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Building Mental Strength with Celeb Trainers Chris Ryan + Wes Okerson (Coaches Corner)

This week on Running Coaches Corner, I talk Mental Strength with Celebrity Trainers Chris Ryan and Wes Okerson from the TV show STRONG. Don’t miss this incredible interview and the chance to ask Chris and Wes your own questions! Then link up with Running Coaches Corner for more great posts! 

YOU GUYS. Are you ready for THE best Mental Strength post you have ever read? BECAUSE HERE IT IS! Chris Ryan and Wes Okerson, trainers to major celebrities as well as stars of the NBC show STRONG, sat down and answered my questions on mental strength in the gym, fitness intimidation, and more! Oh, and did I mention that you can win the chance  to interview them YOURSELF??

Thank you so much to TheFitExpo Chicago for hooking me up with this fantastic opportunity! In its third year, TheFitExpo (May 6-7 2017) is one of the premier fitness expos in the country, bringing you major fitness competitions, demonstrations, fitness stars, and a 200+ exhibitor expo floor. Get tickets here–and if you can’t make Chicago, there are FIVE other locations around the country!

Fitness Mental Strength with Chris Ryan and Wes Okerson

This week on Running Coaches Corner, @suzlyfe talks Mental Strength with Celebrity Trainers Chris Ryan and Wes Okerson from the TV show STRONG. Don't miss this incredible interview and the chance to ask Chris and Wes your own questions! Then link up with Running Coaches Corner for more great posts!


Susie Lemmer: Your TV Show Strong was a new type of competition show that focused on mental as well as physical strength. There are so many articles, magazines, videos, and so forth that aim to teach us how to get physically strong, but how can we work on our mental strength as well?

Chris Ryan: Working on your mental strength is 99% of the battle for a lot of people. You have to believe in yourself; think about picturing yourself doing amazing things for you and your family, living a healthier life; it’s not just about looking better physically–that is superficial and can only drive you so far–the times you have to put yourself to the test, that will be where you take your life to the next level.

Wes Okerson: Mental strength is something that takes repetition. Every day, it takes a lot of visualization work, it takes a lot of realizing that failure is always eminent in a lot of cases, and you have to be able to treat things with the equality when it comes to winning and losing.

How do we build confidence in ourselves through fitness?

CR: People are physical beings. We are built to run, jump, throw and push objects; not sit in cubicles all day. Fitness is our recess time–it’s our time to get back to our natural state and play, sweat and release endorphins. Fitness serves as the building blocks for our foundational strength. We aren’t all going to be D1 athletes or Olympic gold medalists, but we all can achieve the best version of ourselves.

WO: Confidence and fitness is something that is built through continuously loving yourself as you start to see results coming through. People take that as a win, and it can be the catalyst that really helps show them the hard work pays off.

What are some situations where you feel uncomfortable or intimidated? How did you overcome them and find your footing?

CR: Actually being on camera was intimidating for me at first. I have done lots of on camera work over the years now beyond STRONG; through modeling, interviews, hosting, commercial work etc. People at home only see the finished product, but in realty there are dozens of people around you telling you what to do and cameras all around you trying to deliver the best shot. It can be very intimidating at times. I got comfortable when I adopted the philosophy to just be “me.” Have fun with it; there is a reason you are the person in front of the camera in the first place. Run with it and have fun!

WO: I think in life you’re always uncomfortable and intimidated in situations where it’s the unknown so if we can take away the fear of the unknown I think it makes it a lot easier in life to take on things that are uncomfortable and not easy and to me that’s really where we should strive to put ourselves more often. Only way we can actually grow.

How do you prepare yourself and then start when you know that you are going to have week after week of grueling challenges (just as you might in Strong or in your everyday work at building healthier habits and working towards goals)?

CR: Small steps. Always start small in anything you do in life that seems like an insurmountable task. Whether that is starting a training and nutrition program or just learning how to change a diaper (my wife and I have a 2 yr old son and a 7 month old daughter, so yes at one point changing a diaper was a major task) so there is always going to be a learning curve or roadblock in anything you do. After all, the journey is the destination.  Celebrate the journey everyday, and you will always be on track for your destination.

WO: When you know you have a tough week ahead and specially in the show when every week was really tough you really just build on continuously making better habits each day I don’t think people should go from 0 to 100 in their lifestyle and change everything because they have a difficult or hard week coming up. If we make small changes each day whether it be diet, the way we work out, how often we work out we’re able to constantly build.

How do you maintain your commitment week after week?

CR: It’s a lifestyle. Diets fail because they are programmed to be short-lived. Redo your thinking to “nutrition” and you will have a lifetime of health and wellness in front of you. Not a series of fad diets that you see-saw back and forth with.

'Training is something you do to celebrate being alive' + secrets too #mentalstrength @ChrisRyanFit Click To Tweet

Training is just something you do to celebrate being alive. Don’t compare your numbers against others; everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Work on your strengths and make a game at becoming better with your weaknesses and you will constantly challenge yourself to be better.

The end goal is the lifestyle, not necessarily a certain weight, look or performance standard that you made up in your head because you read about it in a magazine that a celebrity has done.

