When Amy Penszynski began having a vision problem in 2008, it turned out to be something called optic neuritis in her right eye. It's a swelling of the optic nerve, which is sometimes linked to multiple sclerosis. Her ophthalmologist had Penszynski follow up with an MRI.
"The MRI showed lesions on the brain, which are shown in MS," Penszynski says. "Some more cognitive tests and a spinal tap confirmed a mild case of MS."
The hardest part for Penszynski was the waiting. The Glassboro, N.J., woman says the tests were excruciating mentally and emotionally. The news of her MS diagnosis even caused her to slip into depression for a while.
"My first scary thought was, 'Oh my God, am I going to end up in a wheelchair? Am I going to be paralyzed?'" Penszynski says.
Penszynski, 38, spent many weeks in bed trying to get through symptoms. She had difficulty walking due to numbness in her feet and legs, causing her to have poor balance as well. The support of Penszynski's family, friends and fiancé Seth, motivated her to push forward.
"I had so much fear and anxiety. Fear of the unknown, what was to come," she says. "I did a lot of praying and got myself a good neurologist, and got on medication. Slowly my symptoms subsided, which definitely helped my mood, and I started to move around more ... and think more positively.
Penszynski, a massage therapist and Reiki practitioner, started becoming proactive. She changed everything about her eating habits and ate predominantly healthy food. She says her theory is that food can be poison for our bodies or it can be medicine. She tries to incorporate a lot of anti-inflammatory foods into her diet and is a user of and an advocate for Shakeology, an all-natural meal replacement shake, for almost three years now. Penszynski recommends the shakes to anyone, even if they don't have MS.
"I feed my body right and I also make sure I exercise in some way, shape, or form every single day, whether it’s stretching, yoga, a walk with my dog, a run, my Beachbody workouts at home, hiking, swimming ... whatever I feel that day," she says. "I like variety, but 99 percent of the time you will find me doing a Beachbody workout in my workout room or living room. Those workouts, mainly P90X with Tony Horton (my favorite trainer!), helped to change my life drastically in so many ways."
Penszynski started her health journey in 2005 at 235 pounds standing at 5-foot-3. She has almost reached her 100-pound goal at 139 pounds. Penszynski's decision to get healthy came before her MS diagnosis, but combating that disease has further motivated her fitness efforts.
"I used to hate running and working out until I tried it and became hooked on the feeling afterwards; the adrenaline, the good mood after, the sense of accomplishment, knowing I did it, the results that kept coming. I hit some snags along the way. I am human after all ... but I found my inner athlete, and even though I’ve backtracked a few times or had some health issues, I always manage to get back up and get going again somehow, because I know how I feel when I AM on track, when I AM taking care of my body."
Penszynski says she has realized that her new approach to health is not a race to the finish line, not a diet, not a fad -- it’s an entirely new lifestyle.
"We get one body, and I try my best to take care of that body. I think about my own health, how lucky I am overall, that I am grateful that I CAN move around, so I will not let myself complain (too much) about exercising. I keep my mind in the right place. I remind myself of how I feel when I am done. Those thoughts keep me going, keep me motivated," says Penszynski.
Penszynski also runs fitness challenges on Facebook and posts about her journey on my personal Facebook page and fitness/health page on Facebook, REVolution Fitness and Health. Penszynski knows she is not alone and nobody has to do go through MS alone. She wants to share her journey in the hopes she will inspire someone -- that someone will look at her one day and say they never quit, never gave up, because of her.
"That is the best gift in the world," Penszynski says. "If I can influence one person to get healthier, get moving, take care of their health, live their lives to the fullest, that is worth more than anything. I want to inspire and help as many people as I can to help them realize they can and will do what they set their minds to. Anything is possible."
The main reason Penszynski became a coach for Beachbody was to support and help others along on their journey. She wants to pay forward what has worked for her in her health journey. Even if she changes one life as a coach, she knows she will have succeeded.
"Support is key. Motivation from positive people is key. Knowing you have help is key," Penszynski says. "That is what keeps me going every single day. Hope. Helping someone through their journey, being an encourager, a mentor. Being a part of something so big and so positive keeps ME positive," says Penszynski.
Penszynski says she has met so many amazing fighters on MS pages on Facebook, and at live events like MS walks, fundraisers, etc. She plans on starting up a support group/MS fit club and a fit club for all in the near future as well, to keep people supported, hopeful, and living healthier, happier lifestyles. She also would love to do a fundraiser/half marathon for MS at some point.
"Exercise, good nutrition, support, attitude, determination, and keeping your 'why' in front of you at all times will get you where you want to go," she says. "Take care of your body and it will take better care of you! What you put in, you get out! Never, ever give up. We are all worth it."