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Augie Nieto: 2024 Don Wildman Commitment to Excellence Award Winner

Bill Apablasa | Stay Updated with NASM!

In the world of fitness, few names resonate as profoundly as Don Wildman's. A trailblazing visionary who revolutionized the industry, Wildman reimagined the concept of health clubs, making fitness accessible and mainstream in many inspiring ways.

Known for his legendary high-intensity workouts and as an Ironman age group winner, Don is credited with introducing music to group fitness classes, a pivotal change that significantly enhanced the welcoming atmosphere of gyms, particularly for women. He also pioneered circuit training and was the first in our industry to leverage the power of celebrities to propel America toward a healthier, fitter lifestyle. Eventually, he built the first health club chain to exceed a billion dollars in revenue annually, with over 4 million members. Beyond his innovations, Don cherished fitness for its power to build self-confidence and transform lives.

In tribute to Don’s groundbreaking work, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) established the Don Wildman Commitment to Excellence Award in 2021. This prestigious award honors individuals in our community who have made innovative and impactful contributions to fitness and wellness.

With a deep sense of pride and responsibility, NASM is thrilled to announce that the 2024 Don Wildman Commitment to Excellence Award is posthumously awarded to Augie Nieto.



The Legacy of Augie Nieto

Next time you feel like giving up and quitting your personal fitness journey, you might want to remember Augie's story, which is as much about courage and resilience as it is about fitness.

Like Don Wildman, Augie was an innovator and pioneer in the field. As one of the co-founders of Life Fitness and one of the global leaders in the fitness industry, Augie developed and invented much of the technology and exercise equipment you see in gyms today. His vision and relentless work transformed the entire industry. Often working alongside Don and others, Augie found a way to help advance the fitness industry from its early days of free weights by introducing selectorized strength training machines with a controlled range of motion, which were biomechanically superior, plus less threatening and empowering. 

If you called Augie Nieto the Steve Jobs of fitness, no one would argue. They would simply smile, knowing it was true. Walking into any gym today, you see the result of the vision and transformative technology that Augie introduced many years ago.

For all those who were lucky enough to know Augie, it was clear that his life was about more than just innovative machines and advancements in technology; it was about how these tools could empower others to build the best version of themselves through exercise, improve self-confidence, and enjoy a more love-filled life. His legacy is one of helping others achieve their goals and realize their potential as they pursue their dreams.

Turning Challenge into Change: Augie's ALS Fight

At the apex of his career and in the process of reshaping the fitness industry, Augie's life took a dramatic and unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease. 

Initially shocked and devastated by the tragic news, true to his boundless spirit and resilient nature, Augie vowed to exercise as long as he could, inspiring others to confront their own challenges. He transformed his diagnosis into a crusade for a cure by establishing the nonprofit “Augie's Quest to Cure ALS ” with his wife, Lynne. This initiative has raised over $95 million for research, highlighting Augie's dedication to making a significant difference in the lives of those affected by ALS as well as other life-threatening disabilities.

Turning his illness into a catalyst for change, Augie found a renewed purpose in life. He dedicated himself to giving hope, defying limitations, and passionately searching for a cure for this devastating disease. His inspiring work is continued today by his wife, Lynne, who tirelessly advances the efforts of “Augie's Quest to Cure ALS.”

“Augie’s story will continue to inspire others inside and outside of the ALS community, and it’s a privilege to present his family with this award,” said Colleen Morris, VP of Strategic Marketing at NASM. “His legacy is a testament to what it means to be a relentless leader in fighting for a cure, while making our fitness and wellness industry better for all in the process.”

We are especially honored to announce this award during ALS Awareness Month, a time when Augie's spirit and tireless efforts resonate even more deeply. Augie would have been overjoyed to know that his mission lives on, inspiring more people to join the fight and uphold the foundation's belief that 'incurable is unacceptable.'

NASM extends profound gratitude to Augie and his family for exemplifying the true power of merging love with purpose. They have shown us all what it means to transform personal challenges into opportunities that profoundly impact the lives of others. Augie Nieto's legacy is not only in how he lived but also in the enduring hope he instills in all of us.

Want to learn more about Augie’s incredible journey or how you can support ALS research? Visit “Augie's Quest to Cure ALS” for more information.

The Author

Bill Apablasa


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