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Michael Hancock: “How Weightlifting & Fitness Saved My Life”

To Michael Hancock, co-owner of WOD Relief Muscle & Joint Rub, staying active wasn’t just a fitness goal; it saved his life.

When Michael Hancock first got sick the doctors had only theories, unsuccessful treatments, and no discernable answers. Michael’s joints and muscles were in unbearable pain, he was having trouble eating, and was losing weight quickly.

“The doctors weren’t sure what I had,” said Michael. “They tested me for cancer, then thought it might be lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.”

However, no matter the diagnosis or treatment, Michael’s pain didn’t ease up. Over the next twelve months he lost over 20 pounds and could only sleep in his recliner since laying prone was too painful.

Prior to his condition, Michael was a triathlete and avid member of his local gym, Hermes CrossFit in Spanish Fork, Utah. He’d trained for and competed in a half Iron Man, completed multiple triathlons, and worked out at least 5 times a week.

Staying active was a huge part of Michael’s life, and he didn’t want the pain in his muscles and joints to take that away from him. “Mentally, I couldn’t let the pain stop me from staying active,” said Michael. “I needed that time and movement to help me get through more than ever when being sick was slowing me down.”

Michael worked with his coach Chaco Comrie at Hermes CrossFit to adapt the workouts of the day (WODs) for what his body could handle. Chaco battles multiple sclerosis and seizures, making him no stranger to overcoming physical challenges in fitness. Chaco’s knowledge and unique background were integral to motivating and helping Michael through his workouts. “Some days I could do some moderate weightlifting or some of the lower impact workouts, but there were some days where all I could do was the rowing machine,” said Michael.

Michael Hancock, mid-illness, as he takes his daughter to a daddy-daughter dance. “I’m smiling, but I was in so much pain,” said Michael.
Michael also relied on daily walks with his 120-pound Irish Wolfhound, Quorra. “She’s such a gentle dog, but she definitely needs some fresh air and exercise every day,” said Michael. “She pushed me to get out of the house every day and to stay moving.” The walks ended up being a combination of physical and mental therapy for Michael. Even if he had to take it slowly and couldn’t get far, the walks kept him motivated to stay moving. “I didn’t know at the time,” said Michael, “but ultimately, staying active is what saved me.”

Over 6 months after the onset of his condition, the doctors finally had a breakthrough in Michael’s case, discovering the cause of his pain: a very rare condition called Eosinophilic Fasciitis, or Shulman’s Syndrome.

Walks with his 120-lb Irish Wolfhound ended up being a combination of physical and mental therapy for Michael.
Eosinophilic fasciitis leads to the inflammation and thickening of the fascia—the connective tissue that surround muscles. The inflammation can be terribly painful, and after some time can result in scarring, limiting movement in the joints and muscles. Michael’s eosinophilic fasciitis was aggressive and had resulted in significant scar tissue in his muscles and joints. It had also hardened his stomach muscles, making his stomach walls unable to expand during meals.

Once diagnosed, eosinophilic fasciitis can usually be treated, but typically the prognosis is best when the condition is caught early. In Michael’s case, the condition was advanced.

His condition, his doctors said, would have left him crippled had it not been for two significant circumstances: First, Michael was in shape before contracting eosinophilic fasciitis. Second, he didn’t stop his daily workouts and movement through the advancement of the disease.

“Basically, if I hadn’t already been fit and stayed moving during my sickness, then I probably wouldn’t have been able to move without intense pain for the rest of my life” said Michael. “My joints and muscles were so inflamed and had developed a lot of scar tissue—if I hadn’t have stayed moving, the condition would have been much worse and would have been mostly irreversible.”

Michael, who always held physical activity as a priority in his life, now has a newfound respect for its importance. “We all have aches and pains,” said Michael, “and it’s really difficult sometimes to push through the soreness and keep moving, even if it’s just to go for a walk. But just taking it one day at a time and making modifications that let you move even on the tough days can really make the difference in the long run.”

As he was going through his eosinophilic fasciitis pain and working to recover, Michael partnered with fellow athletes and friends, Andy Rymer, and Jeff Dickson in their efforts to develop an all-natural muscle rub to ease workout soreness.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) programs are designed to be a constantly-varied and to challenge different muscle groups in different ways. Because of the high intensity and variability of these workouts, these athletes tend to have more post-workout soreness.

“It’s difficult to get into high-intensity interval workouts,” said Michael, “because that first week you’re so sore. Sometimes people will drop out after their first or second workout because they feel like they’re going to be that sore every day. The soreness tones way down as you get stronger, but the reality is that with high-intensity varied workouts like this, you’re still going to get a little sore even when you’re a long-time athlete.”

WOD Relief Owners Michael Hancock and Andy Rymer at the Masters Classic Competition at Hermes CrossFit.

While there’s no proven method for eliminating this soreness altogether, most HIIT athletes crave something that will help soothe and relieve muscles without taking over-the-counter analgesics like ibuprofen or aspirin.

Many athletes have turned to essential oil-based muscle rubs. However, Michael, Andy, and Jeff found that the existing muscle rubs were largely entwined in multi-level marketing companies and weren’t as potent or strong as the athletes needed for long-lasting, deep muscle relief.

Michael Hancock and Quorra representing WOD Relief at the Masters Classic Competition at Hermes CrossFit.
They put together a small team and embarked on a mission to develop a muscle cream that was 8x more potent than the leading competitors and that wasn’t affiliated with any MLM program. After months of different formulas and testing, they found their miracle formula and produced their flagship product, WOD Relief Muscle & Joint Rub.

“The last few months of my illness were so tough because it was so frustrating to have gone so long without a diagnosis or relief,” said Michael. “It just happened to be during this time that we were trying dozens and dozens of formulas for WOD Relief Muscle & Joint Rub. When I put on what’s now our final formula and felt my muscles relax and finally have some relief after so many months of pain, I knew we’d found the perfect formula.”

WOD Relief Muscle & Joint Rub has since made a splash in the HIIT athlete sphere, appealing to weightlifters, runners, and other athletes. Michael and his team are also surprised to regularly see reviews pop up of people who aren’t athletes at all but who suffer from medical conditions affecting muscles, bones, or joints, and turn to WOD Relief to provide soothing relief without unnatural chemicals or compounds.

“It feels like it’s all come full circle,” says Michael, who now attends fitness festivals all over the country to introduce athletes to WOD Relief Muscle Rub. He also recently competed in his first competition since his illness. “I know I’m not back to my ‘old self’ yet and I’ve had to swallow my pride and scale my workouts, but being able to participate in competitions again is amazing. Even though I know I won’t be taking first any time soon, at least I know I can have fun on the competition floor.”
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