Fred Little has been a part of the NAC community for over 8 years. Despite physical obstacles and disease, nothing is stopping Fred's fighting spirit. Fred shares his story.
I started to get into running a little more than twenty years ago. I met a friend at a gym we belonged to and we started working out together. One day she comes up with the idea that we should try running. We started out running just a few miles every day in her neighborhood. Then gradually we increased those miles and then started looking at some races. Early on I ran in a lot of smaller races then built up to Broad Street and the Philly Distance run which is now called the Philly Rock and Roll half. A few years later I did my first marathon which was Ocean Drive Marathon. I eventually tried trail running and met some other friends that were into Ultra marathons and then tried a few of those. The longest distance I have ever completed was 40 miles.
As all this was going on I was really never concerned about nutrition. I was running a lot and thought with all the exercise I am doing I can eat anything I want too. I had friends that would tell me you could do so much better if you adjusted your nutrition. I was addicted to Doritos!
I finally got the wake up call about 18 months ago. My entire body felt as if it was breaking down. I was really struggling trying to run. I was not breathing right, my legs hurt, my feet hurt and my back and neck were also messed up.
Then, one run from Tyler park I was on my way home about two blocks from my house and I could not pickup my left leg anymore. I actually dragged my leg up the street to my house.
My friends convinced me to go to the doctor. I ended up at a neurologist who checked me for a bunch of different things before he settled on the decision that I had a neuromuscular disease. He sent me to Drexel neurology where they did a few other tests and it came back positive with a form of muscular dystrophy.
So after I was told that, I decided I was not going to let it change who I was. I wanted to keep running. So in January of 2015 I started to change everything about what I put in my body. I met Kelly Jones, the registered dietitian at NAC, and told her about the muscular dystrophy and that my doctor said it was okay for me to keep working out. I told Kelly my goal was to get back to an Ultra marathon.
I have met with Kelly every six weeks since then. I am probably in the best shape of my life now. I was around 190 pounds when we started and I am now 165. But this was really not about losing weight. I just thought that if my body was stronger and leaner I could run better. I was right in that thought process but the muscular dystrophy was also taking some strength from my feet and my legs.
Two weeks ago I finally made it back to an ultra marathon and accomplished the goal that we set out for 18 months ago.
Some things have changed since I made that goal. I had to walk the ultra marathon because I can’t run anymore. But that is okay I still made 27 miles. I am now signed up for a 50k hike in the Poconos in September.
"You have to have a fighting spirit if you want to achieve your goals."
Some days you are going to get knocked down- I get a lot of weakness and pain from the disease- but I always get back up and keep going because I love it. I love being outside and hiking the trails now so I am okay with not running.
I would not have made it back to the trails if not for the help of Kelly. We have gone over every aspect as to what it would take to keep me out there. I get information from her and I take it back to the doctors and then make decisions. It has really worked great for me. I remember when I told the doctor that I was using a nutritionist from my gym. The doctor agreed it would be a good idea. After a few more trips down to Drexel neurology the doctor saw how good I was doing and now when you sign in they now ask you if you would like consultations with their nutritionist. I get a free pass and I don’t have to talk to their nutritionist because they know I use Kelly.
Although my life has changed a lot in the last 18 months. I used to brag I was 50 and don’t need to take any medications. Now I have to take pills for the muscular dystrophy. But honestly I am so happy with where I am right now. Even though I have a neuromuscular disease I am one of the lucky ones. So many other people with these diseases can’t do what they would love to do because there muscles won’t let them. That is why I won’t take anything for granted and as long as my muscles will allow it I will be either hiking the trails or swimming at NAC !!!
Speaking of NAC. I could not ask for a better gym. Everybody is always so nice and makes it really fun to be there. I do love swimming there and talking to Katie, the aquatics director!
The NAC has also helped educate me more about neuromuscular diseases. I never thought I would get that from a gym. But NAC is more than a gym...