She may be the go-to trainer for countless stars including Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham, but what Tracy Anderson is most proud of is that she’s been able to expand her fitness method to effectively reach and change the lives of thousands of everyday women. How did it all begin and what continues to fuel Anderson's passion now that she has reached such a high level of success? We spoke with the fitness entrepreneur to find out.
“I was never brought up with a gym rat fitness mentality,” says Anderson. “My mom was a ballerina – she owned a ballet school for 40 years – so from a very early age I learned how to connect with my body through dance.” Anderson began ballet as a baby and later became actively involved in soccer, cheerleading and other athletic pursuits. She underlines, however, that her parents were very different. “My father became obese, which further highlighted that I wasn't genetically blessed; I didn't naturally have a dancer’s body,” explains Anderson.
“While fitness was always a part of my life, I realized early on you are how you move and your body will adapt to what you put it through.” She goes on to note that at the time she felt like she was doing a lot of things – for example, step aerobics – that were causing her to bulk up. Despite being in New York in dance school on a scholarship, she ended up gaining a significant amount of weight and couldn’t immediately pinpoint why. “My son's father played in the NBA and through him I met a doctor that had done extensive scientific research on muscle fibers.” This was her ah-ha moment. “It hit me that you can actually redesign your muscle fibers, but there were no tools out there to help people – nothing to guide them to do something they thought was impossible.” At 21, Anderson began doing the research that would eventually lead to her pioneering views on fitness.
“It’s important for people to remember how much research is behind my method. You can’t just expect change by flip-flopping from one thing to another. There needs to be a strategy behind what you’re doing so your body develops properly.” Over the last 15 years, Anderson has developed a bank of thousands upon thousands of fitness moves, to the point where she can pinpoint exactly where a person is weak and come up with a workout – that changes every 10 days – to help redesign the muscular structure. The key, she says, is to manipulate the muscles in the right away. Most people go wrong by either following trends and never mastering anything or focusing on a single activity – running, for example – and then overdeveloping certain areas of their body and opening themselves up to the risk of injury due to overuse and/or impact.
It's more than fitness for Anderson, however. The diminutive trainer has pioneered a lifestyle and this naturally includes a dietary component. “People need support in all areas,” says Anderson. “They need direction and education when it comes to their food; the problem is there’s a lot of noise and trends out there and people making sweeping statements, none of which are beneficial to women.” She goes on to note that the key is not to listen to a so-called expert when they suggest that everyone stop consuming dairy, but rather to listen to your body before cutting out an entire food group. “I don't have a sensitivity to dairy; I can eat healthy cheeses and be totally fine, but I’m allergic to avocados and coconut. It’s about knowing yourself, how your metabolic rate functions and what will cause inflammation and what won’t.” There are, of course, certain things, like refined sugars, that across the board should be consumed in moderation and things like gluten, which have proven to be common irritants, which is why when Anderson develops food products, she keeps those common inflammatories in mind and leaves them out of her formulations. For instance, Anderson’s shake has a full amino acid profile and no soy protein isolate. “A lot of shakes that show up in health food stores are just as unhealthy as eating a brownie. I developed mine with John’s Hopkins University and I make sure that I am constantly providing tips and tools on how to best incorporate it into an active lifestyle.”
It’s hard to believe, but despite overseeing multiple boutique fitness studios, working with countless celebrities and continually refining her product offerings, Anderson still finds time to teach classes herself. “I have a passion for what I do and I absolutely love the people,” exclaims Anderson adding “I love watching people get better. I love when a woman who thought her ass was doomed suddenly has the hottest ass – and she earned it herself. She didn’t put on some cream; she actually worked for it and seeing that feeling of empowerment that can only come from self love is amazing. I always get sad when too much time goes by without my being able to teach!”
In keeping with this way of thinking, Anderson doesn’t like to think of herself as an entrepreneur. “I never set out to be an entrepreneur. Everyday I just authentically and with integrity develop tools for people that I know are going to help them by changing their lives for the better. I challenge myself every second of the day.” She also notes that she thinks it’s very important to keep your passions focused. “When you become a certain level of an expert and want to reach a bigger audience that's when the flip happens and you become an entrepreneur, but it’s so important to develop products that come with all the proper tools and you don't just become a commercial of yourself,” which is why Anderson worked on a 30 minute infomercial with Gwyneth Paltrow when she launched Metamorphosis — she wanted women to really understand her program. “I have about 160 DVDs to go with Metamorphosis. I could have easily made a few DVDs, gotten a few celebrity quotes and looked cute – but that doesn’t really help people. I want to raise the bar on what people think is possible for them to achieve health and fitness-wise.” Anderson further underlines that it’s incredibly important that we pay attention to all ages, which is why she has, for example, developed fitness tools for teenagers versus spending too much time designing unrelated ancillary products. “I refuse to sell out. I will find a way to open more gyms when selling out is not part of the equation. I refuse to let go of how I serve people.”
As Anderson mentioned, one of the keys that set her method apart from all of the others is her bank of fitness DVDs and moves. She is continually innovating by coming out with new workouts – hundreds upon hundreds of them. “I sometimes wonder if Bob Dylan ever asked himself, ‘Will I be able to write another song?’ but somehow you just do! At this point I know the body so well and exactly what will work and what won’t because of the extensive amount of research I’ve done over the last 15 years, so even if there are moments where I may get worried, I know that I will be able to come up with more effective content.”
More than just a workout, however, Anderson’s fuel is changing the way women live their lives. She strongly feels that women would greatly benefit from slowing down. “Most women, if they just slow their speed down will see that there is so much crap they fill their day with. You need to take care of your body. You may be the biggest achiever, but to be able to create balance you can’t neglect taking care of your body. If women take a little bit of time to do real work, they will save time feeling down about themselves – not pretty enough, not healthy enough – they will more effectively be able to quiet all that noise. I work very hard to help women bring out the most beautiful aspects of themselves and to stop the self-abusive cycle that comes with trying to keep up with others.”