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Week 4 Recap: Getting STRONG With Chris Ryan

Earlier this month, NBC debuted their latest fitness reality competition: STRONG. Airing on Thursdays at 8/7c, STRONG pairs 10 women with 10 elite trainers, and puts them on a journey like no other. Two of those trainers, Chris Ryan and Todd Durkin, have worked with Cybex for many years, and we are proud to watch and root for them on the show. While Todd was eliminated in Week 3, Chris and his Orange Team are still very much alive in the competition as it hits the halfway point.

As a weekly bonus, we'll recap the previous episode of STRONG with Chris right here on the Cybex blog. Chris will give us an insider’s perspective on each episode and maybe a hint about what's on tap in the next episode. Today, we talk to Chris about Thursday's episode, and all of the emotions associated with the show. Follow Chris on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook for more photos and insight from the show.

This week, you were about 24 days into training. What types of changes were you seeing from everyone, physically and mentally, that we might not see on camera?

This was the point where you could start to see healthy habits and major lifestyle shifts amongst the trainees with their nutrition and their training. I always say it takes between 2-3 weeks to make a major shift in healthy habits, and that was very true on STRONG. It was awesome to witness! 

Everyone's inner-athlete was truly being tapped into. We were in full game mode. The trainees had that "eye of the tiger" look in their eyes, and the trainers were pushing their trainees to places they never could have imagined they could go just a few weeks before. Everyone, myself included, was in mid-season at this point; complete with all the nicks, scratches and soreness that comes along from competing at your highest level every day. 

How tough was the bar challenge? Was it a strategic challenge like the White Team said, or was it pure upper body endurance?

The bar challenge was crazy tough. You felt so vulnerable. The inclined platform was as slippery as an ice rink! I loved it though. Very creative of the producers to install a challenge that was a great test of coaching on the trainers part and also pushed the trainees to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. That is why I tried to calm Giovanna down by saying, "Come on Giovanna, this is F-U-N" over and over.  Definitely not what most people's idea of a good time would be, but there really is something fun about pushing yourself to your limit. That is what STRONG is all about. I wanted Giovanna to learn something about herself in every challenge; to get to know herself a little more each time. And making her smile during the heat of an amazingly hard challenge was my way of reiterating to her that fitness should be fun!

You seemed pretty excited about the trainer challenge...but it seemed a lot tougher than you all anticipated.  Tell us about it.

Ha ha...yeah it was funny. We were told it would be a cardio challenge, but where I come from a 30 yard sprint up a ramp with a long jump at the end is anything but cardio. All the trainers were like, "Ok, cool, this is Chris' challenge to win," based on what we thought it would entail from the hint we were given. However, when we showed up I was laughing and thinking, "Great!? Mat and Bennie are going to battle this one out and I just don't want to pull my hamstring." Any short burst of speed is made for smaller, more compact powerful athletes, which as a lanky 6' former middle distance runner I am definitely not. It's the same reason the indoor 50m sprint world champion is never in the Olympic 100m final or why you never see Usain Bolt run in the 50m. 

I loved seeing Bennie be smart and pull up on that last sprint though; he and Jill had Tower safety from that week's challenge anyways, so he had nothing to prove and everything to lose if he got hurt. He is an awesome coach and checked his ego for the sake of his team. I was very proud of him for that. Hats off to Mat though, he said he surprised himself on that one, but I was not surprised at all; he is a small guy, but very powerful and quick. My money was definitely on him or Bennie with that challenge and they did not disappoint.

The decision to put the yellow team in the tower was really strategic. What would be your mentality if you were choosing a team...take out a big dog or is there gamesmanship in choosing a weaker opponent?

I would always look at the pairing and see who has not gone to the tower yet. Try and pick the most fair pairing you could from that. At this point though, there is a definite strategy to keep teams you perceive as stronger out of the Tower. Game theory and knowing the unknown is the key from here on out, as you probably have guessed.

Again, it seems like Team Orange is lying in wait. Was it the same feeling off camera, or were you chomping at the bit to compete?

We were always very comfortable with our performances and let the chips fall where they may. We loved the challenges and welcomed the chance to go to the tower, but let's just say there is a reason we haven't gone to the tower yet.

Any teasers for next week?

Hmmm...make sure you tune in next week. It will be a very emotional episode for the orange team on many levels.  We will be hanging around waiting to share it with you!

"STRONG" is produced by Dave Broome and Sylvester Stallone.  The competition is hosted by Gabrielle Reece and airs in its regular time slot of Thursday nights at 8 p.m. Be sure to tune in and see how Chris and his partner Giovanna stack up to the competition, and check back here weekly for his recaps and thoughts from the episode. 

To learn more about the show, visit nbc.com/strong.

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