Watch or listen to this week’s episode with Amy Clover…
Amy Clover has battled her own demons, and won. Now she helps other people take back the power to fight their own demons through fitness and positive action. Amy is the founder of StrongInsideOut.com and the driving force behind the 2014 Strong Inside Out Tour.
When you talk to Amy, she seems like the epitome of strength, endurance, and physical health. She’s also funny and upbeat. You’d never guess that just seven years ago she was ready to end her life. She was struggling with depression and OCD, and when she was put into a psychiatric hospital against her will, she knew she had to get back in the driver’s seat.
But the message she got from just about everyone was that these demons were something she’d have to live with her whole life… and that maybe with medication she could at least exist. Then she stumbled into fitness– and finally felt in control.
Now, seven years later, Amy knows how to play that daily mental game and win—and she’s sharing her mad demon-slaying skills with anyone who wants to listen.
Here’s what we talk about on the show:
- The one thing the fitness industry downplays, but shouldn’t.
- Why we need to become “anti-fragile.”
- How pushing yourself to the point of struggle makes you stronger.
- Workout advice for women—and Amy’s “happy foods.”
- Changing your body to change your brain.
Check out Amy’s web site, or hit up the tour near you… because who doesn’t have a few demons to slay?
Amy says that she dyed her hair red to look more like Jean Grey from X Men… and she certainly does have the strength and resilience of a super hero. She keeps things light as we talk about a very heavy subject—depression, suicide, and digging your way out of it all.
When Amy was in high school, she was dismissed as one of the bad kids. Clinically depressed and diagnosed with OCD, she would hold it all inside until she’d finally let it go and lash out.
Most adults in her life didn’t want to dig any deeper, so they just slapped a label on her and dealt with her as a problem that couldn’t be fixed.
In her 20’s, Amy tried to end it all by putting a knife to her wrist. Her roommate found her like this and had her call the suicide prevention hotline. The hotline saved her life that night, and the next morning she checked herself into the hospital.
She was hospitalized against her will, which is when she realized what it felt like to have no choice. To have no control.
When she left the hospital she realized that she had to make some changes. It was when she found fitness that she started to play the mental game every day, and win.
The thing that much of the fitness industry downplays is the internal struggle. Our understanding of physical education or physical culture is very detached. But it’s very much integrated with our minds and the rest of our wellbeing.
We can cure, treat, or prevent almost every disease out there with diet and exercise. That includes both physical and mental illness. Exercise is about changing the brain.
What is the mental thing going on when you work out, when you push yourself? Rigorous exercise elevates the brain derived neurotrophic factor. There’s a book called “Spark” that explains the scientific side of it really well. But when you’re pushing yourself in the gym, you’re essentially training yourself for real life. You push yourself to the edge of discomfort, and then you have that feeling of success.
For so long, we’ve wanted to make things easy. But we’re discovering that we need challenge, we need some level of discomfort in order for our brains to grow. When you’re, say, going to do some weight lifting, you have to ask yourself, “Can I lift this, or not?” There’s that second of being unsure, maybe a bit uncomfortable. Then you assess the risk and push yourself just a tiny bit further.
You are exercising your body, and your resolve. You’re working your resilience. We’ve shied away from struggle for so long, but we absolutely need to push ourselves. You just don’t want to take it too far. You wouldn’t start out your first day weightlifting by dead lifting 200 pounds.
We need to become “anti-fragile.” The strongest people… and animals… thrive during a struggle.
To help you empower yourself, you need to find something you want to “get uncomfortable about.” Maybe it’s leaving your job. That’s exciting, but uncomfortable, right? You need to think about what kind of life you want to land in after you take that leap… and get that all set up so you have solid ground to put your feet on when you walk away. It’s the same thing with fitness. It’s not about taking ridiculous risks. It’s about taking calculated risks that move you in the right direction.
When do you know when you get there? You never get there. You are always pushing those limits, every day. It’s about the moment.
There’s a shift from being the victim of circumstance to celebrating the fact that you’re in control. It’s incredible when you realize that you’re in the driver’s seat.
What changed for you?
Amy: I joined a gym. I was acting at the time and needed to lose a few pounds. I hopped on an elliptical and powered through intervals. My brain was just firing off explosions of adrenaline. I started to feel like I could handle things in day to day life.
If I could stumble upon it on accident, think about what people in the depths of darkness could do going into it with intention! That’s when I started really helping people empower themselves.
How do you help someone get out of that dark place? Just tell them to get outside and move in some way. Take that first step. Even if it’s just walking around the block, that movement can be transformational. Something as simple as a daily walk has been shown to be more effective long-term than prescription medication.
Why don’t we just make better decisions? It’s not a one-stop shop—the effects of exercise aren’t immediate, like popping a pill. But regular aerobic exercise has been proven more effective than Zoloft for treating depression when used consistently. If you just do one workout- no. You have to stick with it.
You must have the will, and the knowledge that you’re doing it for a bigger reason. Knowing your “why” is what drives your actions.
Success stories of people using Amy’s Phoenix Method are everywhere. It’s not necessary to hit rock bottom before you rise from the ashes. You just have to realize that the life you’re living is not the life you want, but not in despair—in mindfulness.
How should women exercise?
First, I want to tell you that big weights won’t make you big. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Just start by doing what makes you happy and gets you active. Move to feel better.
As far as diet goes, the wild diet helps me feel more emotionally level and feeds into better performance during workouts. The point is that you’re eating to fuel your body and for nutrition.
Be careful about high-intensity workouts. I live by the hit workouts, but if you do them multiple times a week you won’t be able to deal well emotionally. You can do some aerobic exercise in between to help keep you balanced. You just want to get your heart going.
Don’t be extreme. It doesn’t help.
How should women eat?
As far as nutrition, I have to tell you to be wary of a low carb diet. Eat your healthy carbs, and it’s okay to add in some brown rice and quinoa once in a while. These are my happy foods. Sometimes women need a few healthy gluten-free grains or carbs, especially during their period. Just don’t overdo them.
The right answer is always, “It depends.” What does low-carb mean? Amy’s a fan of the 90% rule. Eat wild 90% of the time, and if you’re working out and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s okay to indulge once in a while.
The biggest things you should avoid are sugar and most grains. Stick to real, whole foods, but be relaxed about it. Don’t make yourself crazy with deprivation and then binge. Your ideal diet may vary, but it’s about learning to trust the natural intention of your body, the strength of your brain, and your willpower.
The cleaner you get by eating a real food diet, the more bad foods will affect your body and brain. So much so that you may even decide that they’re just not worth it.
Keep treats as treats. Food marketing has gotten so ridiculous, there’s even marshmallows in cereal. We’ve forgotten that sweets should be for special occasions, celebrations, and reserved for rare occasions—not eaten for breakfast.
The Strong Inside Out Tour is hitting major cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Some cities are having entire weekends dedicated to celebrating life. There are wellness workshops and opportunities to work with Amy, and 50% of the ticket sales go straight to the suicide prevention charity, To Write Love on Her Arms. There’s an Indiegogo campaign set up for the tour, so you can check it out there and get involved.