Becoming Strong from the Inside Out

There are a million ways to say it and, deep down, we all know it: We are what we DO, not what we say we do.

Amy Clover learned this invaluable lesson the hard way -- by hitting rock bottom -- and now it’s her mission, as the woman behind Strong Inside/Out, to share this inspiration through her many strengths.

After years of suffering through clinical depression and obsessive compulsion disorder, Amy came within moments of taking her own life one night in 2005.

With the support she needed to pull herself out of a long, downward spiral, she was able to turn her life around, first by turning her thinking around -- from trying to find self-worth from the outside in, obsessively watching her weight and comparing herself to others, to doing "self-work," making herself strong, inside out.

Through her writing, teaching and speaking tours, and consulting, Amy promotes life-affirming change by sharing her personal experience and certified expertise.

Read my interview with Amy to learn more about taking action for your best self!

1. As you relate very openly on your website, it took reaching “the breaking point,” nearly attempting suicide, to finally make a lasting change in your life. What were the eye-opening lessons from your recovery that most informed and empowered your actions?

I think repetitive failing was the most important lesson in my recovery.

Amy

From that point in 2005, I roller-coastered through treatments and attempted habit creation until I finally became consistent with the ones that worked for me.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, those failures were informing me of the paths that wouldn’t work for me in the long run, leading me to discover the one that would. Just because I’d read that X or Y treatment worked for someone else didn’t mean it would work for me. Just like in fitness, everyone’s journey toward ultimate health is entirely personal. If I hadn’t failed all those times, I never would have found my true path.

2. After this turning point, did you have to face down any doubts, any old habits of thinking or reacting? How did you overcome these difficulties to keep on thriving?

I still do! What I like to emphasize on my site is that it took years for me to truly conquer old negative thinking patterns and habits. I would think that I’d have a hold on it, and then an event would happen that would shove me right back into the familiar routines because it was “easy.” It was rough and tumble for a few years after my hospitalization. I didn’t truly start to feel empowered in my life until 2009. That’s 4 years of trial and error.

Even now, I sometimes feel the pull of depression and anxiety when something doesn’t go the way I expect it to. My clinical depression comes from a chemical imbalance, so it does sometimes pop up even when there’s no inciting incident. The difference between then and now is that I am aware of the sinking I begin to feel, and I take ACTION to rise out of it by reaching for the tools I’ve acquired over the years. It is the one detail I had previously resisted, and it is the most important.

3. You tell your story so candidly and courageously. When did you know that your experience had to be shared, both for yourself and for others? How did you first put yourself out there?

When I began Strong Inside Out, I simply knew that A) I wanted to bring my fitness career online, and B) I didn’t want it to be all sweat and iron; I wanted it to go deeper than that because my experience with fitness had been so comprehensive in terms of body and mind.

Amy_clover_2

But at this point in my life, I still hadn’t let anyone know about my story. My family and maybe 2 of my friends knew about how dark I had actually gotten. I was afraid to talk about it because I feared it would make me seem weak or crazy.

While I was working on launching SIO, a friend of mine was helping me put it all together. He is a well-known fitness blogger, too, and he was adamant about getting more female voices into the scene. All he said was, “When you write your About page, be as honest as possible. People will trust you when you let them in.”

And it clicked. Steve didn’t know my story. Most of the world didn’t know my story. If I, outgoing and enthusiastic as I had become, hadn’t told my story, how many more people out there were keeping silent about their pain? How many more people didn’t think it was okay to raise their voice?

So I told it on my about page and it got more attention than any of my posts in the beginning. It was obvious from that point on that I had to keep talking about it, because it was giving so many other people their voices back.

4. Did you ever have any concerns or fears about marketing your personal success? In what ways have you changed with the growth of Strong Inside Out?

That’s interesting that you use the phrase, “personal success,” because I don’t really think of it along those lines. I always feel like I’m working to become a truer form of myself. There is so much I still want to do!

If you mean marketing my personal success in that I openly talk about fighting depression, yes I faced down fear of ridicule and judgment. In the end, however, if it gives hope to one person that may have given up, it outweighs all the risk.

I’ve changed a LOT with the growth of Strong Inside Out. I have become more confident, determined and empowered, especially since launching The 30x30 Project last year.

5. How does Strong Inside Out maintain that balance of mind and body that is so vital to your own personal well-being?

Strong Inside Out explores the constant cycle of physical strength feeding emotional strength and vice versa. The two are intrinsically connected. When we focus on one, the other benefits, so by focusing on both, we can truly become strong inside and out.

6. Have any teaching experiences also been learning experiences for you? How did you put these experiences into practice?

All of them. 🙂 I would not be doing the work I am today without my experience as a personal trainer and teacher. It sounds so cheeseball, but my clients and students are my teachers, just as my readers are. I hate that I just wrote that, but it’s true.

