MS & Fitness: An Interview with David Lyons
Fitness expert David Lyons has been in the industry for more than 40 years as a trainer, educator, gym owner, author and speaker. He is the only fitness expert with MS to be inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame and is engaged in many fitness initiatives for MS. He and his wife Kendra are the cofounders of the worldwide MS Fitness Challenge charity to support people with MS in their efforts to stay as fit as possible, overcome limitations, and keep their bodies moving.
As a MultipleSclerosis.net team member, I connected with David to interview him to learn more about his story and tap into his insights about fitness and MS.
MS & Fitness: How has your diagnosis impacted your outlook?
Can you tell me how your MS diagnosis impacted your outlook on your fitness and bodybuilding journey?
David: Originally, my diagnosis was a tremendous shock to me, as I was always a healthy athlete. It took me more than a year to get back in the gym and train as a bodybuilder with MS with all my symptoms, coordination issues, and new limitations. But once I set my goal of not allowing MS to stop my bodybuilding and fitness career, it was all a matter of applying my fitness knowledge, of then almost 30 years, as a trainer to this journey.
Competing in a bodybuilding competition
It wasn’t long after stepping foot back in the battlefield of the gym that I learned how to navigate my MS body, and in only 3 years after the diagnosis, I stood on stage and competed in a bodybuilding competition against 150 healthy competitors. I not only received the Most Inspirational Bodybuilder trophy that year, but I was also presented with the Milestone Award by the National MS Society. I then, with the encouragement of my wife Kendra, knew I had to share the importance of fitness for MS with our community.
Finding reliable diet and exercise recommendations
There is so much exercise and diet “advice” out there for people with MS. How do you recommend people navigate through the noise?
David: Yes, there is actually too much information, confusion, and so many false “MS experts” that we must be cautious when we hear words like “cure” and “miracle” when it comes to exercise and nutrition for MS. Because we are all “snowflakes” when it comes to our own MS symptoms, each person needs to look at every program, even mine, through their own eyes. Anyone claiming to have the only exercise program that works or the greatest nutritional protocol out there is not doing justice to our community.
Building your own unique regimen
The best thing to do is to find a great program for exercise and one for diet and use them as groundwork for your own unique regimen. Some of us are able to work out in a gym and some need or want to have a home program. Whatever level of ability you are at, you need to find trainers who are certified in MS training to follow online or work with personally. I have created MS courses for trainers worldwide to be educated in working with our population effectively and safely.
Adapting diets to help manage your personal MS symptoms
And as for the diet aspect of all this, whether you want to use the Wahls Protocol, the Best Bet Diet or any other successful MS nutrition program, you have to realize that they are not miraculously going to heal your MS but, used as a basis, they can be adapted to help you personally manage your MS symptoms and, in some cases, even reverse some of them. Stay in a good MS fitness group like my MS Fitness Challenge GYM Facebook group to stay up on the most effective mindset, exercise and nutrition info.
What is the MS Fitness Challenge?
Can you explain why you started the MS Fitness Challenge (MSFC) and how that community has grown?
David: Because of all the fitness confusion in the MS world, I started the www.MSFitnessChallenge.com charity in 2012 to help educate, train and motivate the MS community on the proper ways to conquer MS through fitness. We are now in more than 25 countries and have helped tens of thousands of people with MS understand the importance of fitness in battling this disease. All of our programs are no cost or low cost. We have over 100 MS certified trainers worldwide who are now working with us in our mission. Our Facebook group currently has almost 6600 members and is growing rapidly.
In-home exercise programs
Our online www.MSWorkouts.com video exercise program is the most comprehensive in-home program available for MS, run by top MS exercise physiologists, trainers, and me as Senior Fitness Director. MSFC is continuing to add new fitness programs and has even launched our live Training Camp in Boise, Idaho in September 2019. People with MS from all over the US and Canada flew in to be involved in a hands-on weekend led by MS experts for exercise training. We are holding another Training Camp in Los Angeles on May 1-3, 2020.
Are there alternatives to traditional exercise?
What recommendations do you have to people whose MS has progressed to the point that they are unable to do traditional exercises?
David: For those who are unable to get to the gym or who are limited in abilities when it comes to exercise, my recommendation is…traditional exercise is overrated! We have developed many movements that are not considered “traditional” that offer great benefits and fitness results. The MS Workouts in-home routine uses our “Steady Pace” resistance band system that throws traditional exercise out the window and offers our program for in and out of a wheelchair. Do not give up on fitness because of your limitations. I have personally worked with and witnessed tremendous improvement in these limitations through a proper exercise and nutrition regimen.
I have developed combination exercises that go beyond traditional movements to enable people who could not stand up or walk unassisted to be able to do so. You can read and watch many testimonials on our MSFC website. You must have a positive mindset (mental fitness) and always have hope that you CAN improve in one way or another through fitness. I am always here if anyone has questions or needs help through my MS Fitness Challenge GYM or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at MultipleSclerosis.net thank David for sharing a bit of his journey and expertise with us.
Does anyone else in your family have MS?