SPOTLIGHT: Shaun T The king of fitness infomercials

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    Let’s face it, exercise, especially today, is in some respects a form of entertainment, and if you watch television at all, odds are you are at least casually familiar with superstar fitness trainer Shaun T (full name: Shaun Thompson), whose omnipresent infomercial about his “Insanity” workout program makes an impression that can never be erased. (Billy Blanks used to be the man, but now it’s Shaun T.)

    The 34-year-old Thompson, who is from Camden, New Jersey, is so much into the product he is promoting that you can’t help but believe in it too, even though, if you are like most people, you know that you would never attempt this particularly difficult, but apparently effective, workout in a million years.

    Even so, Thompson is so convinced that most of us can achieve what we think we cannot that he says in his infomercial, “You can frickin’ do it!” (Easy for him to say!)

    It is a paradox that at a time when we are bombarded with health, diet and physical fitness information, from everyone from Jennifer Hudson to Dr. Oz, Paula Abdul to Doug Sewell, people in the United States are still in the worst shape ever.

    Evidently it is a minority of people who are going the distance with the books, the Internet programs, the videos, the gyms, the lectures, the infomercials, etc.

    Motivational speaker Les Brown, laughing as he so often does, says he, with the best of intentions, bought an expensive exercise machine, but ended up using it to set his food tray on while he watched TV!

    OUR NATION’S first lady, Michelle Obama, is a strong advocate of physical fitness, one major project being her “Let’s Move Initiative.” Well-meaning advocates like Jane Fonda (who started it all in 1982 with her iconic exercise video), Chuck Norris, LL Cool J, George Foreman and many others have all written books and/or produced videos. Even hard-core rapper 50 Cent is working on a book.

    Endlessly surfing the Internet, texting, tweeting, etc., with little body movement is among the key things hurting us physically, as is our overall poor diets.

    Shaun T, who has always been athletically inclined, spent much of his childhood and teen years playing baseball, running track and playing football.

    He later attended Rowan University, which is located in Glassboro, New Jersey, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Science (something most people are not familiar with) with a minor in two other loves that would prove to be beneficial in his career, Theater/Dance. (He now lives in New York.)

    DURING HIS college years, however, Thompson was not the picture of physical fitness. In fact, much to his dismay, he managed to pack on a whopping 50 pounds.

    That proved to be a wake-up call, prompting an intense interest in fitness, for himself first but in due time for others as well, and it turned out to be financial bonanza because today Shaun Thompson is a wealthy man and his empire is rapidly expanding.

    He first secured health industry employment at Wyeth, a multi-national pharmaceutical company. There he worked as a health and fitness specialist/personal trainer and health program manager. In addition, he applied his expertise and gained additional knowledge with a number of fitness chains.

    When he was in college, Thompson became an aerobics instructor. Upon graduation from Rowan University he made the big, and career altering, decision to move to the West Coast, Los Angeles specifically. He started at the top: His first work as a professional dancer came by way of being hired by none other than superstar Mariah Carey.

    IT WAS JUST a matter of time before Shaun Thompson would emerge as Shaun T, a key figure in the world of fitness instruction.

    Beachbody, LLC asked him to submit a workout video with his own spin. The rest, despite the cliché, is history — and history in the making.

    Smart and visionary enough to utilize hip-hop music, “Hip Hop Abs,” his first project for Beachbody, sold by way of an infomercial, became the No. 1 selling workout video in the United States.

    Suddenly, Shaun T was everywhere. He became a bona fide star and thousands of people worked their way to being in much better shape. No surprise that he also sells nutritional supplements and gear by way of mail order.

    BlackVoices.com conducted a Q&A with the fitness megastar.

    When asked if he really enjoyed what he was doing or if was essentially “a job” and a means to an end, Thompson responded, “You have no idea. You know how people like to go out and go to happy hour and kick it with their friends? When I wake up in the morning, that’s the same feeling I have. I think, ‘I can’t wait to see how far I can push myself today.’ I just want to lead by example and for everyone to be healthy and fit.”

    To say that the “Insanity” workout is intense would be, at best, putting it mildly. It takes working out to a whole new place, one that, quite frankly, scares a lot of people, but not enough to stop it from being a major success.

    “I want to keep it real,” he explained in that same interview. “You’re going to have to do the work to get the results. It was inspired by my track and field training. I knew that feeling of being in the best shape when I am working that hard because there is no time for excuses.

    “THE ONE THING I hate is when people say, ‘I didn’t have a good workout today.’ I wanted to create something where you’re never going to say that. You know you worked hard without spending two hours at the gym. You still get the results.”

    He continued, “Beachbody did a survey with its customers and ‘Insanity’ got the highest score. It’s created to push you and inspire you. I think of every way to help this person keep moving. There’s nothing selfish about ‘Insanity.’ It’s not about me. It’s about the people at home who want to change their body and get healthy, and I think that’s what makes it stand apart.”

    Kudos, Shaun Thompson, but these writers, and no doubt many other people, sometimes wonder what it will be like for Shaun T in, say, 20 years. Shaun T at 54. Maybe then it will be the “Sane” workout or the “Resonable” workout.
    But knowing this guy, it may well still be the “Insanity” workout.
    As Shaun T would put it, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” — Svh/Jason Donovan 

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