Testimony Tuesday: Anna Arsenault
Anna Arsenault, a Northport woman who has been featured on three reality TV shows, competed in 86 Spartan races and led an online workout group with a following of more than 19,000 individuals, says her main focus in life are her four children.
“That’s my biggest job of them all,” Arsenault said.
Arsenault currently manages and is a part owner and coach at Iron Tribe Fitness of Tuscaloosa, which is a group gym with a functional fitness concept. She is also the Operations Manager at Wagner’s RunWalk in Tuscaloosa’s Midtown Village.
“I don’t want a gym full of memberships, I want a gym full of people,” said Arsenault.
Her athletic endeavors eventually got her noticed and featured on Season 2 of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, where Arsenault and 7 other female contestants, went to the "Broken Skull Ranch" to compete in a series of physical challenges. She also appeared on Austin’s show a second time during an “All Star Episode,” and was featured as a professional Spartan coach on NBC’s Spartan: Team Challenge show.
So where did Arsenault’s crazy ambition come from? She accredits some of her drive to growing up in a military family to two parents who were hard working individuals. Her father was a pilot in the army and her step mother “never stood still” while raising Arsenault and her four siblings.
“My parents were really driven people and I was definitely born with that too–mimicking their steadfast of life,” she said.
Ever since Arsenault can remember she was an active individual; either rollerblading or biking to school and moving from one activity to the next.
“I never would have called myself a lazy child,” she said.
However, in her late teens and early college years Arsenault found herself in a tough spot, admittedly drinking, partying often and battling depression.
“My life was kind of headed toward destruction,” she said.
In the midst of her partying era, Arsenault met her now husband of 15 years, John Arsenault. She was a college freshmen at the University of Alabama when they met and fell in love.
“We found ourselves pretty much inseparable,” she said.
When Arsenault was 18 year old, she learned they were pregnant with their first child, Jack.
“I met John and my drive came back and I wanted to be the best mother and wife I could be,” she said. “I went to every Bible study, I home schooled and had a garden; I was very committed to my family. So, yeah, my drive came back, but it just looked very different than before.”
The Arsenault’s grew their family fairly fast. They had their daughter, Josie, 20 months after Jack; their daughter, Avery, three years later and their fourth and final child, Amelia, in 2010. However, Amelia’s birth was more peculiar than the rest. She was born with a rare form of adrenal insufficiency.
“It impacted us to the extreme,” she said. “After I had Amelia, I realized, I was just kind of surviving the life I was living. Every night I would go to bed with that mom guilt of asking myself, ‘have I done enough?’ And ‘what can I be doing better?’ I realized I was exhausted all the time.”
Arsenault realized that in order to best care for her four children, including Amelia who had additional medical needs, she would need to prioritize her life better. To Arsenault this meant making fitness and healthier eating habits necessary for not just her but her entire family.
Through some further deep contemplating on what Arsenault wanted her future to look like, not just as a mother and wife, but also as an individual, she became motivated to begin a journey that would lead her to some of her life’s greatest accomplishments.
“I pictured myself as a grandma and asked myself, ‘Do I want to be able to get on the floor with my grandkids? Do I want to be able to run a marathon when I’m 65 years old, and what am I doing on a daily basis to make that possible?”
Out of these considerations, Arsenault began working out with her kids by her side. She would jog in place while her kids did school work, complete burpees while boiling water, lunge while carrying a basket of laundry, or do calf raises while nursing a baby.
“All those little things add up to be big things,”Arsenault told.
The women Arsenault knew from Bible studies or other local clubs soon took notice of her impressive physique as a mother of four children, and these ladies wanted to know her secret. Instead of withholding information or giving a simple answer and leaving them to their own challenges, Arsenault gathered them at her home and showed them how to attain physical success as a mom. A handful to a dozen mothers and their children began to regularly meet at her house to complete the various workouts Arsenault designed or encouraged.
“My hope is that people are learning the balance of living this healthy life, but getting the opportunity to have fun, eat and play, which makes life so grand. My hope is that my coaches and I at Iron Tribe can help guide people in that,” she said.
