Aundi Ramirez, Certified Fitness Trainer / MS Patient
Aundi Ramirez places 5th in her first fitness competition with MS!!
NPC Max Muscle Mile High - novice bikini division.
Aundi says, "It was such an amazing experience! I went in hoping to take a trophy home and I did so I was very proud of myself....I would have been proud regardless though. No one really knows how hard prepping for a competition is until you're faced with the mental, emotional, and physical strain of it all. Doing it with MS I think may truly classify us as insane, David (LOL)."
I am 22 years old and training for my first NPC competition in April. I was diagnosed with MS on January 7, 2011 and have been fighting it with my diet and exercise ever since. After High School I attacked life with ferocity. I attended a community college part time, worked full time, and volunteered the rest of my time at my church. I worked out half-heartedly but I made sure to be in the gym. I began to get sick a lot and I couldn’t ever find rest. I was always exhausted. I thought it was because I was doing too much so I started cutting back on my activities but nothing seemed to help. I began having random heart palpitations, severe headaches, and muscle spasms.
At first a doctor told me it was all in my head and that nothing was wrong with me. For two years I was determined to prove that I wasn’t crazy and something really was wrong. I went through cardiology, hematology, and for a while they even thought it was a hormonal imbalance. Finally, after two years, numerous exacerbations, and the loss of sensation in my entire left side, my primary care doctor suggested I see a neurologist. She said, “I don’t think it’s MS but it’s worth ruling out.” And I knew. It was another few months of testing; MRIs, Spinal Taps, and clinical tests, before the official diagnosis but in my first appointment my neurologist was fairly certain.
I was told that there was so much damage to my spinal cord that if I didn’t receive treatment I’d require walking assistance by the time I was 25. What kind of a life would that be? So, I decided to receive treatment and change my lifestyle. I resolved to beat my diagnosis. I proclaimed that not only would I beat MS, I would live my life in such a way that people wouldn’t believe I actually had it.
I began seriously working out every day, eating clean, and making sure my body received enough rest. Even on days when I felt too exhausted to get out of bed I went to the gym. Working out gave me the energy I needed to get through life and it gave me the passion to continue. Also, I haven’t been nearly as sick as I was before my diagnosis and I completely credit that to my healthy habits.
I chose to pursue a career in fitness and got my personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and am now pursuing a degree in Adult Fitness and Exercise Science. I want to spread the news that our bodies can do amazing things if we will work hard and maintain a disciplined lifestyle.
I want to win, yes, but mostly I want to prove to myself and to the world that MS has no power over me. God has given me the strength to be a light to other women with MS. This disease is not an excuse to stop living and pursuing our dreams; it’s a call to action.
‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’ Romans 5:3 & 4”
MY MS STORY: Getting Bikini-Body Fit
by David Lyons for Everyday Health
In my journey with the MS Bodybuilding and MS Fitness challenges I have met many people who, through health and fitness, are fighting MS head on. One of these warriors is Aundi Ramirez who I met awhile back when she reached out to me for support. I proudly stood by her when she decided to compete in a fitness contest.
Aundi, 22, placed fifth in the novice bikini division at the 2013 NPC Max Muscle Mile High competition.
I recently interviewed Aundi to find out how she feels about MS and fitness:
When were you diagnosed with MS?
I was diagnosed with MS on Jan. 7, 2011. I had symptoms for about two years prior to my diagnosis. I would have extreme increases in heart rate, left side numbness, loss of strength in my hands, and painful tingling. I also suffered from extreme migraines and found myself getting sick a lot.
I went to the neurologist because my primary care physician wanted to “rule out” multiple sclerosis (MS). No one thought that I could have a chronic disease such as MS, but I went to the neurologist knowing in my heart what they were going to say. After having doctors tell me that I was crazy and my symptoms were in my head, it was actually a huge relief to me that this woman could look me in the eye and tell me, “We need to do some more tests to confirm, but I’m fairly certain it’s MS.” Oh, to have a name for how I felt!
I went on to have a spinal tap and MRIs in every part of my spine and brain. They found many lesions. I have a few more now and few that have grown, but, overall, thanks to my lifestyle choices and treatment, the disease has not progressed very much.
When did you start on your journey into fitness?
I always enjoyed lifting weights and being in the gym. It was a major stress reliever for me. After I was diagnosed I saw it as my key to mobility.
I began working with a personal trainer who inspired me to pursue a career in fitness and showed me that my passion, my strength, and my ability to push through pain would be a way for me to encourage healthy living — my disease was turning into an opportunity to help others!
I began training for a half marathon and started getting involved with the National MS Society. I decided to be an example of what you COULD do with MS instead of being an example of what you COULDN’T.
