking if you must, but get this book!

You can find it at here: Legends of Fitness Book

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