Meet America’s Favorite Strength Trainer: Monte Sanders

In mid-July, it was announced that Monte Sanders was the winner of America’s Favorite Strength Training Instructor. This is his third consecutive win in our annual competition, though we couldn’t give out the award in person this year (check out this amazing moment from a couple of years ago). To highlight some of his great work, his inspirational philosophy, and his company (MBS Fitness Lab) we sat down with him recently. Check out the interview below.

Q: All right, Mr. Monte Sanders here today. You just had a book come out. You’re doing the whole book tour. I know that’s been fun, but I wanted to start with the fact you are a three-time champion of America’s Favorite Trainer as America’s Favorite Strength trainer this year. What does that mean to you?

It means a lot. First, I like to keep things in perspective. Anytime you’re nominated for anything, to me, that’s a blessing. I’m so grateful for my clients and people that nominated me. I was blown away by that…it’s been humbling. I’m so honored. I’m so thankful to God. I’m so thankful to my wife and family and I’m so thankful to these clients.

We live in a busy world; you know these people are busy. Family time, work, and we’re in a pandemic. Yet, people took the time out of their day to stop and vote for me and some wrote a review. I have so much gratitude in my heart. It’s been amazing.

Q: It’s great to see the impact you’ve made in people’s lives. I just want to read a couple comments. “Monte, you’ve changed my life.” “Monte, you are an inspiration. Remember what you give comes back tenfold.” Sounds like those might be some words of advice you’ve given some folks.

Yes. I like to tell people that the way you treat others really makes a difference. I’m a firm believer in the energy you put out is what you receive. I’m also a firm believer in what you do for people will be the only thing that lasts in this world. You can press people all day, but the impact that you have on their lives, to me, that’s legacy. I attribute that to really separating me from the rest of the training world, that’s so saturated with millions of people.

If somebody wants to lose 20 pounds, that’s great. You could put them on a program. They stay consistent and they could do it. However, in my category of student training, if someone wants to get stronger, we can create a program to help them get stronger in all areas of their body. We can deal with their mentality, their bodies, as well as their spirit—that is everything to me. When you are done, I want you to say, “You know what? I met my physical goal, but I feel like I’m a better person.” To me, that’s everything.

Q: Tell me about the very first time you can remember thinking about your fitness.

That goes back to a time where I was really trying to find myself and really asked God, “What’s my purpose in life?” And the loudest whisper came, and it said, “What do you do every day?”

The one thing that I was doing every day was I worked out. So, I just kept working out. And one day, it kind of came to me. A good friend of mine said, “Hey, that’s something you should think about doing on the side. You really got a good passion for it. Personal training can really make good money on the side.”

I started learning more, then I got certified, and kept learning so many intricate things about the body and how it works. It’s something that I wanted to do full time. It’s something that I wanted to do the rest of my life…And 20 years later, here I am.

Q: What were you doing at the time when you decided personal training was a better route for you?

I was a manager in the bank. I had been working in the bank for like 13 years and I was fine with the Growing up, my parents taught us to go to school, get a degree, and get a job. And I did that. But, what I found out was even though the money was okay, there was something missing on the inside. I was okay at work. But when I left work, I had a void. And I never understood what that feeling was. I finally had the job, finally had the degree.

And I realized that the job wasn’t bringing me fulfillment. It was bringing me money, but it wasn’t bringing me fulfillment. And those are two different things. And I had to have that fulfillment. It’s a feeling that no amount of money could provide. I know a lot of millionaires who have been miserable. So, I found my purpose. It’s like purpose really is the original intent of a thing.

One of the purposes of my life is to work out and encourage people to get up, get moving, and make healthier choices with their lifestyles. But not just within their body, but also in their mind and in their spirit. And to me, whatever comes with that, comes with that. I’ve been so blessed. Amazon’s Best Seller List, America’s Favorite Trainer a few years in a row. And that’s all a tribute to really sticking with my purpose, refining it, going back, refocusing, and making changes here. It’s a lifelong journey and I look forward to the rest of it.

Q: What have the trainers in your life meant to you?

That’s a good question because I’ve been working out and been an athlete my whole life. As athletes, we really listen to what the strength or conditioning coaches say. I was able to be surrounded by good friends that enjoyed working out, too, and who were athletic. I think about the days of Eric Green with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Ernie Mills, and Yancey Thigpen. All those guys, they were my friend and we would work out. That was a part of our lifestyle.

For me, I guess I’ve just been so blessed to be around good people that work out. That really is a lifestyle for me. It’s almost like if I don’t work out for two or three days in a row, I go crazy. I’m blessed to have connected my passion with my purpose. To me, that’s fulfillment.

Q: You have this great connection with Ray Lewis, Hall of Famer, who shouts you out in his Hall of Fame speech. That’s got to be on a Mount Rushmore of memories for you, right?

Yes, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Ed Reed gave me a shout-out as well. So how blessed am I to train two Hall of Famers? What’s amazing is I got this award for the last three years in a row and I’m just thinking that those Hall of Fame guys have been retired for almost nine years.

