It doesn’t take long to see why Tracy Anderson is such a household name in fitness. And not just because she has a laundry list of Hollywood A-listers like Jennifer Lopez as clientele or an international following, because she does, but it’s Tracy’s integrity and character that form the cornerstone of her brand. Over the last 20 years, she has built a methodology that is loyal to science rather than branding. Working in an industry that thrives off of quick fixes and gimmicks, this authenticity has taken her far, including scoring business partner Gwyneth Paltrow, who was so convinced by her results that she wanted to help Tracy share the method. We sat down with the woman who would never follow a business model to find out just how she became the entrepreneurial model.
At only five feet tall, Tracy’s ambition far exceeds her physical size and strength. She dreamt of becoming a dancer like her mother and was well on her way, even attending school on a dance scholarship. While working out multiple times a day, she immersed herself in everything from Pilates and aerobics to specialized weight training. Yet, despite the intensity of her workouts, she gained a significant amount of weight during school and fell into an unhealthy pattern of crash dieting and over-exercising that eventually led her to abandon dance altogether.
“I realized from a young age that just because you have a passion for something and a good work ethic doesn’t mean you can make it your career,” Tracy says confidently.
Frustrated with all the fitness regimes that favored one part of the body, she craved the only element that was missing from years of training and desire. Balance. If you could sculpt a slender dancer’s body or a T-shaped swimmer’s torso, then why couldn’t you make yourself perfectly proportionally? Through trial and error, Tracy found this hole in the fitness industry simply because she kept falling through it.
At the time, Tracy’s then husband, a professional basketball player, was receiving treatment for a back injury in Puerto Rico. There, she met a doctor whose life’s work focused on strengthening smaller muscle groups to support the dominant, overworked few. With his support, Tracy embarked on a four-year research crusade to develop what would become the crux of her methodology.
Though she has no formal education in fitness training, she’ll be the first to tell you, that’s because she’s not a trainer at all.
“I’m a teacher, I’d say. I knew early on when I was doing my research that part of the reason why people get injured all the time and don’t reach their goals is because that kind of training [a formal trainer certification] creates imbalances in the muscles and that was not what I was trying to do,” she explains.
With her fifth studio set to open in the Hamptons this summer and a widely successful video streaming service launch at the beginning of this year, Tracy’s method is so sustainable because she focuses on the mental and physical connection necessary to create a balanced body. She emphasizes the importance of developing internal strength before building external.
“People are so focused on getting from point A to point B in their workout that they totally detour around connecting to themselves internally. If you’re internally clear, you can manage the steps, the feelings and the connections that are vital to get your body where it needs to go,” says Tracy.
Admitting it took her until she turned 40 a few months ago to really experience this clarity for herself, Tracy believes psychological barriers are the hardest to overcome on the road to self-improvement. She attributes this to what she calls the “lunchtime liposuction” mentality.
“I think we’re so inundated with a projection of what’s beautiful that we either give up or obsess about it all day,” she says.
This quick fix mindset is universal in our society and applies to more than just our physical appearance. It influences our daily lives through trends and fads that push a uniform model to success. Instead, Tracy believes in being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, explaining; the same reality that led her to give up her dreams of dancing also fueled her entrepreneurship.
Another reason Tracy has cultivated such a loyal following is because of the transparency with which she developed her method. She gains her trust through both the physical and psychological evidence she’s collected to back it. To create an adaptable workout that could be tailored to each individual, she tested 150 women with different body types over a five-year period. These women became the first to dub their experience as the official “Tracy Anderson Method.”
Despite being advised by numerous professionals to ditch the namesake to ensure a scalable business model, Tracy now views her name as a testament to her ability to remain the active content creator behind her method rather than the figure head.
“I’m not afraid of being a different model because I think it has only given the business strength in the 20 years of me fighting to be the trusted source behind it,” she says.
Now with an apparel and whole food line in the works, Tracy’s priority is protecting her authenticity.
“If I can change someone to make them faster, better, smarter, healthier, I’m going to do that first before signing a pair of leggings any day,” she says.
Known to abort ship on anything she deems a “bell or whistle,” Tracy has dumped branding offers before. She pulled the plug on her first food line offer when told she could cut costs by substituting an “organic” label for “natural.” Never one to be swayed by buzz words or gimmicks, Tracy is careful not to dilute her brand and only signs on to projects that reflect both her values and work ethic.
“At the end of the day if anything is going to get in the way of a person’s hopes and dreams of what I can do for their body, I have a problem with that,” she exclaims.
In a generation where it’s hard to keep up with which juice or exercise class is in style, Tracy has remained relevant not for her sculpted body or monogrammed swag, but the respect she cultivates from her clients. Her model is simple: be real in who you are, honest about where you’re at and be an achiever, and no one, including you, will question your worth.