SAM MARSHALL: “One day you’re superman, and then the next …”
Sam Marshall has always been an athlete, playing soccer for 15 years – even having the chance to play professionally in Sweden. He discovered group fitness in his thirties and instantly fell in love with it.
After a few years as a regular participant, an Instructor suggested he take to the stage. Within a year, he was certified in BODYATTACK™, BODYSTEP™, and BODYPUMP™ (and LES MILLS GRIT™ not long after) and was teaching 10 classes a week. Sam was the picture of fitness, until in 2018 he started noticing his hand shaking while he taught, something that he passed off as muscle spasms… but it kept getting worse.
"When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson's, I was in complete shock,” he says. Sam was not yet 50, and Parkinson’s Disease is not typically diagnosed in someone so young. “There was no compassion, no support from the physician. I just called my wife and broke down.” Sam was devastated. Because of the tremors he couldn't do his job as an environmental chemist and it also meant he couldn't teach.
Determined to maintain a good lifestyle, Sam found another neurologist and underwent direct brain stimulation surgery. "It's a three-part surgery and you're awake throughout,” he explains. “At first, they put bolts into your skull before inserting a plastic base in your skull and putting electrodes in there. They then take a wire from the electrodes and it blocks the messages that my brain sends to my hand that cause the tremors – so basically it controls the tremor."
After the successful surgery, and inspired by BODYATTACK instructor Amanda Scales, Sam adopted the motto 'If you're moving, you're improving. Knowing that with Parkinson's, you've just got to keep moving to keep your brain going, he started doing his LES MILLS workouts in his downstairs living room. His focus was on making sure he could do all his classes properly and effectively if he was going to get back into teaching.
Diagnosis isn't the end. It's the beginning of a new part of life…
Sam says stepping back into the group fitness studio felt like a real step forward. “The gym I work at is supportive and my participants are really supportive. By coming to my classes and appreciating my effort they make me want to continue doing what I am doing.”
Now, with his commitment to health and fitness, positive mindset, plus some medicines and therapies, Sam feels in great shape and is back teaching six classes a week. “I have really built up my lean muscle mass and it’s made me stronger. I don’t have any symptoms, and for the last two years I’ve been living life without any major issues – I’m ecstatic!”
He says being positive and surrounding himself with positive people has been key. “One day you can feel like you’re superman and that nothing can happen to you, and then the next day that all changes! You have to accept what is handed to you, and rather than thinking ‘Why me?’ start thinking ‘What can I do?’.”
"My goal now is to inspire others and let them know that if you are dealt incurable diseases you can continue on. You don't have to give up. Diagnosis doesn't mean the end. It's the beginning to a part of our life that defines us and makes us stronger. Dealing with illness is a challenge, but how we change the dynamic to suit the challenge and make ourselves better is the true test."
Sam Marshall is a LES MILLS Instructor who teaches at Sam B. Cook Healthplex in Jefferson City, Missouri.
MICK ANDREW: “I’M TAKING OUT ALL OF MY FRUSTRATIONS DURING BODYCOMBAT – EVERY DAY FOR 100 DAYS!”
Yorkshire-based police officer, Mick Andrew, started dealing with the loss of balance and double vision in 2013. He knew what it meant, both his father and brother suffered the same thing before they were diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It wasn't until 2019, when doctors identified scarring on Mick’s brain and spine, that his official diagnosis came. And he was understandably distraught.
“I was grieving for the life that I felt I had lost …and when I got that official diagnosis I kind of just gave up.” Although he had belonged to the gym in the past, his focus on fitness had gone out the window. “I had fallen in love with BODYCOMBAT when I my wife and I joined the gym to get in shape for our wedding. It was great and the amazing instructor Becki O’Neill always gave me the push I needed. But then, while dealing with my diagnosis, I didn't go near the gym at all for three years.”
That changed when COVID hit and Mick and his wife started walking everywhere. “I felt a switch inside me ... I started to build my fitness up. It helped me realize that my diagnosis isn’t the end of my life, it’s just a different type of life.”
Recognizing how good exercise was making him feel, Mick set a goal to do 100 days of fitness, and BODYCOMBAT was the obvious choice. With a 10-month-old baby, doing LES MILLS+ workouts at home was the most feasible option, and he started with the BODYCOMBAT MMA Blast.
“My fitness levels are not where I want them to be right now. I can’t physically do a full class, but in just a few weeks I feel so much fitter. And it’s helped my mental fitness massively too.”
“I’ve been dealing with some new symptoms recently and really struggling. But although I am struggling, I know I’m in a much better place than I would’ve been if I wasn't taking all of my frustrations out during BODYCOMBAT. I love how you can take out all of your frustrations, and at the end you’re shattered, but you’re feeling a lot better.”
His advice to others in a similar situation is to go at your own pace. “Don’t just give it all 100 percent and then quit, slowly build it up. You might only do it at 20 percent of your energy, but the satisfaction you get from doing that 20 percent might push you on to do 30 percent. You’ll be surprised how much more capable you are than you thought.”
At the time of writing, Mick was on day 43 of his 100 days of BODYCOMBAT challenge. He’s using it as an opportunity to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, which he says has provided invaluable support. “The MS Society helpline volunteers are all amazing. When I was newly diagnosed, they provided lots of advice. And now on those days when I am struggling with my symptoms, I turn to them for advice and ideas on how to cope.”
BROOKE ROSENBAUER: “I AM NOW PLAYING THE LONG GAME, AND I AM STRONGER BECAUSE OF WHAT I HAVE BEEN THROUGH.”
Brooke Rosenbauer is another super athlete and is exceptionally driven. She has won accolades in soccer, alpine ski racing, ultimate frisbee, studied international health and led sports-based youth development programs. She’s also inspired others as a personal trainer, a coach, and a Les Mills Instructor – and she’s navigated some pretty hefty health issues along the way!
In her early twenties, Brooke was in a traumatic car accident. She spent 10 days in an Ecuadorian hospital before being medically evacuated back to the US. She was initially bedridden and spent many months learning to walk again. Then in 2019, Brooke faced another international medical crisis. While holidaying in Greece, she suffered a pulmonary embolism (a life-threatening blood clot in the lung). She spent a month in a Greek hospital before returning to the US and again starting to rebuild her health and fitness from scratch.
When nurses told Brooke it was her good level of fitness that helped her survive the pulmonary embolism, she knew it was time to stop beating up on her body and start celebrating it.
Brooke stopped worrying about being lean and how her clothes fit, switching her focus to taking care of her body. “I now exercise to take care of my body. I want to feel empowered when I lift weights, or free when I run. If my stomach jiggles a little, it doesn’t upset me like it used to, because I have more important priorities. I’m now playing the long game, and I respect my physical body so much.”
Brooke now considers exercise a way to reconnect with her body and take control. “Exercise can help discharge anxious energy or strong emotions that we might not be able to verbalize. It is such a beautiful, healthy way to take care of ourselves.”
She says going through something that threatens your health, or even your life, puts everything into perspective. “You realize that nothing else matters if you aren’t healthy. Health truly is wealth.”
Brooke Rosenbauer is a LES MILLS Instructor, personal trainer and new mom. Read more about Brooke’s journey.