Amanda Russell, founder of the FitStrongandSexy.com customized online training and nutrition program, is a rising star on the fitness scene. Her quick and effective YouTube workouts served up with her signature fun and fashionable flair have helped busy women across the globe achieve their fitness goals and earned her recognition as one of Google’s “Next Top Fitness Trainers in 2012.”
While Amanda’s videos and website feel like you are getting instruction from a best girlfriend, don’t assume you can approach her workouts casually. Amanda is an athlete—an Olympic-trained runner to be exact—and, she demands serious results from her workouts.
Having overcome an injury that ended her Olympic pursuits and threatened her ability to ever run again, Amanda is incredibly grateful for fitness and is committed to helping others experience how life transforming it can be. In addition to the injury, Amanda has faced other challenges on her fitness journey, including harsh judgment for her small stature. But, with grace and fortitude, she has pushed through obstacles, ignored critics and garnered powerful lessons that she uses to inspire women to embrace self-love and fit living for life.
In this interview, Amanda gives us an inside look at her fitness journey, details her training and nutritional approach and shares two fab workouts from Amanda Russell TV for you to try! We hope you enjoy! Let us know what you think!
GET TO KNOW AMANDA RUSSELL
FitRx: Tell us your fitness history. We know you as a runner turned fitness guru, but where did your love for fitness begin? How did you get into running?
Amanda: My father has a deep and innate love for fitness and it’s impact on life, and he infused that love for fitness in both my brother and I. So, I think it was a combination of both nurture AND nature. As a young girl, I was always hyperactive and competitive, for example, if my dad asked me to grab his wallet upstairs, I would tell him to ‘time me.’ So, a future as a competitive runner seemed quite fitting. However, I was raised in a small town in Northern Ontario (Canada) where basketball was the ‘cool’ sport, so that’s what I wanted to play. My dad told me that I had to make up for my size by becoming an incredible shooter and dribbler. So, I worked my bum off in my driveway to do just that.
But, when I got to high school, the coaches told me that I was way too small for basketball and that I should choose a sport like cross country running where I could use my size to my advantage. Initially, I was heartbroken—running wasn’t exactly the glamorous sport. In fact, I thought they were sending me to “the reject sport” since it was the only team you didn’t even have to ‘make’ to be a part of. However, I wanted so badly to be a part of something and I DID love to compete, so I ended up joining the team and that was the clincher for me. I won my very first race and was soon breaking course records. The initial success and the hunger to go further fueled my passion and I knew I had something there.
I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew if I trained with a focus, intensity and willpower greater than anything, this would be my gateway to a larger world. To cut a long story short, before I graduated high school, I had full scholarship offers all over the United States, and a new phase of my life had just begun.
FitRx: You achieved much success as a collegiate track athlete at the University of Richmond. After college, you amped up your training in hopes of fulfilling your dream to compete in the 10,000 meter at the Beijing Olympics. Then, you were injured. What happened?
Amanda: My injury was almost unheard of—it was a stress fracture crack in the neck of my femur, the largest bone in the body. This led to the end of my competitive running career—I was actually told I would never run again.
FitRx: Wow. You went from training at the highest level to being told you would never run again. How was that experience? How did you fill your time once competing was off the table?
Amanda: I was devastated and lost on so many levels, and I struggled through it without the outlet of being able to sweat it out. In fact, I didn’t realize how important fitness was to me until the injury took it away. During that time, I ended up taking a job, working for a prestigious corporate consulting firm in New York City. Like many desk jobs, I was stuck sitting at a computer 12 to 14 hours a day, feeling like a part of me was dead and numb and bored. It was this depressive state, this feeling of being ‘stuck’ that drove me to pursue the journey of trying to get back to some sort of level of fitness – that’s what running taught me, no matter how HARD things get, you are NEVER stuck.
I knew that it was about so much more than the exercise itself, and I had some pretty major physical (and mental) limitations to overcome. But, I also knew what it felt like to be happy and confident, and that life was too short to live this way. Like anything, I knew that I could find a way back if I set my mind and heart to it. The journey was not going to be easy or even clear, but it was one worth taking.
FitRx: I stumbled across your YouTube video where you discuss your struggles with people judging you because you are ‘so skinny.’ Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with your body, how you have grown to love it and how you have been able to relate those lessons to other women of all shapes and sizes?
