Name: Anthony Amen
Location: Manorville, NY
How long have you been an ambassador? 1.5 years
Favorite Athletic beer: Free Wave
Instagram: @AnthonyAmenFitness @RedefineFitnessMtSinai
Websites: www.redefine-fitness.com and https://anthonyamen.com/
Health & Fitness Redefined 30th birthday episode: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7awaUXbOTBYTPeVgevHKMp?si=Wb-d2TIgTfqDFQ6f9P2EUg
When Anthony Amen was injured in a game of broomball, his whole world changed.
He could barely move his neck or arms. He suffered from debilitating headaches and pain. His memory within the months following the accident is virtually non-existent. And he was told by more than two dozen doctors that he’d never live a normal life again.
It’s not something he easily overcame. But now that he’s thriving, he says he’s grateful that the experience led him to become the person he is now, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It got me where I am today,” Anthony says. “A lot of people say I got hurt and it ruined my life. But if that never happened, I'd never be able to help and do what I do now. Period.
“I wasn’t going to sit there and believe that my life was truly over as I knew it. I didn’t want to. How could you? I was 22 at that point when I really got myself together and just dove down into fixing myself. It was a lot of trial and error, but I noticed I had little victories. When I went like this [extending my arms above my head] for the first time, I was in front of my mom, and I just broke down.”
Anthony poured his experience of using movement as a form of healing into Redefine Fitness, a gym and community where he helps others who are struggling in many of the same ways he once was. He’s also started a podcast called Health & Fitness Redefined, where he shares stories about others who have overcome serious adversity on the path to recovery. His community is growing and thriving, and he’s excited to open a second gym location in the near future.
Read on to learn more about how Anthony helps and inspires others to heal and to live without compromise in this month’s Ambassador Spotlight.
Tell me a little bit about your background and your journey through the health and fitness space.
When I was younger, I was not athletic or in shape whatsoever until college when I suffered a really bad injury while playing a sport called broomball. After that injury, I was told by 25 different doctors that I wouldn’t be able to live a normal life again, and that I would be stuck on medication for the rest of my life. One doctor even told me that he’s a physician, not a magician, to get out of my office and that he can’t help me. True story. Wish I was making it up.
But, it’s all right. What happened was I had no quality of life. I couldn’t move my neck, and I had tension migraines on a daily basis. I didn’t want to live like that at the age of 20, so I started working out and figuring out different ways to help give myself back a normal life so I could participate in sports and do things – all the fun stuff in life. And I ended up doing it. I ended up being able to touch my hands above my head a year and a half after my accident, which was amazing. And I wanted to help others overcome things they didn’t think were possible to overcome. I’ve met others who have injuries quite the same, where everyone has given up on them. I help them live a better life as much as we possibly can. Because as we say at Redefine Fitness: Fitness is medicine.
Redefine Fitness [has been] up and running since 2018. COVID hit in March 2020, and gyms were forcibly shut down. I still wanted to be able to spread my message and help as many people as possible, so I started my own podcast, which launched a week after the gym was shut down. The show is called Health & Fitness Redefined. I’ve had tons of guests, learned so many cool stories. It’s been an amazing growth journey. And I’m on my way to open my second [gym] location, which should be open in February.
I’m a big believer that time is short and finite, and you really don't know when your time is going to end. It could be tomorrow, it could be today, it could be 50 years from now, so it’s up to you to make the best of it and to use every given moment to accomplish what you want out of life, and that depends on each individual. We each have our own individual goals and desires. Mine is to help as many people as possible, so in order to do that, I constantly take risks to help myself help other people.
Tell me a little bit about your injury, and what is the sport you were playing? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it.
Yeah, if you’re not Canadian, you’ve probably never heard of it! It’s a hockey rink where you’re wearing sneakers on the ice, not ice skates, and you have a little wooden stick, not a puck, it’s a ball, but all the other rules of hockey. I’ve played a lot of broomball, so it wasn't my first game. It was kind of a fluke. The night before, one of my best friends was on the opposing team, and he twisted his ankle. So the next day during the game, he came to slide tackle me, and I didn’t want to step on his ankle, so I stepped over him, and as I stepped over him, he hit me from behind slightly, and I fell backwards on my heels and my head hit the ice. I remember that moment, and then I went back in and finished out the game, and later that night, I was talking to my friends post-game, and I lost my ability to speak well, and that’s the last thing I remember for 3 months.
I was told that I couldn’t look at light, because I hit the back of my head. I used to just get these migraines where I was super light sensitive – I couldn’t get out of bed. … I couldn’t do anything. People brought me food. I had a really bad concussion. The doctor told me if I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I probably would've been dead, that’s how hard I fell. I herniated every single disc in my neck. It was pretty traumatic.
