One of the best ways WWE superstar Roman Reigns has taken care of his mental health during the coronavirus pandemic is by focusing on his physical wellbeing.
Recently, 35-year-old Reigns has taken up Y3T (Yoda 3 Training), a progressive exercise program popularized by bodybuilder Neil Hill. The regimen focuses on switching weights and repetitions to create lean, dense muscle, and so far, Reigns — whose athletic inspirations range from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson — is savoring the results.
“Stronger than the last time I posted this lift,” Reigns — who will be defending his WWE Universal title during the second night of WrestleMania 37 on April 11 — wrote in a recent Instagram post showing him pressing two 120-pound dumbbells. “Progress is the daily, mostly and yearly goal. Enjoy the process of breaking through plates to continually get better.”
But, Reigns says he didn’t join the workout program to simply continue feeling confident without his shirt on television. Instead, the father of five had an eye on the future.
“I told Neil when we first met over a year ago, that I want to grind it out for the next 15 years,” Reigns tells PEOPLE. “I want to maximize my potential for the next 15 years. And I told him, ‘This is who I am, as a performer, as a talent, but I also am a father, I’m a husband. I wear all these different hats.’ And man, we’ve been on an unbelievable journey thus far.”
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At its height, the pandemic forced the closure of gyms around the country, and getting exercise — or not getting enough of it — became a focus for many. Purchases of home fitness equipment have ramped up during the pandemic, creating $2.3 billion in revenue from March to October 2020, according to the Washington Post.
For anyone having trouble finding the motivation to exercise, Reigns suggests a philosophical approach.
“I definitely advise that to anyone who is on that day-to-day discipline struggle, where it’s like man, even if you can’t motivate yourself, create a space to where you just do it because you know you have to do it,” Reigns says. “That’s discipline.”
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“You just do it because you’ve already convinced yourself that it needs to be done,” he continues. “It’s not about being motivated. There are different tools to motivate yourself in different ways. But build a way of thinking, a mental toughness to where you just do it because you know it’s going to benefit your life.”
For as much time he’s spent pumping iron over the past year, Reigns didn’t just go through a transformation in the weight room.
After a months-long hiatus from WWE programming in 2020, Reigns made a surprise return to the ring during the company’s SummerSlam pay-per-view event in August. There, he debuted a new and menacing twist on his in-ring persona, a character that has now become known as the “Tribal Chief.”
The change has given Reigns a fresh start that’s proven popular with fans and has also provided the WWE with an intriguing villain.
“It feels good,” Reigns says of his new persona. “There’s a lot of truth to what we put into the Tribal Chief character, the burden of the crown, of being the face of the company. I think everybody would like to be Superman, but to be able to have some of those Superman qualities, then also display the emotions, the mentality that comes into it, and the way it can affect a man. People connect to that.”
“People understand the struggle, people understand these different battles, these emotional battles that my character kind of displays on a weekly basis,” he continues. “I think it allows for a different connection, and that’s why it’s been received so well.”
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Along with his new fitness routine, Reigns says he read more books during the pandemic thanks to a majority of WWE’s events being held in Florida (eliminating the need for weekly flights around the country).
Reigns notes that the change in schedule has also allowed him more time with family, something he’ll forever be grateful for.
“Due to having the availability and the lack of travel, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to just invest so much more time in my relationship with my wife and my family,” says Reigns, who has been married to his wife, Galina Becker, since 2014. “It’s going to make you a better individual if your team is untouchable and is extremely strong.”
“Those are my goals,” he explains to PEOPLE, “to better myself mentally and physically, and also strengthen all of my relationships with my loved ones.”