Fitness for Mental Health, with Amy Clover

Amy Clover was on the brink of suicide 10 years ago, but she fought her way back from that dark place by empowering herself with fitness. She founded Strong Inside/Out to help others do the same.

We’ve always seen mental and physical health as being inextricably linked, but Amy brings a fresh perspective and a great attitude to the table.

Here’s a snippet of Amy’s philosophy:

I feel like a lot of us are raised today not to deal with struggle, but dealing with a little bit of pain and struggle is necessary for growth.

Here’s some things we cover in this episode:

(2:00) How Amy’s depression led her to fitness.(2:23) Why consistent movement was key for Amy.(3:15) Why having a support system is so important.(4:00) Why Amy is a great role model(6:14) Depression and anxiety while working out(11:10) What drives Amy to get out of bed every morning. What’s her why?(12:58) It is about fun and not just banging your head on the wall.(16:09) Know your tactics to stay in that positive mindset.(17:20) Have a plan and the tools for both working out and life.

Ryan: Are you ready? Because we are rolling!


Ryan: What’s up Amy?

Amy: What’s up?

Ryan: How are you doing? How are you doing today?

Amy: Doing great.

Ryan: We’ve been talking for the past five minutes about how chill we are today and how we have no energy, right?

Amy: Yes, totally. No energy at all!

Ryan: No, not at all. Well, let’s get right into it. I was going to start off with those people out there who don’t know who I’m talking with right now. This is Amy from Strong Inside Out. Amy, a little bit about your background. Just briefly, just over the past 20 years, if you could just sum those up in maybe a couple of sentences would be great.

Amy: Oh …

Ryan: How funny that one, yeah.

Amy: I run a site called Strong Inside Out and what we do is empower people out of struggle with movement and living healthy. So a little bit about my background is I used fitness and healthy eating basically taking back the reins of my life to overcome clinical depression in a suicide attempt. So now I help other people take the reins back in their lives and really take control of their body and mind again.

Ryan: So interestingly enough, talk about depression, and you actually went through and tried to commit suicide and we can go into a little bit of that later. You sent a letter to your boyfriend and I mean just really you were ready to check out but looking at you now, you wouldn’t think that. I mean you’re a pretty energetic lady. You seem to be loving life. So today, we talk a little bit about empowerment and kind of how you came back from where you were and what you did and of course how it relates to what you do today.

Amy: Yeah.

Ryan: And let’s just go kind of into it and start talking about that if you’re cool with that.

Amy: Yeah, definitely. I didn’t send the note to my boyfriend but I did talk to him, my exboyfriend that night and I did write a letter. I did everything and – but I was talked out enough, thank god. But a lot of people aren’t which is really unfortunate. So I believe that by really finding fitness and it took me a few years after hospitalization and everything to really find what worked for me. So if it’s a long process, that’s normal. It’s not anything that you’re doing wrong or anything that you need to fix. You just need to find your way of doing it.

But when I found consistent movement, it was really helping me to hold on to and kind of just like solidify the practices I was using with my therapist which was cognitive behavioral therapy and it helped me become more disciplined in and outside of the gym as well as just really hold on to that knowledge that I could push past things that were hard because I feel like a lot of us especially nowadays are raised like not to deal with struggle. Like there’s this medication you could take instead.

If you have a headache, go ahead and take a pill because you shouldn’t have to – you shouldn’t feel that way and all that kind of stuff and instead, I think that doing with a little bit of pain and struggle is – it’s necessary for growth.

So yeah, I just kind of went all over the place.

Ryan: No, that’s great. I think – that you brought in there a good part of it. So you did it along with your therapist and so you basically had your support there and I think we all know that. We can all feel like we’re all alone in the world at times and think that – we have to do it. The same thing. I mean I put a lot of pressure on myself and think that I have to do everything myself but there are people there and if we do have a good coach – in your case it was a therapist and I’m sure that [] coaches and things like that, that these people that are there to help us and sometimes we just need to realize that.

We can’t just do it on ourselves. We can be strong but the thing is, is other people were there to help us and so use those people I guess is what I’m kind of saying. So it’s just great to see you now that the roles have been reversed. So now you’re such a great role model for people out there who are going through this and so you can be those – the coach and the support system for those people out there.

Amy: Oh, thank you.

Ryan: So if we just go ahead and talk a little bit about really some of the things that you’re doing. I mean you’ve had the tour. A big thing that you’re doing is the boot camp and so if we could tell – you talked a little bit about your boot camp. Maybe talk a little bit about the tour since I brought that up and I know right now you’re not doing that but it’s probably coming out again I assume.

