No Excuses Episode 55: Veteran and Hero Ryan Blackwell on Surviving a Shooting and Saving Lives

“The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character.”

We sit down with U.S. Navy Veteran, Ryan Blackwell to hear his inspiring and heroic story of surviving the Pensacola base shooting while enduring six gunshot wounds. He discusses the shooting, his recovery, and his journey since then. Ryan discusses the importance of functional fitness and self-accountability and how he teaches his athletes these things at his gym, WELL Trained.

Connect with Ryan on Social:

-Facebook: WELL Trained
-Instagram: @welltrainedelite

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TM: Would you change what happened to you the day of the shooting if you could?

R: No, I wouldn’t change it. To be real with you, that life experience in itself proved a lot to me about myself. I’ve always been a high-level competitor and wanted to compete at a high level and win NCAA titles and state championships. Whatever the goal was, I set it out there to try to do whether I accomplished it or not. So, with this life experience, it’s super unfortunate. I went through it the way my life has been now, since then. It’s kind of like the debts have already been paid, it is what it is. What I’ve learned from that has built me so much as a human being. It has opened my eyes so much, I have such a better perspective on life, like my 2.0 vision. It’s really a gift and a curse. It’s a curse that I had to go through it, but it’s a gift for what I’m able to share on the other side of what I’ve gone through. Like with the gym, that’s kind of been my deal with good training. Just keeping everything about trying to bring the best out of everybody. We take this, I like to call it an elite approach, every life individually trained, enhances because it’s that little one-on-one thing that you do that really brings out your full potential. And that’s kind of like at the end of the day, our mission behind the brand, to help our athletes and our members just fulfill themselves in whatever facet they can. So, I’m thankful.

TM: What is functional fitness?

R: So what we do with functional fitness, we’re not necessarily doing like crazy squats, CrossFit workouts, or powerlifting, or any of those things, it’s more, circuit training, set exercises for a set duration of time, like a high intensity training with minimal recovery in between. But we also do different things like rope climbing, we’re getting kids like grip strength. Our gym is primarily 99% youth. We do have some military personnel that comes in or some older wrestlers that want to come back and be on the mat. But other than that, all of our fitness programs are all youth and with that functional fitness program that we run, it’s really cool because we’re creating relay races, but different types of relay races. We do indoor soccer-type games, where there’s some type of fitness associated with it or there’s the competition involved. The kids love the little ninja obstacle course inside the gym. So it’s like a ropes course where they go from the rings to the ropes to the ropes and we have a lot of different things like that. So it’s anything functional like even pull-ups, for example, we really, really push kids that learn how to do pull-ups, chin-ups are great, but pull-ups, reason being, we’re here on the water, if you fall off the boat you have to be able to pull yourself back in the boat. So that’s really what we do, we try to work in the three planes of motion and really spend a lot of time in that transverse plane of motion to where it’s really knowing your spatial awareness around you. You need to be able to react and we incorporate a bunch of different things to keep the kids active and they love it. We have “Fun day Fridays,” which is dodgeball. It’s been a great program, but what we also have, too, is a PE program. We provide a PE class for our homeschool kids in the area, the virtual students who are more elementary bases. They’ll come in for an hour and a half and we do a bunch of old school PE games, we do tag and different things to keep the kids active. It’s been really fun interacting with those kids, it’s a mix between boys and girls, really not a lot of wrestlers, so we’re getting to create this impact. We’re using the sport of wrestling as a vehicle, essentially, but we’re able to provide so much more. It’s really cool to kind of see it blossom and unfold right in front of us. And it’s not just me, it’s my wife, the group that we have behind us here at the gym, a bunch of supporters. It’s a collective effort and it’s been really rewarding needless to say.