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How Hard Girl Anne Reuss Beats Down All Obstacles

Anne Reuss with Dan John

Dragon Door: How did you first get into fitness and athletics?

Anne Reuss: I was an athlete growing up, ran track and played tennis. In college I jogged to keep the beer weight off. In a way In January of 2013, I was kind of bored with my training, and my mom started working in sales at a gym. She persuaded me to join even though I wanted to save money by working out at home. I loved it, but after a year, I still didn't know much about strength training. I wanted to learn how to do a human flag, so I hired a trainer three years ago—and I was hooked!

As I became stronger in the gym, I also noticed how much stronger my mental game became. Access to education, relationships, and career opportunities has been more challenging for me because I have been deaf since birth. But in my life, "no" has taken on another meaning. My inner voice saying "Try harder, Anne" pushes me along.

Fitness has helped me break down physical, mental, and communication barriers. I’ve now completed four Spartan Races and will be competing in the CrossFit Open for the first time this year. I live what I teach and I've found my calling—I want to help people to challenge themselves to build the fit mind and body so they can do everything they want to do.

Dragon Door: When did you start racing?

Anne Reuss: A trainer at my gym asked me to join her for a Spartan Race later that year. I liked the obstacles and how the Spartan race aligns with my philosophy of breaking down barriers—even though running is still not my favorite. After my first race, I was determined to do better, so I signed up for two more. I did extremely well in the Open, so I signed up for the elite sprint. And did it again last summer, too.

Dragon Door: How did you train for the Spartan Races?

Anne Reuss: I trained with kettlebells and Olympic lifts for threshold and power, climbed ropes, conquered the Stairmaster with a weight vest, and used a Jacob’s ladder with extra weight on my back.

Between the races, I found out that Lifetime Fitness has a competition called Alpha. I didn't qualify for Nationals until last year. Alpha is all about strength and stamina. For example, one event was a 800 meter run, overhead kettlebell lunges for 100 yards, and 10 muscle-ups. At the time I had never done a muscle-up before, so I had to learn how in only a week before the competition, but I still managed to get one. After the event I was hungry for more, so I started training with an old friend of mine in Chicago who is a wonderful CrossFit coach. I started using more high level CrossFit programming because I needed the skill work and the challenge.
Anne Reuss Spartan Race Finish

Dragon Door: Are you now a personal trainer or group fitness instructor?

Anne Reuss: Yes, I'm a trainer at Equinox. But, when I was first getting started with fitness, I was still working as a freelance online marketing specialist. I fell into marketing because I'm a people person. The digital medium broke down barriers and gave me a voice—but it wasn't enough, and it wasn’t my calling. So, while I was studying for my personal training certification, I took a job at a rock climbing gym to regain and build my confidence in interacting and working with hearing people. Then, I ended up at Equinox a few months later.

Dragon Door: What do you like most about training others?

Anne Reuss: I enjoy watching them take charge outside the gym because of the confidence and grit they’ve developed through training. Now, they aren't bystanders to life, or waiting for things to happen to them. My favorite example is a client who joined a dating site about six months after she began training with me. She told me she felt stronger physically and mentally, and could go out of her comfort zone.

I live what I teach. My mantra is: Every rep, every pound or mile added, every drop of sweat is a promise to myself and others in my life. When you do that extra rep you say, "Yes, I can persist—at anything". When you choose to nourish your body with a clean diet and love rather than junk, you say "Yes, I’m worth it, and yes I’m worth your respect." When I train people, I have behavior and mindset changes in mind, too. A fit body needs a fit mind.

Dragon Door: How did you become interested in kettlebells?

Anne Reuss: I think it started when I realized how the goblet squat could drastically improve somebody's squat movement. I wondered how one simple tool could do this? And, if it could help the squat, I knew it could help other movements like the hinge, etc. I have a love affair with resistance training—Olympic lifts, and powerlifting—but not everyone needs or wants to use barbells and Olympic lifts for strength and weight loss. Using my training philosophy, I encourage my clients to expand their comfort zones slowly with careful programming so they also get wicked strong. I knew kettlebells would give me the versatility to create programs to match my clients’ styles and help them succeed with their needs and goals.

Dragon Door: How did you decide to go for the RKC?

Anne Reuss:
I met Master RKC, Dan John at the High Performance Living Symposium that Equinox hosted last March. He became a close friend and mentor. I discovered there was a whole community behind the RKC, full of bright minds, kindness and passion. I wanted to be part of this tribe. In addition to kettlebells’ versatility, I love how they lend themselves to challenging goals like the Iron Maiden or the 10,000 swing challenge. You will never find me without a goal. I always want some kind of PR for myself and my clients. It keeps things fresh and motivating!

