sheStrength: Get To Know Anna Woods

Anna Woods is a wonder. She’s not only a devoted stay at home mom, but also a personal trainer specializing in adults with special needs, an online coach and a business coach to other fitness coaches.  Plus she still competes in Crossfit, powerlifting, adventure races and 5ks! Find out how this modern day shieldmaiden is living up to the term sheStrength!

You’ve been involved in fitness for roughly 13 years but everyone’s fitness journey starts somewhere. So tell me about your journey to sheStrength.

Had a start with weight lifting in high school, but never pursued it more.  Then I tore my ACL and lost my college scholarship and had to rehab a LOT.  I was really into running a lot at that point and had to find a new way to exercise my body since running wasn’t an option for 6-9 months post-surgery.

I started lifting at our local college gym and researched what I needed to be doing to heal up and get stronger and my body just began to change SO much.  I learned I could manipulate my appearance with strength training.  I changed my major to exercise science from art and the rest was history.  After a while, I started personal training at our local college wellness center in 2003.  I graduated with a degree in Exercise Science in 2005. And I opened my fitness business in 2006 after my first daughter was born and we moved to a new town far away from family and anyone we knew.  I wanted to still use my degree but didn’t want to sacrifice my time home with my new baby.

Tell me more about your background.  I know you’ve done obstacle races and that you’ve got an Olympic lifting and CrossFit background.

I have always been an athlete. Played softball in college.  I was introduced to CrossFit in 2011 and began using it to help me train for a half-marathon and my triathlon training Anna Woods mission statement because my ACL injury kept rearing its head in the form of extreme pain, so I had to find a way to fuel my need for competition but not overdo my running.  So I started doing it at home in the basement of our new house we had just moved into. I remember snatching with my curl bar and a 10# dumbbell.  I used our 10# sand ball for some of the movements and a small mat.  I just made due with what I had.  I followed the CrossFit Endurance website for probably a year.  We had another child and I had to give up my gym space inside to a nursery so we moved our equipment outside, my husband started lifting with me at this point.  And we just grew from there. We had rings and a rope hanging from our old tree in the backyard.  We had trailer horse stall mats on our garage floor.  We got rid of our smith machine/cable pulley and bought a cheap squat rack we could use for bench press too.  I eventually bought a bigger barbell as I got stronger and needed more weight.  I met some friends who were thinking of opening a CF gym in a local town and I began training with them when I worked over there with my adults with special needs.  I eventually got my Level 1 certification with CrossFit and also had my ACE personal training certification from college, so I worked at several gyms in town.  And it just went from there, I got really good at CrossFit and weight lifting and finally found a place for my strength. We eventually moved again and I left those gyms and continued lifting at my garage. I hired an online coach to help me keep pushing and became a member of RxBound, based out of Florida, and really upped my game.  I have competed and won several CrossFit competitions within a tri-state area.

I love the Mommy and me video on YouTube of you and your daughter doing some medicine ball training. How else is your family involved in your fitness journey?

My entire family is active because that’s all my kids know.  Their friends love coming over and playing in our barn gym.  We set up obstacle courses, climbing walls, circuits, games, and Ninja warrior courses. It’s the cool place to come.  They workout out there with us when they can, we give them workouts to try or challenge them to various things. We joke we spend more time out there than in our house.  But it’s the environment we have created for them to be a part of.  They have their bikes out there, their trampoline, their scooters, and chairs and chalk…so if we are working out, they are doing something active alongside us. It is sort of a family event.  We have a PR bell they get to ring when they do something fun or new they couldn’t’ before…again, it’s all they know.

Convenience is obviously part of the attraction of a home gym but do you ever feel like you can’t get away from work because it’s right there where you live?

Anna Woods running a training class in her home gymI have 2 kids with special needs so having a home gym has always been a requirement for me, in two ways. First, for the accessibility because of their appointments, lack of babysitter’s who can watch them, I can’t typically just drop them off at a gym daycare, and it’s a great way for them to work on PT and see me working so hard at my health as a motivation to them.  Second, I need a home gym for the stress relief. We live in a high stress household having 1 child with Down Syndrome and 1 child on the Autism spectrum, so I NEED to have an outlet. I always joke the stress level in my house is what drives me to be a good athlete, I work really hard when I need to let off some steam.  Ha!

Still, I’m assuming that you’re not on house arrest so even though CrossFit and Beachbody are both pretty home gym friendly do you ever get out and visit local boxes or commercial gyms just for a change of pace?

I try to when I can. I will go workout with other ladies in the community at their home gyms. I also drop in at a few local CrossFit gyms in the area. There are only 2 within an hour of here so the options aren’t huge.  I have taken a few barbell classes with Glenn Pendlay at a local town here where he has since retired and lives.  I will meet other women at local globo gyms to lift and socialize as well.  SO I’m not opposed to any type of fitness or gym, I love learning new things.  And meeting new people!

Okay, so back to your background. What was your progression from CrossFit to Beachbody?

I pursued a run for CrossFit Regionals 3 years in a row but always just missed making it. In December of 2014, God spoke very clearly to me that I was NOT to keep pursuing my desires in CrossFit and He needed me for ”something more.”  After months of battling this, I resolved to do His will and closed shop on my intense training.  It was an adjustment.  Because I had worked so hard for what I thought was “my calling.”  But it wasn’t.  We finally moved to what I hope is our last house move, hah! And we have a HUGE garage/barn on this country property in the middle of nowhere.  I had left all of my clientele at the old gyms and needed a way to continue training them virtually because we moved far enough away to not be able to continue meeting face to face.

They encourage you to share your workout journeys and life happenings, so I started posting videos on how my life had been called to a slower pace, how I had resolved to step back from competing in CrossFit. The response was overwhelming!  The pieces started falling into place for me.  I was to train other women, who were once competitive like me, or who were the strong girls before, how to get in shape from home by creating an awesome online community of women like me, to encourage and provide “community.”