When did you decide you wanted to compete in fitness competitions?
I got serious about competing last fall, 2012. I went to a show and began meeting people who were in the midst of prepping, and I knew I just had to get involved. I looked at a calendar, picked a date, and contacted a family friend of mine who is very experienced in contest prep. I finally began training with him in February.
What is contest prep like, and how difficult is it with MS?
It’s hard to even describe the whole experience of preparing for a competition. Doing it with MS is very difficult, not only because of the physical hurdles you need to jump over but the emotions that come along with it.
During training I had days where my left leg would stop working mid-exercise, and I would have to step back, regain my strength, and then try it again. We would do forced reps and my trainer was always carefully monitoring me to make sure I never fell or overdid it.
Emotionally, it’s draining to have your body fight you on every movement you make. I regained some feeling in my left side, but the numbness was replaced by constant, fiery pain. Pushing through pain, exhaustion, and physical inability to do certain things is very humbling. In short, if I had to describe contest prep with MS in a simple phrase I’d say, “It’s a battle.”
Why did you develop such a strong passion for keeping fit?
I feel that fitness is hugely important for everyone. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, right? It improves quality of life, period. For people with MS it’s even more important because:
1. It provides hope! You see yourself improve when you focus on fitness. Even if you have a bad day and you can’t lift what you normally do or you can’t run what you normally run, you can KNOW that it’s just a bad day. Tomorrow when you get back in the gym you’ll do better.
2. It helps you maintain strength, coordination, and balance which are vital to everyday life. You don’t even realize how important these things are until you start losing them. MS tries to steal all of these things from us and fitness helps us maintain and improve them.
3. Fitness requires focus. When you’re focusing all of your energy on building and improving yourself you have no time to focus on the negative. You have no time to dwell on the pain or the struggle. I could go on for days about why I love fitness. It saves lives!
What is your training like?
Every day training usually starts with morning cardio: about 30-45 min of exercise like walking. I love incorporating jump rope intervals as much as possible. I used to run a lot, but because of the MS I can’t do long distances so I’ll occasionally do sprints. I like to do anywhere between 2 and 8 exercises per body part, with 3 to 5 sets of about 10 repetitions. This is it in a nutshell:
Monday: I do 45-60 minutes of resistance training focusing on shoulders.
Tuesday: I only do cardio.
Wednesday: I do 45-60 minutes of back work.
Thursday: I only do cardio again.
Friday: I exercise my legs and shoulders for about 45-60 minutes.
Saturday: This is my day of rest!
Sunday: I work out my chest and arms day.
Tell us about your daily nutritional regimen.
I eat about five meals daily. I start the morning with a protein shake and some oatmeal or fruit. Sometimes I’ll just have some salmon (may sound like a weird breakfast, but it’s really good!). Then mid-morning I’ll have a shake, and around noon I’ll eat a salad with 4 oz chicken.
Between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. I’ll have 4 oz chicken with veggies or a sweet potato on the side, and then in the evening I’ll have salmon, tilapia or more chicken with more veggies.
I try to get 3 cups of leafy greens in, my body weight in grams of protein, and plenty of colorful veggies. I’ve found that standard foods for training like nuts, egg whites, and anything containing lactose really upsets my stomach so I have to work around that. I eat lots of chicken, spinach, broccoli, and avocado!
What do your parents think about this road to fitness you have chosen with MS?
My parents have been amazingly supportive. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to watch their daughter go through so much to get on a stage in a bikini, but they knew my heart and my reasoning so they supported me fully, and they did everything they could to help me along the way. They have even been inspired to eat healthier and focus on fitness. I helped my mom with her diet, and at her last visit to the doctor she was asked what she’s doing because her numbers changed so drastically. She went from pre-diabetic to perfectly healthy in only a few months!
Why did you get involved in supporting the MS Fitness Challenge?
When I decided to compete, I wanted to find someone who had done it. I wanted to know that someone with MS had done it and if they hadn’t I wanted to be the first one to do it. So I searched the web and found David and knew I needed to talk to him and get involved with whatever he was doing. After talking to him and getting to know his story I was completely sold. We share the same goals and the same opinions, and we want to make the same impact. The MS Fitness Challenge has encouraged me to keep pushing to make a difference!
What would you tell others with MS to help them reach their fitness goals?
I would tell them not to ever let themselves stop moving. DO SOMETHING. It’s hard to find the motivation, and it’s hard to push through sometimes, but find your fit, and stick with it. Everyone has a different exercise personality. I understand that not everyone enjoys lifting weights or even going to the gym so jump on your bike, walk your dog, go dancing, go swimming, go hiking, golf, play frisbee, do yoga… JUST MOVE! I promise you will feel better about everything if you do.