David Lyons is a genuinely remarkable man. We are thrilled he is part of the WatchFit family as an Expert Contributor as each day his life makes for the most impressive and inspiring of stories.
His refusal to buckle under pressure and weight of illness and actually thrive, his ability to turn his condition into a positive energy and his desire to reach and help others is quite wonderful. Not only that but he has been awarded the highest accolades from the biggest stars for his efforts.
David spoke to us about his life, work and daily battles…
Q. I guess it has been very much a life of two halves. Lets start at the beginning; were you always fit, active and sporty and planning a career somewhere in fitness?
I have been in the fitness industry as a fighter and bodybuilder for most of my life. At 58 years old, it’s been over 40 years so far from training in boxing, martial arts and later bodybuilding in the gyms of New York. I have also owned fitness centers on the east coast of the US, so it has always been central to my life. Even when I became a busy TV and film producer in more recent years, I still rarely missed a workout.
Q. When did your condition strike you?
I was working out in 2006 at the age of 47 and the symptoms of MS started to hit me hard one day in the gym. Sharp pain and numbness in my left arm and hand while doing tricep press downs over weeks became a form of paralysis from the chest down with very limited ability to coordinate, walk or feel my legs and arms. That’s when I was rushed into the hospital and testing was done for five days to diagnosis Multiple Sclerosis.
Q. Fitness and bodybuilding is a huge part of your life, at what stage did you decide to use it to fight MS? Was it an immediate and defiant decision or a gradual realisation you could do this?
The impact of being diagnosed with MS, after being a healthy athlete my whole life, left me quite shocked and derailed. I had no idea what MS was until this time or what it can do to the body. After leaving the hospital and doing my online research I became more depressed about this condition than anything especially when the doctors I was seeing kept telling me the damage caused by the MS “attack” was so severe I would be wheelchair bound soon and my bodybuilding days were over.
It took me over a year of saying, “Why me?”, just trying to survive in this new limited body and losing 40 pounds (18 kilos) of muscle to finally look in the mirror and say to myself that I’m a fighter and I can beat this disease!
Q. Pre-MS you had already established yourself in bodybuilding and as a health club owner but you have since gone on to have a huge impact in the fitness world, achieved the highest recognition and reputation but perhaps not in ways you would have originally imagined. Do you feel your MS has allowed you to leave a bigger imprint than you otherwise might have?
Life is never really what you think it will be! There are always unexpected obstacles in your path and the journey is, more often than not, a winding one. When I was young I wanted to be the boxing champion of the world! But an early injury changed that course so I chose bodybuilding. Then I wanted to be Mr. America but realised quickly that I liked the business of fitness more than just the competition of bodybuilding.
I trained like a competitor but stopped competing and focused on the fitness centers I was opening. Being diagnosed with MS pushed me to prove to myself that I can overcome any obstacle in life – much like when I was told I would never own a gym! I never really set out to make an impact on the world through having MS, but after I stood onstage at the Florida State Bodybuilding Championship in 2009, my wife Kendra who is a registered nurse, and who has a tremendous compassion for people, saw this as an opening to help others with MS or any physical challenge in life to be inspired.
This disease gave me that platform to do something extraordinary and people started to see that. My wife Kendra encouraged us to start the MS Fitness Challenge charity (www.msfitnesschallenge.com) to have that voice, and after only four years we are worldwide in reach thanks to companies like WatchFit who find me and what I am accomplishing in fitness despite MS.
In Part 2 David talks about the specifics of his multiple sclerosis and some of the superstar friends and admirers he has gained through his work.
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