MENASHA - Anyone who sees Rich Knapp work out has no doubt he's strong.
"If I can do it, anybody can do it," said Knapp.
As a professional bodybuilder, the Appleton resident is used to people admiring his physique. The fact that he's in a wheelchair occasionally brings along some doubters.
"[A machine] will have 90 pounds on each arm," said Knapp. "They'll be like, ‘do you want me to take this off for you,' and I say, ‘no, I'll just use it for a warm-up.' They think I'm joking. I'll catch them out of the corner of my eye, eyes bulging out because they can't believe it, you know."
Knapp is dealing with multiple sclerosis, M.S., a disease that affects several aspects of his life including his cognitive function.
"When I was diagnosed with M.S., I did a lot of research on it, and a high-protein, high carb, low fat diet was proved to help stop the attacks," said Knapp. "I figured as long as I'm exercising and eating healthy to combat the MS problems, I might as well have some fun with it."
So Rich started bodybuilding. At first, he competed as an able-bodied person, then as the condition progressed, he started competing in a wheelchair. He recently earned his professional spot with the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation.
"I have a lot more wrong with me than just the M.S. and it makes me feel good that I can still do what I'm doing," said Knapp.
Knapp relies on his wife Tammy for help in the gym, as well as helping him to remember his workouts and what to eat. He also has a medical service dog, Peanut, who alerts Tammy if Rich is about to have a variety of physical issues.
Tammy says the bodybuilding helps both of them deal with a difficult situation.
"It gives him an outlet and I get to burn off some steam doing my workout with him," said Tammy Knapp. "It helps a lot."
Knapp hopes people will take his example and take better care of their own bodies.
"Anybody can do it," said Knapp. "It don't matter what kind of condition you're in. I'm living proof of it."
Knapp primarily works out at Gold's Gym in Menasha. The WNBF, where Rich primarily competes, has a separate division for competitors in wheelchairs. The WNBF is also only for all-natural bodybuilders and regularly tests competitors.
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