Bettina and Anja are a couple from Germany who are turning their personal training into a full-time business. They talk to Sundried about their journey.
Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.
Both Anja and I used to take part in sporting events regularly when we were in our childhood and teenage years. I used to be a gymnast from the age of 5 to 13 with stage performances and competitions.
Anja was a competitive sportswoman in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) from the age of 10 to 18. She did road racing and had a lot of unhealthy pressure on her including mental and emotional abuse as well as state doping without her knowledge or consent. Today, we pursue sports and fitness on a much more individual level and generally refrain from big sporting events. Sometimes, we organise small-scale events with our clients and friends or participate in charity runs and walks in our region.
Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?
Anja’s journey started at the age of 10 as a road racer in the former GDR. She withdrew from competitive, high-pressure sports for health reasons, got licensed as a PT in 2005, started working at gyms and obtained further qualifications in injury rehabilitation in 2008.
My journey started at the age of 5 as a gymnast in the southwest of Germany. At the age of 13, I withdrew from competitions and stage performances because I was no longer interested in them. I tried out a lot of other sports, including dancing, hiking and active trail running. In 2016, at the age of 24, I fell in love with bodybuilding and yoga, which I pursued in my spare time, but it soon became more than just a hobby. I started reading more about anatomy, tried out new variations of exercises and gave advice to friends I worked out with. In February 2020, I will have my PT license, and in October, my yoga certificate. And Anja and I are currently founding a fitness- and health-related business together. Exciting times!
What are your training goals now?
Our major goal is reaching optimum health, mental and emotional strength and a good work-life balance. As far as aesthetics are concerned, Anja is aiming for maintenance of her current muscle mass and more flexibility. She used to neglect stretching when she was younger, which led to tight, stubborn muscles. My aim is maintaining my lower body, where I tend to build muscle quickly, and building more of an upper body, which tends to take me a bit longer.
Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:
Our lives are full of unusual facts! We are a same-sex couple with a 17-year age difference. Anja relies on feelings, I rely on thoughts. We fell in love when I was in a relationship with a man while Anja was sick of relationships altogether. But we are an open book about that.
There’s one fun fact though that we haven’t mentioned yet: it was our dog Diego who fixed us up! Anja had had him for 9 years when we first met. I was training at my local gym where she worked. Diego, who she normally took to work with her, managed to escape the office, sat down in front of me while I was exercising, stared at me and wouldn’t move. This is how Anja and I first started talking.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
Both Anja and I used to make plenty of mistakes when we first started weight training. For example, Anja completely neglected stretching in her first years. Now, at 44, she is working hard to gain back some flexibility.
I used to train too frequently and too intensely, constantly surpassing my body’s limits. After overdoing it in my training sessions for weeks and not being able to feel my glutes anymore when targeting them, I did 8 sets on the abduction machine, some of them with too much weight and some with way too many reps (I’m talking about 60 or so here). My left hip cracked and I was in pain for days. Even today, more than a year later, I resort to other glute exercises because my hip will make funny noises whenever I do abduction movements.
Nonetheless, we both believe that learning the hard way was beneficial for us because it made us grow as individuals and PTs. Back then, we wouldn’t have listened to good advice anyways. We needed to experience the physical damage first-hand to learn that our health is our most precious asset. This is a message we can now convey to our clients – with love and conviction, speaking from experience!
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
Yes, nutrition is a big part of our definition of fitness! Both Anja and I have poor gut health and need to be careful what we put in our bodies. I went vegan about two and a half years ago, for personal health and ethical reasons.
Anja used to be a vegetarian and is now transitioning to veganism as well. We both believe in using fresh, regional and unprocessed products wherever possible. I prefer most of my calories in liquid form whereas Anja enjoys biting and chewing her food rather than drinking it.
We tend to have two big meals (breakfast and dinner) and two snacks while at work, which has turned out to be the most feasible option for us because we are usually very busy on weekdays.
My breakfast consists of a smoothie with spinach, frozen fruit, ripe bananas, vegan protein powder and plant milk. Anja’s consists of oats, bananas, cocoa, dates and plant milk. Dinner is usually vegetables, some carbs (rice, pasta, potatoes) and some vegan protein (tofu, tempeh). Our favourite snacks include fresh fruit, dried mango (tastes like gummy bears!), dark chocolate, salads and protein bread with a vegetable-based spread.
What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?
As far as Anja and myself are concerned, motivation has never been an issue. We love working out and we couldn’t possibly imagine going for more than a week without breaking a sweat! Working out makes us not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally strong, and it helps us achieve our other goals in life, whether work- or relationship-related.