When close friends and family saw the popularity and success of her gathering, she was repeatedly encouraged to start a blog about her perspective and lifestyle on fitness as a mother. After some final nudges from close friends, Arsenault launched her blog, “MomStrong Fitness,” in 2011 where she detailed info on eating well, along with fitness tricks and trades to stay healthy while raising children.
The blog’s following grew from about 10 to 19,000 followers within just a few months, Arsenault said. Her content was shared globally and eventually the “right” companies saw it. Companies such as Under Armor and Spartan Race saw and shared some of the MomStrong posts and that was when the huge following took place, she said. Both companies valued the MomStrong model and contacted her to partner with her for several new opportunities.
“It was so fun for me to be this homeschool mom suddenly wearing free Under Armor clothes,” she said with a laugh.
Spartan Race asked her to start filming various workouts such as, “30 squats for 30 days with MomStrong Fitness.” These videos were then featured on Spartan Race’s respective social media accounts. From there she began running for Spartan Race and eventually became sponsored by FitAid and Bowflex.
After working with Spartan Race for several years she started up an official MomStrong Fitness business where she offered certified personal training for online and in-person female clients.
In 2015 after competing as a professional athlete in well over 50 Spartan races, she tore her labrum and bicep while training for an upcoming events.
“At that point it was like, alright I guess my arm is tied to my body for eight months,” she said. “I realized I needed to find a job because I couldn’t be paid to race as a professional athlete and I couldn’t train people if I couldn’t use my arm.”
It was then that Arsenault decided to apply for an assistant manager position at Wagner’s RunWalk– a store she shopped at for her running shoe needs and that hosted a running team she participated on.
“I loved athletics and coming off an adrenaline high of being a traveling racer and coming from this massive company, it instantly felt like having that hometown feel I had never experienced, but also wanted,” she said about the Wagner’s company.
Arsenault was hired as the Assistant Manager and was quickly promoted to the general manager. Approximately two years ago she started coaching at IronTribe of Tuscaloosa, where Matt Wagner (owner of Wagner’s RunWalk) is a part-owner. In a matter of months she was then offered the general position at the gym and asked to be a partner of business along with Wagner, Matt Glover and Chip Taylor.
“Business wise, Matt Wagner has taught me business strive and skills I would have never gotten otherwise,” she said. “I saw in Matt this generational kindness and business drive that was passed down from his father and grandfather that I wanted to be a part of. Matt is definitely one of the best business men and highest driven people I know, and he believed in my vision.”
As a coach and the general manager at Iron Tribe, Arsenault helps lead three different style group classes that the gym offers to its members–push, which never uses a barbell, but is body weight, kettlebells, rowing, biking and running; Power, which sometimes includes barbell workouts in addition to Push, and Strength classes that is about strength training and embracing an overall healthier lifestyle. The coaches at IronTribe also offer nutrition, guidance and accountability.
“It’s a very personal relationship between the coaches and the members, which I think is key to having success,” she said.
Arsenault further explained how accountability plays such an integral role in an individual’s athletic success.
“We’re all human and usually will chose the easier path, so without having someone give you that little nudge that you need, you’re usually going to choose the couch,” she said.
Looking back on Arsenault’s life thus far, she highlights going through some of the hardest and most difficult hours and minutes of her life, reaching a hypothermic stage during some of her races in Vermont. But she also remembers the amazing view in such places or being thankful to have completed various races and challenged.
“When I make it to the top and look around and think to myself, ‘I’m so lucky to be here; lucky to have a body that allows me to do this,” she said.
While Arsenault and her husband encourage healthy and athletic lifestyles for their kids– all of them having completed half marathons– her greatest hope to her kids is to be kind and hardworking.
Her message to everyone is about living your “best life.”
“Fitness, nutrition and mental health are for all people, it’s not for some special person that was was born skinny or with a lot of money or privileged,” Arsenault said. “It’s figuring out and using the means you have to make it work. And that’s why I thought MomStrong was so important because it was fitness for all people. With the right guidance it can be achieved.”