But it got me where I am today. A lot of people say I got hurt and it ruined my life. But if that never happened, I'd never be able to help and do what I do now. Period.
What was that process like, when you reached the point where you realized that you had to do this on your own, so to speak, when the doctors began to doubt your ability to live a normal life?
My accident was in February, and my first memories come back in about May. I don’t remember the exact day, but it was right around finals week, because I remember going to the dean and he gave me permission to drop all my classes. It’s really hard to describe the pain I was in and for people to understand it and just how screwed up it was. My range of motion in my neck side to side was [very minimal]. My right shoulder was frozen. And then my trapezius muscle would lock out, and I’d get these tension migraines. I wanted to live life. I was 20 years old. I couldn’t do anything.
So I started the traditional route. I started seeing all these doctors when I got home for the summer, and they just didn’t help. There was no answer. The answer was: Take your medicine. I didn’t want to believe that, so I signed up for a gym to just start doing something. I didn’t really know what I was doing, because I had no experience in exercising, at this point. I just started doing little things here and there. About a year later, when I went to that orthopedic surgeon that told me he’s a physician not a magician, that was the last doctor I saw, that was No.25.
That was that final straw. At that point, I knew that doctors, for as good as they are, they don’t know everything. I wasn’t going to sit there and believe that my life was truly over as I knew it. I didn’t want to. How could you? I was 22 at that point when I really got myself together and just dove down into fixing myself. It was a lot of trial and error, but I noticed I had little victories. When I went like this [moving my arms above my head] for the first time, I was in front of my mom, and I just broke down. It was amazing. It was tough.
But yet here you are. And not only are you doing it, and you’re recovered, but now you’re reaching back and giving back to people who are in the same boat, who were told, “Nope, that’s it, sorry, that’s all I can do for you.” What does it feel like to do that?
It’s tough to convince people that this is what they need, but it’s super rewarding. I had a guy who recently had spinal surgery, and they severed several nerves in his spinal column, so he lost a lot of feeling on his right side. He came to me in a motorized wheelchair, and he said, “Listen, I’m 42, I have 3 kids, I need help going to the bathroom – is there anything you can do?” I said absolutely. I worked with him for about a year and a half, and I got him from a wheelchair – not only did we get him standing and moving with crutches, I had him doing a plank. A guy that couldn’t do a dorsiflex, couldn’t feel his right oblique – did a 45 second plank on his own. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
The power of [your mind] is so underestimated. If you think, as a person, that there’s no hope, that’s when there’s no hope. If you can change your mental attitude and have the capability to think that there is a way, your brain can heal your body. I've seen it so many times. People truly underestimate the power of movement, the power of their brain. It really helps push people. You have to realize how the brain works. It’s like an electrical panel. You constantly have to reignite that channel over and over again. Eventually your brain will reroute things. You see it with nerves – they’ll start rerouting themselves to get to where they need to go. Your body wants to work. That’s how it survives. There is a way for our bodies to recover over traumatic injuries as long as we believe there’s a way.
So you opened your fitness facility, and you also have your podcast now – how has that been going? Was it scary to start out, or did you always kind of believe that you were doing the right thing? And tell me about how the podcast is going!
How I started – I had no money in my bank account. I was bouncing around different gyms. I worked every position. I was thinking of going to a phys-ed program to get my masters. My thought behind it was if I can become a PE teacher, I can make enough money to get a loan from the bank, and I can do it that way. Halfway through, it kind of dawned on me that I’m not the kind of person to take the long road. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – find a way. I went to a bank and finally got a loan for $35,000, and I used it for a downpayment on equipment. But it still wasn't enough.
So I asked the bank for a line of credit. Still wasn’t enough. I went and opened 15 credit cards. I said to myself, if I can clear these cards off in a year, then I really lost nothing. So I did that. I opened my doors in December 2018. I didn’t have anything to my name. I worked my butt off, making connections, started hiring right away, and we actually made money after closing up in year one.
Then we got into COVID. It was the same scenario. I was given 5 hours to close my gym [when the lockdown started]. OK – gotta figure this out! I broke down because I watched something I worked really hard for just crumble. So yet again, I had the conversation with myself: You’ve been through worse. You can do this. What can you do? I know, I can start a podcast and stay relevant. Yet again, very hard to get guests, very hard to boost the popularity of it. It really didn't do well. I had never done anything like this in my life, so talking to people like this was very difficult.
