If fitness instructor extraordinaire Scott Cole has his way, Tai Chi will soon be a health regimen as popular as yoga, boot camps or Pilates. Based on his prior success in the fitness world, there’s every indication he may succeed in bringing Tai Chi, a Chinese system of slow meditative physical exercise, to the masses.
“There’s a renewed interest in Tai Chi now, and it’s good because people are starting to choose it over a lot of other fitness options,” said Cole, who recently extolled the benefits of Tai Chi while a guest on the national health show The Doctors. “Particularly, the older population and physically challenged people are interested because they want to have better balance to prevent them from falling, so I teach them how to surrender, tuck and roll instead of bracing a fall with their wrists or hip.”
Cole’s string of achievements in the fitness arena started more than three decades ago when he won a national aerobics championship on national television. In the 1980s when aerobics were all the rage, Cole had an opportunity to travel all over the world as a member of a celebrated aerobics team and learn about fitness in other cultures. He attended many international fitness conferences which inspired him to broaden his horizons and obtain certifications in several disciplines. By the early 1990s, he had established himself as an expert and was penning articles and columns for Shape magazine and numerous other publications.
In 1994, Cole’s first big commercial hit, Abs of Steel, swept the country as millions of people snapped up his video in hopes of blasting belly fat and sculpting a six-pack tummy. Even though most of the program was all about abs, Cole incorporated flexibility exercises into the video as well, believing that balance should be a cornerstone of any fitness routine. Ironically, he was struggling to find balance in his own life during this time when several personal tragedies rocked his world.
“I was coping with the deaths of my sister and my father, and I thought I was dealing with it by pouring myself into my work,” recalled Cole. “I was holding everything inside and didn’t grieve for more than seven years. Finally, a friend invited me to a Tai Chi class, and I agreed to go. It was a pivotal day for me because Tai Chi helped me confront my pain.” Practicing Tai Chi enabled Cole to embrace the grieving process as something that had to happen. He studied with Tai Chi Master Tim O’Connor in Los Angeles for 10 years until it became a way of life rather than a daily workout. “After moving so quickly and traveling for so many years, Tai Chi was like a breath of fresh air,” said Cole. “When you move slowly in your body, it awakens everything from emotions to cellular memory, and it really brings you into balance.”
Following the success of Abs of Steel, Cole wrote the book Athletic Abs and found himself in the media spotlight again on shows such as Regis & Kelly and The Early Show. In 2001, he hit pay dirt with a Discover Tai Chi series shot in Hawaii that put him on the map as an expert instructor.
“I created videos that people could watch and see immediate benefits while understanding the breathing connection and experiencing the natural flow, which are the healing elements of Tai Chi,” said Cole. “Tai Chi is also about bringing stress reduction principles to the world and surrendering to the natural way of things. I teach that you are not always going to change your situation, but you are also not going to keep damaging emotions and energy in your body. You have to move that stagnant energy along, and Tai Chi helps with that.”
In addition to teaching Tai Chi to thousands of people, Cole has trained celebrities such as Barry Manilow, Suzanne Somers, Stephanie Powers and legendary photographer Michael Childers. Currently, he’s just released his second Get Fit America for Kids video after racking up a NAPPA Award for the first one he created in 2003. He’s also just released Discover Tai Chi, a video he describes as great for beginners and older adults seeking balance and mobility. Available in retail stores and on his web site at www.scottcole.com, he says the video is great for creating life-affirming rituals.
“Tai Chi teaches pearls of wisdom with each movement representing a pearl born out of experience,” said Cole. “From this perspective, aging is wonderful! We may not have the same head of hair we had in our youth, but we can have the same body fat and more wisdom!”