The Weird and Wonderful Ways Your Favorite Workouts Came to Be

Barre, cycling, pilates… these days, there are so many workouts out there that we know like the back of our hand. But have you ever stopped to think exactly how these workouts might have gotten their start? If you think the process of inventing a type of workout can’t be all that interesting, you’d be completely wrong. The following workouts had interesting (and borderline bizarre) starts that make for pretty incredible stories. Keep reading to learn why exactly we should be thanking these creators for the workouts we have come to know and love today:


Your first impression of barre may be that it stemmed from traditional ballet, but would you guess that this exercise has a much more R-rated beginning? According to this article by The Cut, the founder of the famous barre workout, Lotte Berk, was a radical who started teaching the exercise to help women improve their sex lives by encouraging them “to pursue sex for their own pleasure.”

If you’ve ever taken a barre class before, this may not be too surprising to you. After all, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t hold back an immature giggle or two while learning to “tuck” or thrusting to the beat in a room with ten other women in bridge position. Turns out, these exercises have much more power in your fitness regime—with benefits that may extend to the bedroom as well.

Pilates Reformer

As much as we love (and sometimes love to hate) the Pilates Reformer, we can’t help but take a look at the contraption with all its nuts and bolts and wonder: how did anyone ever come up with such an idea? The story is as interesting as you may imagine. According to, creator Joseph Pilates worked as a nurse in World War I and was tasked with helping patients become stronger while they were bedridden.

A clearly creative man, Joseph experimented by attaching springs to their hospital beds to help them build muscle. While we obviously can’t imagine the Reformer being anything at all similar to a bed, the muscles we’ve gained from class are absolute proof that his method continues to work even today.


Cycling has quickly become one of the most popular and challenging workouts across the world, but it didn’t have the most positive origin story, says this article from Founder Johnny Goldberg, an endurance bicycle rider (no surprise there), was unfortunately hit by a car one night while training for a race. But instead of giving up, he decided to create an indoor cycling bike—a safer way to train at night and an indoor option for people to use any time of day. He then went on to create an entire workout designed around the indoor cycling bike, so we have him to thank when we’re tapping it back and riding to the beat in class.


This cardio dance workout is by far one of the most fun workouts (and effective, too!) you can do, but did you know it got its start by pure accident? This NPR article explains that Zumba got its start when a dance instructor was leading an aerobics class and forgot to bring his music. Instead of giving up, he found some tapes for salsa and merengue dancing and taught his class using this unique music. Zumba, a name that is totally made up and has no true meaning but to create a brand, quickly became a global phenomenon that is practiced all over the world today.


Stephanie Limiti is a born and raised New Yorker living out her dreams of palm trees and sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not zenned out in yoga class, she's reading biographies and volunteering at dog rescue shelter. Follow her on Instagram.