The Hunger Games has nothing on Discovery’s new adventure series, The Wheel!
Contestants on the new ultimate survival challenge have to survive not one, but six lethal environments over the course of 60 days ( that’s if they make it that long). The six participants have to endure six distinctly grueling landscapes across South America, but with every turn of the wheel, each survivalist is then dropped into a new isolated location, where they are exposed to the world’s deadliest terrains including freezing tundra, rugged mountains and treacherous rainforest.
Speaking with PEOPLE, contestant Lindsay Phenix opens up about her grueling experience on The Wheel and how she mentally and physically prepared for the series.
“I’m normally about a size 2, being a model, but I knew that would not fly in the wild when you’re not eating for days at a time,” she says. “I had to put on at least 25 pounds, but it was more like 35. But I did it really quickly — 2 weeks at the very most.”
“I usually eat really healthy, but I stopped and starting pigging out on anything I could find,” Phenix continues. “I had to stop working out and only eat. I literally sat on the couch every single day and ordered Dunkin Donuts’ most calorie-rich donuts I could find and just ate.”
Aside from her physical preparation, the former athlete recalls having to go into a “warrior’s mentality” for the show.
“I went into this warrior mentally. I pride myself on being really mentally strong. I got it from my father and grandfather, [who were] both military,” she says. “I watched some motivational videos and talked to my dad a lot. I just went into this almost dark place and was focused on nothing but the finish line the entire time.”
That same warrior mentality was exactly what she needed come Phenix’s first day out in the wild.
“Day 1 was absolute hell for me,” she admits. “It was so hot and you already traveled a full day, so you’re extremely dehydrated and there’s no water available to you — you have to find it. And I had a really, really hard time finding water. I rode in on a horse, so I was really sunburnt badly. Once I found the water, I hate no idea how hard it was going to be. I knew how to boil water, but I didn’t know how hard it was to build a fire out of nothing.”
“Day 1 I was humbled real quick,” Phenix adds. “The first couple days are a complete shock. You’re in a totally different country and you’re surrounded by jaguars and the scariest animals you could possibly imagine are in your vicinity. Before going into it, I thought the cold would be the hardest part to handle, but what really shock me up was how cold you are when you get wet from the rain. When it rained, your life is on the line with hypothermia in about two hours. If you don’t start moving and find the energy to do something, the rain will absolutely kill you. You have no option.”
But somehow Phenix was able to muster up the energy to keep going.
“The turning point for me was when I chopped off my hair with my knife,” she reveals. “It was my warrior moment to get into this thing and really be a warrior and tough it out. There was never a moment where I thought, ‘I can not do this.’ ”
As for returning to The Wheel, Phenix would do it again in a heartbeat.
“I would go this second back out into the wild. I loved every second of it,” she explains. “Every second that was hard, I loved it. Every second that was boring, I loved it. When I felt like I was going to die, I loved. If they do an all-star season, please sign me up, I’d love to do it again!”
The Wheel premieres Friday at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery.