“When I was 12, I played my last season of parks and rec basketball in braces, and after that, everyone was basically like, 'Hey, no sports. Try to limit activity, we don't need you to get hurt because you could seriously injure yourself.' So, it basically turned into video games and reading. I think it was in the best interest to keep me safe, but in my mind I was like, 'So, I don't get to play with my friends unless I'm inside?'”
- Dano Lotz
Imagine being an active kid who loves playing baseball, basketball, soccer- basically anything outdoors. You notice you’re a little slower than your classmates, but you chalk it up to minor differences, and go on playing sports for the love of the game. Then, at age 12, you’re put in leg braces and told you need to stop being active in order to prevent injury. Suddenly your world shrinks to afternoons on the couch, reading and playing video games.
This was the case for Daniel ‘Dano’ Lotz, who was born with a genetic condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. CMT is a form of muscular dystrophy that affects sensory and motor nerves in the extremities, causing nerve degeneration and resulting in muscle weakness. In Dano’s case, his CMT affects his lower legs, including his calves and ankles.
Dano wasn’t about to let his condition hold him back. At 16 he started weight training with the football team at his high school, and he found a new passion. Working out helped him regain muscle mass and motor control, and it gave him the satisfaction of being part of a team. It also ignited a fire to one day become a trainer himself.
As Dano continued to improve and build strength, his mentality changed. Rather than letting his limitations hold him back, he became more and more active- but ended up breaking several pairs of braces, an expensive habit. He decided to stop wearing the braces and continued with his active lifestyle. After several years of working out at traditional gyms and practicing to become a personal trainer, some friends invited him to join them for his first CrossFit workout- Fight Gone Bad.
Dano finished the workout, collapsed to the floor, and fell in love. He would go on to get his Level 1, and then his Level 2 Certificate, and has had the opportunity to compete as an adaptive athlete and to coach at multiple affiliates across the United States. Dano’s tenacity and determination give him a unique perspective as a trainer. As he himself learned what movements he could do, and how to modify the movements he struggled with, he laid the groundwork to be able to empathize with others.
Now, as a full-time trainer, Dano says, “The best thing is that I now get to teach and train others to become the best versions of themselves.”
I first heard Dano’s story several years ago- not too long after he started CrossFit. I was excited to catch up with him and hear how his story has grown and evolved, and how he's using his passion for fitness to inspire others.
In this episode we discuss:
- CMT muscular dystrophy: what it is and what it has looked like in Dano's life
- How Dano’s childhood and activity was impacted by his condition
- Reflecting on how becoming active as a teenager improved his mood and motor function
- How Dano became interested in personal training and exercise science
- How Dano got into CrossFit
- The changes he noticed in his health and physical abilities once he started CrossFit
- How he decided to become a CrossFit coach and what that journey has looked like
- How his experiences as an adaptive athlete help him as a coach
- Making the most of his downtime from coaching during the COVID pandemic
- Three things Dano does on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on his health
- One thing he knows would have a positive impact on his health, but he struggles to implement
- What a healthy life looks like to Dano
If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #PursuingHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.
Disclaimer: This podcast is for general information only, and does not provide medical advice. We recommend that you seek assistance from your personal physician for any health conditions or concerns.