ALS: When fitness is all you know…
In the Fall of 2019, I attended a cross-fit affiliate gathering in Whistler, Canada. During a workout I developed some problems with knee/shin/foot pain in my right leg, which lasted a couple of days. I realized that my right foot didn’t move as usual. A doctor at the gym suggested I see a neurologist to get it checked out…he suspected drop foot. After a battery of tests, two spinal surgeries and an eight-day hospital stay, I had lost 20 pounds in weight, and my right leg had dramatically decreased in size and strength. This was a far cry from my top lifting days where routinely squatted 300+ pounds and deadlifted over 400lbs! I knew something was wrong.
After more tests with a new neurologist, we narrowed down the list to include ALS. Then it was a waiting game to get a definite diagnosis, and everyone that knows me knows that I’m not a patient person, so it was quite stressful! Even when you know it’s coming, the ALS diagnosis is still shocking, especially for those of us who were extremely active. I’m determined to continue moving my body, working out seven days a week.
I used to be a somewhat pudgy teenager who was more interested in cake in my early years. Then in May 1982 all that changed when a friend of mine opened a gym in my hometown back in Germany. Working out then dominated my life in some shape or form over the next 40 years! I joined the German Army, was stationed in Munich (in a motorized infantry battalion) and joined a gym that had a bunch of competitive bodybuilders as members. A few years later, I competed in my first shows, making it to the Finals in the German Nationals in 1990.
While working as a trainer at Joe Weider’s Bodybuilding & Fitness Camp at Loyola University in Los Angeles, I met my wife Robin, and we settled in Cincinnati. In 1998 I won the Overall titles in the Mr. Northern Kentucky and Mr. Cincinnati and competed in several National shows. Later, I opened my gym, called ‘Das Gym’, and eventually became hooked on CrossFit while searching for ideas to run group classes, and became affiliated that year (at that point there were less than 100 Cross Fit gyms in the world, now it’s upwards of 15,000!). I was lucky enough to compete at the Cross Fit Games, and also in a number of regional and local competitions.
Currently, I’m still working five days a week as a fitness assistant (I sold my gym April 2021), running classes and overseeing 2 gyms. It’s not as much as I’m used to doing but as Augie says, “I redefine normal every day” and “celebrate what I can do instead of focusing on what I can’t”!