Jason has been following the Overcoming MS program since 2008. He leads a very active life and has competed in the endurance challenge ‘Coast2Coast’ twice! We sat down with him to hear about his inspiring and motivating story and his love of an active lifestyle.
Jason, can you tell us about your MS diagnosis?
My MS journey started back in 2001 when my osteopath was concerned with how my body was feeling. After some referrals and consultations, I had an MRI scan and was diagnosed with MS in 2004 by a neurologist.
The findings were more of a relief than a worry, as it meant I could research what I could do to manage my symptoms.
You’ve been following Overcoming MS for a long time. How did you find out about it?
I met Professor George Jelinek at an MS retreat in 2008 in New Zealand. I also met Gary McMahon (the first Overcoming MS charity CEO) when he was with the Auckland MS Society, before he became the CEO of the Overcoming MS charity.
Meeting George at the MS retreat in 2008 was a pivotal moment for me. Being diagnosed was a slow process but George's 'Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis' book gave me the information I needed to put me on the right path.
Did you start the Program all at once or more gradually?
I saw the Program as having many facets and I have adopted each part over time. I found some aspects of the Program required more research and understanding than others, for example, good and bad fats and the importance of Vitamin D.
I have been doing yoga, meditation and eating a plant-based diet since being diagnosed.
What symptoms do you have now?
I still experience some of the common symptoms of MS: numbness and tingling, loss of balance and dizziness, spasms, tremors, bladder problems, vision problems, and problems with memory and thinking. However, I've continued to lead an active life and still surf on a regular basis.
What advice would you give to others starting out on the Overcoming MS Program, and to those just diagnosed with MS?
The initial diagnosis can be a lot to take in, but realising we are not alone and that we can still have active lives can be reassuring. For people starting out on the Program, you may have been following some of the recommendations already. My main advice is to ask yourself the big question, ‘Are you prepared to change your lifestyle and follow the Overcoming MS Program?’
I would advise people who are newly diagnosed not to read all the negative information about MS. Also, try to meet up with other people with MS in your area for some advice.
You have taken part in a few endurance challenges, can you tell us more about them?
I have taken part in the Coast2Coast event in New Zealand twice. I wanted to do it to see how my body would cope with the endurance. In 2018, I participated in the event and did the 33km mountain run section. It took me just under 5 hours to complete and I placed 28 out of 118.
In 2019 I participated in the event again but as part of a team. I did the kayak section which involved kayaking 67 km of the Waimakariri river, which took me 6 hours to complete.
I've always enjoyed the feeling that exercise gives me, and it's usually some form of training for a challenge. When I started ocean swimming, I decided to do some Auckland harbour swim events. That way I was exercising and working towards a goal.
Does exercise help with your mental health?
Definitely, exercising keeps me feeling positive. Even short walks outside are refreshing and help clear the mind.
How do you stay motivated?
Knowing how good I feel after exercise keeps me active each day.
Also, I used to cycle 15km to work each day and was motivated by saving vehicle costs, getting exercise in while commuting, and at times travelling faster than the motorway traffic.
What are your top tips for people trying to live a more active lifestyle?
It may take a change of mindset. Start the day with some yoga, meditation or breathing exercises, even 10 minutes will help.
Having a positive mindset and living in the present moment is worth striving for. Be in control of the mind, it can talk you out of exercising. Try to just put the shoes on and head outside instead of thinking or questioning the decision. As Mingyur Rinpoche (a world-renowned meditation teacher) suggests, we need to free the monkey mind and be the boss of the monkey mind.
I enjoy open spaces and being in nature, so I spend my spare time on the coast or in the bush. Remember to leave the devices at home and try to disconnect from devices if possible.
Set a goal and plan how you can achieve it. Start small and if it’s successful, set a larger goal next.
Overcoming MS exercise videos for all levels
Check out our Exercise Videos for ideas and inspiration to get you moving, we have videos suitable for all stages and levels of ability! Remember that everyone will have a different level of ability at the point of diagnosis as well as throughout their MS journey, so please choose exercise and goals that are right for you and make sure to celebrate your successes however big or small.