Student creates D.C. workout empire

At age 18, Cameron Schiller has created a mini-empire.

He has found a niche in the D.C. metropolitan area and at GW for a craze that is sweeping the nation – Tae Bo, a form of martial arts and boxing made famous by martial artist Billy Blanks.

Schiller, a freshman international business major with a third-degree black belt in Karate, meshed the two disciplines into a highly lucrative business. He teaches his “Solid Body” program at Bally’s Total Fitness and privately trains GW students.

“I had never taught a class before but I saw the potential and I knew the moves,” Schiller said.

Schiller, who trained for five years with Blanks in his hometown of Los Angeles, said he first got the idea for teaching a class from a friend who said she worked out with Tae Bo tapes.

“I walked into Bally’s Total Fitness on L Street in early February and told the manager, `Give me one class and I guarantee you that I will pack this gym,'” he said. “My first class was actually the day of the big snowstorm on March 9, but 50 people showed up.”

Schiller is fast developing a following comparable to Blanks, whose infomercials have spawned a consumer frenzy for the video version of the Tae Bo workout. About 100 people show up 45 minutes before every class in an effort to secure one of the 68 slots. Fifteen to 20 GW students are among Schiller’s students.

“I decided to try one of his classes because I saw Billy Blanks on TV,” freshman Christopher Huddleston said. “He really motivates people. I’ve been doing it for about a month and I think the workout is great.”

“It’s been unreal,” Schiller said. “I never expected to be in this position. It’s so much fun.”

But Schiller’s initial success was not without some setbacks. Schiller said he tried to get an adviser to help him start a club on campus but was turned down.

While the workout is a challenge, Schiller said his students leave class with the best workout of their lives.

“It’s a high-impact, high-intensity workout combining kicks, punches and dance moves that I play to house music,” he said.

Bally’s has contracted Schiller to teach the program to instructors on the East Coast. With a clientele of 300, Schiller said he is the highest paid aerobics instructor in D.C., earning $50 to $100 an hour. He said he also plans to expand his advertising on campus next year.

Non-Bally’s members pay $3 a class; members attend for free. Classes are offered Tuesdays (6:30 p.m.) and Wednesdays (8:30 p.m.) at Bally’s Total Fitness on L and 21st streets. Schiller also teaches Mondays at Bally’s Total Fitness in Falls Church, Va., at 8:30 p.m.

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