Amy: Well, I’m not going to be doing another tour yet this year but I am looking into doing events but the big tour that you’re talking about was started in 2013. I decided I wanted to do something bigger. I had my own personal training business in LA and it’s going great but I wanted to affect more people and especially the people who are struggling like I did back in the time where I felt like there was no hope and why bother even trying to change my life.

I knew this amazing charity called to write love on her arms and they were reaching kids and young adults in a way that no other suicide charity ever had reached that. So they’re basically making hope cool and for like us [] rocker kids like I was at that time, hope wasn’t cool. The positive people were the ones that made fun of us.

Ryan: Sure.

Amy: So it wasn’t cool to hope or to try or any of that kind of stuff and to write love on her arms makes that cool. So what I did was I crowd funded over $18,000 to visit 30 cities across the US and Canada to celebrate my 30th birthday that I almost didn’t have and I raised money to write love on her arms along the way, which was awesome and I did another one last year called the strong inside out tour and we raised more money for them that year and I’m still looking at ways to partner with them again this year.

But I’m just not sure what that’s going to look like. It’s going to be a surprise for all of us.

Ryan: Yeah, we look forward to it. What about the book []? So you got your boot camp and a lot of online stuff that you’re doing of course. So what’s up with that?

Amy: Well, I wanted to also make it more clear cut. There was really no exercise program that took depression or anxiety into account, both of which I dealt with in my past and you have to treat that mindset a little bit differently because with depression, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. So if you take on too much, you’re likely just going to quit it all at once or just say that it’s impossible and not maintainable and with anxiety, you want to take on too much. You want to take on all of these things and then you get overwhelmed and then you give up entirely.

So our program focuses on using movement as an outlet to make your whole life better. With the mindset challenges as well so it’s basically a monthly membership program and we have personal coaches in there to really tailor everybody’s experience and really take everybody’s personality into account and we have this awesome group of support system. I’m really excited about it. They’re so supportive and positive and wonderful with each other. It really is like it’s my baby. I love that program, strong inside out boot camp.

Ryan: It’s great because it talks about what we were talking about earlier, the support system and knowing that if you have somebody there for you and helping you out. It makes things at least a little bit easier.


Ryan: Getting back to your life isn’t always easy all the time. We all have shit that happens, right? So something you wrote about on your blog recently was looking at mindset changes and so maybe if you can go into a little bit about what are some things that we can do. What are some of these mindset changes that we can use in our daily life that can help us for when we start to feel things get a little bit too much for us? Maybe we don’t feel like we have control over a particular situation. What are some mindset changes that we can …

Amy: I think mindset is really all about perspective. So it’s all about like whether you choose to suffer through struggle or not. It’s completely your choice. It doesn’t have to be a negative experience. I know a lot of the time now when I struggle, I will automatically go into that oh my gosh, this sucks. I shouldn’t have to do this. It shouldn’t be my life. This wasn’t this hard for this other person and I will stop myself and that’s a cognitive behavioral thing too. Stop yourself and actually say it out loud sometimes like I do. Stop. Take a deep breath. I just talk to myself a lot. It’s a very normal thing.

So stop, take a deep breath and really reframe that thought that keeps repeating in your mind. So with like that that’s unfair, kind of mindset, instead just reminding yourself that you’re choosing to do this. Whatever you’re struggling through is getting you somewhere. So what is that somewhere that you want to get to? Remind yourself of that place and then ask yourself. Is this worth it? Yes. Awesome! I’m going to move forward with it.

So that’s one way to do it and I always use mantras and stuff too.

Ryan: That’s pretty cool. So basically something that I like to use and we also do this in GMB when we’re making some decisions is, is it a hell yes? If it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a no. Sometimes we can get sucked into things that maybe we think, oh, we will just kind of give it a try and then all of a sudden we find that it kind of overwhelms us and we realize this isn’t really something that is my hell yes.

So just like what you said, is it worth actually pursuing? If so, do you make the choice? Because you’ve made that choice, maybe it will be a little bit easier when you say stop, take a breath. OK, get that clarity again for why you’re doing it.

So this is something of course that we talk about a lot is the why. I mean why do you choose to do something and if your why is very strong, then it’s not that it will be easy but you can go back to that and use that as kind of your power to help keep you going even when stuff [].

But yeah, just like what you said, just taking that break and stopping and taking a breath. Yeah, you need to do that a lot too.

Amy: Yeah, constant reminders. It’s just all about constant reminders.