Amanda: I know what most people think when they first see me and it makes me sad, because there is so much more than meets the eye (as there often is). But judgments form so fast, and I think many people turn away before they get the chance to connect with me.
Bottom line… YES, I’m really small, and it’s been a personal struggle my whole life. I was very self-conscious of my stature. In high school and college, I used to wear two pairs of pants to try to disguise my small frame and the harsh criticisms it elicited. Most people can’t imagine what it feels like to walk into a room and be ‘diagnosed’ as anorexic or be told to “go eat a hamburger” – it is beyond embarrassing and hurtful.
I am over the stage in my life where I feel the need to defend myself. I am lucky for the fact that I don’t and never have had an eating disorder. Am I addicted to exercise? Yes. Hell, yes. That’s what fuels me. Am I obsessive and crazy about it? No. Just because of my size, people assume that there’s a massive problem. If you are doing my workouts, you know that you have to be pretty damn strong in order to get through them.
But the core issue here is that we, as humans and fellow women, are too quick to judge others. People assume that someone who struggles to lose weight may not be able to relate to someone like me who struggles to keep it on. The truth is we really can. Why? Because we all have some kind of struggle that we’re going through—whether it’s gaining five or losing five…changing this or changing that. You just have to learn to accept yourself and focus on yourself versus other people. When you do that, that’s when you can ultimately be happy.
FitRx: You recently launched your “Fit, Strong and Sexy” (FSS) online customized training & nutrition program. Tell us about your program. Who is it best suited for and how is it different from other programs?
Amanda: I am beyond excited about this program, because nothing has been done like this before. (Not to mention that it has literally consumed my life for the past year, I feel like it’s my child and so are all the people who sign up). FSS is not a generic, one-size-fits-all program. I don’t believe in that. This program walks you through how to train your body and teaches you to know your body. By the final phases, you become an expert on how to structure your week to make your training and nutrition work best for you. I like to say that my program helps you earn your Bachelor’s degree in your body.
The program is for everyone from elite athletes to the jet setter, the urban professional to the stay-at-home mom. The concept is that living FIT doesn’t require spending a lot of money or time or going somewhere specific to make it happen. I’m a big fan of hard-core workouts that get the job done in less time and keep your mind engaged and motivated. You will get a lot out of my program if you commit to put a lot into it.
FitRx: You provided the FitnessRx For Women readers two sample workouts to try out. Tell us about them.
Amanda: The ‘Iron Lady’ is a plyometric Tabata workout. I know the FitnessRx readers will love this. It is a perfect example of getting ‘bang for your buck’ in a short amount of time (I’m all about getting the MOST out of the LEAST amount of time). Most of my workouts are very athletic and functional and combine cardio elements with plyometrics. It’s very much a total body type of workout—it’s going to help with your speed and strength. The ‘Sexy Short Dress Workout’ video is less of the plyometrics cardio sort of thing and more of the deep tissue toning work. I think this is a great compliment to the Tabata workout. The key to HIIT or Tabata workouts is to really, really go for it. You shouldn’t feel like you could go for a long run after you’re done.
FitRx: Talk about your approach to nutrition. What is the underlying philosophy for your program’s meal plans?
Amanda: The first part of my nutrition program is kind of like a detox. I don’t mean like a juice fast, as I don’t believe in that sort of thing. It’s just about fueling your body with all natural foods—nothing processed, no dairy, no sugar and not a lot of wheat products. This allows you to clean out your body so to speak. Then, when you add things back in, you’ll be able to recognize the effect they have on you and how they make you feel. This can help you determine whether or not you want this type of food in your life or not. I also show you how to eat out and how to navigate a social function.
I can go anywhere to eat and find something that works within my meal plan. And, so can you and I would NEVER tell you to forgo social functions, parties or dining out…THAT is a pleasure of life. I just show you how to navigate the scene and keep your waistline in check.
FitRx: Anything else to add?
Amanda: There’s a new movement in fitness. It’s about more than just exercise. It’s about how you feel. It’s about a catalyst for change that has a positive trickling effect to other areas of your life. My site tagline is to raise the standard on what it means to be fit.
For more on Amanda Russell…
Youtube Channel: Amanda Russell TV
Photo credit: Images provided by Appcession.