Ryan Mills, of Ithaca, Michigan, recently reached out to me as he was starting a 90-day fitness challenge at his local gym. Ryan, 41, has had multiple sclerosis (MS) for nearly seven years, and he was ready to make a change in his life.

We talked about life with MS, working out, nutrition, and much more. I’m happy to say that Ryan not only won his gym’s fitness challenge, but also, in his words, “I quit drinking alcohol and feeling sorry for myself and have taken on nutrition and fitness as my new purpose in life.”

Here’s a conversation I had with Ryan about how his new commitment to fitness has changed his life and how he stays motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

David Lyons: When were you diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and what were your symptoms? 

Ryan Mills:  I was diagnosed with MS in May 2010. It started with back pain, the heat wore me down, and I had trouble with balance and fatigue. The fatigue was the worst, because I worked two jobs, and I’d never experienced fatigue before in my life.

What led to my diagnosis was I got light-headed and tripped at an annual MS golf outing I do. After lots of tests, it was shown that I indeed had MS.

DL: What motivated you to start working with a fitness expert who was educated on MS and exercise? 

Ryan: I was motivated in part by taking care of my father, who’s been paralyzed from MS. I promised myself and my son that this will not happen to me. Beyond that, it’s a dream for a small-town guy to have the opportunity to work with any expert.  Your responding to my email with a phone call was motivation on its own.

DL: What are your symptoms currently, and have they improved since starting a workout routine? 

Ryan: My symptoms come and go, and currently they are gone. I totally believe it’s because of my working out and improved nutrition.

DL: How did you get started on an exercise program? 

Ryan: I joined a 90-day challenge at my local gym, then contacted you for advice on how to win it.

DL: What’s your current exercise routine? 

Ryan: My current exercise routine is to do 4 to 5 sets of 6 to 12 reps of a variety of exercises. I lost a lot of weight and am currently working for gains now!

DL: What was the biggest challenge in your workouts? 

Ryan: My biggest challenges by far are two things: fatigue and eating clean.

DL: Were there times when you wanted to quit or give up? 

Ryan: I would honestly say there was never a time I wanted to give up. Once I started seeing results and beating people who are younger and have no health issues, it fueled my desire to win.

DL: How did you stay motivated to continue the program? 

Ryan: I want to prove to people that multiple sclerosis will not set me back. This is just a road bump, and now is the time to beat it down.

DL: Have you altered your diet and nutrition regimen? 

Ryan: I’ve changed it 180 degrees! I now consume no alcohol, fast food, junk food, or anything bad. I eat pretty clean and have stuck with it.

DL: How has working out changed your life and helped with your MS?

Ryan: Working out has changed everything. Getting back in the gym is the best thing I’ve done since my son was born. It’s motivated me to be healthy and continue beating MS. I find it really gives you a different outlook on life to be healthy and stay positive.

DL: Do you have any advice for those who want to conquer MS through fitness?

Ryan: My advice? Just get it done, and focus! I hope if you read this you get up and get it done!

Photos provided by Ryan Mills