Ryan: So to me it sounds like you trained yourself to be able to do this. This isn’t just something of course you woke up and you’re – I assume able to do the very next day. So I guess then that way the exercise would be a good catalyst to help you to be able to train everything. So as far as the training goes, let’s talk about single leg squats.

I’m just kidding.

Amy: I love them.

Ryan: I know. It drives you crazy when people say that. That’s just why I was bringing it up. But basically as far as exercises and things though, what drives you? What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and continue to do this? What’s your why?

Amy: Is this a podcast where I can swear?

Ryan: You can say anything you want. We will do the little “bleep”. No, I’m just kidding. You can say anything you want. Feel free just as long as it does – let me drink my coffee before …

Amy: Yeah.

Ryan: You say something funny so I don’t spit it all over you. Yeah.

Amy: The thing that gets me out of bed every day A is the number of lives that we help make better, with strong inside out and the strong inside out boot camp, but B for my own personal – like a growth with training and everything because as you get more proficient at everything, as you start – I mean I am definitely – I m addicted to getting certifications so it’s like nonstop for me. Do you have that problem? I definitely have that problem.

Ryan: Yeah, not anymore. I used to like a lot but yeah.

Amy: I definitely have that problem and I like never stop learning and like you can definitely reach a point where it’s just like oh, well I know how to do all of this. What am I going to do today?

Ryan: Yeah.

Amy: But like really pushing myself to do bad ass shit is what gets me out of bed every single day and I just recently like this last year – OK. Plug, feel free to use this as a testimonial for your site by the way.

I just …

Ryan: Hold on just a second.

Amy: Exactly. Get your quill out. I’ve been working on handstands for a year, literally a year, probably about five days a week. Mostly every single day for six months of that and I could not hold them. I could not hold them at all. I got your free opt-in for the handstands and I started doing hollow body holds. Within two weeks, I’m holding an effing handstand. What up!

Ryan: It’s the secret to everything in life and that is join GMB …

Amy: Exactly.

Ryan: No, it’s really cool to hear that. But you – something to back up and something that we like to say is do cool shit.

Amy: Yeah.

Ryan: Do cool shit, right? If you find something that you like to do, I mean you’re doing it for so long and you’re doing them five days a week. Well, obviously you want to do cool shit and you kept going with it which is – I’m just glad we could help but I mean I’m sure that there are people out there though that have the same thing. They want to do something and they’re just banging their head against the wall and then they find you and you’re just like no, it can be this way and I think that’s so cool that you and me, we can be role models for people and show people that it’s not just about banging your head against the wall. It is having fun with what you’re doing and you can do some cool shit in the process.

So it’s very cool. Thanks for letting me know that.

Amy: Yeah, of course dude. Thank you.

Ryan: Testimonial!

Amy: Totally video testimonial.

Ryan: Love it, love it. So yeah, so getting out of bed and being able to help people and then also focusing on doing cool shit like you said. I think that’s great. So as far as – not just exercise but life and you actually moved. So you don’t live in LA anymore, right? So where do you live if you don’t mind me asking? Address, please. Just so I can hang out with your husband, that’s all.

Amy: Yeah. I live in San Diego now and I’m loving it. It’s like LA but a little bit more chill, a little bit slower. We just kind of like – my husband and like work for ourselves now and completely just strong inside out now. So being able to live wherever we want is definitely a perk but we only move two hours away. But Southern California is hard to beat.

Ryan: Sure.

Amy: But I say that because I’ve never been in Japan.

Ryan: Well right now you don’t want to. It’s pouring rain and cold. So …

Amy: OK.

Ryan: But it’s all good. It’s all good. I think too something – I mean I think – again if you look at things in the positive – and this is so tough. This is so tough to do, right? And it’s raining outside and it’s cold. But you can look at that as shit, it’s raining and it’s cold or you can look at it a different way, an opportunity to say OK, I would have loved to be outside today but instead I can focus on something else and do something because it’s raining.

Amy: Yeah.

Ryan: Just like what you said, is try and look at things not in a negative way, but step back, take a breath and say hey listen, what’s really going on? What can I do in order to make that a positive? So this is something that I really like, especially like looking at your site and your intro video. It’s great because you just feel that positive energy that’s in there.

Now, I’m willing to bet that you’re not positive and life is cheery 100 percent of the time, right?

Amy: No.

Ryan: But it is good to see that in a video and things like that, something we try and do – obviously I’m as human as they come but I think that like looking at you and also chatting with you and letting people know that it is OK to just be yourself, have fun and laugh any which way you want when you’re on video.

