Fitness Expert Amanda Genao – “How I Got Into Fitness…The Long Version”

I was recently asked on my Facebook Q & A about how I got into fitness. Since the story required some lengthy explanations and details, I opted to blog about it. I have been in the industry for a while now. I’ve learned that most of us don’t just fall into it, but have some sort of deep rooted motivation or reason why we strive to be so dedicated at achieving this specific aesthetic muscular or lean look. I am no different.

I was a very small baby (see pic above!), and to this day I am not quite sure if I was born prematurely. All I know is my mother tells me stories that I was so small they had to use a pillow in order to hold me. Growing up I was also very fragile and not the best eater out. I am not talking about your regular child/vegetable aversion but pretty much a total refusal to eat. I often had to be force fed.

At one point in my young years I developed kidney problems and had to be put on a plethora of painful antibiotic injections regularly. On my butt. Yeah. No fun for a 10-year-old. My mother always suspected that I had undiagnosed thyroid issues, too. Come to think of it, maybe this is why my parents kept me away from playing outside and kept me consumed in academics. I was considered a child prodigy and was reading by the age of 2. I was also learning how to read and write in Russian (where my mom had spent a few years of medical school) by 4, and at that same age I had started school. Except I wasn’t in kindergarten but immediately skipped to the 2nd grade. Needless to say I was always the youngest and smallest throughout my entire school years.

Once I started high school, I was determined to defy my parents’ ideals of keeping me indoors and into my books and I wanted to try different sports. My biggest motivation and inspiration happens to be one of my uncles, who at the time, and still to this date, was heavily into weight lifting. He had a room filled with weights and a soloflex machine. I was attracted to the weights like magnets. I was running track and after every practice we had the choice to hit the weight room. I was familiar with this and often found myself to be the only girl in there really interested in the weights.

Being on the track team with my type of upbringing and my parents’ ideals of me being a lawyer or a doctor did not sit well. They tried everything possible to block me from participating on the track team and attending practice. It wasn’t until the intervention from my high school principal that they backed off. Only a little though.

Even though I was still the youngest and smallest (and still the most fragile) petite person on the track team, I felt strong inside. I felt empowered and that’s a feeling that can’t be replaced.

And here come the college years! Woohooo! Imagine a 16-year-old left to wander a college campus all on her own? Freedom! The first thing I did was find where my gym was. I was often the ONLY girl in the sweaty-college-dude ridden gym. I didn’t care. I was religious about my weight training routine, even though looking back, half the time I had no idea what I was doing. I stayed pretty active with my love for training. Dieting or eating healthy was not a concern of mine at the time. Hello, I was in college! I actually had a pretty large appetite but never put on much weight. I was still tiny. But, I did have a big booty. (Thanks ma!)

My college career came to a slight stall when I found myself pregnant with my first child (that’s baby Jamal to the left). A couple of years later, I had my second child. I am sure you guys can imagine what having children does to a woman’s body. Even though I did not gain huge amounts of weight, my body was still never the same. My main focus was obviously my children and my household but I was also determined to finish my undergraduate college career. Doing so with two children was a challenge, as it was also to keep going to the gym. I was still young and there was a lack of resources.

Like most women who have children (Stephanie and Jamal, pic on the left) and who gain a little weight, there was a point where I wasn’t happy with my body. I decided to take charge. I found a local gym that, in addition, had an indoor playground and activities for children. This made working out easier and a family event. As my children grew older and attended school, I eventually found another gym where I could go on my own and do my thing. It was such an amazing experience. To me it was my “me” time. I felt strong, empowered, and by the time I went home, I had more energy to deal with the daily challenges of being a mom.

Then there is the magazine story. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard women who find themselves staring at the cover of Muscle ‘N Fitness or Oxygen and want to have a body just like the ones they see in those pages. I remember running to the owner of my gym back in 2003 and telling him that I wanted to look like that. He laughed as if it would be an impossible feat for me. Anyone that knows me knows that I am fueled by thoughts of the impossible. If you think I can’t do it, chances are that THAT alone is what will give me the drive and energy to do it!

At the time there was only one supplement store in my area, owned by Garrett Shepherd. It was called “In Shape Nutrition”. I had read a couple of articles in those magazines outlining protein powders and fat burners. So I went into his store to purchase them. Garrett took the time to guide me into making some good choices. After I spoke to him about my goals, he volunteered to help me. He had all these amazing bodybuilding photos of himself posted on his walls and I knew I could trust him to meet my fitness goals. He gave me the idea and inspiration to get on stage. He saw how determined I was and knew I had a spark in me that would allow me to meet my goals. So we embarked on a journey to get me lean and on stage!

As I prepared for my first show (pic to the left), not only did I get my body back in 2003, but I got it back with a vengeance! Although the process of dieting and training for a competition could be rather challenging while still maintaining a household, a full time job, and attending graduate school, I found the ability to have control of my body exhilarating! I enjoyed watching my body change weekly and the fact that I could do something that no one around me was able to do. It set me aside from other members of my academic community and I loved it!

I also found myself more focused and determined in all other aspects and areas of my life. I was able to complete more tasks and be more diligent and organized. I feel stronger, more empowered and not nearly as fragile (despite my petite frame) as I did growing up.

So there you have it. The full story of how I got into fitness. I’ve been competing since 2003 and I have loved every single minute of it (carb depletion included).


To learn more about Amanda you can visit her website at