Dragon Door: What did you enjoy most at the RKC Workshop?

Anne Reuss: It was draining and exhilarating at the same time but I loved everything—the other attendees, nailing the Snatch Test, and learning the get-up. But I really enjoyed the moment when Dan had random gym goers come to the workshop and we had to practice our coaching skills.

Dragon Door: Yes! The famous RKC teaching test!

Anne Reuss: I was nervous, of course, but I wanted to teach my five-minute client the hinge/swing. It’s the gateway for strength, weight loss, confidence building, a healthy glow and more. I remember looking at him and seeing the sweat trickling down his head. He was nodding the whole time and I knew that the lesson was registering with him. It was a gift to be able to give a stranger a tool like that. Even though it’s just a iron ball with horns, what you do with it unlocks a lot.

Anne Reuss Ring Muscle-UpsDragon Door: Speaking of goals, now that you’ve earned your RKC certification, what are some of your next goals?

Anne Reuss: It’s a fitting time of the year to talk about it, though I don't do a lot of resolutions because there's never a bad time for goal setting. But, I have set a theme for 2017: momentum. I've only been a personal trainer for one year, I'm still navigating the business side like growing my client base, and developing my writing. I want to connect with a wider audience and let them see a side of me that I can't always express because of the communication barrier. On the technical side of things, I’m getting my FMS Level 1 next.

Eventually, I want to do what Dan John does—a hybrid mix of speaking, writing, and training. He exemplifies the two main ingredients of success: strength and empathy. We need strength and vigor to get through challenging workouts as well as life’s greatest challenges—but also empathy and compassion to attract others and help them find their own greatness.

I'd love to write a column for a magazine. For example, I love the Men's Health column "The Girl Next Door". I've just recently started to write about dating on my blog, because it's fascinating how everything in life intertwines with fitness and communication.

I also intend to become a better athlete every year.

Dragon Door: Earlier you mentioned meeting Dan John and hearing about the RKC at the Equinox Symposium, did you find out about him at the event?

Anne Reuss: A lifting friend of mine told me he was a fan of Dan John. I read some of his books and was immediately attracted by the simplicity of the workouts and the overall grit. I don't believe in easy, lightweight workouts, so I became an instant fan. When I found out about the Equinox High Performance Living Symposium where he was scheduled to speak, I went and sat up from. I was absolutely thrilled to listen to him (with the help of sign language interpreters. He even noticed them and slowed down so that they could keep up—but he also had fun by challenging them to sign "Armacondas"!

I went up to him afterwards, and we had an instant understanding. We’ve bonded over strength, empathy for other people, and vulnerability. And of course, the occasional beer.

Dragon Door: That's fantastic! So, I am no fan of overly lightweight workouts either, but not all clients would agree. How do you convince your clients to try this approach?

Anne Reuss: We all hear, "But, I don't want to get bulky." So for some I encourage them to get a taste of this style of training and sometimes they get a rush from it and forget all about training just for appearance. When they shift to a focus on function and performance, the aesthetics usually follow. For other clients who can’t train as hard because of injuries or other reasons, I work to gradually build their confidence with movements that challenge them in their situation. But the bottom line is if someone doesn’t vibe well, I think it’s ok to suggest they work with another trainer. Both parties will be more at peace that way.

I train for performance, because life demands it. I want to give my clients the guts to grab life by the balls and do what they want. I can't imagine standing there and just telling someone to do triceps kickbacks day after day.

Dragon Door: What are your favorite kettlebell exercises in your own training, and for teaching others?

Anne Reuss: I like the double kettlebell clean to squat to press—thrusters, in other words. It’s brutal and makes me feel like I can conquer anything after I'm done. That combination really hits strength, power, and conditioning.

Sometimes I'll use them in an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) workout combined with rowing. Other days, I will do them for reps to build tolerance. I'm very ambitious about my own fitness goals--I just don't like to plateau. I like to teach this same combination of movements for the same reasons. I like to help my clients feel like badasses. Now I am super excited to teach the hinge and kettlebell swing because they are the gateway to badassery. Building a hard body builds a temple for a strong mind.

AnneReussDanJohn thumbnailAnne Reuss, RKC can be contacted through her blog: Follow her on Instagram @liftlivelead