NBC recently 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 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.
So, Chris, what was it like, seeing the first episodes of STRONG air on TV? What feelings or memories did you have?
We had an amazing premiere party that my wife threw at her girlfriend's beautiful apartment overlooking Central Park, with over 50 guests. Thanks again, Tina for the hospitality! It was so fun to share this experience with our friends, family, and clients. As luck would have it though, we had a few technical difficulties right before the show - half the building lost cable and internet an hour before STRONG started! Thankfully, we had some IT friends there and a Radio Shack around the corner and somehow got it going 10 minutes before show time.
It was really surreal to finally see everything come to fruition! It was so fast paced during the 2 hour premiere that I could barely keep up with Twitter between commercial breaks--absolutely a whole new dimension in the realty TV world for sure.
Being an athlete, though, you get those memories during the challenges and the "shoulda, coulda, woulda's," pop up in your head. Sometimes they were great memories and sometimes it was simply, "argh!!!!" That's what makes this so real though; pure competition and people bettering themselves day in and day out. I was very proud of Giovanna in the first three episodes though, and my hindsight as her coach is 20/20 vision. But that bench press challenge in episode 3 was soooooo close!
Speaking of Giovanna, tell about when you first met her on the show. How quickly did you jump into competition…was there an instant connection?
I felt like there were some signs we were meant to hit it off: Giovanna and my niece share the same name, she is an Italian-American mom from NJ and my wife, Denise, is Greek-American and grew up in Queens. That made me feel like we were meant to be a team!
She picked me as her trainer and we hit the ground running! We only had a couple of days to train and then we faced our first challenge - a 30' insane peg board that you saw in episode 1. Instantly, you knew how important communication and trust in one another would be going forward; she in my coaching ability and me with her being able to push herself to the point of "being comfortable while uncomfortable" and tapping into her inner-athlete.
We’ve seen 3 teams eliminated thus far…what was it like off-camera once a team went home. Describe the feeling of being sad for them vs. happy you’re alive for another week.
There was a special bond between the trainers and the trainees. We all had lot of respect for each in the training yard and kitchen, but don't think for a second we weren't ready to throw down hard with each other in the challenges. That's what being a competitor is all about!
Even when we felt bad seeing a contestant go home, we knew that they actually were staying on and continuing their training, as you hear Gabby mention at the end of each show. No matter what, you knew the trainees were going to keep working to fulfill their transformation goals and, wow, did they ever. I mean, the results have been amazing! That is what it's all about. Fulfilling the trainee's fitness goals and making them STRONGer.
These challenges! What can we say, but WOW! Which one was the toughest for you so far?
The peg board in the beginning was the toughest for us. We hadn't really had a chance to work together as a team much at that point, and now we're relying on each other for survival. What a huge communication challenge! If you didn't talk through that wall, and work together, telling each other what you needed to move up, you were going to lose. Thankfully, we got through it together and have progressed rapidly since, narrowly missing out on the medallion challenge by only a couple of reps to the purple team in episode 3.
The name of the game is staying alive and here we are - marching full steam into episode 4! That's what matters most.
Since you mention episode 4 - it seems like Team Orange is “hiding in the weeds” a little bit so far. We know TV can look one way vs. what was going on, but at this point were people looking at you as the Dark Horse?
Ha ha, yes, I would have to agree with that! And so would all the remaining teams. You will see more game theory coming into play too as the weeks go on. I can tell you this - let's just say the Tower holds the key to either your success or your demise. How you handle it will be the tell-all of how STRONG you have become.
"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.