Even when we take a break from weight training, we do some light yoga or hiking (being dog owners comes in handy here!). And when we are on a holiday, we do some quick home workouts with our own body weight.
When it comes to our clients, we start by analysing their goals and life circumstances with them in detail. We highlight the importance of remaining realistic: How much time can you set aside for your workouts? What are your goals? Why do you want to get fit? Is your timeline feasible or do you need to be more patient to avoid frustration and injuries?
We also work with visualisation a lot. In our opinion, fitness should not be a mere end in itself, but an enjoyable means to an end: once you have learnt to dedicate all of your focus to your body for just an hour per day or even less, you will be able to better live in the present moment and stop worrying about work, financial or interpersonal issues that draw energy from you.
Also, if you are physically fitter, your posture will improve, chronic pain will be relieved, you will feel more energised and can be your best self in your alone time, in interaction with other people, at work, school or university. Let alone the extra confidence you will get by seeing the first physical results! Our clients love it!
Talk us through your training regime.
Anja starts her weekdays with some stretching and mobilisation, I start mine with an energising yoga flow. We only invest about 10-15 minutes here because our mornings tend to be busy, but it sets us up right for the day.
Then, we head off to work and will not be home until early evening. A couple of hours later, once we’ve had some food and talked about our day, we do our weight training. We go to a local gymnasts’ club with a built-in gym, where we spend about 1 to 1.5 hours. We train at least five times a week, from Monday to Friday. Weekends are usually up in the air. If we feel like going to the gym or squeezing in a home workout, we do so, but if we are beat, we rest, focus on our relationship, our dog and our social life with friends or family.
During our workouts, we dedicate most of our attention to our genetically weaker areas, which in Anja’s case is her lower body, and in my case, my upper body. When we work out five times a week, I train my upper body three times and my lower body twice a week, and Anja does the opposite. Anja loves sticking to a training plan, I’m more of a freestyler and just do whatever exercises I feel like, as long as every muscle group is covered. Anja is currently in love with quadriceps training on the 45-degree leg press machine – my current favourites are face pulls and crunches on the cable machine for back and ab definition.
How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?
Anja and I talk a lot about fitness, our personal experiences, favourite exercises, and fitness-related books and articles we’ve read. We also usually work out together and show each other new exercises we’ve come across. We love trying out new variations of the same exercise and we consciously connect our minds and physical sensation to the muscle we aim to work.
We have accumulated quite a few anatomy books that we flick through every now and then, and since I am in the process of getting licensed as a PT, I study training theory every single week. For Anja, this is a great way of refreshing her knowledge because over dinner, we often discuss the content of my classes. She also adds her knowledge, some of which is not contained in my exercise books.
What are your top 3 trainer tips?
Number one would be movement automation: make sure your clients understand the muscle they are working. Let them do every exercise slowly with a light weight or no weight at all until they can perform it correctly. Let them do automation during your first 3-5 sessions together if they are new to fitness and correct their posture. Once they master the form and are able to consciously feel their muscles, proceed to a proper training plan for mass or definition.
Number two: make your clients tense the muscle they aim to work first. It’s the muscle they want to train, not the joint. Make sure they don’t initiate the movement from the joint but from the muscle.
Number three: health is the single most important asset in life. The aim of training should always be to reach optimum health, aesthetics will follow naturally. Treasure your own health and make your clients treasure theirs!
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This is tricky because we love nutritious and varied food so much! Anja’s first impulse was bananas, mine was low-fat oven-baked lentil crisps. She has a sweet tooth, I am more of a savoury girl.
What do you like about Sundried and what's your favourite bit of our kit?
We both love that Sundried is a non-commercial, sustainable, transparent and Europe-based brand that uses recycled materials while enforcing decent work standards. Sundried’s philosophy is in perfect harmony with our own convictions and ideals, which makes us proud to represent the brand.
As far as looks and comfort are concerned: Anja is a huge fan of all Sundried leggings! She is 185.6 cm (6'1") and has long legs, so leggings from most other brands either don’t fit her at all or are involuntarily cropped (and she doesn’t like cropped leggings at all!). Her Sundried leggings reach all the way down to her ankles and she feels super comfortable in them.
Her current favourite is the Ruinette 2.0 in black. I am a huge fan of Sundried’s seamless collection, especially the leggings because they hug my body so nicely and bring out my curves and muscle definition. My favourite currently is the Solaro Women's Leggings in grey. I love the smooth feel, the high waist and how my glutes and legs look in them thanks to the stretchy, seamless design.
Favourite fitness quote:
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
Any type of success stands and falls with your attitude!