As owner and CEO of Mike Sapp Fitness, the fitness guru helps people of all ages and skill levels get stronger, build confidence and lead happier lives. His mission is one he lives daily and the passion he exudes is a draw for the dozens of clients who have been with him for years.
The results he garners are so prolific that he hasn’t had to advertise for years. In fact, there isn’t even a sign on the door to his facility. It’s all been word-of-mouth, and there’s no short- age of people who want to work with the best. There are even a couple of 80-year-olds that train with Sapp on a regular basis.
“When you’re in your 50s, 60s or 70s, you have the ability to get in bet- ter shape than you’ve ever been in,” Sapp says. “I have a lot of equipment that someone who’s around that age can really sink their teeth into and push themselves to improve.”
“We have fun,” he adds, “but they know that when they walk in the door that we’re going to work.”
Sapp’s introduction to the fitness world came in the late ’70s, when he started working at a Jack LaLanne Fitness Center in California. It was his first job as a young adult and would serve as the foundation of his lucrative career in the fitness industry.
Sapp was part of the bodybuilding wave that hit Santa Monica and trained with the likes of Arnold Schwarzeneg- ger, who was at the time preparing for his final win at the Mr. Olympia competition.
“It was the tail end of a golden era,” Sapp says. “I worked out a lot with the Muscle Beach guys. They were my mentors.”
Though bodybuilding was a definitive passion for Sapp, he recognized the financial and personal sacrifices he had to make to have that kind of lifestyle.
“Guys would share studio apartments and guys would come from all over the world just to train in that one area,” he says.
Though, he noticed, things were quickly changing. His friends and roommates were moving out to live on their own, driving nicer cars and wearing more expensive clothes. He had to know what they were doing different. The answer? Personal training.
That kicked off Sapp’s entry into personal training. He’s worked with the likes of director Bruce Paltrow (also father of Gwyneth), as well as restaurant moguls, the president of Capitol Records and more.
While his time on the West Coast was nothing but lucrative and inspirational, the Islands called to him. Sapp eventually made his way to Hawai‘i and opened The Gym Honolulu in 1989. The name, though simple, was a precursor for the fitness surge that was to come. It was the city’s first professional-level facility and introduced a variety of next-level fitness regimens, including flex and hammer equipment and the inauguration of the state’s first golf workout program.
What started as a three-person operation—Sapp, his partner and one employee—grew to more than 50 employees and 5,000 active members in 10 years, at which point Sapp sold The Gym Honolulu to Gold’s International. Sapp, for his part, stayed on as the head trainer and has since become one of the state’s most sought-after personal trainers.
But he wasn’t done yet, and branched off as a consultant to help bring commercial gym setups to local buildings. Sapp is responsible for the state-of-the-art gyms and training facilities at luxury condos like Capitol Place, Hokua and, most recently, Park Lane Ala Moana, as well as the fitness center at Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina. He’s also big on corporate health facility planning and training, and has worked with the likes of HMSA and Bank of Hawai‘i to increase overall wellness.
“These companies provide a fitness center for their employees, and we staff it and hold programs,” Sapp explains.
There are boot camp classes and fitness classes—for a grand total of about 50 workshops a week around the island. It’s a lot of ground to cover on a regular basis, but Sapp wouldn’t have it any other way.
“For myself, even though I’ve been training for 40 years, I’m still striving,” he says. “I still want to get better and keep pushing.”