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Discomfort as a Catalyst for Growth.

After being diagnosed with MS, Betsy found herself at a loss. She had the assessment from her neurologist, she had Google, she had nothing else. She reached out to try to connect with local Multiple Sclerosis groups and found MS Just Keep Moving through the MS society website.


She connected with Dan Erschen who is the founder of the non-profit MS Just Keep Moving (more on Dan later). She was encouraged by her interactions with Dan over e-mail, he seemed to know exactly what she was going through, her confusion, her fear, her anxiety. She was invited to Dan's Gym. Dan (also diagnosed with MS) had built a gym at his company, Wisconsin Metal Parts to allow persons with MS to work out for free during a 3

hour window on Wednesdays and Fridays. She decided to attend the next session. When Wednesday came Betsy walked into the gym, she became overwhelmed, she left.


The gym was built solely for persons with Multiple Sclerosis, a group to which she belonged, but did not yet feel like she fit. She was not quite clear what her expectations were, but they were not aligned with the reality that hit her when she entered the gym that Wednesday morning.


Betsy didn't give up. Taking some time to regroup and embrace her discomfort, she showed back up at the Gym Friday. Her commitment to learning more about her MS, provided her the strength to overcome her unease. The end result was the opportunity to meet several great people and learn some incredibly inspiring stories as well as motivate her to continue to be active.


Whether it's pushing yourself to interact in uncomfortable situations or committing to documenting a journey, stepping outside comfort zones will stimulate growth. Lean into something uncomfortable...



Now, more about Dan.


Dan Erschen was ultimately diagnosed with MS in 2001 after suffering an attack that left him without the ability to walk for 1 and 1/2 years. This came on the heels of a similar episode that had occurred 10 years early and had been diagnosed as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which has MS-like symptoms, but comes on much faster. After the second attack in 2001 it became clear that Dan had MS. He struggled to improve with standard treatments. He received some advice from an Aunt who had heard about exercise helping with MS symptoms. He decided to go to the gym every day, his workouts were restricted to the elliptical machine because he needed his arms to help support his vertical posture as he could barely walk. He would exercise on the machine for 3-4 minutes before he would nearly collapse and be wiped out for the rest of the day.


Dan didn't give up. He kept returning to the gym everyday and with time he started to feel strength in his legs. He became able to walk for 30 minute workout. This progressed to an ability to run which led him to join a running group. With continued determination he went on to complete 5K's 10K's and ultimately 6 marathons. He states he was then talked into training for a full distance Ironman. He went from being able to sustain physical activity for less than 0.1 miles to being able to complete a 140.6 mile triathlon consisting of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles. He made it through the finish line in 3 races out of 4 attempts. Amazing!


Invigorated by his personal gains, Dan helped coordinate an indoor triathlon race at his local gym. He had persons with MS work out 1 day per week for 10 weeks and build up to complete an indoor triathlon. The experience was meaningful and the participants were making real progress and enjoyed the community. However, once the triathlon was completed there was nothing else. This led Dan to gut offices out of his company Wisconsin Metal Parts and build a gym to allow a few people he had met with MS to continue their exercise programs. What started as 4-6 people has now grown to communication with a group of 400 people with MS, and 60-80 using the gym (free of charge) consistently. Since 2018 MS Just Keep Moving has had a partnership with the physical therapy program at Bryant & Stratton College. The PT students get the hands on experience they need and also the pride of helping change a life.


And for the training update:

Betsy ran 48 miles this week, her long run was 3 hours.




Until next week...

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Dan's story is so inspirational! I had no idea he went from barely walking to completing marathons and Ironmans! I remember when Bets first told me about this gym, and then I remembered her always going to this gym! Lol... I am so happy that the right people crossed her path in what seemed to be all the right timing of everything. I know Bets has always been determined, and I continue to look forward to her journey!

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