Alongside his gruelling gym workouts, these days it wouldn’t be uncommon to find Willis meditating or rolling out his yoga mat.
“I find that accepting yourself in the present moment, helps calm things down and provides space in your mind and within your body. It’s the space in which we can express ourselves, so when everything is full you feel quite tense and uptight and that’s where your anxiety and stresses build. What comes from this is a lot of joy and happiness in the moment,” he tells WHO.
“My life, when I reflect on it, from my army days, was about service and contribution to others, life is about the journey and experiences that I had. Facing my fears and doing things that freak me out a bit, it’s what I learnt from those things that I can then share with others so we can all go on a journey with each other.”
Willis says he also used his new-found mental strength during his stint on Australian Survivor: Champions vs Contenders.
“I really tried to approach it with as open a mind as possible,” he adds. “For me, the survival aspect is what I took out of the experience – to be as comfortable as you could possibly be in a s--tty situation is really a springboard to really be able to dig deep and push forward.” Speaking about the upcoming season of Australian Survivor: All Stars, he quickly adds: “I would love to do another season.
It isn’t just Survivor that the 43-year-old speaks fondly of, saying that he still keeps in touch with some the contestants from The Biggest Loser to help them mentally.
“We check in from time to time. Wish each other a Merry Christmas and happy birthday and things like that,” he says. “Even when they are feeling a bit down and out and need a bit of encouragement, I’m just a phone call or email away. It’s beautiful. It's really helped me to grow both personally and professionally.”
With his mental health at the forefront, Willis shares that working on his headspace helps connect his mind and his body which grows his physical endurance in the gym.
Speaking of his participation in the Westpac Challenge Tour, a 160km bike ride from Norwood to Murray Bridge, South Australia, he says he can’t wait to get some kilometres under his belt. Admitting he is a bit nervous, having never done such a long-distance ride before, his mental preparation was key.
“You have an understanding about how your mind and body responds in the saddle.” And his fitness guru partner, Michelle Bridges, and son, Axel, 4, have been supporting him every step of the way. “It’s one in, all in, you know!”
With a love of cycling and admiration for those participating in the event, the proud dad remembers the day he taught his son to ride a bike. “We got Axel on an old balance bike on Father’s Day last year, and straight away, with no training wheels or anything."
Days after this interview was conducted, Willis' wife Michelle Bridges announced they'd split.