By listening to what people need, I am able to further explore the problems that need addressing, which leads me to a better understanding of what fuels our inner and outer strength. Without feedback, I’d have no idea if my approach is effective or how to make it more so.

Beyond that, my experience teaching makes it easier for me to put everything on SIO in terms that people will understand and more importantly, be able to put into practice. I try to make the posts on SIO actionable so that instead of simply reading a post, you can take the tools and information from it and use them immediately.

7. What is your definition of success? Is there a specific formula someone needs to use to obtain success?

Success comes with any accomplishment, so I feel like we can all be successful in every day of our lives.

When I first began climbing out of depression and anxiety, I’d make small goals. And I mean small. For example, “get out of bed by 10 am.” If I accomplished that, I was successful that day.

To be successful, all we need is vision and action. We must see what we want to accomplish and take the steps to get there. That is all. It’s the same for large goals and for small ones. We tend to over-complicate it.

8. When you respond personally to readers who write their own stories to you, how do you try to make your individual experience benefit them in their situation? What can you say that is actionable?

First off, I always let them know that I am not a mental health professional and that I strongly advise them to see a counselor to talk about their situation. That said, I tailor each email to the person who is writing, though I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to get back to every email coming my way!

People writing to me usually know my story, and that’s why they share theirs with me. Most emails are looking for advice or words of encouragement and hope. I offer these of course, and I always include something actionable, whether it be just to see a mental health professional or to become more mindful. It’s different with every person.

9. Strong Inside Out has a vibrant new look! How does the design of the website reflect and reinforce your vision? Did this “makeover” reinvigorate your work in any way?

stronginsideout

I used to look at my site and cringe! Now that Proof Branding has done their magic, I feel like it embodies this message of strength and action unlike I ever imagined it could.

The makeover definitely reinvigorated my work! I at least have some more focus in the way that I structure images, and there’s more oomph behind certain posts when I know they will look a certain way.

10. What is your best advice in regards to promoting a business? What would you recommend to people who want to build their brand?

The best way to promote your business is to fill a need and then tell people about it. Help people live better lives, and scream it from the rooftops… the proverbial rooftops of social media anyway. 😉

The most important advice I could give to someone building a brand is to be true to your voice. Have an opinion. Stand for something, and people will stand up to see that you are heard.

Your brand is YOU. Your voice, your take on the world is what you sell every day. Find your voice and match it with colors, type and design so that when people visit your site for the first time, they immediately know what you’re about.

11. In 2013, you carried off a nationwide campaign called 30x30 to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention. How did you know that you were ready for such a huge project? What are some of the ways that you had to scale up your energy and thinking?

Actuallyyyyy it was international. Canada counts, right? 🙂

The only thing I knew was that I wanted to do something bigger than me. I wanted to help more people realize that they’re not alone, and that the fight inside them is enough to conquer whatever darkness they’re in.

30x30

I came up with The 30x30 Project. To celebrate the 30th birthday I almost didn’t have, I’d teach bootcamps in 30 different cities across North America to raise money and awareness for the suicide prevention charity, To Write Love On Her Arms.

For the first month I had the idea, I sat on it. I was overwhelmed by the amount of work that would go into it. Scheduling, booking flights and hotels, raising the money through crowdfunding, social media, interviews, guest posts, and actually teaching the bootcamps themselves! It was a lot to grasp.

When I divided each task into individual steps (I created a Google Doc to keep track) and checked off each box as I accomplished them, it became much more manageable. It was one task after the other until it was done.

As far as actually doing the tour, yes I had to amp up my energy something fierce for the actual bootcamps, but in between I was able to just rest and stay mainly quiet (silence is essential for me). It was enough to recharge before the next city.

12. If 2013 was your best year yet, what’s in store for 2014?

It definitely was! 2014 is ramping up to be a fantastic one as well.

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This year, I’ll be doing The Strong Inside Out Tour in the summer. It will be similar to 30x30, but each bootcamp will be even more powerful because we’ll be aiming for big groups in big cities across the US and Canada. I’ll be working with local partners to set these up, so if you’d like to help me come to your city, please sign up here!

As well as the tour this summer, I’m also teaching at and hosting some retreats and weekend events across the world. It’s been a dream of mine to do events like this so I’m really excited for these.

Beyond that, I’m continuing to amplify the Strong Inside Out message far and wide! I’d love for you to be a part of it.

Thank You, Amy

Check out Amy's story in this awesome 30-seconds video:

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Amy Clover is a personal trainer, wellness coach, and blogger at Strong Inside Out, a community devoted to empowering you through fitness and positive action to overcome life’s obstacles. You can also find her on Twitter at @StrongInsideOut

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