WO: I keep up the commitment week in and week out because I try to change things up I really like to listen to music when I work out I feel It can be a creative outlet in a lot of ways I take different types of classes I enjoy pushing myself and I enjoy the results I get from working out.

I am someone who used to love lifting weights, loved the challenge and the feeling of completion and progress. Over the past few years, however, I seem to have lost that love for lifting and have gotten into the trap of phoning in those workouts–I would rather just be out for a run. Even those I keep comfortable! How can I get that edge back and get my mind back in the game, without entering myself in a competition? How do I hold myself accountable?

CR: I feel you; I used to be a D1 athlete and regional level competitor in CrossFit, but with work and family life I have had to make some adjustments to my “competition” schedule. I know a lot of the trainers on STRONG felt the same way when we started to compete again–it’s so fun to “compete!” And sometimes when you are not in competition mode, you feel bored and unmotivated.

For me it’s always great to grab a buddy and hit a great weight workout — just crank the music, chalk up and throw down. Sometimes though, it’s more fun to take a yoga class with my wife. I think at 37 years old I have found that motivation comes from within and while competition is special, it is not an ends to a means; simply find a race, event or competition that speaks to you; throw it on your calendar and invite some friends to join you–spread the wealth and your love of competition; the message of a fitter, healthier life is always bigger than any competition anyways.

WO: If you’re working out and you’re not pushing yourself that a lot of times is because there isn’t any competition around. For me personally, if I put myself in a situation where it’s competitive I tend to step up. Most people are not competitive by nature and go to the gym just to tell themselves they went. I think that I can be a big mistake in the long run because you’re never really making any change so find a place that pushes you and start there.

How do you keep your mental strength when others are enabling you to be weak?

CR: Just remember you can only control yourself. You can’t control other people. Be one with your thoughts in a positive light; and realize the better you get the bigger your target will be on your back. Once you understand that, then you will go full steam ahead in whatever you want to accomplish and the naysayers will fly, not simply fall off your back.

WO: The way to keep mental strength when others are enabling you to be weak -clean them out of your life. It’s really that simple! If someone in your life is dragging you down and they are a source of negative energy, just stop talking to them!

If you could have ANY physical skill in the world, what would it be?

CR: Flying. How cool would it be to fly? Not to mention you wouldn’t have to worry about airline delays πŸ™‚

WO: Any physical skill in the world it would be increased arm strength. I have a good arm now but if it was just 15% stronger I could’ve pitched in the big show.

If you could have ANY mental skill in the world, what would it be?

CR: Superhuman strength. I read our kids this Superman book all the time and it has this cool image of Superman swinging a whole tree like a baseball bat. It would so awesome to do something like that!

WO: If I had any mental skill in the world it would be an eidetic memory the fact that you could look at something once and memorize it forever is amazing to me.

What did you think you would be when you grew up when you were a teenager?

CR: An attorney for sure. I used to love reading the John Grisham books as a teenager, but then I interned in college at a law firm and didn’t have the patience for the legal world. Funny enough, I married an attorney and count a handful of them as my clients, so I guess I was on track in some way.

WO: When I was a teenager yeah I wanted to play a major league.

What would you want for your last meal?

CR: A bison burger w/ avocado, tomato and lettuce w/sweet potato fries and a cold beer in a frozen glass. Mmmm mmmmmm good!

WO: My last meal I want authentic real pizza cooked in Italy right in front of me with pepperoni and extra sauce.


How do celebrity trainers build #mentalstrength? @ChrisRyanFit @WesOkerson tell us #fitfluential… Click To Tweet

Thank you again to Chris, Wes, and TheFitExpo! Now it is your chance to interview them yourself! Enter the Rafflecopter below! Giveaway is open to EVERYONE and ends Monday May 1 at Midnight!

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Join the link up and Running Coaches Corner for more great running advice and content!

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I am linking up with myself, RachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout . Also linking up with Amanda for Thinking out Loud!

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  • Reply Suzy @ Suzy Has the Runs

    That’s so awesome! I have a feeling that if I won, I’d be asking questions completely unrelated to fitness. πŸ˜€

    April 30, 2017 at 7:36 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Of course you would, lol

      May 7, 2017 at 5:06 pm
  • Reply jennifer

    “Training is celebrating being alive” . . I love that!

    May 1, 2017 at 6:13 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t that awesome!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:35 pm
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    This was so motivating to read! You know that mental toughness is an area I am constantly working on!

    May 1, 2017 at 7:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And I think that you are so mentally tough already!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:33 pm
  • Reply acktive life

    Love this interview! But I also love that both of their “last meals” would be exactly what I would eat too! πŸ™‚

    May 1, 2017 at 7:02 am
  • Reply Kimberly G

    This was a really great interview. I loved all the questions that you asked and their answers are SO motivating!

    May 1, 2017 at 7:16 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you so much, Kim!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:33 pm
  • Reply Anna @ Piper's Run

    Mental strength is key! Great interview. My daughter the other day while learning to ride her bike finally said “I got it Mom, I CAN do this”! It was so cute to see her understand that she can push herself and do hard things but also know mentally that she can as well!

