Redefining Fitness: Q&A with ANCKOR Founder, Brian Von Ancken

By The Vault Team

We all know what it’s like to dive deep into physical fitness. But what if our workouts exercised more than just our muscles? 

Like most guys, Brian Von Ancken used to believe that all he needed to do in order to take care of himself was to eat a cleaner diet and exercise. But then he went through a big relationship change and, suddenly, bigger muscles weren’t cutting it—he still didn’t feel like his best self. 

What followed was a multi-year journey into total body health that ultimately led to the founding of ANCKOR. Here, Brian explains what total body health really entails, and why it’s important for our general fitness and wellbeing.

You started ANCKOR to help people discover a “Total Health Workout.” What exactly does that mean?

A total health workout is an experience that combines physical, mental, and social health. In other words, it’s working out not just to look good—but to feel good, too. And feeling good isn’t just a physical state, it's also a mental and emotional one. Our aim is to help you create space in the week to anchor yourself in total health. Yes, you’re going to get stronger, but you’re also going to take the time to self-reflect and connect with other people. 

Why is it important to work out more than just your muscles?

Physical health is just one piece of the puzzle. There's this Indian proverb that I love that says: “Everyone is a house with four rooms: a physical room, a mental room, an emotional room, and a spiritual room. Most of us live in only one room at a time... but unless we go into every room every day—even if only to air them out—we're not a complete person." If you think about how much effort and time we put into just one room when working out our muscles, it’s easy to see how the whole house can become unbalanced.

Ultimately, what I'm trying to do is reimagine what it means to work out and take care of ourselves. Most of us—myself included—have been taught to use our precious workout time to focus on strengthening our physical bodies. And though physical fitness is important, strong muscles are significantly less useful in this modern world than are strong minds. But having both? That’s a game changer. That’s what will help you focus, recharge, and tackle the real trials of this world.

Community is a core component of the ANCKOR method. Why is connection so crucial to the success of these workouts?

I know that for most guys, connecting or talking with others isn’t exactly a workout priority. But I also know that most guys care about living their best life. One of the prerequisites of this is making sure that you have the ability to connect with others. 

At the end of the day, you’re going to have a lot more fun working out when you're connecting with other people. You’ll also feel more motivated before, during, and after the workout. Take sports, as an example. When you play sports, you’re connecting with others pretty consistently, whether that’s through high fives, cheering each other on, or sharing strategy. 

For a lot of us, the traditional workout experience lacks this kind of connection. Not only is it less fun, but it also decreases your ability to be present in the experience. We all know what it’s like to feel bored during a workout. Believe it or not—this isn’t the workout that you deserve. Staying connected and interacting with others is one of the key ways to get a really effective workout.

Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of social connection. Stats show that 31% of men are more lonely because of the pandemic, and we know that loneliness is a real killer for men. Connecting with others through an online workout may feel like a luxury, but it’s more important than ever. 

A lot of guys are hesitant to start meditation and other forms of intentional breathing or self-reflection. What would you say to them?

To be honest, I don't really like the word “meditation,” partly because of the specific images and connotations it carries. For me, meditation doesn’t need to involve sitting on a cushion saying Om. It could be going for a bike ride, fishing, or even just looking out the window and staring into space. 

What others call meditation, I like to call awake rest. We all know how important sleep is for our health, but our brains also need daily rest. Many of us spend our days juggling back-to-back Zoom calls, emails, and personal responsibilities—and the risk for burnout is real. We can’t have our pedal to the metal all the time. Awake rest is simply finding the space to let our minds decompress. Doing this consistently helps us to develop the skills to combat the physical and mental effects of stress.

Intentional breathing is another important tool in self-regulation, a skill that I believe to be hyper-masculine. It’s all about sharpening our ability to be in control and manage difficult or trying situations. The goal with intentional breathing is to learn how to show up better in every aspect of our lives. Show up better in our relationships. Show up better with our friends. Show up better at work. If you do all of this, you’ll show up better in your workout, too. 

Your workout and entrepreneurial journey started after a big breakup. Many of us are going through a similar change in our lives with the development of the pandemic. How can ANCKOR help? 

The one constant in life is change. But even so, unexpected change can feel really upending. I've experienced my life getting turned upside down pretty quickly, and I know that our ability to be resilient comes from strengthening not just our physical muscles, but our mental, social, and emotional muscles, too. 

What ANCKOR can do is provide a space for self-reflection so we can learn how to better navigate these changes. A lot of us wait until the New Year to make resolutions and reflect on what we want for our lives. But most of these resolutions die out every February. ANCKOR is a consistent space where you can workout, check-in with yourself, and connect with other people going through similar changes—all in one place.

Want to give the ANCKOR method a try? Use code VAULTHEALTH to get your first class for free.

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