LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION to get to the gym? Just take a look at “Athlete: The Sports Illustrated Photography of Walter Iooss,” which opened at the Newseum last week. The exhibit follows Iooss’ nearly 50-year career capturing iconic images of the world’s greatest physical specimens, including virtually every sports superstar from Johnny Unitas to Pele to Serena Williams.

“There are a lot of shirtless people here — including me,” says Iooss as he stands among 40 of his greatest works. The self-portrait of him with his wife and two sons on the beach proves that he picked up something about staying in shape from his famous subjects.

“You go to games and you learn things. I don’t think people understand how good they are,” says the surfer, golfer and cyclist. “They have that cut-throat desire never to lose.” (Although he did once manage to score a point against Patrick Ewing.)

Sharing wall space with Michael Phelps, Michelle Kwan and Wilt Chamberlain are several photos of Cuban children (like the one above), which Iooss considers just as important to his body of work.

“Every kid starts the same way I did, the same way those kids in Cuba did. At age 10, we’re all living in a fantasy world of sports. You come to hit a ball and nothing else exists,” he explains.

And a photo can make that moment last forever.

Photo courtesy Newseum