Mental Health Within the Fitness Industry: Interview with Chris Beck and Patrick Bryan

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Jayel Lewis sits down and asks AMRAP (As Many Responses As Possible) in 60 seconds or less with Chris Beck and Patrick Bryan 

How do you manage the feeling of always wanting to achieve more?

PB: I manage that by constantly setting goals. I don’t believe that we are meant to live life without goals. Les Brown said when you are not pursuing your goals, you’re literally committing spiritual suicide. I’m a big fan of that.  Consistently set goals and let yourself struggle to hit them.

Do you feel like the fitness industry needs to put more emphasis on overall well being and less emphasis on the aesthetics?

CB: I feel like the industry definitely needs to address mental health more than we currently do.  We all have a lot of pressure to look and act a certain way, which automatically contributes to a greater amount of stress.

PB: I 100% agree. I competed in men’s physique competitions for 6 years. I lived my life critiquing my aesthetics day in and day out. Two years ago I had enough of it and switched to training for performance, focusing more on my mental health, and also focusing more on enjoying life. For years I was so regimented with 6 meals a day, no alcohol, outwork everyone mentality,  and it wasn’t healthy at all. I achieved some great goals, but I’m enjoying life now more than ever and still love the way I look.

Patrick, when you said “as a guy, we don’t really talk about our feelings” do you think it’s important to have more open and honest conversations around mental health, if so, in what space do you think this would be helpful?

It’s extremely important to have those tough conversations and even just having more conversations in general. Sitting down and talking is a thing of the past. We hide behind keyboards and are constantly in a rush. People just don’t sit and talk anymore. But I love talking about mental health and love when my friends are willing to talk with me. When Chris first talked to me about his mental health this summer I was excited. I know that simply talking about it feels amazing. It’s comforting to know someone else goes through it and it’s ok to not feel great, it’ll give you hope. One of the hardest things for men to do is be vulnerable and that’s what these conversations are. Let down those walls gentlemen.

Do you feel like there’s a stigma surrounding the topic that prevents other people from experiencing the same issues yet don’t want to talk about them?

CB: I think the stigma is improving and we are definitely more comfortable opening up about the mental challenges that we face on a daily basis. I try to be open because I know most people see me as a strong, happy person, and would have no idea that I battle severe OCD and anxiety. If I can be open about my issues then hopefully others will feel more comfortable as well.

Chris, What made you feel comfortable enough to open up about your depression and anxiety?

I train almost all day and have lots of personal relationships with my clients. Through the years I have certainly had clients open up about their lives rather its inside or outside the gym. If I show them I am human and battle issues as well it makes them more comfortable around me.

How do you balance being vulnerable with your clients yet still professional?

PB: I think it kind of goes hand and hand. I think being vulnerable has just given me a more trusting relationship with the people I coach. They know I don’t just talk the talk, but things I say and do all come from past experience and I mean the things I say. A lot of personal trainers only post highlights and professional photos. I think people appreciate me showing that I fail a lot, and I struggle a lot. But it’ll never stop me.  I think it becomes unprofessional when you bring other people into it, which I try not to do. Also, I try to stay away from explicit language.

Do you think when professional athletes like Kevin Love struggle with anxiety attacks on the court or in public it allows us to view “them” as real people?

PB: I think it allows people that understand anxiety to view them as real. The hard people to reach are the ones that are blind to mental health. You’ll hear all the time, they’re paid millions, they don’t have anything to stress about, etc. Some people just don’t want to believe that mental health is a real health issue. But professional athletes opening up about their struggles only makes others want to open up.  They have the ability to reach millions of people.

What do you do as monthly maintenance to manage your anxiety?

CB: To manage my anxiety I try to make monthly therapy appointments and prioritize my self-care at some points. Meditation, mindfulness, and being in social situations can help.

PB: I mean taking my medication consistently is important. But besides that, journaling, taking time to stretch every day, and making sure I have time with my friends and dog are important. Planning time to slow down and turn off my brain is one of the most important things for me. I do have a therapist I see when need be, but honestly, some of the conversations I have with my friends are just as good and make me feel great.

What do you find contributes to your overall anxiety?

PB: Sheesh that’s a loaded question. Growing up it was the way I looked and relationships with my family. The good news is all of that has gotten better. Nowadays when I’m alone, I tend to overthink and a lot of times become lonely and that will trigger it. Getting sick or injured is always a big trigger for me. I’ll over analyze what’s wrong with me for hours. And believe it or not, coaching sometimes just triggers it out of nowhere. A class can sometimes just become overwhelming with so much going on over and over and over again, that it’ll just hit me and I’ll need to slow down and breathe for a second. I’ve had many attacks mid-class but you have a job to do so you get it done. Lastly, too much caffeine is a recipe for me bugging out.

CB: My overall anxiety comes from a few different platforms. Burnout I experience frequently in fitness which increases stress which in turn can turn into major anxiety.  Also, I am anxious when by myself so I respond better being busy and surrounded by others.

Chris, you mentioned, “you’re constantly getting judged in the industry.” Do you think that’s mostly stemming from clients or other fitness professionals?

You definitely get judged by members and other trainers. There is a stigma that you are supposed to look a certain way which adds a lot of unnecessary pressure. I am used to this by now, but in my earlier years as a fitness professional, it definitely got in my head.

What type of workout helps to quiet your mind the most?

CB: I feel that high-intensity workouts definitely quiet my mind the most. Sometimes an outdoor workout on a nice day helps as well.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

PB: First off, thanks Jayel for giving me the opportunity to talk about this with a great friend. I hope this will get at least one person to speak up. I’ve lost two of the closest people in my life to suicide and it all could’ve been prevented with speaking up. 

Where can we find you? 

Patrick Bryan: @patbryanfitness
Facebook: Patrick Bryan

Chris Beck: @b3_fitness




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