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Nov. 1 2016

Redefining Wonder Woman: An interview with a modern-day superhero


Photo credit: Darren Wellhoefer Photography

Like most toddler boys, my four-year old son is enamored with superheroes. He knows their “real” names, their superpowers and their weaknesses, their allies and their enemies. He talks like them, dresses like them and acts like them.

His infatuation with superheroes is not simply about the costumes or the superpowers, it’s about the power to “save the day” and be that one person that people depend on when they need it most.

When Amanda Mittlemann was five years old, she was not much different. She discovered Wonder Woman for the first time. For a woman who calls herself a “Wonder Woman want-to-be,” she certainly has fulfilled the expectations of a modern-day superhero.

We had the opportunity to speak about her journey to success...

Lindsay Vastola: What were the influences that led you to a career in the fitness industry?

Amanda Mittlemann: I was a young, single mother of boy/girl twins who had severe medical issues. Although my daughter’s medical issues (problems with a VP shunt in her brain, pulmonary dysplasia and superior vena cava syndrome/blood clotting issues) continued on for many years, both of my babies were much healthier when they were two-and-a-half years old. That’s when I went back to college (part-time) to complete my bachelor’s degree. I had been an athlete growing up and even at age 23 I knew exercise helped me think more clearly and, like most women, I wanted to look and feel better as well. I couldn’t afford a gym membership much less babysitting for two babies. I needed a job, and I loved aerobics classes, so I became a group fitness instructor. Within a few months I became a personal trainer as well

LV: It sounds like your initial start in the industry was a necessity to support yourself and your twins. What were some of the more significant early experiences that you believe have made you successful over time?

AM: When I was 21, my boyfriend was going into the army and before we moved we got married. A few months later I was pregnant (unexpected). I had my twins 12 weeks premature. They weighed 2.5 pounds each. My pregnancy had been perfect up until the day they decided it was time to see the world!

Just a few months later, on September 8, 1992, I found myself in front of the big doors of the Orange County Social Security building. My husband and I were separated, and doctors told me that my babies would probably rely on medical services for the rest of their lives and that I needed to sign them up for social services. This was not the life I had dreamed of for my babies or myself! On this particular morning, I had an awakening that shifted my thinking forever. It sounds so unassuming, but it was pretty profound for me. I realized that morning that I could either be a victim or I could do whatever it takes to turn my life around, but that it was up to me. I chose the latter, of course. This simple but profound moment in my life still fuels me today.

For the next several years, I taught classes at big box gyms, completed my personal training certification, attended my first IDEA conference and eventually took on more classes and training at a smaller gym, building my personal training work. I also volunteered at physical therapy practices thinking I wanted to take my career in that direction.

In 1998, I completed my degree and decided I wanted to do something bigger in the fitness industry. I wanted to be a presenter, educator and to write and develop programs that would help people get out of pain, feel better and exercise for a lifetime. Two years later I started my master’s degree in Health Science, and later transferred to Kinesiology. It took nearly nine years, but I graduated with my master’s, and in that same year I officially situated a business license for Mo-Mentum Fitness and continued renting space (for both personal training and group fitness classes).

LV: Have you had a mentor or someone you’ve looked up to? Did he/she ever give you a piece of advice that has proven instrumental in your success?

AM: My mentor is Todd Durkin. In 2010, I had been trying to open my own gym – my dream. A few years later, I sat in a chair knee-to-knee with Todd and surrounded by ten of my peers who were also in the TD Mastermind group. I was frustrated and in tears and I told Todd my story about how hard I had been trying to open my own training facility and the obstacles that kept me from opening my dream studio: money, finding the right place, kids, and so on. What he told me next shifted my thinking forever. He said, “I hear you Amanda. I hear your passion, and your frustration and your strength. The only thing holding you back from opening this brick-and-mortar location is you.” He was right. It was my fear. My fear of failure disguised as “good reasons.” I could find the money; I could find the right place. I just needed to make the decision and move forward right past the obstacles. “Ready, fire, aim!” In 2013, I opened my brick-and-mortar gym, Mo-Mentum Fitness.

LV: How do you balance the demands on your time and the opportunities that come your way with family time, time for yourself, time to workout, eating right, etc.?

AM: I have to admit that I often struggle with this. I have a bit of “Wonder Woman-want-to-be syndrome” (I made that name up but I think it says it all). In my head I can balance everything, but in reality we have 24 hours in a day and we do have to sleep whether we like it or not.

In the past couple years, I have been practicing this, for each opportunity that comes my way. I identify three criteria to decide what projects to take on:

1-The opportunity/project must fit into one of my six roles.

A few years ago I got a great tip from Trina Gray about defining six roles for ourselves. The roles can change over time, but we have time in our lives for only six roles. My six roles are 1-mom, 2-wife, 3-leader, 4-writer, 5-business owner, 6-wellness coach. This is how I decide to take on “opportunities.” I ask myself, “Does this “opportunity” fit into one of my six roles?”

2-The opportunity must be something that is within my niche, where I can make my highest contribution.

3- The opportunity must be something that if it didn't present itself to me—I would be willing to work very hard for the opportunity.

In Essentialism by Greg McKeown, he talks about focusing on only the top 10% of the opportunities that come our way. These questions help me differentiate myself and my business from other gyms, trainers and fitness professionals. These questions provide me boundaries and actually the freedom to keep redefining my niche. Because, I like everything! I love the fitness industry and it is very easy for me to get side-tracked with the newest, latest exciting piece of equipment, training methodology or business ideas which will lead me away from my niche. With questions like these, I have given myself the freedom to explore, but to stay focused within my niche. This way I become the best at what I do instead of a master of nothing!

Amanda Mittlemann, since the age of 5, has embraced her inner Wonder Woman and the role of superhero; sometimes by choice, but often by the trials of life circumstance. Like most superheroes, she’s used her weakness and frustration to fuel a passion to help others. She makes it her daily mission to be that one person her clients count on to “save the day,” helping them find their inner most (and often lost) superhero. With her relentless focus, passion and drive, we certainly haven’t seen the last of this modern-day superhero.

Amanda Mittleman

Company: Mo-Mentum Fitness

Title: Creator, CEO, personal trainer, leader, writer, wife, mom, GiGi

Education: BS - Human Development/Physiology; MS – Kinesiology/Exercise Science, California State University Long Beach

Favorite equipment: TRX

Awards: IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year: 2015 nominee, 2016 finalist

Favorite quote: Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm,” and the warrior whispers back, “I AM THE STORM.” -Josh Bowen (Buff Gandhi)

Contact information:

Facebook/Twitter: @AmandaMittleman