Fitness pioneer Tracy Anderson on the secret to sticking with a New Year's resolution: 'Don't set impossible goals'

Fitness pioneer Tracy Anderson on finding balance and dealing with
Fitness pioneer Tracy Anderson on finding balance and dealing with "unresolved tension." (Photo: Courtesy of CITI; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

With a name synonymous with an innovative workout and a body she transformed with hard work and discipline, fitness pioneer Tracy Anderson has spent over 20 years perfecting the art of personal branding. As creator of the Tracy Anderson Method (whose devotees include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez and Tracee Ellis Ross), Anderson has become known for developing strategic routines to ensure that no client ever plateaus. Most recently, that's included partnering with Citi on the Citi Spotify playlist, which features her motivational tips along the way.

Yahoo Life caught up with Anderson from her Malibu home, where she weighed in on the importance of paying attention to our minds as well as our bodies, sticking to resolutions and why music can be key to the perfect workout.

How are you taking care of yourself these days, and do you have any self-care rituals that help you reset?

When I feel [stretched too thin] I stop, put my foot down and evaluate the consequences. It’s constantly pausing, checking in and having conversations with yourself when you're navigating your health. Having those interior conversations let us have fun but let us keep our balance.

What’s your approach to mental health?

Being connected to my experiences and really just acknowledging my journey — the good, the bad, the ugly, the devastating. For me, it’s this amazing thing about becoming more wise as we become older [and] being gentle and forgiving about the ways I went off track. I give myself permission to grow, permission to have failed and made mistakes, permission to go back with a gained perspective. It’s about not lying to yourself. People don't realize how much we can handle the truth of our feelings. I also see a therapist regularly; being able to connect with someone you trust is important.

What stresses you out?

Having any kind of tension — unresolved tension — or miscommunication with people I love stresses me out. It will stay top of mind for me until I work through whatever it is I need to work through.

What brings you joy?

Being surrounded by the people I love brings me the most joy: my dear friends, my children, my dogs. Great food, loving people, dancing — those things bring me the most joy.

You were a wellness influencer before such a term existed, but do where do you turn for wellness inspiration?

I’ve been called a guru a lot but I don’t enjoy that term; it represents that people are floating on a higher plane and I disagree with that. I find my inspiration in people who have done truthful bodies of work in health, human rights — any positive progression. I vet those people pretty well. I can find inspiration in Amanda Gorman’s poetry, Dr. James Austin — I’ve read his book Zen and the Brain many times and have gotten tutors to help better understand it. I like to challenge myself.

You’ve changed the way people exercise. Is there a workout or wellness trend you think is overrated?

Spinning! It’s horrible for people’s joints; it’s imbalancing for muscles. I think it’s the worst fitness trend. I love to ride bikes outside in nature, but I do not want to sit on a stationary bike. But actually the worst fitness trend is all the ex-trainers ripping me off, trying to say they have a method. Anyone where it looks like Tracy Anderson but it’s not, they’re stealing from me. That's the worst fitness trend!

It’s the end of the year and we’re inundated with sweet treats and alcohol; do your clients express to you their struggles during the holiday season?

My good students enjoy the holiday because the entire purpose of my method is to create balance where there’s imbalance — which is an ongoing process. You don't drink too much or overeat too much, you don’t not move or not get sleep. It’s a real standard that you set for yourself — but if anything’s going to incentivize anyone today, it’s that alcohol and sugar are bad for your immune system. We’re living in a time where our immune system’s health is so key. This is the time to look past the superficial reasons people are motivated by and really understand the meaning of self-care.

Can you help us with a reasonable New Year’s resolution?

Yes! Don’t set impossible goals. Love yourself when you set the goal but do not cancel the goal if you fail. Keep going.

You’re partnering with Citi on the Citi Spotify playlist and since some of the people you train with are artists and musicians, I’m wondering if you make custom playlists for your clients? And does the music you play vary by the type of exercise you’re doing at the time?

Great question! I look at creating playlists like content creation — I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, every single week new playlists — because, to your point, most of my clients are artists. I definitely learned how much I can push with music because music can make you feel and you want to be sensitive to your role in motivating them and supporting them. I always pick up on artists that don't resonate with other artists or certain styles of music. Sometimes I challenge it because it’s important to go to places that are a little uncomfortable to actually serve your health — but sometimes, it's that you can't get inspired [by that music] and it’s as simple as that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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