GGS Spotlight: Kelly Bruno


Name: Kelly Bruno
Age: 33
Location: San Diego, CA

What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you? 
I am honored to be considered a Girl Gone Strong. I’ve spent most of my life proving to myself (and I guess to the world) that I’m no different than anyone else even if I’m missing one leg below the knee. I’ve always wanted to be considered an athlete first and an amputee second, third, fourth or never. I’ve wanted an even playing field and, in a way, I feel like this is it. I am an athlete. And just an athlete. Nothing more. And nothing less. And it feels good.

How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
I started strength training when I was in college, so I’ve been lifting for about 15 years. At the time I weighed 100 pounds and ran 30 to 40 miles per week. But I was also chronically injured with shin splints and hamstring issues. I made a deal with my now-husband that I would go to the gym with him if he would go for a run with me. I’ve been lifting ever since. And he’s been running. So it was a good deal for both of us!

Favorite lift:
Definitely deadlifts. Despite being on the taller side and having one leg, deadlifts have always been my strongest lift. I used to pull sumo, but when I got my new prosthetic leg, I switched to conventional and added about 50 pounds to my all-time PR. It was an awesome way to finish my last USAPL meet.

Most memorable PR:
Speaking of all-time PRs, that would have to be the 320-pound deadlift I pulled in my garage during a deadlift party we had with some friends. I just went up to the bar and pulled it. Probably because I didn’t overthink it like I so often do.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
This may sound silly, but I actually enjoy lifting in relative silence. I’m able to find my “headspace” and get into a zone. It’s a nice change from working in a busy clinic all day.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
I actually work out in my garage, but if I had a gym bag then it would HAVE to have:

  • Wrist straps
  • Chalk
  • Baby powder

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I enjoy lifting alone, which is why having a gym in my garage is perfect. I like being able to lift at my own pace, taking just the right amount of time between sets and not feeling rushed by other people wanting to use the equipment. I also like the zone I’m able to get into when it’s just me and the barbell (or dumbbell depending on the lift). There’s also something very rewarding when you go for a heavy lift and know that you’re on your own with no one to bail you out (maybe not the smartest, but it’s forced me to give 110 percent).

Most embarrassing gym moment:
I farted once while I was squatting. Turns out no one else seemed to notice, but I felt like the whole world knew!

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
One of my patients told me I looked too young to be a doctor. After 8 years of rigorous medical training and residency, I definitely took this as a compliment!

Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I told a lady she had a beautiful dog. I’m not very good at giving compliments.

Favorite meal: 
Pad thai. I really think it’s just about the peanut butter though. In the past, when I was literally in starvation mode, eating about 300 calories per day as a contestant on the show Survivor: Nicaragua, all I could think about was peanut butter. I guess you could call it my “comfort food”. Pad thai makes great use of the flavor.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
A facial. I don’t get them often, but when I do, I find them invigorating. I carry a lot of tension in my face and jaw. The relaxation of a facial helps me reset that tension.

Favorite quote:
The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. — Vince Lombardi

Favorite book:
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

What inspires and motivates you?
My father was a big influence growing up. He pushed me more than my sisters because he didn’t want me to feel limited by a disability. It wasn’t until he was killed in the Haiti earthquake in 2010 — he was there on a mission trip with students from a University where he worked — that I realized what an impact he had. His selflessness continues to inspire me to this day.

What do you do?
I am an Anesthesiologist with a specialty in Pain Medicine. Currently, I am doing a research fellowship in neuromodulation for phantom limb pain at UC San Diego.

What else do you do?
I do behind-the-scenes work for Complete Human Performance, including designing and running the website. I actually have three websites that I’ve created and currently manage, including the CHP website, a hybrid training education website, and a blog focused on pain perspectives and management for athletes. When I’m not working I enjoy playing with my two dogs, finding new running trails in and around San Diego, lifting weights, and drinking Belgian beer with my husband.

Describe a typical day in your life:
My alarm goes off at 5:15 and I hit snooze. Twice. At least. I’m out of bed at 5:30 and start the day with a short yoga session. I then scramble to get myself, the dogs, and the cats fed (I take pet food only from so I can be out the door and on my way to work by 6:45. My work day varies, but usually goes from 7:30 to 3:30. Most days I lift or run in the evening, using it as a time to unwind. I usually get in 4 lifts per week and at least 4 runs with shorter, harder runs during the week and longer, easier runs on the weekend. The evening is spent catching up on non-work work, dinner, a quick TV show, and a short meditation (usually 10 to 20 minutes) before I go to bed at 10:00.

Your next training goal:
Right now I’m planning to run Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon later this fall then prep for a powerlifting meet in early spring.

For what are you most grateful?
My exceptionally supportive family and husband. I could not have accomplished half of the things I’ve done without their unyielding support.

Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
Finishing my first 100 miler ultramarathon. I’ve completed 100 milers faster since then, but just knowing that I could do it was such an amazing accomplishment for me.

Which three words best describe you?
Competitive. Persistent. Passionate.

What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
I moved from North Carolina (where I’d lived since starting my undergraduate degree at Duke in 2002) to San Diego this past July for a position at UC San Diego. I sold or gave away most of my stuff, drove across the country in six days, and started a new job a few days later. It’s been both rewarding and liberating.

How has lifting weights changed your life?
I’ve mostly noticed subtle changes. I am, no doubt, a more resilient runner with fewer chronic injuries. I have better balance. I have a better self-image and self-confidence.

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
The fact that I totally surprise people with my strength. I’m stronger than I look. People usually assume I’m just a runner because of my build, so I find it even more empowering to throw heavy weight around.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
Not to be intimidated by the weights. Or the weight room, for that matter. If you have questions, ask because most people are happy to offer advice (honestly, in most cases, they’ll give it whether you ask for it or not). And most importantly, the long-term benefits of strength training are worth any hesitation you might have about getting started. It’s worth it!

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