Q&A With Biggest Loser, Anna Kournikova
I didn’t feel any pressure. I was the one that went after this opportunity to be on the Biggest Loser to be able to have the opportunity to train with these contestants and help them become healthier. I’ve worked with the best nutritionists, the best psychologist, the best coaches, trainers and for mean I’ve stored all of that information. I’ve used my body as a tool my whole life on a tennis court being a professional athlete. So for me it was just literally instead of now listening to all the information that was thrown at me I was just repeating it and voicing it to the contestants and sharing it with them. _Anna Kournikova: NBC’s the Biggest Loser trainer
Anna Kournikova: NBC’s the Biggest Loser trainer
Internationally-recognized Tennis Star | Certified Trainer
By: Daedrian McNaughton/Premier Guide Media
Biggest Loser season premiere on Tuesday, September 20 at 8:00 pm Eastern 7:00 Central on NBC.
Anna will join “Biggest Loser” favorite Bob Harper for season 12, training 15 contestants competing in a “Battle of the Ages” that will group contestants by age for the first time ever in the history of the show.
With the absence of Jillian Michaels, do you feel added pressure joining the show?
Anna Kournikova: I didn’t feel any pressure. I was the one that went after this opportunity to be on the Biggest Loser to be able to have the opportunity to train with these contestants and help them become healthier. I’ve worked with the best nutritionists, the best psychologist, the best coaches, trainers and for mean I’ve stored all of that information. I’ve used my body as a tool my whole life on a tennis court being a professional athlete. So for me it was just literally instead of now listening to all the information that was thrown at me I was just repeating it and voicing it to the contestants and sharing it with them. I didn’t feel like I was replacing anyone or trying to fill in anybody’s shoes; not at all. We all have our own styles. The biggest draw was that I had all this knowledge, that I live and breathe sports, fitness, nutrition, well-being and helping people. So for me that was a perfect combination. I’ve been working with kids involving kids into sports since 2003 working with Boys and Girls Club full-time and just promoting sports and healthy active lifestyles. So it was a completely natural role for me. And yes maybe I’ve never trained, trained like Dolvett’s clients and people in a gym every day but that’s my profession is being an athlete. And literally I just had to repeat everything to the people I was training now.
Does it feel like you’re filling a void, and how would you prove yourself this season and is your hubby 100% supportive of your work?
Anna Kournikova: It’s not about me. I don’t look at the Biggest Loser as the show’s about the trainers. The show’s about the contestants and we are the support system and the professional on a big team of professionals which includes a nutritionist, a doctor, a psychologist helping the cast members. And that’s how I look at myself. I’m not trying to prove myself at all by any means and I’m just there to do my part of the job which is train and educated the contestants about exercise, about fitness about healthy lifestyle. And all of my family and friends are extremely supportive of what I do or what I want to do because they know that if I do something I do it a million percent. And I’m very committed and dedicated to the things I choose to do. And I’m fortunate enough to be able to go after certain projects that I’m passionate about. It’s real incredible. They are on a ranch. They form and develop relationships. That’s why it’s an amazing show. These people who are strangers just a couple of days ago before they got on their own they formed and developed relationships. Now add in the mix that they’re physically exhausted from working out six to eight hours a day and being on a restricted calorie budget and there’s some very interesting stuff going on. And meanwhile we’re figuring out these guys lives and their family’s lives because it will affect their family’s lives also.
What will you bring to the table as a new trainer on the Biggest Loser?
Anna Kournikova: Well the fact is that I treated my body as a tool my whole life to be able to perform on the tennis court and to be a professional athlete. I’ve worked with the best psychologist sports psychologist, the best nutritionists, the best trainer, the best coaches. So for me it was literally just using all that information that has been drilled into my brain for the last 25, 23 years and voicing it and sharing it with the contestants. And also I’ve been working with the Boys and Girls Club and a couple of other charities, US – with the USO and with PSI where I am spreading the message of healthy, well-being, and lifestyle and getting kids into sports and all those sorts of things. So I know that I didn’t have a lot of experience or much experience with obese people but that’s why we have an amazing support system with Dr. H. and the nutritionist Cheryl Forberg. And it’s basic science and math. And really the most important trick is explaining it to the contestants and motivating them. Because really it’s about calories and hours of exercise. So it’s not rocket science but it’s disciplined, dedication and understanding how it works.
