Clintonville trainer excels at Spartan Races
By Scott Bellile
For personal trainer Dana Tennie at Hard Core Fitness in Clintonville, teaching her clients based on personal experience rather than by the books requires taking on any athletic event, no matter how brutal it may be.
“Everything about health and fitness I love,” Tennie said. “And I like the diversity. I don’t like to focus on any one particular area.”
The diversity shows in the list of Tennie’s accomplishments this year. So far the Clintonville athlete has landed first-place finishes in two natural bodybuilding contests in May, third place in a Spartan obstacle race at Miller Park in January and two top-10 finishes in 5Ks this spring.
Obstacle racing could give Tennie her biggest success story this year. This month she will head to the Spartan Super in Chicago and try to earn her coin to the Spartan World Championship in California in October. She also earned an invitation to the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships taking place in Ohio this October.
If Tennie earns her coin and get recognized at either race, she could nab sponsorships and go professional.
Obstacle racing is a bit like completing an obstacle course at a military camp or a police academy. Competitors shimmy up ropes and walls, swing across monkey bars, pull sleds piled with weights, flip tires and more. The punishment for every error is 30 burpee exercises.
“It’s brutal,” Tennie said. “It’s very challenging to do obstacle course racing. It takes everything in you because it’s not just the running. It’s strength, it’s stamina, it’s endurance, it’s flexibility, it’s coordination.”
Tennie, 41, said winners are on average 26 years old. The fact she places in the top against younger obstacle racers has been promising, she said.
“A lot of people say I should do that Broken Skull challenge thing. Well, I don’t want a broken skull,” she said with a laugh.
A natural bodybuilder at heart, Tennie recently entered two bikini bodybuilding competitions in May. Although some dispute whether the bikini category qualifies as “bodybuilding,” it is the lowest event in the hierarchy of bodybuilding-type events.
Tennie said she missed bodybuilding and entered bikini last-minute to see if she could balance it with her recent foray into obstacle racing. Because she has lost muscle mass since taking up obstacle racing, bikini was her choice.
Bikini is not about brawniness and but rather leanness and tone, but she said it’s still physically demanding. Competitors strike poses for judges for long periods of time onstage.
“You have to hold everything so tight and so perfect without moving that it’s crazy. It’s a lot of work,” Tennie said.
To her surprise, Tennie won both bikini competitions, one in Sheboygan May 2 and the other in Middleton May 9.
“When you look at my back pose, particularly with the rest of the girls, it’s quite obvious that I don’t have the bikini body because my back is so much more developed than theirs,” Tennie said. “And the pros that were there were like, ‘Um, yeah’ … I was very fortunate to place as high as I was because it was clear that I wasn’t really in the right class.”
Despite the good feelings from winning, Tennie said more people must watch the competition because it is highly misunderstood. The uninformed confuse it for a beauty pageant and perceive it as trampy. She has been shamed by Facebook users for participating.
“Usually the comments are coming from people who have no idea what bodybuilding really even is, and they’ve never been to a show. They’ve never seen it,” Tennie said. “So for them to judge, it can be hurtful.”
Bikinis have to be glued to the skin, Tennie said. Winking, provocative poses and flirting with judges are all prohibited.
“The whole purpose of it is to show as much of the muscle and as much of the body as you can, to show the development of the muscle and the state of the body,” Tennie said. “So it’s not intended to be anything sexual in nature whatsoever. It’s just to showcase the body to the best of your personal ability.”
Now that she has won trophies in the lowest level and the highest level in the hierarchy of events, bikini and bodybuilding, respectively, Tennie said she is shifting to the figure category, one step above bikini. Figure demands more muscle mass from entrants.
Tennie said she wants to try everything her clients do so she can knowledgably teach them from experience. One of her clients, Mary Beth Kuester, said Tennie is effective and keeps her trying harder and harder.
“She keeps it fresh and that keeps me going. No two sessions are alike,” Kuester said.
Growing up in the Freedom area, Tennie never was fed junk food, and she did every sport from cheerleading to volleyball to horseback riding. Because healthy living was second nature for her, she said her background allows her to help her clients at Hard Core Fitness.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to watch people’s lives change and to get them to a better place and healthier and thinner. Obviously then they’re happier, too, because they’re in a better place,” Tennie said.