ABOVE PHOTO: Audra Anusionwu. (Photo courtesy: Audra Anusionwu
By Kharisma McIlwaine
The start of a new year is always accompanied by a new batch of New Year’s resolutions. Many of those resolutions involve getting into or back into shape. Those who are complete novices may be unsure of the steps they should take in order to be successful on their fitness journey. What’s the first step to getting started? How can one create a strategy that will yield the best results? Thankfully, there are people eager and willing to help answer those questions.
Audra Anusionwu is doing just that as the owner of Beautifitstrong Fitness Studio, a women’s only fitness studio. Anusionwu spoke with the SUN about the inspiration behind her fitness journey, starting a fitness studio for women and offering tips for maintaining a productive fitness regimen.
Anusionwu’s fitness journey began unconventionally with the discovery of her love for bodybuilding.
“I met my husband and he was a marathon runner,” she said. “I did not like running at all. I would do it because of the benefits of it, but I didn’t enjoy it. While I was running, I met this woman who was bodybuilding already. She was a runner also and she told me about bodybuilding. I said, “Wait, that might be my thing — I could get excited about that,”
“When she told me that she had a coach and I could meet with her coach, talk it over and see if that would be something for me to do, I said, ‘Absolutely!’” Anusionwu continued. “I met with her coach and she said, ‘Six months I can have you on stage.’ I was 200 lbs at the time. Looking at the competitors, I said, “What, you’re going to have me looking like that? She said, ‘I’ll have you ready for stage, as long as you listen to me and do what I say.’ I said, ‘I can do that, I’m good at following directions.’”
During her bodybuilding journey, Anusionwu began hashtagging #fitnessstrong. She used the hashtag as personal motivation. Shortly thereafter, she realized that she could share that motivation with other women that needed it.
“At that time, I thought this is something to help me mentally and physically,” she said. “I have a long scar on my stomach and I was always self-conscious about being in a two-piece. Just being in the locker room around other women, I didn’t want to be subjected to the questions. When I thought about getting on stage, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, I have to be in a two piece’ — I literally didn’t think about it until the last minute. I’m like, ‘But I’m here now — I’m going to do this.’
“I competed for the very first time in 2014, and when I stepped on that stage, I was so liberated,” Anusionwu continued. “While I have a scar, I’m not scarred. There was a healing that took place. While there was an outward transformation, there was inner manifestation of what was happening to me during that process, too. It was such a freeing feeling, and I knew in that moment, standing on the stage, that I wanted that feeling for other women and girls. That was the beginning of the journey and how the business and the brand got started.”
Anusionwu continued leaning into the idea that fitness and strength were beautiful, and gave that concept a platform with Beautifitstrong.
“Beautifitstrong — of course, [with] the beauty part, we think about the aesthetic, the outside, but it’s the inside, too,” she said. “If the inside isn’t right, the outside isn’t going to show up right. [when it comes to] fitness, we believe it comes in all shapes and sizes, no matter how small or muscular you are. We’re really debunking that myth around what fitness should look like. Also understanding strength as something that is physical, but it’s also mental.”
“We get to see women that come into the studio and they see how much they’re able to lift, deadlift, squat or bench press physically,” Anusionwu said. “It gives them such a huge boost in their confidence that they’re able to go into the office and the workplace and command a presence. They’re able to take ownership within their homes and their communities, so the strength is both physical, but it’s mental as well.”
The Beautifitstrong Fitness studio was created when women inspired by Anusionwu’s fitness journey reached out to her for assistance.
“As women saw me going through the transformation, they’re, like, ‘Help me,’” she said “I said, ‘But I had a coach, and I don’t know that the program I subscribe to will work for you just the same.’ So, I went to school and got a personal trainer certification to make sure I had those fundamental skill sets, not only to help women lose weight and get in shape, but also to be safe and learn how to do things technically sound. I began training women in homes and in the gym honing my skills.
During that time, I began the Beautifitstrong Camp for girls,” Anusionwu said. “What I saw was that a lot of the negative body images and body negativity was ever present. I knew that this was something that needed to be tackled with young girls early helping to shape the mindset and frame Beautifitstrong, giving them a good foundation.”
Anusionwu took the same foundation principles taught in the initial program and opened the Beautifitstrong Fitness Studio in 2016. The studio maintains an environment where safety comes first and the fitness options are plentiful.
“What they get is a safe space, first and foremost,” she said. “It is a studio space designated for all women. You don’t have to worry about being harassed or gym intimidation — all the things that you might deal with in other settings. We offer personal training, and semi-private, if you have a workout partner or friend that you want to work out with. We also offer group fitness classes. We have the lift and sculpt class, which is my signature class, we also have a boxing hit class, we have Zumba and we have a twerkshop class. We try to bring variety. We want women of all demographics to be able to come in and get something.”
No matter where you are in your fitness journey, it’s never too late to create a routine that works you. Anusionwu shared some of her favorite tips.
“One of the biggest things I suggest to clients is to set some realistic goals for yourself — your goals, not somebody else’s,” she said. “Start with small goals. If you haven’t gone to the gym at all, to start out and say, ‘I’m going to the gym every day’ is unrealistic. Three good days is good! Schedule your workouts the same way you schedule your calendar for your work week and family appointments. These are meetings with yourself, and they can’t be canceled. This is your self-care. Get yourself an accountability partner — someone who is going to remind you about your goals and encourage you along the way. Finally, give yourself some benchmarks.”
Beautifitstrong Fitness Studio is located at 4027 Ridge Avenue. For more information, visit: www.beautifitstrong.com and follow @Beautifitstrong across social media platforms.
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