How does a shy, scared boy emerge from a childhood of isolation and self-hatred to build a thriving career as a fitness trainer and TV personality? Ky Evans, one of the stars of the NBC TV show “STRONG,” credits fitness with saving his life. His is a story of trading fear for courage, anger for acceptance and weakness for strength.
Plenty of kids struggle with periods of anxiety, shyness and low self-esteem, but for Ky they were a way of life. His childhood was clouded by the assumption that he wasn't good enough—for anything or anyone.
The son of refugee immigrants, Ky never felt that he fit into his environment. Paralyzed by fear of failure and rejection, he avoided interacting with others and sabotaged his chances of success in everything from school to sports. "By the time I graduated from high school, I had never had a date, never had a single friend, never went a school function and was so scared to apply myself that I almost didn’t go to college," says Ky. "I was convinced that I simply wasn't enough."
The Path to Transformation
At 36 years old, Ky had hit rock bottom. As a homeless addict, he'd nearly given up all hope of happiness when he discovered fitness, and found it to be the ultimate equalizer. "Regardless of money, age or success level, everyone is equal in the gym," he says.
For Ky, fitness was never about having the biggest muscles, lifting the most weight or looking the best. Instead, it was about feeling free and, for the first time, discovering—and accepting—who he really was.
"I wanted to give other people that same sense of hope, to let them know they weren't alone," says Ky. "I decided to use fitness as a way of expressing myself, and to help people realize that they are already more than enough."
After spending decades feeling like a failure in life, Ky ultimately found that failure was his true purpose. "In failure, we find freedom, which is the ultimate success," he says. "Each failure brings us closer to where we're supposed to be, and to the realization that you have already won. There is only one you, and the world needs you in it, so use failure as your outlet to owning how great you truly are."
Choosing the Right Workout
Ky is a firm believer that the mind and body are inextricably linked. When he experiences mental struggles, he finds clarity in movement. "When in doubt, get moving," he says. "Squats, pushups, plank, anything—just get your body engaged."
When it comes to choosing a workout plan, Ky stresses that it shouldn't be about what's popular or trendy, but about your individual goals and what you like to do. After trying a new activity for the first time, he recommends asking yourself the following questions:
Ky does try to train six days a week, taking Sunday off. His regimen often include three Lagree method classes, a CrossFit class, some form of cardio, boxing and lifting. When it comes to weights, his rule of thumb is "train smarter, not heavier" to help protect the body and joints. "The sport of life is an endurance sport, not a sprint," he says. "We want to stimulate the body, not pound on it. The safer the joints, the fuller the movement and the more stimulation can occur."
The Nutrition Piece of the Puzzle
Even the most ambitious exercise program won't be nearly as effective without a sound nutrition plan. Ky stresses the importance of properly fueling the body for success. "When you eat clean, it creates a newfound energy, confidence and creativity," he says. "You'll find that you're more efficient in everything you do. Eventually, it will become less about losing weight and more about making you the best you can be, in all areas of life."
Below are some of Ky's quick tips for eating not only for weight loss, but for a better quality of life.
Ky's "STRONG" Journey
Why did Ky choose to star in NBC's "STRONG"? "I wanted to show the world that fitness is about expression, and strength is about owning who you are, even in the midst of failure," he says. "Being strong isn’t about winning; it's about vulnerability and sacrifice."
As a trainer on the show, Ky tries to teach the contestants to appreciate and treasure their bodies. "Most of us spend so much time trying to change our greatest gift—our body—by trying to be like the images in magazines, on TV or online. I encourage them to pursue the freedom that comes when we are committed to feeling and failing, not thinking and judging."
Above all, Ky strives to show his clients that there's no "right" way to be themselves, and that failure is an essential step toward strength and success. "True strength comes from knowing that we all fail, and it's the process of getting back up that truly introduces us to ourselves," he says. "Remember, you have already won—no one can beat you at being you! There's no need to change, as long as you're brave and vulnerable enough to expose the real you. That's STRONG!"
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