That’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to do with Garage Gym Life here and on Instagram. Unite the home gym fitness community as a whole, so that was something that immediatelyAnna Woods founded sheStrength using the business opportunity of her barn gym made me interested in telling your story!

I try really hard to recreate a gym feeling of community and support, while we all workout at home and have friends in the “computer.” Ha!

Anyway so now you’re the CEO of Team HomeGym and Anna Woods Fitness tell me about that.

The name Team HomeGym comes from the competition name I earned as a CrossFit competitor because people were always blown away that I trained at home and was as competitive as I was! They started calling me “HomeGym” and it just stuck. I felt it only appropriate to call my online team of coaches the same since it was my identity for so long.  But I opened my business as Woods Wellness.  It started in our unfinished basement. I advertised all over our new town! I started with a few ladies coming over to workout with my limited set of dumbbells and bands.  I had a medicine ball and a curl bar I got from my uncle.  And we had a cheap ProForm smith machine squat rack, bench, and pulley cable we moved from our old house.  I eventually bought a treadmill on clearance and a spin bike.  And as my clientele built, I kept re-investing in my equipment needs.  I started traveling with my services and grew my need for equipment to more bands and more dumbbells as I began exercising with the elderly folks at a local retirement community and eventually the day service provider in a nearby town that housed adults with special needs.  (which is where my heart always was with training-special populations). I opened Team HomeGym online in 2015.

Some people have the impression that people who follow Beachbody programs do it because they aren’t ready for “real training”.

I signed up as a Beachbody coach as well because I needed nutritional tools to help people.  PLUS the intro videos’ this company provided were fabulous to help people learn the moves to lift.  AND it was a way to help me coach my women who loved to dance, showing them how to dance for cardio. And my adults with special needs could follow the DVD”s while I was away, with the help of their caretakers, and so it was a tool for them.  I soon realized I could use Beachbody programs and adjust them to include my style of lifting and competition and so I did. I trained four gals for their first CrossFit competition using a combination Beachbody program and my own personal programming.  And two of us did our first Powerlifting Meet in Dec. 2015 by training online using BodyBeast.  So I found a way to make the programs work for me.

Your background includes a number different training methodologies; how have you been able to integrate your different training influences into what you do professionally?

In March of 2016, I felt called to create a program that didn’t’ revolve around body weight, measurements, and scale measurements. It was my only frustration with Beachbody … all
the women’s programs were focused on fat loss and before and after’s. I DON’T coach women to do that! I coach them to strength and empowerment! To learn what it feels like to be STRONG!

Anna Woods with some members of her sheStrength tribe

And I created sheSTRENGTH.  A journey to empowerment.  We focus on meal prep, workouts, but probably most importantly personal development, which I call sheTHINKS. And we spend a LOT of time working on mental toughness, addressing the need to set boundaries around our health and time spent investing in our health, about mom guilt, about who our critics are and what they are saying and how to deal with the inner demon’s in our heads, etc.  And I coach these women all in an online private group that is AMAZING.

I like this quote from you: “My desire is to represent real women aspiring to be strong in an industry where vanity and comparison rules”. Tell me about the Internship Program you’re running. How do people get involved and what’s the goal?

As for my internship program, I am working to change the name of home fitness. I LOVE what Beachbody has to offer, but I don’t like the cookie cutter approach everyone associates with working out at home.  Dancing in front of a TV. I am working to show that it doesn’t have to be that way at all.  There is a market for people like me out there.  And its proving true. Our team is growing very fast, compiled of women just like myself who have the same vision as me for getting rid of the scale and working hard, making a lifestyle change…no longer chasing the black hole of the weight loss scale number. But learning new skills, realizing an hour at the gym isn’t the definition of a good workout, or that a lifestyle approach to fitness isn’t all or nothing, but daily decisions to show up and do something…so I am running an internship sneak peek bi-monthly for women to learn how I have made Beachbody work for me, how I have made my own path, and choose not to follow the crowd  yet still have success. I have a plan in place that is working and I deeply desire for other women like me to be able to experience that as well.  And this Is just the beginning for us, I KNOW. I am 100% sure this is just a small part of the “something more” God called me to a few years back….

You’ve helped 100s of women through sheStrength and Team Home Gym but I love especially what you do with Adaptive Fitness.  The boxing, prone push up/pull up videos are flat out awesome! What do you want stay at home parents with children with physical, mental or emotional challenges to know about coping with their situation in general and taking care of themselves specifically?

As far as helping other people see the need for folks with special needs living an active lifestyle it usually comes down to setting the example and never underestimating what they can do. Most folks with special needs LOVE the challenge!  I have gals I train with who have no feeling from the neck down but they want to be at every exercise class I teach for them and they do something! I will stack dumbbells on their arms and ask them to lift them…and they may not move much but the thought that their brain is sending impulses to that arm is ENOUGH.  There is always something they can be doing and be included in.  I use every opportunity to teach.  I give them choices…when you go out to eat today, you will choose what or what?  Pop or French fries? Ice cream or pop?  Not both.  Breaking it down into doable steps is easier for them.  AND most are very visual learners, so again, showing by example is KEY.  They can do so much more than we believe or think they can.  Let them prove you wrong!

Besides reading your articles here on Garage Gym Magazine, how can people follow your training or get in touch with you?

I have a Facebook fitness page: Anna Woods Fitness

IG: @shestrength

My blog: shestrength.com

And my email is: anna@shestrength.com

Thank you Anna and God bless you in all that you’re doing!

I appreciate you spotlighting me.  I have a feeling our paths crossed for a purpose.  Thanks again!

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.

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