After about six months, it started picking up traction. And now I have people I pay to help run my podcast because it gets thousands of downloads a week. I get to meet so many amazing people. The more you network, the more you talk to people, the more you can make things happen.
Long story short – if you want to listen to a little bit more about my life, I did an episode on my 30th birthday last year. It was every detail about my life – I made it public. One of the things [I talk about] there was that I almost killed myself when I was in 7th grade. I was very shy, introverted, bullied … and getting through something like that, and being able to change my persona. I told myself – I’m gonna change who I am, I’m going to start becoming a different person. And I did that. It was super difficult, but I did it. The injury was another life lesson. It was another adverse situation.
Nothing is ever gonna compare to those two in life. And that’s the moral of the story: Adversity is gonna come, and it’s gonna be super hard, and some people are gonna fail from it, and other people are gonna really succeed. But the unfortunate side of it is I feel bad for the people who never experience adversity. It doesn’t matter how much I tell somebody this is the way you’re going to do it – if they've never overcome something in their life that was crazy hard, then they just truly don’t believe in themselves, and they will never put the effort into it. They will never take those big risky strides unless they were the one who went through it.
How has the podcast helped you grow and become more of the person that you want to become?
The biggest thing is the connections with people. I have met so many amazing people, and I’m not just saying that. People's stories that still blow my mind ... I had a [guest] who lost his leg in a car accident. They told him he’d never be able to walk again, but he ended up getting into the paralympics and winning gold. Wow! I think I have willpower, and then I hear these people. It’s people like that that really show the power that we can [have] as human beings. That’s what I love about it. It’s just amazing. It’s helped me really grow as an individual. It’s a little selfish, but it keeps me on track.. I just love doing it. It’s helped me open up on my life a lot more. It really feels freeing to know that I’m not hiding anything.
And I don’t know the name of the people who are listening to my show, but I’m clearly making an impact on their lives. That’s the same at the gym. They know how to work out. They come to be with me, because it keeps them accountable and they know that when they’re around me, they’re gonna push themselves harder. It’s amazing.
How did you find Athletic Brewing, how did that come into your life?
I drank too much in college, but not really for the drinking part, I just love the taste of beer. I don’t drink soda; I don’t eat desert; I have the world’s strictest diet, but I love beer. We all have one of those vices. But what got to me was waking up at 4 in the morning, starting work at 4:30 a.m., working until 8:30 p.m., and then having to do that 7 days a week. So I was looking for an alternative. I wanted to be able to have a beer but not have any alcohol in it. That’s when I found Athletic. Then I got involved to be an ambassador because it fit my niche very well. I love hiking, it’s one of my biggest passions. That’s how I really started. Then became an ambassador. Still enjoy my regular beers once in a while. But it’s nice I can have a beer every single night, so I don’t feel bad, and it’s really good. I’m a huge IPA drinker.
How has the ambassador program helped you in your professional, personal or athletic endeavors?
It’s helped me a lot with networking. Athletic Brewing has been super helpful and supportive of all events that I do at Redefine Fitness, and I really mean that. I run a lot of events. [Athletic Brewing] always helps with my club. Fitness and diet isn’t about “dieting” and being super strict – it’s about enjoying life and finding things that you like that are maybe healthier versions of that. That’s why I really push [Athletic Brewing] all the time.
What are some of your proudest achievements (athletic or not)?
Overcoming my depression, overcoming my injury, and being a young entrepreneur that learned how to take risks.
What is a bucket list event or race that you’d love to compete in?
So I’ve run every single one of the Spartan [races], but I've never done them in a year, mostly because of COVID. I had it booked in 2020. It looks like 2022 is gonna happen. I want to finish the trifecta, then I want to run the World’s Toughest Mudder. Or be on American Ninja Warrior. I’m really back and forth.
What’s your favorite recovery food?
Hmm. … I just like food. Food is amazing. My favorite dessert is baklava. I love Greek food. Gyros are delicious.
What do you like to do on rest days?
Walk, get lost walking. Just walk 10 miles, or around the neighborhood, or in the woods. Or play Magic: The Gathering. That’s my left field answer.
What gets you up and out of bed every day?
Not knowing when it’s going to be my last day. That’s really it. How do you know?
What does living without compromise mean to you?
I don’t want to compromise anything of myself to make something happen. I’m going to do what I need to get done. I’m not going to change what’s going on in my life to appease somebody else. I’m doing what I know I need to do regardless of what anybody else thinks I need to be doing. That's without compromise.
If you’re interested in joining the ambassador program, our application window typically opens up on a quarterly basis. Keep an eye on our Community Page or social media pages to be notified!