How MS Changed My Fitness Journey: Philadelphia MuckFest’s Stephen Glaus
Everyone approaches MuckFest differently. Whether you’re in it for the mud, for the jolt of adventure that comes from our obstacles, for our mission to end MS, or even for a fitness challenge…you can make MuckFest your own! No one is a better example of that than Stephen Glaus, who Mucked with us in Philadelphia for the first time this year.
After being diagnosed with MS in August of 2018, Stephen had a personal pull to events like MuckFest. But it became more than just an event as he began to experience more physical symptoms of MS and turned to fitness as an outlet this year.
started as blurry vision at his job at a Navy outpost in early 2016 soon
progressed to pain and numbness in body parts like his feet and his entire left
side. Though his symptoms were initially dismissed by doctors as panic attacks
or other issues, Stephen pushed for more answers…and got one he never expected.
“[My doctor] called me while I was driving to a work site and told me that my results from my MRI came back and that nothing was wrong with my ear, but he had some concerning news: “It looks like you have multiple sclerosis.”’
At the time, Stephen had barely even heard of MS, but he started doing research right away. His MS was progressing rapidly, affecting his coordination and strength. Stephen was forced to move closer to his family on the East Coast, and rely on his own personal strength, as well as theirs, to get him through the tougher times ahead.
Those times led him to “hit the reset button on life” and reach out to David Lyons, someone who had used fitness and bodybuilding to battle his own MS diagnosis in the past.
“I reached out to him via e-mail and was surprised to get a response from him personally only 5 minutes later! He wanted to speak with me on the phone and discuss working with him as an MS trainer. I dug deep and dove into the opportunity headfirst. Within just a few months, I had studied for and passed the course to become a personal trainer!”
As he continued his fitness journey, Stephen then found his way to MuckFest…
How did you first become involved in MuckFest?
after moving back to Pennsylvania, I became aware of the MuckFest race in
Philadelphia. I set it as a goal of mine to be able to finish the race without
assistance and raise at least $1,000
dollars for the event. I teamed up with David, who had been working with
and supporting me to become a certified personal trainer with a special
certification in training people with multiple sclerosis. Through him, each
participant on my team had the privilege of sporting MS Fitness Challenge
t-shirts.I reached my goal, and our team raised a total of around $1,800!
MuckFest was by far one of the most exciting and fun experiences I have ever been a part of. While running the race with MS proved challenging at points, the joy and fun that I experienced during the event helped me to forget about my MS (even if just for an hour or so). Next year, it is my goal to have at least 25 people on my team and to raise at least $10,000. Ultimately, it will be my goal to have the biggest team at the MuckFest event —proving to the world that MS really stands for “Mighty & Strong” (my team name). I’ve also committed to and plan on running and completing an Ironman race by the year 2024 in honor of the MS Fitness Challenge.
How did you prep for your first MuckFest?
As for the logistical preparations, I utilized the resources the National MS Society had available on the MuckFest portion of their website. When it came to physical preparation, I made it a point to ensure I incorporated more running into my weekly aerobic exercise routine. Up until recently I hadn’t run more than 3 miles since I did the 5k in California (the one where I realized the pain and spasticity running causes me). So, as MuckFest got closer, I incrementally increased how far I would run each week, finally getting to the point where 5 miles was achievable. I’ve continued that training pattern even after MuckFest and have now reached the 10-mile mark. My goal is to eventually get to 26.2 — but I must be careful not to push too far too fast.
Which was your favorite obstacle and why?
My favorite obstacle was definitely Muck n’ Roll – Where you had to roll over the top and plunge into mucky water afterwards. My wife is kind of short, so she needed my help to get over each one –that help consisted of me throwing her nearly as hard as I could over each one. I also really enjoyed any of the obstacles where I had the opportunity to get wet and cool down. Staying cool is an essential key to keeping MS symptoms at bay.
What is it like to cross the finish line?
Crossing the finish line was both epic and disheartening. Epic, because I had achieved my goal of finishing the race unassisted, and it felt amazing to have the support of so many people all along the way. Disheartening, because I didn’t want the race to come to an end. Not even an hour after finishing, my teammates and I were already talking about next year’s event and how we could grow the team even more.
How has your own diagnosis affected how you view and experience events like MuckFest?
It’s really inspiring to see how many people were at the MuckFest and supporting the effort to find the cure to MS, and help those currently diagnosed. Being a Mucker with MS is both awesome and awkward at the same time. It’s awesome because I get to be an example to others and show people what’s possible with an MS diagnosis. It’s awkward at the same time because I don’t like it when people feel sorry for me. Sure, I have MS, but I still have an amazing life and amazing people supporting me through it. As the old mantra goes, it could always be worse. At the same time, I know people only have the best intentions when it comes to their empathetic remarks. So, it’s a hard balance for me that I’m still trying to figure out.
What do you want people to know about MS that they might not already?
I think one thing people should know about MS is that it’s a highly variable disease. What MS looks like for one person may be completely different for another. And that variability extends to the individual as well. The severity of my symptoms can fluctuate drastically throughout the day, often without warning or sensible cause. Living with MS is a life-long challenge in adaptability.
Fitness has become my personal refuge and therapy for combating this disease. I don’t know what tomorrow may hold, but while I still have the capacity and ability, I’m going to take advantage of every moment and push as hard as I can.
How do you use fitness is your everyday life? Do you have tips for training and preparing for MuckFest? Tell us in the comments!