There are some days Lynn Davis doesn’t want to work out either.
If you followed her around for a day, you’d understand why. She has four children—including a 17 year-old with high-functioning autism—four grandchildren she helps look after, and a husband who’s battling tongue cancer.
Even with all these responsibilities, Davis, 46, from Raeford, North Carolina, routinely makes time for her second family—the Onnit Tribe. A private Facebook group of Onnit fans who support one another in their fitness and life goals, the Tribe has become both a refuge for Davis and a source of strength. It’s had her back while she’s completed every Onnit 6 program, participated in nearly every Onnit 6 Challenge, taken her hubby in for immunotherapy and chemo treatments, and more.
So, while Davis often doesn’t want to work out, she usually does. And she’s returned the love the Tribe has shown her with so many supportive and nurturing posts urging other member to do the same that she’s earned the nickname “Mama Bear” within the group.
In this interview, Davis reveals how she balances her fitness goals with all her other demands, and why being honest about who you are what you’re going through is the ultimate feat of strength.
How did your fitness journey begin?
Davis: A long time ago, I was in a horribly abusive first marriage, and I was an emotional eater. I stayed at 180 to 200 pounds most of my adult life, and I had so many health problems that I didn’t do any physical stuff.
I had nerve pain in my neck that was ultimately diagnosed as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis [an autoimmune disorder], and then I found out I had Crohn’s disease [a condition that causes inflammation, pain, and fatigue]. I had a lot of surgeries, and I was put on a lot of medication. My quality of life was horrible, so I didn’t feel like doing anything physical.
But when I saw what that was doing to me, and I saw how much of my life I was missing, I wanted to dial the medications back. I was like, “This is not how I want to live. My children deserve better. My husband deserves better. I deserve better.” Since then, I’ve been as active as I can be and I’ve learned how to manage my Crohn’s.
How did you find Onnit?
I saw an Onnit steel mace and I was like, “I want to swing that!” So I started with the Steel Mace Onnit 6 program in August 2019. I get bored with the same old workouts, and this was something different. I was just training with the mace on my own at first, and then I joined the Onnit Tribe in January 2020.
The Tribe has grown considerably since the pandemic began. How has it helped you handle the events of the past year?
The Tribe gives you the community that you yearn for. The kind you need when you’re participating in a workout contest like the Onnit 6 Challenge. With so many people being stuck at home, I think the Tribe has been an outlet for us to get the socialization we need. It helps us know that you’re not alone, and that there are people you can reach out to. A lot of friendships have been formed in this Tribe.
It’s hard to find people that are on the same path as you—have the same goals, are like-minded, and that you can talk to about your goals without them getting bored or tired of hearing about it. But you never run out of support in the Tribe.
How has the Tribe helped you in dealing with your husband’s cancer battle?
Just them being there has been huge. Whenever something serious happens in my life, I hyper-focus on my family and shut down with everyone else. That’s just how I deal with stuff. But the people in the Tribe reach out to me, even when I want to pull away. Even the Onnit coaches reach out when I least expect it. It’s not a “have to” thing. It’s a genuine “Hey, I’m thinking about you. How are you doing? What do you need?” It means the world to me.
How do you get your workouts in on days when you’re going with Wolf [Davis’ husband] to treatments and taking care of other family responsibilities?
A lot of scheduling. Homeschooling our kids and trying to get everything worked around that has been a big challenge. Our youngest son has high-functioning autism, but he’s doing great. He just finished his junior year in high school, and he’s ranked 15th out of 575 students.
Wednesdays are Wolf’s treatment days, so I know the next three days are going to be hard, because he’s going to need my help. He’ll lie down and, if I try to work out, I’ll have to bounce between the living room (where I train) and the bedroom to check on him. It’s a bit frustrating and I get interrupted a lot, but I get it done.
I have two set days that I’m going to be at the gym—Tuesdays and Thursdays. The other days, I’ll get up earlier if I need to in order to get a workout in, or I’ll do it later in the day. I make time for it.
You’re still battling Crohn’s disease. How do you train around your symptoms?
