"Inner strength is far more important than bulging biceps." Coaching Zone Brand Ambassador, Commando Steve recently opened up to the Sunday Telegraph's Adam MacDougall about his journey to mindfulness. Read the article here:
He might have made his name screaming at contestants on The Biggest Loser, but these days you’ll find Commando Steve Willis busy embracing his spiritual side.
He’s left his camouflage pants and skin-tight singlets far behind, too, telling news.com.au that despite building a career as the hard man of fitness, he realised he’d been using exercise as a punishment, a way to hurt himself, after suddenly discovering Buddhism at the age of 35.
“Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Buddhist master, and his approach, as I get older, I find I can really relate to it,” the now 43-year-old says. “In my younger years, if I had heard the word love I would have been running for the hills.
“As a young guy, I was never really shown that. In my teens, I didn’t think much of myself, I never really liked who I was. And I used exercise to hurt myself, as an escape, so I never had to deal with my issues.
“There was all this suffering in my life, all this pain, all this fear, and I thought there must be another way.”
Clearly inspiration can strike in the most unexpected of places, and for Willis it struck while browsing a MMA fighter’s Instagram page. Not the kind of place you might expect to discover spiritual enlightenment, perhaps, but the Commando’s life has changed entirely as a result.
“This MMA fighter posted a book written by a Japanese Zen master, and then I landed on a Thich Nhat Hanh book,” he says. “It just sat me on my backside — it was like I had written the book to myself.
“So only at 35 did I feel like I’d taken my body armour off, before then my heart was closed. I’ve learned enjoy life, to have a better relationship with myself and other people, and just to be me.
“And it was also having kids, and wanting them to grow up in way that was different to the way I did.”
That’s not to say Willis isn’t still training people — he was this year named an ambassador for Coaching Zone.
It’s just that his 2019 fitness routines look a little bit different to the ones we used watch on television. There’s a lot less screaming, for a start.
“You can absolutely be mindful while training,” he says. “You hear athletes talk about it all the time; how training is their meditation, their way to process things.
“And it’s no different for any of us. And it can add depth to the training, and stop people quitting.
“That’s where a lot of people fall over in training — they have a goal that might be superficial, and that doesn’t carry much meaning, and so it diminishes over time.
“Because most people want it yesterday, but it just doesn’t work like that.”
In fact, Steve now says inner strength is far more important than bulging biceps.
“I’ve learned to love meditation,” Willis says. “It’s a moment to sit still and be in touch with myself regardless of what’s going in. Finding a way to relax for a moment and just breathe deep into your belly, you’ll find it really opens you up.”