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Tony Little uses a positive attitude to inspire himself and others

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

Little is one of the top-selling exercise video stars of all time.

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(CNN) -- For more than 15 years, exercise guru Tony Little has motivated millions of couch potatoes to move their bodies through his unique brand of inspiration.

But, on a recent visit to Atlanta, Georgia, Little, a one-time professional body builder, told me how in 1983, his road to becoming America's personal trainer almost became a dead end.

"I was one of the youngest Mr. Florida [participants], but then that kind of disappeared real quick when I was hit by a school bus."

Little suffered severe injuries to his spine, knees and shoulders, but that wasn't all that suffered. "That was kind of the end of my body building career," he says.

With his body broken, Little, who says he was a favorite to win Mr. America that year, sank into a deep depression that lasted 2 years.

"I gained over 50 pounds. [I] didn't look anything like an exercise person. [I] started drinking, staying in the apartment, not going anywhere, not socializing with anybody [and] watching TV."

Ironically, a face on the television would plant the seed for Little's future.

"I saw Jane Fonda on television. It was at a time when she was promoting aerobic dance. I said, I understand fitness, so I should be doing this." But fate had other plans for him.

Before Little's body had completely healed from the car accident, he was dealt another series of devastating health problems.

"I ended up getting spinal meningitis. I lost my eyesight." While visiting a friend's manufacturing plant, he accidentally sat in some acid and spent two weeks recovering from chemical burns. All this, and Little was still in his mid-20s.

Even at that young age, Little says he knew what he had to do. Over the next five years, he re-built his body and went on to become one of the top-selling exercise video stars of all time.

Little credits attitude as one of the keys to physical health. "When my mind was all messed up with my car accident and I said woe it's me, I wasn't doing anything positive."

Today, Little's positive attitude helps him connect to people struggling with their weight.

"I think the connection was that I was a down-to-earth person, a real person who had real problems."

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