What would you say to people who have not having seen you train think to themselves oh she just got picked because she’s beautiful?
Anna Kournikova: People always ask me well how can you relate to the contestants. They are obese than they are this and that. And I’m like listen I get criticized and judged all the time whether or she’s just too pretty, she’s not good enough, she wasn’t a good athlete. But to be a top ten in the world that’s something. So to be a top ten tennis player in the world I must have been doing something right. And I’ve achieved everything with my pure hard work and dedication. And I came from Soviet Union from really nothing from a very, very modest background. And that’s how I also tell the contestants that’s how I can relate to them. That’s how I can understand them is that I know what it’s like to be judged and criticized whether it’s because of your weight, whether it’s because of how you look, whether it’s people looking at you just they think have these preconceived notions and I’m okay with that. The only thing I can do and the only thing that I control is I can work hard, be the best human being I can and that’s it.
As a high level athlete, has the Biggest Loser pushed you physically or otherwise?
Anna Kournikova: It’s was definitely a very different experience where I was always the one being told what to do and follow instructions to the T. This was a total role reversal where I just told people what to do based on what I’ve learned from the best nutritionist, the best sports psychologist, the best coach, trainers. And it’s definitely just brought me back to the organized discipline ways that I used to be when I was a professional athlete. The last few years have been kind of more relaxed for me but it definitely was a very easy to jump right back into being super disciplined, dedicated, and just spending a lot of hours and time with these contestants trying to really change their thinking and mentality.
For the Biggest Loser, what was your approach to healthy eating habits and physical activity in relation to the contestants?
Anna Kournikova: I really followed the information and all the guidelines and charts that Dr. H., Dr. Huizenga on the show has created. They create a chart for each contestant. And I really made sure that we’d try to stick to that, to the calories to the intakes to the how much they spend and everything and just really use my own personal knowledge that I gathered working with the best of nutritionists while I was a professional athlete.
Is the show what you expected it to be?
Anna Kournikova: It’s definitely different. One thing is watching it and the other thing is actually being there. And you literally become family with these people. You care and you become so involved and attached where you also have to be careful there’s a fine balance that you still have to keep a little bit of a distance and a fresh perspective. So I mean it’s definitely different. I love the working out, the spending time with the contestants. What I really don’t like and it kind of just annoys me because I’d rather be working out is like the camera stuff. The actual TV part of it because I’ve never been on a TV show. And like for me it drives me crazy waiting for the cameras to set up, something like that because I’d rather just be exercising and burning the calories off. It’s all-consuming and I was dedicated and committed. But that’s why I did the (spread). That’s what I wanted to be on the Biggest Loser. I was ready. I knew that I could be committed. And I knew that my heart was in the right place. I knew I had all the knowledge. And I was just in it focusing and literally -like treating it as a professional athlete where this is my life.
What have you learned from this experience?
Anna Kournikova: Well I think the only reason what I was ready now when I’m 30 to go on this journey because it’s a huge responsibility to go on the Biggest Loser, such an amazing show and to help these people. You’re their best friend, you’re their trainer, you’re there, person there trying to work on – listen to their things mentally that they’re going through. So I was only ready for it now. I don’t think I could’ve handled it five years ago or even three years ago because I don’t think I was mature enough or went through my own, you know, discovery journey. But I definitely just learned for me it was more of oh, you know, I’ve done all of this my whole life. It was basically just being very disciplined, showing up, spending a lot of time in the gym and working physically hard but also mentally hard. And that’s what you go through when you’re a professional athlete. You get to a certain level where everybody kind of is on the same level. You all play good tennis. It’s then who’s mentally tougher, who can get to the finals instead of the semi-finals. So for me it was that kind of thing. Like it was pretty comfortable falling back into a routine just working hard, being disciplined and working on your mental issues. So it’s not that I didn’t learn anything about myself. What I understood again here how committed and dedicated I can be into something I believe in so much.
What is your favorite moment while working on the Biggest Loser?