When I start something, I have to finish it. So, during the Onnit 6 Challenges, I never missed a day—no matter how I was feeling. The workouts are hard, but they’re written so that you can modify them if you need to slow down. The way the programs are set up, there are three levels of difficulty for each exercise. I can go back and forth between Level 1, 2, or 3 as I need to. But one thing I’ve learned from the Challenges, and Coach John Wolf, is that I can take rest days and show myself grace when I need to. It doesn’t mean I’m slacking off.
On days when you’re not feeling your best but you don’t want to skip your workout, how do you find the motivation?
I don’t know how else to say it except that I don’t like to half-ass anything. Motivation ebbs and flows. You’re not going to be motivated every day. So, you set an intention, you stay disciplined, and then you get up and you just do it. Most of the times that I don’t feel like working out and do anyway, I feel 10 times better afterward, so knowing that helps me stay consistent.
The mental aspect of training is so important. What else have you learned about your own mindset since you discovered Onnit?
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to stop all the negative self-talk—feeling like I wasn’t worthy and couldn’t do it. I know that’s not true because I am doing it. And if I can do it, anybody can. If you’re going to talk to people in the Tribe and tell them to show themselves grace, you have to look inward and practice what you preach. It probably took me through the second Challenge I did to really get it, and I still struggle with it sometimes, but you learn to love yourself, to honor yourself, and to know that you’re doing this to better yourself.
If you’re a better you, you can take better care of the people around you. I’ve taken care of my son. I’ve taken care of my family. I had to get over feeling selfish about doing it and understand that taking control of my health was something that benefited everyone.
How, specifically, does fitness help you be a better mother, grandmother, and wife?
It helps me feel better mentally and emotionally. I’m not anxious. I don’t hold onto things as much. I don’t snap at people. It makes me happy to work out; it’s not a chore. I have energy, and happiness, and it shows. My husband tells me now, “You’re like a teenager bouncing around.” And with what we’re going through with him now, I would have never been able to do it if I didn’t have fitness.
Where are you now in your fitness journey?
I’m around 115 pounds now, at 5’ 2”, but I don’t get on the scale very much. The reason for that is because I could get really caught up in it, and I don’t want to because I have body image issues. I still see myself as 200 pounds, so it doesn’t matter how much I work out—200 pounds is what I see. I don’t want to get caught up in the whole number thing, so I just work out to feel good. Working out is my therapy. I was on so much anxiety medicine before, and now I’m on none.
You’re known in the Tribe for affectionately addressing other members as “Sassy Savages.” Where does that name come from?
It comes from the fact that a lot of us in the group are savages! We’re all going through something. Everybody is. But if you’re in the Tribe, you’re probably doing an Onnit 6 Challenge, and you don’t half-step into doing something like that—you go all in. So anyone who can do the Challenges while going through everything else they’re dealing with is kind of a savage. We have people doing two, three programs at a time in there, on top of everything else they have to do in their life.
The “sassy” part is pretty self-explanatory if you talk to any of us in the group. Everybody has a little bit of sass to them—some fierceness—and you see it come out in the Tribe. It’s great.
There’s nobody cheering for the people in the Tribe harder than me. I want everybody to win. Even when I’ve been a semi-finalist in the Onnit Challenges, I was pulling for the other people that were in it because it feels so good to see people start to love themselves and know their worth.
Your posts in the Tribe are often emotional, and you show a lot of vulnerability, which takes courage. How did you get comfortable enough to share things like that?
I think the best way to make people feel comfortable and to be able to share in the journey is to be your authentic self. With the Onnit 6 Challenges, you learn who you are and you find yourself—and to find yourself is to be yourself. So, the Tribe is a place to be able to safely and authentically share who you are with other people. It will rub some people the wrong way, but then others identify with it and it helps them share more of themselves. It’s like the way you share with your family, and the Tribe is a type of family. It’s very raw. It’s very from the heart.
For those who are still unsure about joining the Tribe, can you sum up what it can offer them?
The Tribe gives you the community you need, because you can’t do it all by yourself. You need that encouragement. There may be days when you need advice, and you can go to the Tribe and get recommendations for anything, even if it’s not workout-related. There will be days when you’re feeling down, and somebody in the Tribe will say, “Hey, I’ll do the workout with you. You want to get on FaceTime and we’ll do it together?” The Tribe has become family. It’s been life-changing for me.