Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Own Personal "Most Influential" List of Health and Fitness People

Not long ago, this post went up:  The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness 

And while it has some good entries, I found it lacking, and that many of the people on there were not people I respect or trust (I'll leave it up to you to guess which ones).  That having been said, here's my own personal list.  It is in no particular order, so whoever is #1 is no more or less important than whoever is #28.  This list is also incomplete and ever-growing.  As I'm doing it off the top of my head, I'm sure there are plenty of people I'm forgetting.  That is why I'm leaving it up to you to continue it for me.  Feel free to add on as you feel fit.  :)

1)  Jack LaLanne.  Without a doubt, Jack inspired the heck out of me.  He performed feats in his 70's that most people couldn't dream of doing in their 20's, and he was the epitome of health and fitness all the way to the end.  With Jack's entry, I'd also like to add all the other folks who met this ideal, like the strong and spry Joe Rollino (felled at 104 years old by a van, not by any illness), the amazing Terry Robinson ( )or the less famous folks like this guy:  and this guy:

2)  The Mighty Atom.  The Mighty Atom was a sick kid who was told that he would die of tuberculosis.  He proved the doctors very, very wrong, and at 5'4"and 140lbs, he was one of the greatest strongmen of the 20th century.  He continued to perform his amazing feats well into his 80's, and he is a model of what many modern strongmen/women hope to become.   Along with The Mighty Atom, I'd like to include all the other incredible strongmen and women out there, like Jill Mills, the amazing Katie Sandwina, a strongwoman in a time when women were not "supposed" to be strong, Slim the Hammerman, Bud Jeffries (and his insanely strong 14-year-old son, Noah!!), who has been instrumental in my deadlift and bending training, the amazing Dennis Rogers, Logan Christopher and his amazing hand-balancing, flexibility, and feats of strength...  I could go on and on, but I only have so much room.

3)  Pavel Tsatsouline.  I first met Pavel, believe it or not, at a Learning Annex flexibility class he was teaching in 2006.  I had never heard of him before, and had no idea he was about to change my life.  It is because of Pavel (and Mike Mahler, but I'll get to him in a second) that I was inspired to earn my RKC and RKC2 certifications, as well take any class he teaches that I can get my grubby little hands on.  Pavel is a brilliant (not to mention phenomenally strong, mobile, and flexible) guy, and I am honored to know him.

4)  My brother, Brad Schoenfeld.  Brad gave me my start in the fitness business, working part time on weekends at his training center in Westchester County, NY.  He made me realize my passion for this business, and he inspired me to take it further.  Brad has accomplished so much in this industry.  He has contributed an insane amount of research and education, and was just very deservedly named NSCA's Personal Trainer of the Year.  I could not be prouder of my big brother, and I am so lucky to have a mentor like him.

5)  Mike Mahler.  Mike was assisting at Pavel's Learning Annex class (see above), and I was very intrigued by him.  Here was a total vegan like me, who was extremely strong, muscular, and lean.  I wanted to do what he was doing.  I did some research about him and quickly signed up for a kettlebell workshop of his in Vegas.  After that class, I was hooked on the bells, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Mike is a font of information about hormone optimization and nutrition, not to mention about strength and endurance techniques.  He's also just a great guy who cares a lot about animal welfare.  He impresses the crap outta me.

6)  Kenneth Jay.  Kenneth "Dane of Pain" Jay defies the laws of physics with his insane strength despite his extremely tall stature, knows more about the human body and its workings than is probably legal, and and he was also my team leader when I went through the RKC program.  I am ever indebted to him for his guidance, and in awe of his ever-growing knowledge. 

7)  Dave Whitley, Mark Reifkind, Mark Toomey, Jeff O'Connor, Mark Cheng, Dan John, Andrea DuCane, John DuCane, Peter Lakatos, Geoff Neupert.  I apologize sincerely if I am forgetting anyone here.  These are the folks who have had a strong hand in my RKC education, and I am forever grateful to their tutelage.  A large part of what I am able to do, I am able to do because of the folks listed here. 

8)  I am also hugely awed every day by all the strong, wonderful, beautiful women I know who show that iron isn't just for boys.  I'm inspired constantly by women like Neghar Fonooni, Delaine Ross, Fawn Friday, Adrienne Harvey, Laurel Blackburn, Gabby Eborall, Petra Van Baar, Laura Nepodal, Lauren Brooks, Aniko Balazsik, Judit Lantos, Stina Albihn, Karen McDowell, Diana Volante, Nia Shanks, Jen Comas Keck, Alli McKee, Valerie Hedlund, Nikki Schlosser...  I am leaving out sooooo many deserving people here due to lack of patience with typing, but they know who they are.  And if they don't, I'll be sure to let them know.  

9)  Gray Cook.  There is no doubt that Gray Cook is brilliant, and because of his Functional Movement Screen process, the athletes that go through FMS screenings tend to have among the lowest injury rates in their industry.  I've been to many of Gray Cook's lectures through the years, and I always come out of them feeling like the dumbest kid on the block.  Being around that much smart can do that to a girl.  

10)  Speaking of smart people, Dr. Eric Cobb is one of the brightest lights in the biz (in my humble opinion).  I am learning a HUGE amount from him that has made amazing improvements in my own training and in that of my clients, and I can't wait to learn more.

11)  Ken Blackburn.  Ken is phenomenally strong, chock full of knowledge, and just a hell of a nice guy.  He got me interested in competition-style kettlebell work, and while I'm not quite ready to compete at the moment, I am certainly inspired by him, and will be calling for his instruction when I'm ready.  

12)  The entire cast of Cirque du Solel (and anyone else performing feats like these).  The ability to do a freestanding handstand is phenomenal.  The ability to do a freestanding handstand on one arm on a trapeze holding 5 other people whole sitting on your own head is mind-boggling.  Flexibility, strength, and mobility.  You wanna see it?  These people are where you look.

To Be Continued.  I have so, so many other people I'd like to put on this list, but it would take forever to write them all.  So who else should be on this list?  Which health and fitness folks have influenced you the most?  I will certainly add more of my own in the comments section in the coming weeks.  :)


  1. I am humbled and blown away that I was included on your list.


  2. Because you're awesome, is why. :)

  3. Mighty Mel...YOU ROCK! Thank you for including me. Iron is not just for boys!

  4. Gabby, you are strong and beautiful and an absolute inspiration.

  5. Such an inspiring entry, Melody! I am truly and deeply humbled to be included on your list; you are truly incredible, and phenomenally strong, and are an inspiration to ME every day!

  6. Nice post....

    More and more woman are getting involved with kettlebells and I just love being able to be one who can help get that done!
    Since slipping my hand through that handle..nothing's been the same! I've gone through HKC and RKC, now I'm thinking of the competition road...Maybe I should look up Ken!
    Look forward to the rest of this post!

  7. My friend Michael (, upon reading this post, pointed out the following fact about the Mighty Atom. It is just another reason why the Might Atom is awesome.