Anna Kournikova: Where do I begin? It’s everything. It’s the great moments. There was some tough moments. It’s the roller coaster. It’s an emotional journey. I had amazing time where I see the contestants succeed. And I see Bonnie who’s 63 years old with a knee replacement get off the floor. But then there was also sad moments where you see the disappointment on somebody on the contestant’s face on some days when she gains weight or something like that. So it’s life. I mean we spent four months with these contestants. And it was just great, it was definitely some incredible moments and there were definitely some disappointing moments. But overall the most important from the beginning for me was that we give these people as many tools and information as I can so they can take all that information, learn all the things they need to learn and be able to apply and use it in their life after the ranch because sooner or later and obviously everybody is going home. So for me the overall objective and goal of the whole season and experience was that these people not only lose weight while they’re sequestered on the ranch but that they can sustain and maintain the healthy lifestyle and their weight off the ranch.
Were you allowed a lot of time to work with the contestants?
Anna Kournikova: I had plenty of time actually. I was there every day with the contestants. From the beginning it was never about a quick fix. I really focused on the contestants to make sure that they get the tools and the information and the education to take home. And even when I was designing exercises for them for me the key was that they will remember them, that they are able to execute them in their own living room in their own house when they do get off the ranch. So I feel like I was just literally stressing that every word every action. And I did have time with them. I was there every single day. And I was like a parent repeating things all the time which is plenty of people tell me I do that anyway. But hopefully they just really did absorb it. And I just have this confidence and I think the contestants did absorb it. It was challenging. It was new for them. But a few weeks into it they really do get a great sense and idea that this is not rocket science. It’s basic simple math. It is science. But with hard work and willingness to change your life and the commitment and the sacrifices that they’re families are making and the sacrifices that they’re making being on this ranch sequestered I think they were committed and they were making things happen.
How did you deal with the emotions of the contestants?
Anna Kournikova: I’m a woman and I obviously do have my ups and downs emotionally. I think girls are more emotional in general. And there’s times where you really have to focus and separate and motivate yourself. Being a professional athlete certain days you don’t feel like going on the court or certain days you don’t feel like being in front of 20,000 people but you trick your brain, your mind to go out there and perform. And that’s what was super helping from my past is that I did work with a sports psychologist. I did also go personally through therapy since I was 20 years old for a few years because I did have issues with my family. So I did work a lot in both in that area working with a therapist, working with a psychologist. And I feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and tools to be able to listen and understand and be able to give good advice to the contestants how to kind of manipulate their brain and trick them into starting to believe in themselves and by physical activity. Like the accomplishment that they make during their physical activity I think really makes a huge difference and makes them confident.
Were the cameras a distraction for you?
Anna Kournikova: I actually don’t like to be on the spot. And on camera I get a little bit tongue tied in a little bit uncomfortable. And as you will probably see in the show I screw my English all the time, not that I speak perfect English anyway as you know I’m Russian. But I actually clam up a little bit on camera. But the best part about it is when I’m just with the contestants exercising and in the gym I am totally able to just lose myself with them and be in the moment. And I’m just me. I didn’t want to be on the Biggest Loser to be famous or to be on TV or to be in another magazine cover. I’ve done all of that in my teenage years. So for me the whole appeal and the only reason why I wanted to be on the Biggest Loser is not to be a television star or any of those things. The most important was to live and breathe exercise and help people and just have a positively experience with these contestants and change their lives.
What do you think works best for these contestants?
Anna Kournikova: What works is balance and moderation but also indulging. Because if you yourself completely all the time you are going to fall off the wagon and just overdo, overeat, over do. I eat anything or any type of food that is out there — everything from pizza to burgers to healthy oatmeal. I think what really works is moderation. And as I’ve have gotten older now I really am more conscious and focused on the nutritional benefits of the food and the nutritional components. I really try to stick to eating whole foods and natural foods, not so much the packaged stuff. And I work out five, six days a week as much as I can. That’s my therapy that’s my me time. I’ve been used to sweating since I was 5 years old since I started playing tennis. So if I go for more or I really never go more than two days without sweating it out in the gym or doing some kind of a sport. My body just needs it and I get anxiety actually if I don’t work out.