Amy: I think that’s really important that you said that. Sorry to totally interrupt you hijack your speech there but I think that it’s really important to note that well, I struggle with clinical depression and that means it just comes in and out no matter what. You’re not here. I don’t – I didn’t just take a magic pill and it just went away. It still hits me. It’s just that I have those coping mechanisms, those tools in place that when it hits me, it doesn’t affect me as long or as deeply. I don’t fall into that dwelling place.

Like at the beginning of the year actually right when I got back on tour because I was so exhausted and because it was such a great high and then you get back to reality and you’re like oh, wow, what am I doing? But it’s all about knowing those tactics and for me that’s just like leaning on my support system which is so important, getting moving even if it’s just like yoga or just like even walking or something like that. But I know that running is really important for me and also really, really expressing out loud gratitude. That’s really important for me.

Ryan: Cool. We touched on the tools side of it and I think that a lot of people don’t really have a plan in place for when shit happens and so when it happens we can just consume them and I’m not – this is something a lot of people might think that this is a negative thing but maybe hope for the best but plan for the worst kind of thing. So – and gradually – and I’m meaning this in my case an exercise point of view but I think it’s also for life.

So for example if we look at like going back to the handstand this is a case where I want everyone to have the tools necessary so that if something happens, they’re not going to injure themselves. So that’s for example why we first start off learning the cartwheel, how to turn out of it in case you come crashing down, making sure that your wrists are good and ready for it. So that you don’t get injured and things like that.

I think if we look at that in life too, and understand that – you know, what are we going to do when we might be down and it’s just good to hear that you have some things, an outlet I guess of sorts if that’s the right way to say it that you can go to and have that available for you.

Support system, yeah, I think that’s wonderful and I’m sure you probably agree with me, but sometimes your support system isn’t there whether it be – maybe they’re out of town or maybe they’re having a day too and so sometimes you just have to kind of figure things out on your own, so I think that’s why it’s really cool.

With the way you have things set up and the way that you’re teaching people is to really believe in yourself and getting back to that empowerment.

Amy: Yeah.

Ryan: So …


Ryan: Really that empowerment, what does it really mean to you? And if you could – this is I know a very tough question maybe for you but in your own life, what does that empowerment mean to you?

Amy: I think empowerment really means – it’s almost – I’m trying to think if it’s a combination of a couple of things or if I can sum it down to one thought here. It’s first of all having the knowledge that you can get through anything, that nothing will defeat you and that – I mean as the [] goes, that if it’s not killing you, it’s making you stronger, that there’s a reason for it and I think it really means taking the blows and looking for the lesson in them. I think that’s really empowerment right there, being able to see that it is happening for a reason.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s so good, so good. I mean it’s tough, right? I mean you look at things and so there are people around us, a lot of people around us that are probably going through depression and I know that a lot of people tend to step back because they don’t know how to deal with it or help that particular person but I think it goes for everybody in their life. It’s just what you said is that resilience of sorts and being able to get back up even after you’ve been thrown. This is a big thing for me and my judo because I came over here as the only white boy, right? It was like all these people wanting to use me to clean the mats basically. It’s like I used to say and it was like just – it was – I just had to keep getting back up and it’s good. I think more people if they can look at that and understand that we’re all not necessarily going through the depression for example but you come through but we all have to go through things and as long as we keep getting back up, and trying and keep going, things can be pretty cool. It can be kind of fun because just look at you. You fucking love life. I tell you what.

Amy: I do. I do now and it’s not always sunshine effing radios but it is like – it is – even the struggle part is enjoyable now. It’s just all about …

Ryan: That is so cool to hear.

Amy: … perspective. Yeah, it’s all about perspective. You can totally shift that. It just starts with the choice to do it.

Ryan: Cool. It’s so awesome. Well hey listen, we’re going to end it right here. You know we will be talking again but …

Amy: Oh, yeah.

Ryan: Tell you what, let’s – for those of you listening out there, we will have all the info and strong inside out Amy where you can get all the goods but anything you want to leave, like last words of advice. I think you pretty much said everything. I was like, yeah, that’s good! Yeah.

Amy: I think just know that even if you are dealing with depression or anxiety or any kind of like life sentence disorder that they gave you at the doctor’s office, you’re not broken. Nothing needs to be fixed. It’s just your way of being in this world and there’s nothing wrong with that and I think that just really learning to live in spite of whatever they told you you have is really the key to enjoying life. I hope I can help you do that.

Ryan: This is awesome. Thanks so much Amy and we will be looking forward to seeing you on tour in Japan next …


Ryan: Did I give it away? All right. Thanks everybody.

Amy: Thank you!

[End of transcript]

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