Why I do MTNTOUGH: Online MTNTOUGH'er Ryan Pote

The acrid scent of fuel and whirl of helicopter blades on a hot summer day propels Ryan Pote back in time: it’s 2013 and he’s successfully completed his mission off the coast of El Salvador. Working as part of an interagency special ops task force, the Navy helicopter pilot swings back toward the ship after an armed interdiction of drug traffickers off the coast of El Salvador. Except something is wrong. His helicopter – a SH-60B Sea Hawk – is going down and Pote is going down with it.

The accident was a result of compound aircraft malfunctions that resulted in a hard emergency landing – one that Pote was able to walk away from even though he was later diagnosed with a severe brain injury (TBI) and spinal stenosis. Yet, initially, Pote coped with the pain and was back in the air only six weeks after his emergency crash landing. It wasn’t until 2016 that Pote was pulled from active flight status


“My body was really starting to deteriorate because the swelling was so bad that it was pinching all of the nerves,” says Pote. “I couldn't lift anything on the left side of my body, carry a backpack. Nothing. I couldn't do any of that."


Today, Pote lives in Maine with his wife, young son and another baby on the way. His resilience and dedication to restore himself to who he was before his crash landing drove him to seek out new solutions that would not only rebuild his body, but also reignite his mental toughness and return his confidence. And his newfound spark has reverberated throughout his life as he starts a new chapter, literally, as an author. Pote recently signed with a literary agency, has completed two novels and is working on a screenplay.

“My whole life could take a huge turn,” says Pote. “And MTNTOUGH is my anchor throughout all of it.”

Why Ryan Pote is MTNTOUGH 

Pote discovered MTNTOUGH in 2019 after trying a bunch of other programs that didn’t cut it.

“I thought I was always going to just live with the pain,” says Pote, noting that neurosurgeons weren’t optimistic about his recovery. “Finally, I met a physical therapist who told me that I needed to strengthen everything – basically do the exact opposite that other doctors told me to do.”

He started with the MTNTOUGH 30-30 program. Pote immediately felt the results and moved onto other programs, steadily increasing his strength and endurance in a way he never thought he would again. That Christmas, his wife surprised him with a home gym.

“I went through the entire post season strength program and when I finished that program, not only was I completely out of pain, but everything changed,” says Pote. “Almost all the numbness and tingling on the left side of my body was gone. I was a completely different person.”

“And once the pain was gone and I was able to just have this clarity in the day,” continues Pote, “I was able to be present with my wife, with my work, with my friends, with myself.”

Pote credits MTNTOUGH for decreasing his stress levels, increasing his productivity – both for his own pursuits, but also for his family and in his work – and giving him a 180-degree change in his mental attitude. 

“I thought it was going to be like this forever, you know, the dark spiral,” notes Pote. “And then once I saw myself on the other end of the MTNTOUGH program, all of a sudden I had a totally new outlook on my future, my family’s future and what I could do for myself again.”

Pote’s involvement with MTNTOUGH goes beyond the daily physical workouts. He’s also found a like-minded community that fills the void he’s felt since leaving the military. “It gave me a bit of bravado back,” Pote says, searching for the right term. “A little spark.” 

“That holistic approach where all of the exercises, the classes, are all building on one another,” he adds. “Everything works together. And I haven’t gotten injured one time doing the program since I started in 2019.”

Pote has regained his strength to the point where he’s back out hunting again in the Maine mountains and can carry his little boy on his back. He’s sleeping better and his relationship with his wife has improved. 

“Gaining all of that back for myself helped me find the focus and energy for other things,” says Pote, who started writing short stories as a way to heal from PTSD. After a career in military aviation, Pote had never really considered switching careers from helicopter pilot to novelist, but he was Grandmaster Finalist in the 2022 Clive Cussler Adventure Writer's Competition and recently signed with Trident Media Group.

“My goal is to be here for my kids growing up in their young years and be active and involved and present,” says Pote. “And MTNTOUGH has helped with everything.”

Author: Kristen A. Schmitt