    May 1, 2017 at 7:49 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW Total #momgoals moment!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:29 pm
  • Reply Rachel

    So many great tips and motivating words! I think I’ve got the mental toughness thing down. It’s the physical toughness I need to work on. πŸ™‚

    May 1, 2017 at 8:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think you are just missing one little aspect–you will figure it out, and it will all comes together!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:27 pm
  • Reply Abbey Sharp

    This is a really fascinating post. I totally believe that it all stems from our mental health and finding ways to strengthen it should be the priority. Awesome post!

    May 1, 2017 at 10:02 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Abbey! I totally agree!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm
  • Reply Jodi @ Create Kids Club

    What a great interview! I have found that if I have a goal (usually a race of some sort) I certainly stay on track better. I liked reading their ideas for staying motivated in other ways.

    May 1, 2017 at 10:10 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I thought they gave some great thoughts!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm
  • Reply Kimberly Hatting

    I like what Wes said about taking on challenges that scare us because they’re unknown to our comfort zone. That’s why I’m always looking for the “tough stuff” that others shy away from πŸ˜‰

    May 1, 2017 at 12:59 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Like ALL THE STAIRS??

      May 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm
  • Reply Elle

    Some great tips here. Mental strength is such a big part of it all.

    May 1, 2017 at 1:13 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They gave a great interview, didn’t they!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm
  • Reply Gina

    Gosh I wish I could reprogram my nutrition just like they said! I have the motivation and persistence with the working out, just not with thinking about food and nutrition and not diet. Great post!

    May 1, 2017 at 1:32 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be hard to have that approach to all things–but take the lessons learned from the workout floor and apply a similar dedication!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:19 pm
  • Reply Michelle @ Running with Attitude

    Loved this! I especially like the quote “Training is celebrating being alive!” – great way to look at it!

    May 1, 2017 at 1:52 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t that such a great quote!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm
  • Reply Mary Beth Jackson

    Very interesting! I love how they say to start small, you can’t go 0 to 100 in one day. That is so important!

    May 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And so often not remembered!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    What a fun interview this is! Taking the fear out of the unknown is big for me. I like their down to earth approach

    May 1, 2017 at 3:19 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Aren’t they great?!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:16 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Mile by Mile

    Great advice here! I definitely think they are spot on with saying we sometimes need others to help create a little competition. I was much better about lifting weights when i went to a gym- now I find myself just going through the motions!

    May 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You had me fooled! you seem to be doing great!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm
  • Reply Jessica @Nutritioulicious

    Such a great interview and awesome info! Such a motivating post!

    May 1, 2017 at 5:50 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you so much, Jessica!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:13 pm
  • Reply Katie Shepherd

    Mental toughness is so important! I agree with the part about negativity. I can’t really be around negative people for very long. It can be very draining. Thank you for sharing this!

    May 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      SO draining, and not productive in the least!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply Chrissy @ Snacking in Sneakers

    Great interview! The part about being on camera begin intimidating made me smile – I totally struggle with that too. Interviews are the worst because I never know whether to look at the person or the camera and I always feel spastic on them, haha!

    May 1, 2017 at 7:58 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Pretend the camera is invisible! Don’t break the 4th wall!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply Coco

    I am struggling with mental confidence on my bike – I need them to coach me!

    May 1, 2017 at 7:59 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Who doesn’t need these guys! Good luck!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:11 pm
  • Reply Kathryn @ Dancing to Running

    I always love reading about how the big shots deal with some of the same issues that us “normal” people do. It makes me feel more connected to them, and makes them feel more like “real” people.

    May 1, 2017 at 8:06 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And you know that the problems can be dealt with–because someone else has succeeded despite!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:10 pm
  • Reply Carmy @

    His last meal sounds delicious!

    May 1, 2017 at 8:59 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Which one sounds better?

      May 7, 2017 at 4:09 pm
  • Reply Tasting Page

    Great info. I like the idea to break things into small pieces – makes it more manageable!

    May 1, 2017 at 9:12 pm
  • Reply Emily | EmPowered Nutrition

    I love this topic of mental strength and exercise. That is truly half the battle sometimes, plus the confidence that comes from physical activity is amazing!

    May 1, 2017 at 10:27 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t it! Revolutionary!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:08 pm
  • Reply jill conyers

    Awesome interview. I love “redo your thinking to nutrition”. So true!

    May 2, 2017 at 3:53 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Jill! They had great answers!

      May 7, 2017 at 4:05 pm
  • Reply dixya @food, pleasure, and health

    so many great tips – esp on cleaning people out of life and how fitness can build confidence!

    May 2, 2017 at 6:51 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be scary to “clean people out” but it might be necessary!

      May 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm
  • Reply Laura Bowers

    Fantastic post, thanks so much for sharing! “Training is celebrating being alive.” Love that!

    May 3, 2017 at 7:30 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t it a great quote?!

      May 7, 2017 at 12:12 pm
  • Reply Emily

    YES! Training is a celebration of getting to LIVE! I love his recommendation of hitting up the weights with a friend.

    May 4, 2017 at 8:56 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Training with friends can be so motivating!

      May 7, 2017 at 11:43 am

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