The Aerobics Guy on the Beach

He’s been on television for years, leading a troupe of aerobics dancers. Who is this Gilad?


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Photo: Rae Huo

When a chimpanzee hired for added entertainment began to harass female exercisers while on-set at Makaha Beach, he picked the ape up like a baby and continued to do squats. When an intoxicated tourist in Waikiki got in the way of filming, he convinced the man to join the group and do a few jumping jacks.

He’s a pioneer; he’s a legend; he’s fitness instructor Gilad Janklowicz and, for the past 25 years, he has filmed outdoor fitness shows for national television stations on nearly every beach on Oahu. But who is this hard-bodied man in tights, anyway? And how did he get his start?

At the age of 20 in his native Israel, Gilad held the national record for the decathlon and also the rank of fitness officer for the military.

With the hope of qualifying for the Olympics, he moved to California and began training and competing in track and field at UCLA. He injured his Achilles tendon, however, nixing that lifelong dream. But lie down and sulk, Gilad did not.

When he was 22, he began teaching classes at gyms across Los Angeles. This was the late 1970s and exercising to music was just beginning to catch on. “I was right there when the movement first started,” says Gilad. “This was before Jane Fonda turned it into a big hit.” Gilad integrated his own style into the trend by combining military moves—push-ups, sit-ups, calisthenics—to a beat.

It was during his time at the Los Angeles studio of Gilda Marx, another pioneer in the fitness industry, who added dancing to the workout mix, that Gilad began to attract a loyal following. One person in particular was pre-Terminator, post-Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At the age of 27, while on vacation in Hawaii, Gilad was offered a job as an instructor at The Honolulu Club. He took the gig and, after two years, he got his own segment on a local channel. The show, Gilad’s Bodies in Motion, featured half-hour workouts and ran Monday through Friday. “I don’t think that anyone at the time was doing a daily, weeklong block of shows,” says Gilad. (That includes Richard Simmons.)

To grab the attention of national broadcasters, Gilad had Schwarzenegger come to Oahu and film five shows. The plan worked. In 1985, Bodies in Motion became the first fitness show to air on ESPN. Over the years, the show was also picked up by Fox Sports, The Health Network and, since 2001, the show has appeared on Discovery Channel’s FitTV.

His new show, Total Body Sculpt with Gilad, airs back-to-back with his former, allowing viewers to break a sweat while giggling at outmoded aerobic fashion—think short shorts, leg warmers and high-cut leotards.

Along with Gilad’s philosophy to have fun and to keep things simple enough for the masses but challenging enough for the professional athlete, the secret to his shows’ success is that each episode is filmed outside, and, well, in paradise.

“By shooting outdoors, it gives the viewer something to connect with, especially for places that don’t have access to a beach, or that have winter weather,” says Gilad. “It motivates and energizes you, rather than just looking at the same old studio.”

Chinaman’s Hat, Magic Island, Kailua and Makapuu are among the shows’ more than 40 locations. All of the background exercisers and the film crew are also local.

So, after 25 years on TV, is Gilad slowing down anytime soon? “Until the last day that I am on the planet, I am going to try to be fit … If it’s not by walking, then crawling,” says Gilad. “I am making a living by doing my hobby. It’s been an amazing trip. I’m still having fun and we’re still going.”

 

 

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