The people that really gave me the opportunity to receive this award…are the everyday people like myself. Those are the people that elevated me to where I’m talking to you right now. I appreciate Ray and Ed for giving me the opportunity to work with them and to share my gifts, my talents, my work ethic with them. That was the foundation. But those guys don’t play sports forever. So it’s just been a blessing to continue to learn about the body, to continue to learn about different ways to make the body healthier and stronger. Those guys were great. It’s on my Mount Rushmore, but equally, I think the everyday person that works out with me, comes to my camps, and spends time with us online at Burnalong is amazing.

Q: The story goes that you and Ray are doing a workout and it ends. And he says you’re the only guy crazy enough to work out even harder than him. You talk about your work ethic. First of all, is that story true? Is that how it goes?

Absolutely. Very similar to that, he said he never had someone finish a workout with him. Leading up to meeting Ray for that workout, I was running 6 miles a day, I was lifting, I was stretching. I was in the best shape of my life before I met him. So when I met him and he was like, “What are you doing tomorrow?” I’m like, “I’m working out.” He was like, “I’m working out, too. Why don’t you come by?” At the end of the workout, I wasn’t even exhausted.

That’s the type of shape that I was in at that moment. When I met Ray, you’re talking about opportunity and preparation, meeting opportunity. I was prepared for that opportunity. I attribute that to my work ethic.

You can have a hard work ethic, but if you don’t have passion connected to it, at some point, the motivation is going to be gone. The feeling is going to be gone. It’s going to be a bad day. You don’t feel like working out. But I was stuck with that thing. Working out was one thing that I was going to get done regardless.

Q: MBS Fitness Labs addresses mind, body, spirit (MBS). How did you start it, how did it come about?

It started because I was physically strong, and I was spiritually dead. Remember that part I talked about a void? I went to great schools. I had a great education, so I respected my intellect. I respected my body for working out, but I was out of balance. Then I found out there are some people that are spiritually great but don’t love their bodies. There are some people who love their intellect, but they don’t respect their body in the same way.

I was in the worst battle of life. I was against myself. My mind was one way, body this way, the spirit that way. And I tell people, you’re going to have a lot of battles in life, but the worst will be when you are out of alignment with yourself.

I found out the mind really is key. When I got the mind right, then I got the body right, and I started spending time in the Word of God. And that gave me a foundation to not be perfect, but to be in alignment. That’s why I tell people all the time, “Know that you’re a three-part being: mind, body, and spirit.” Work on all three of those parts the same.

At Mind Body Spirit Fitness Laboratory, when you’re here, we’re not discussing religion and politics. I don’t do those. Just positive affirmations and we’re going to work. That gives people a chance to be in alignment with themselves, or at least have some balance. Not so much perfection.

Q: How have you been supporting your clients over the past 18 months? What’s that been like for you?

During the course of the pandemic, Burnalong has had the most positive effect on my clients. Every single day I’m posting the workout of the day. I’m asking them for feedback. I have a group where we do workouts Monday through Friday. You never have to guess which Burnalong class to do. It’s in alignment with what we do for camps, as if we were in person, but we all are at home.

If I see clients three days a week, that’s 3 hours a week; that’s not going to give you enough time to reach your goal. You need a Burnalong workout on a Tuesday and a Thursday too. I call it homework. For most people, we have homework five days a week.

Q: What’s one thing you tell someone who’s never tried your brand of wellness, your philosophy?

First of all, you have to be yourself. I mentor some trainers and one of the first things I tell them is, if you’re trying to be me, you’re going to lose value. It’s all about you being the best that you can be.

In the training world, people who focus on just the body can work with folks who only care about weight loss, nothing else. And that’s fine. But when you develop a relationship with clients and they become like family members to you, it’s important that you be there, beyond the goals. The best way to do that is to just be yourself.

I would suggest to trainers if they’re thinking about this philosophy, is that they’ve got to live it. Make sure you have the basic fitness classes, like abs, if you are thinking about this type of training. I always tell people that they wouldn’t go to a financial advisor that doesn’t have any money or a real estate agent that lives in an [rented] apartment. So, live what you’re talking about.

And second, be transparent. Transparency brings transformation. I tell people all the time that I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. When we’re having a family night with my wife and my daughter, we eat popcorn sometimes. I am human.

Q: What do you have going on in six months, a year?

We’re implementing live classes on Burnalong at least once or twice a week. I’m excited about that. The first class we started on July 31st. It could just be a quick 5-10 minutes, but it will be some time for us for quick exercises to get us moving.

I’m looking forward to the presentation of my America’s Favorite Trainer award with a fireside chat of my book, The Power of You Vs. You.

I’m also looking forward to an e-course that we’re going to be giving out on Championship Mentality with Ray Lewis. An e-course on my book, The Power of You Vs. You, an e-course on “training the trainers.” I’ll be sharing some principles of success that I’ve learned over 20 years and even my failures that could help other trainers grow. It’s a lot going on, we’re working.

Want to learn more?

Check out the full interview below:

To connect with Monte and stay up-to-date with all his activities, you can connect on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can check out Monte’s 50+ classes on Burnalong so you can train with America’s Favorite Strength Training Instructor too.

To learn about becoming an instructor on Burnalong, introduce yourself to us.

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